Learning on the road and building a stove from clay

One of the things we have set out to do on this journey together is to learn new things. Stuff that we have wanted to but haven’t made time for. Or things we didn’t know existed and might stumble upon along the way. This is also part of Isa’s worldschooling during these months. We aim to follow her school curriculum in maths and Swedish language but besides from that learn from the things we get to experience. Her English has already improved a lot and she is not nervous to engage in conversation and finds ways to make herself understood.

How a classroom can look on the road

When arriving in Guatemala a few weeks back we had signed up for a Natural Building course with Atitlan Organics. Something that seemed both fun and incredibly useful. Building in not just sustainable but regenerating ways interests me a lot and goes hand in hand with my belief that we have the resources, knowledge and reasons to co-create with nature. Another important aspect for me when looking at courses is where I spend my money and what kind of structure I’m supporting by that. This is not just for traveling – it’s important in my home community, when I’m ordering things on internet or when I’m traveling. In this course we got to learn something and a local family benefits from it at the same time. That’s a setup I can support.

Oliver Goshey of Abundant Edge guided us in a thorough introduction to building with natural materials – from design, site and planning to structure, framing, roof, walls and plastering. I enjoyed the theory a lot, for Isa the more complicated English words made it a bit too much to take in and she preferred the practical part of the course where we got our hands dirty. In one week, with mainly rocks, clay and straw we built a rocket stove variation for a family in the village. Here’s some bits and pieces from the process.

Isa and Dean are testing the layout and forming the foundation of the stove. Rocks from the surroundings are used for the foundation and bricks for the burn chamber.

Making slip that will go on the stones and bricks of the foundation.

Time to mix cob. Fun but also hard work. Straw is mixed in to the clay for tensile strength, using the long fibers to knit together the cob.

Starting the first layer of cob and building the burn chamber. The configuration of the burn chamber on a rocket stove is what makes it burn really hot, leaving minimal waste as smoke and creating an almost whistling sound from the air flow when it burns properly. Simple and super effective.

The stove is taking shape under the hands of Isa and Maiwa. You make sure the layers attach to each other by working the cob with your fingers, poking holes down towards the next layer.

Time for snack break and try to get the clay out of your hair.

The top metal section with the stove plates is in place and Oliver is showing how to form the opening for the chimney.

When the surface is even it’s time for plastering, using lime as our finishing surface.

Premiere breakfast on the stove. Just a few days ago it was piles of rocks and clay. Our mission was complete and I found it easy, fun and empowering to build with natural materials. Go look for the nearest clay source and start building folks!

The small village of Tzununa by lake Atitlan where we took the course and built the stove. Population is mostly indigenous Mayans with a growing group of foreigners. The community is working to grow in a way that will benefit all inhabitants and not ending up with new businesses run only by foreigners for foreigners. There’s a huge interest and focus on regenerative thinking with permaculture farms, natural housebuilding and fermented products.


If you’re interested in reading more or taking a course you can check these links out:

Atitlan Organics website, Facebook, Instagram and Youtube

Abundant Edge website, Facebook and podcast


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