Article, couple who built self-sufficient home out of clay and straw


Couple who built self-sufficient home out of CLAY and straw, and now live off the grid with their two kids, reveal they haven’t had to pay bills in over a DECADE – saving them $70K A YEAR

Misty Murph’Ariens, 36, and her husband Bryce 46, met as chefs in Hamilton, Ontario and loved visiting his grandmother’s rural cottageIn 2009, they bought a piece of farmland for $37,500 and spent $10,000 building a house out of clay, sand, and strawThey get food from farm animals and their garden, electricity from solar panels, and water from a well on the propertyThey earn some money from a small local catering business but get around by cycling, walking, or on horseback because they have no carMisty homeschools their five- and seven-year-old daughters.

A family that lives in an impressive off-grid self-built ‘clay’ home have paid no bills for over a decade — saving them $70,000 a year.

Misty Murph’Ariens, 36, and her husband Bryce 46, have become homesteaders — self sufficiency experts — since moving into a remote Canadian forest 15 years ago.

Now with their seven-year-old daughter Sage and five-year-old daughter Aurora, the Murph’Ariens is almost entirely self-sufficient, getting their food from a vegetable farm and a collection of animals, their electricity from solar panels, and their water from a well.

The couple met while working as chefs in Hamilton, Ontario but quickly realized they weren’t suited to living in the big city.  

‘From the moment we met we instantly knew we wanted to live an alternative lifestyle,’ Misty said.

They went for a visit to Bryce’s grandmother’s cob cottage in rural Durham for 54 weekends in a row, falling in love with the far-out location.

‘Bryce’s grandmother’s cottage was so peaceful and we were constantly disappointed when we had to leave and go back to the city,’ Misty said.

In 2006, they moved there permanently and immediately saw a change in their wellbeing. 

‘I’ve always suffered with intense migraines but when we moved to the countryside they started to become less and less frequent,’ Misty said.

‘Six-months after moving they’d stopped completely, and I’m convinced it was the noise and the city environment which had been the cause of my discomfort.

‘Rural living immediately made sense to us, and the idea of being completely self sufficient was really appealing.’

They spent three years learning how to lead the homestead lifestyle before going out on their own and buying a piece of farmland in the local area for $37,500 in 2009.

It was covered in trash and abandoned materials, which they spent weeks clearing. They then spent four months building a cob house — a natural material made of clay, sand, and straw — for just $10,000.

Every summer since the move, they have expanded and improved their home. 

Their daughters are homeschooled by Misty and taught a traditional syllabus with the addition of key primal skills, animal care, and building techniques.

To earn money, Misty and Bryce run a small catering business in the local community, but with no car, they get around by cycling, walking, or traveling on horseback.

Bryce claims the reason their family is financially stable despite their lack of consistent income is their low cost, self-sufficient lifestyle.

‘We’ve worked out over the years that our annual living costs amount to approximately $15,000 — and that’s with raising two kids,’ he said.

‘We try to be as self sufficient as possible, farming and harvesting all the food we eat.

‘We do get the occasional shopping delivery to the nearest road, but that’s only for a very select range of essential items,’ he said.

Most of their food comes from their own cows, chickens, and ducks, as well as a vegetable patch.

The garden grows all the traditional orchard fruits and produces a variety of nuts and vegetables, which they harvest on a weekly basis. 

They cook their meals on a wooden stove, use solar panels for electricity, and collect water from a well. 

The pair estimate that their lives cost just $15,000 a year to fund — a whopping $70,000 CAD less than the average four person household in their province.

‘I think the difference with our lifestyle is not so much what we do, but why we do it,’ Bryce said.

‘Of course we do have to acquire money, but the focus of our day is finding the most sustainable and fulfilling way to live.

‘Whereas most people are spending the majority of their time working to afford the necessities of life, we spend our time working to acquire these necessities directly.

‘Granted, it’s not a life for everyone, but it works for us and, as a family, we’ve never been happier.’


  • Comments (7)

    • 2

      Iti s called adobe and is a very common building material in the US southwest, Mexico, and areas to the south.  It has many advantages if properly done.  A quite useful building strategy

      • 1

        I’m in NM and adobe is quite common in older homes. Warm in the winter and nice and cool in the summer.

        People still commonly build adobe walls around their property. I don’t know what the benefit would be, but people like the aesthetic. 

    • 3

      There are a few things that strike me as odd about this article.  One is why on earth would a cob house cost $10.000 to build?  Were they buying the clay by the pound from an art supply store?  A friend of mine built her own cob house for under $900 and could have gotten that down even lower had she used homemade shingles. 

      The other is their claim not to have had to pay “bills” in over a decade.  What about vet bills for their horse? (Which FYI can be more expensive to keep than a car.)  Taxes on their land?  A phone or internet bill? (They may not have either, but it wasn’t explicitly mentioned.) Insurance bills, et cetera, related to their catering business?

      Also $15,000 a year for a family of four, with two of them being young children, doesn’t seem super frugal to me, especially if they really have no bills and grow all of their own food.  Then, what are they spending it on?  Though admittedly I’m not sure what the cost of living is there, nor the current difference between American vs. Canadian dollars, so I guess I’m just sort of picturing that if the article were written about a family around here, I would not be at all impressed.  My family and most of my friends are living more frugally than that without even really trying, I mean, we do try to both save money and live lightly on the planet, but none of us feel like we’re doing anything extreme. 

      I guess it left me confused as to why the author thought this was anything newsworthy, but I’m glad the family is living a lifestyle they enjoy.

      • 2

        There are a few questions I have as well on how they were able to do certain things.

        I wonder how well adobe does in the cold Canadian winters. I’ve only ever seen those type of houses in the southwest US and wonder how that holds up against weather and natural disasters.

        The Canadian growing season in their garden is much shorter than other areas, so I’d like to learn what they grow, how much, and how they store excess for the long winter that lasts like 5 months up there.

        Like you said, what about taxes, vet bills, phone bills, internet bills. Also how about feeding all of those animals. I also thought that caring for those horses is probably more expensive than a vehicle. A $10,000 used vehicle with low miles that is rarely driven can last for 10+ years with minimal maintenance and additional costs. 

        The $10,000 used to build the house is probably in Canadian dollars and probably came from things like all the windows, doors, sinks, bathtubs, solar, wiring, plumbing, etc… I’m more interested in how your friend was able to build one for $900! A single toilet by itself is like $200.

        I’d like to learn more about this family and how they do things day to day and year to year. But more importantly I’d like to shake their hand and tell them good job at building such an impressive house and for keeping their expenses to a minimum. Good article and thank you for sharing Bill Masen.

      • 4

        I thought we were talking about cob, which is slightly different than adobe. Not just in that it’s laid down freeform, but also I believe the extra straw in the mix helps keep it from crumbling due to temperature changes.  It holds up just fine in wet northern regions of the US, so presumably also in Canada.  It’s a very old traditional building method in England and Wales, as well, which are both damp if not so cold.

        About my friend’s house, she doesn’t have a toilet, bathtub, solar, wiring or much plumbing to speak of.  Her kitchen sink is a nice used one I had tucked away in my barn, and was happy to give her and install for her – just the drain setup, since she doesn’t have running water.  (You can also find them free on Craigslist all the time – toilets too for that matter, often unused.)  Her doors are beautiful wooden ones made by another friend, with very artistic hand carving on them, and look amazing with her natural house.  I’d have to ask about the windows, but I’m guessing she got them used, so probably very cheap if not free.  She’s very environmentally conscious, and working toward a zero waste lifestyle on her land.

        Your comment helped me to look at what the family in the article spent on their house a little differently, though.  Perhaps the newsworthy part is that they built a house with all modern luxuries included for $10,000 which probably gives it an “anyone could do this” appeal to most readers, that something like my friend’s much cheaper but very old fashioned house would not have.   So, good point!

      • 2

        That is very impressive of your friend to recycle so many pieces into a functioning home that would have been in a landfill otherwise. 

    • 3

      Great story! The “wooden” stove has really piqued my interest since I recycle pallets into all sorts of home furnishings. I can imagine a wooden stove being much lighter than a cast iron stove and therefore easier to build and move! Of course, if I can make it from recycled wood I can sell them pretty cheap, making a few bucks for myself and saving expense for other preppers!. I worry about what kind of fuel one would use, but such a deal! Can’t wait to learn more!

      Of course I’m kidding! Some seem to make a point of tearing such articles apart. One has to consider that some writers know little of the subject matter and are only creating a puff piece to fill space, after which said piece is edited (and enhanced) by someone who knows even less about the subject to make it more interesting to the less knowledgeable!

      Take it for what it’s worth and give the family credit for what they doing…something many of of us would like to do!

      Thanks for posting, Bill!