We graduated with Art Degrees, got married, painted murals, had kids and began to wonder about Food, Health, Nutrition, Permaculture, Natural Healing, Environment, Vaccines, Pesticides, Alternative Building, etc. We eventually gave up life in Seattle, bought 5 acres in rural Missouri and left everything to build a Straw Bale Cabin and try out all the Sustainable ideas we’d filled our bookshelves with.
Well, there have been great successes… and great failures! As we plowed our way through DIY Survival with our entire family in tow, we found a lot of things that worked… and then a lot of things that DIDN’T. Sometimes we experienced significant setbacks because we overlooked a major component of something new. A lot of that was simply having no concept of how MUCH there would be to learn. Many books we read made homesteading sound… not only possible, but fairly simple. After all, sustainable living isn’t rocket science… or is it?
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Ferrocement- Free Printable How To Ferrocement PDF!
One of our most memorable incidents was during the construction of the Ferrocement Rainwater Catchment Tank. We’d read books, watched videos of 3rd world laborers completing projects with chicken wire, hardware cloth and a tensile wire wrap, and we’d planned out our own simple (but a bit larger) tank. Somewhere between the measurements and the cage construction, we missed how much wire, metal and tensile strength would be needed- not just to hold the cement after it had cured, but while it was wet and heavy during the application. In hindsight, the tank we watched on the video had been supported from the inside with metal panels, which allowed them to use fairly minimal wire to reinforce the basic structure while applying, then remove the panels after it cured.
The day finally came when the scaffolding was in place and the armature completed. With great confidence, we cranked up the cement mixer and began troweling it on. Our kids all chipped in, making the mix and taking turns with the extra trowels. We’d gone all the way up an 8′ side when one of our daughters started yelling from across the cistern and the entire cage began to collapse in front of us! Here’s a picture of my husband retreating off the ladder, while we watched the cistern sinking to the ground.
Needless to say, we’ve learned a lot since then! And we’d love to share some of our tips with you! Ferrocement is an incredible way to sculpt all kinds of structures from simple stepping stones to patios stairs, fire pit, underground greenhouse, retaining walls, cisterns and swimming pools. It uses far less concrete than traditional patios, and is a skill almost anyone can acquire. We’ll show you how to start with a simple project like stepping stones, and demonstrate how the same skills apply to more complex structures.
We’d love to hear about your own endeavors and experiences in Sustainable Agriculture/ Building/ Natural Living. Please leave a comment below. What have been some of your greatest successes and failures? What tools and/ or ideas have you found to be the most useful? Have you had any significant set-backs or situations that required unique problem solving?