Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Update on Ottawa Avenue

In addition to the main cob project featured in the previous post, I am still working towards the seemingly unattainable completion of the cob garden wall in my sister's backyard. You may remember seeing videos of me running at a cob wall and knocking it down? That was the original attempt at my sister's garden wall, which didn't over-winter sans coverage like I had experimentally hoped. In February, I made a special trip down from New York for attempt #2, but was snowed into failure. The photos below follow my third and most recent attempt, which I am hoping will take me into the realm of success and fulfillment.

Thing 1 often comes out, ready to get his hands (, shoes, clothes, head, and hair) dirty.

My ad-hoc stool solution pleased Ian immensely, as it allowed him to reach the proper height on the wall for "smush!" (Although he uses "cob" for the noun form, he uses "smush" as the related verb).

Always stepping back to check the flow of the form. The shingles on the wall are leftovers from my sister's house and are used here just for rain protection - they won't be part of the final wall.

My sister's "artistic" shot of the gate-to-be.

After having made dozens and dozens of roof "trusses," Eric and I placed them along the wall in as pleasing a way as we could.

Here you can see the technique used to lock the roof and wall to each other. Each truss is connected to the next by a "deadman" (a gnarly piece of roundwood that is later buried). The empty space between the trusses (and around the deadmen) is then filled with cob, anchoring the roof securing to the wall.

My material setup up at my mixing station (sand, old cob, straw, and clay soil).

And my (gasp!) mixer. Why a machine instead of the power of human dance? I've realized that urban cob is not as friendly to feet, as there is often glass shards, nails, and other sharp things mixed into all our soils. Although gassy and loud, the mortar mixer did a really solid job of mixing cob, with top-quality results.

My neighbors wheelbarrow left a very sad imprint in my sand pile that I could see from the backyard each time I turned around. A big, akward, melancholy creature with a good heart, no doubt.

The trusses, post-cobbing.

Doug, my brother-in-law, is at least 6'4", and so the doorway had to be accommodating.

Cob certainly lends itself to curving forms.

I work my apprentices until collapse.

I mostly enjoy the kitchen window in this photo, although the point is to show how the wall leads up to the house.

It's time to go back to my other project. When I return to my sister's backyard, the next step will be decking the roof trusses to prepare for the installation of the living roof. The ensuing (and final) step will be to stucco the block foundation, and earthen plaster the cob wall!

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