Cob House Building – Updates and Adaptability

Rain, Hail and Weeds – Oh My!

More rain over the weekend, but we were able to do some cleaning up in the yard before the water and hail hammered us on Sunday. We’ve had a pile of junk sitting along the side of the garage for quite some time now. Part of the pile was concrete and rubble from previous construction done on the front walkway of the house. About a month ago, we were able to get that hauled off…and it took quite a dent in our pocketbook (but that’s relative, of course…one person’s fortune is another’s night out). Concrete is pretty expensive to get rid of, sad to say. With that out of the way, we regained about 25 square feet and had to wait awhile to save up for the next bunch of junk to be taken away.

However, I learned from our refuse company that having a bin delivered to your house for a week or so costs less than $100, so I jumped on the chance to get rid of the rest of the junk. We’ve now gained another 20 square feet of land! Woot!! It’s looking more and more like a yard and less and less like a scrap pile.

Although, with all this rain, the weeds were rapidly taking over the parts of the yard I haven’t yet done. *groan* I brought the weed whacker out and chopped down what was reaching knee-height. It’s not grass, but it’s green! LOL…and manageable now. We learned a new trick – using cardboard to cover weeded or grassed areas. Not only is the lack of sun supposed to kill the weeds/grass, but the cardboard breaks down to make richer soil. Nice. It’s free covering (who doesn’t have a few boxes laying around OR isn’t able to pick some up from their local grocer) so we’re going to try that out and see what happens to the experimental patch of weeds. Instructions: Continue reading

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Weed Pulling and Landscaping – Preparing for Cob

Cob House Basics – Tilling the Earth

Before any kind of building – cob not withstanding – one must prepare the land. In order to build with cob, I need dirt…the main ingredient. As such, I am working to till the earth in the backyard and scrape off the top 6-8 inches to save for building material. With the rain gone for the moment, the ground is soft and easy to work with. Yahoo! I’m taking advantage of the climate conditions in an otherwise unforgiving landscape known as the desert. So, today I spent a couple of hours weeding. I love the smell of the rich earth and I’m happy to announce that we seem to have very clay-like soil…something I’ll need to build with cob. I used my spade, turned over the soil, picked out the weeds and used the rototiller. My feet just sank into the fresh-turned soil. Ahhh!! Continue reading

Getting Started: Creating a Clean Slate

We’re starting the project of landscaping the backyard. The first thing we need to do is clear it of the weeds and junk that has piled up over the last several years. Thankfully, I am not short of energy and also have a willing next door neighbor who is eager to assist. The strange thing I’ve noticed about the backyard is the dirt seems to have been brought in from a land fill. We did not do this, but we’re assuming this was done by one of the previous owners of the house. Why am I making this assumption? Almost on a daily basis, I have found several pieces of glass, a bungie cord, a rusted ratchet wrench, an electrical plug, an pipe elbow, pieces of children’s toys (i.e., small tires, tiny plastic balls, tiny doll arms, marbles, etc.)…and the list goes on. It’s amazing what I pull up out of the dirt here.

Since we need dirt to do cob building, I have decided to kill two birds with one stone by digging and loosening up the first 3-4 inches of soil in the back, skimming that off to the side (while picking out the garbage) and reserving it for the cob mixture. Continue reading

Taking That Leap…Into Mud!

Taking advantage of today’s technology and its convenience, I’ve decided to start an online journal about our experience into the world of Natural Building.

What Is Natural Building?

Put simply, it’s using natural building materials to create structures…from a flower bed and dog run wall (which aims to be our first project) to a fully operational cottage we hope to make our home one day. In other words, using the earth and natural, local materials, one can construct permanent and artistic formations for various uses.

Why Are We Doing This?

My husband DeWayne and I caught the bug from his Uncle Brian and his wife Sue. They told us about an amazing project called Cal Earth which uses sandbags, earth, a little concrete and barbed wire to create shelters. The concept, created or developed by Nader Khalili, was to utilize materials from war (sandbags and barbed wire) for needed shelter and homes in war-torn countries. This developed to a more sophisticated application of the building into earth bag homes and eco-villages. I recommend visiting the links to read more about this wonderful project.

This idea that we could build a sturdy, energy-efficient home from the very earth at a fraction of the cost of a commercially constructed home was very exciting to us. Ultimately, DeWayne and I would love to live in a home that leaves a very small carbon footprint and is in harmony with it’s surroundings. Admittedly, this requires a lot of time and effort, but it’s a dream we’ve had for a few years that won’t give up on. Continue reading