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
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
As I thumb through The Hand-Sculpted House, I get excited about the possibilities! There are so many wonderful things we can incorporate into the projects we’re looking to create as our experiments and through our learning. Notice the marble shelf incorporated into this bathroom wall! Even the creative vine sculpture framing the alcove, all built into the bathroom wall. Unique features throughout a home, or what we hope to implement in the backyard, adds such a unique flavor. No one else on the planet will have these features.
Look at the shelves molded into the wall and beside the stove of this picture! Even the detail of the small stones by the floor. All of these images spark ideas of what I would like to add to our home when we eventually build our own cob house.
Also, cob houses seem to be a little more flexible when laying out electrical outlets and plumbing fixtures, as opposed to the slightly more rigid structure of the earth bag houses. It just seems to be a more creative process, in my opinion.
Artistic example of a cob bench
We’re adapting the plan as we go along. Originally, we thought to create a wall (about 3-4 feet tall and about 25-30 feet long) to section off the designated dog run area with a flower bed (about 1.5 feet tall) that would curve and double as a seating area in front of the fire pit. However, now that we’re looking at the cob building techniques instead of the earth bag construction, we like the idea of incorporating the artistic and sculpting features of cob, so we’re expanding the concept.
We anticipate the dog run will be about 4 feet wide and stretch all along the fence on the north-side of the yard. The wall will be simple – just straight and we’ll top it with the same bull-nose red brick we have at the front of the house on the retaining wall and flower bed. We’ll also stucco the sides and paint it the butter-yellow the rest of the house is in (which is now starting to look white). So that hasn’t really changed. Continue reading
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
Not the exact design we want, but this is an example of making a bench out of cob.
Our backyard is a mess and needs to be landscaped. We want to learn how to use natural building techniques AND we want to make efforts to increase the value of this house while spending as little money as possible to do it. Natural building techniques just may be the answer to accomplishing all the above.
We took in a stray dog – we’re assuming he was about 1.5 years when we got him, possibly a black labrador/border collie/rottweiler mix, about 80 lbs., and named him Zeddicus Drool Zorander, “Zedd” for short – and he is full of more energy than we anticipated. He LOVES to play ball and run around. However, I don’t have much time to spend taking him for walks or to dog parks. We are blessed to have a very large backyard (about 40 feet deep), so I can throw a ball 4-5 times per day to help him expend some of that energy. However, such activity has cause the yard to become a permanent dirt patch, creating tons of dust. Not only do we need to landscape, we also need to make it dog-friendly.
Pooping and peeing around the yard is not an option for him. We want to use the yard for recreation and entertainment and not have to worry about stepping in surprises. When I was in high school, my mom and step-father built a dog run along the side of the backyard for the dogs to do their business. Kept the rest of the yard clean of such “land mines”. I want to do the same in our yard and I am successfully training Zedd to do his business in only one part of the yard. He’s a smart lad!
Yes, he is holding three tennis balls in his mouth at once and he did that all by himself!
Instead of spending the money for a chain-link fence, which isn’t very attractive in my opinion, we’re going to incorporate the cob building techniques to create a wall to border the dog run. To add to the aesthetics and functionality of the yard, we’re also going to include a flower bed and bench with gas-powered fire pit. We had a Halloween party in our backyard this past year (2011) – which was a great success – and we had borrowed a portable fire pit from DeWayne’s parents. We positioned benches around the pit and it was a great focal point and source of light, warmth and ambience for the festivity. We’re looking to incorporate that into a more permanent fixture for future backyard events.
We can carry the flower bed construction along the garage, too. Woo hoo! We have a plan. Now to finish designing and implementing.