Not too long ago we were watching PBS (it happens) and saw a short segment on a group here in California building structures out of EARTH (don't call it “dirt”). They had gracefully curved buildings that would remind a person of a hobbit home. Cozy.
But other than being intriguing I didn't learn too much, other than the name of the organization being shown was “Cal-Earth”. And that's where things stayed until the concept came up in a recent conversation. That sent me to the Internet and a bit more was learned. In particular that their facility was just over in Hesperia and that they had free tours for the public every first Saturday of the month (well, except August, but who would want to be in Hesperia in August?).
So as a New Year's field trip we headed over to Hesperia. If you have a GPS, the address will get you there, you just have to drive out onto a dirt road for a couple hundred feet. The first surprise was how many people were showing up to take the tour. There were a lot of cars with two or three people per car. Some people even brought their kids.
The gates opened at 10 AM and they funneled us through a “gift shop” to sign the guest book then let us wander the grounds looking over the structures. They did start a guided tour through the facility a little later but the crowd was so large we continued to just wander about on our own.
Many of the buildings were small and were probably just proof of concept structures. Though there was one house there that people did live in. There were a few more that were sufficiently developed to have electricity and water. Other structures were large open spaces that could (and obviously had) serve as rooms to have meetings and other functions.
Cal-Earth primarily operates as an educational facility. So there were several structures that were in various states of construction. It is possible to sign up for courses that run from one to twelve weeks (they do charge tuition) to learn how to build structures made of earth. Some people want to learn so they can build structures for themselves while others and wanting to be able to help build inexpensive structure in other parts of the world.
In addition to large structures they have several garden beds and seating areas made with the same techniques. And I'm serious thinking about learning how to do it so I can add one of those seating areas to my back yard.
Cal-Earth is located at 10177 Baldy Lane, Hesperia. Tours are the first Saturday of each month (except August) at 10 AM. Their website is at http://calearth.org/ .