Imagine you’re building your own home – and anything goes.
Branches for hangers, wrenches for hooks. Colored glass bottles for windows. Trees rising from the clay ground to the straw ceiling. And the smooth, speckled walls of your earthen home harnessing the California sun’s warm glow. All you need is a small, one-room house – for sleep, for time alone – because your home is with the people you eat with, laugh with, build with, sing with, live with.
I’ve said before one of Quail Springs’ cornerstones is permaculture. It’s a curious word – probably not one we hear every day. Whether it stands for “permanent agriculture” or “permanent culture,” it is a way of life that commands respect for the earth we walk on and the people we share it with. Here’s Quail Springs’ definition:
Permaculture is a conscious integrated design system based on ecological principles that create resource efficient and productive human environments.
Permaculture is a way to see the world, to apply to our basic needs like water, food, energy and, as can be seen here, shelter. Since January is neither planting nor growing season, our group’s main work at Quail Springs was helping with land projects, or natural building – helping work on Quail Springs community members’ houses.
We spent sunny afternoons forming adobe bricks, having water fights, and creating cob (a mixture of sand, straw, clay, and earth) that we then plastered on the outsides of houses with the Beatles on full blast.
And we accomplished quite a lot. It was rewarding to see our work – to know we would forever be a part of these houses, in a way.
But my favorite earthen home at Quail Springs was one called Magdalena that Brenton showed us near the beginning of our stay – a guest house a previous group had built as part of course. Stepping inside was like experiencing a refined side of nature. It was cooler and darker inside, but still smelled like fresh earth. There was something still, something calming about sitting down on the single piece of furniture not built into the structure – a bed – and running a hand over the walls, marveling at how much beauty exists in simplicity. And maybe taking a nap later on, thinking as you lay on the bed that it’s your favorite place to have fallen asleep in the course of your short, much undiscovered life.