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

Advertisements

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

An Upside-Down World: Modern Construction vs. Natural Building

I subscribe to a web site and their newsletter (The Year of Mud: Cob & Natural Building) and they just posted that their cob house was featured in Yes! Magazine. He also says in his newsletter:

“Apparently, cob is a ‘wacky’ material, even though half of the world’s population live or work in earthen structures – ha! Well, anyway, Forbes has deemed cob “wacky” enough to include in their latest article, Homes Made From Wacky Materials. They’ve got my house in the mix.

By the way Brian Liliola’s house is pictured 7 of 19 in the gallery of pictures. Their house is lumped into the group of people who are making homes from garbage dumpsters. I’m not knocking people making homes out of dumpsters, but you have to admit, that’s a little bizarre. Points to them, however, for recycling materials!! My point, though is cob houses have been a part of traditional construction methods since the Medieval times!! As I’m reading this article, I’m shaking my head and a little part of me gets irate, so I’m going to get on my soap box.

WARNING: YOU ARE ABOUT TO ENTER A SPEW ZONE! Continue reading

Updates – RAIN!

Anyone know the photographer of this photo? I'd love to link to their web site.

Rain is good news and bad news: Good news because it’s soaking into the ground and making it softer and easier to work with; bad news because I have to wait until it stops raining to get to work AND we can’t play outside with the poor energetic dog. The timing is good, though. I threw my back out and can’t do any work in the garden anyway! Funny how the Universe provides, no?

It’s dangerous in these unproductive times because my husband and I love to dream and plan and brainstorm ideas. Meaning, we come up with NEW things to add to our list of projects! We get the Handyman magazine, which is FULL of wonderful DIY ideas, tips and projects. Little ideas turn into our brainstorming sessions and away we go. Inspired by a resurfacing project for fixing old, cement stairs, we’re going to attempt repairing the back cement patio, which has cracks and chunks missing. Though we have a cement mixer, we’re not sure if it works and we’ve never worked with cement before. Won’t know until you try, eh? The plans are set, ideas are swirling. We’ll see how well we do with that project this spring.

I told my husband, “I sure hope all these plans work out like we’re dreaming they will.” He says, “Everything else that we do together and we’ve put our mind to always works out. Why not these?” OMG I love that man o’  mine!!!

Cob Housing – My Thoughts

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.

Project Notes: Dog Run Wall & Bench

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

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