Mud Mammas of Gerlach

September 1, 2013 | Category: Press

Read original article: Mud Mamas of Gerlach

It’s the beginning of another hot, dry day on the Black Rock Desert north of Gerlach, and Shelly Egbert, dressed in jeans and full-length rubber boots, is testing the consistency of mud that lines a geothermal pool there.

This is no high-tech operation. In fact, it’s about as low-tech as you can get. Rubber boots, a shovel, a few plastic paint buckets and a few towels for washing up. And yet, you can tell from watching her that Egbert is in her element. It’s called illite clay. It’s said to remove impurities and balance the skin. And it lines mud pots all over the 140 acres of land her family owns.

“This is geothermally active land,” she said. “The water in some of these ponds is 205 degrees. Because of the altitude, it’s boiling. Some of it is so clear, it looks like you can see to the center of the Earth.”

She’s right. You just have to look past the steam.

The greyish-green mud is hot to the touch as she pulls a shovelful close and dumps it into a bucket. She collects what looks good and takes the buckets back to her workshop, where the rocks are strained out and the mud begins to dry.

“This stuff is pretty watery when we take it,” she said. “But in a few days, it dries out to a perfect silky consistency.”

Her plans for that mud are as simple as the mud itself. She is packaging it into plastic jars, which are labeled and put into biodegradable boxes that are infused with wildflower seeds.

“It’s taken us almost two years to figure this out,” she said. “My friend Summer Powelson and I decided two years ago we love this mud. It feels like butter, it’s great on your skin and it has absolutely no odor. We decided to collect it and sell some.”

Their motto is, “From the earth ? For you ? Back to the earth.” And the box completes the circle. When you’re done with it, you plant it and it grows wildflowers in your yard.

Shelly and Summer are two moms from Fernley who have big families and big ideas. They are running a completely green, low-tech, geothermally powered company. And they are dedicated to their goal of producing a product made completely in the U.S. Any money they make, they say, will go into college funds for their home-schooled children, who, I’d say, are learning more about entrepreneurship right here than any college course will teach them.

“You can’t tell me there are no jobs out there,” she said. “I’m using my resources, and I’m putting mud in a jar.”

You can check out their work at

Erin Breen is an Emmy Award-winning writer based in Reno. You can find her and her first book at