A visit to Quail Springs Permaculture

sasha's house

Our architect and natural builder friend Nicholas Holmes took Nathen and I to visit Quail Springs Permaculture, a demonstration farm and village nestled in a canyon near Santa Barbara. Quail Springs hosted a weekend harvest festival that included a tour of the farm, Q&A, and workshops on milking and butchering.

Brenton speaking

Because we went with Nicholas, we also got an architectural tour, which was great! The handful of houses on the property all seemed to be around 400 sq feet, and each boasted a slightly different design and mix of materials while maintaining a sense of aesthetic unity. A bit like a historical reenactment village… OF THE FUTURE. Some houses had kitchens, while others were just studio-bedroom pods (there is a communal kitchen and composting toilets just a little ways down the canyon).

W's house? Brenton & Jan's house Hide house

Nicholas described a roofing system used on several of the buildings at Quail Springs: reed mats are tacked up to the rafters with strips of wood; an earthen plaster is applied from the top and wiped flush from below. Then blue-jean insulation batts go between the rafters, and a plywood and metal roof is screwed on top. I like the texture of the ceilings.

Reed ceiling

Nicholas had lots of great things to say about light straw-clay (otherwise known as straw-clay, light-clay, or leichtlem), which is straw coated in a clay-slip and tamped into forms around a timber frame. Apparently it offers more insulation than cob due to the high straw content, while being more moisture-resistant than straw bale, due to the clay (I’m making a test brick right now, with clay harvested from a wash and some extra mulch straw).

straw-clay with 3 kinds of lathe
The side of a straw-clay bathhouse in progress, showing three kinds of lathe: reed, burlap and metal.

We slept in a straw-clay dome two nights while we were there, and I loved the japanese-paper texture of the walls and the cozy feel.

nathen, sleeping

Also, the view! sasha's view

There’s a lot more to say about Quail Springs, but that’s enough for one post.

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