Thursday, May 27, 2010

Endless Cob Days

As promised to a friend, some shots from as-above-as-I-can-get:

Concentration near the top of the column, working towards a peak stone...


Eric works the exterior column with a sheepish grin.

Finding his peak stone.

To give you a sense of scale:

Mia has been helping with the project, and is one of the shamans who will be using the space for spiritual healing when it's finished!

A perspective up the column from "sitting at the desk."

The same column.

These are the things ("cobber's thumbs," or "sticks") that make all of the holes in the walls.

The arch beaks spiraling towards one another.

The arch-in-progress in all of its sinewy glory.

The four arched windows of the East (to be sculpted further, in good time).

We had two participants for our latest weekend workshop. Low numbers, but... from the Virgin Islands! Distance points. Shanna and Justine:

Posing with their "kill," a finished burrito of cob.

Here are the dry ingredients, ready to be rolled into a more homogeneous state on the tarp.

Shanna, rolling.

And dancing.

The integrity of the mix becomes obvious when it rolls into a "burrito." Shanna seems to be yelling at Eric.

Not everything is smooth on a natural building site. Tuesday was a frustrating day, during which Eric and I took a few steps backwards. The window header in the above photo has settled too much on one side, and so I had to attempt a repair. I dug out cob with a machete, and was able to lift the header enough to slide a couple rocks under the end to even it back out.

To relieve some of Tuesday's stress, Eric and I enjoyed a mellow niche-sculpting session:

I obtained the scaffolding from Pickards Mountain; it has been useful for doing balecob. In the corner, you'll notice the final two bales with their heads above cob. They have since been covered.

Finally up to roof height on the south wall! And we're getting there elsewhere. Any day now...

Thursday, May 20, 2010

building with nature, and then surviving her tests.

After torrents and cats and bouts and dogs of rain, I began to get paranoid about water damage. The cob did well, aside from a few places where pools of water had streamed down from the tarps in concentrated lines, washing away the top half inch of material. My concern was directed more towards the strawbales; once a bale gets moisture inside, mold can form and spread to the other bales and lead to the entire wall rotting. This is to be avoided at all costs.

One bale in particular felt too damp for my liking, and so it was removed with a machete.

After a couple days of letting the area dry out, I decided that stuffing a new bale back in would be too complicated (it would be difficult to get it attached into the cob well enough without ripping apart and re-doing our cob). Instead, Eric built a dry-stack rubble wall in the bale's place:

(... and later buried it with a facade of cob).

Earlier in the week, we had another stone session, raising our triple-exposed, aesthetically-purposed, mortared, granite column another foot-and-a-half:



main room, above future desk.

Today I set the lintel over our big, red, opening window:

Our most recent window is also our most whimsical. It is set at a dramatic diagonal within the thickness of the wall, and is also tilted to draw your eye up into the canopy of the trees. The reason for this was twofold: 1. to give the window its own unique identity, separate from that of the cascading triplets, and 2. to show off that with cob, one can do anything.

Here are those cascading triplets, post-lintels.

Taking a step back from the cottage's south side.

And a bit further.

A ball of cob's perspective.

This weekend we will have a 2-day workshop, and hope to get the remainder of the cob done up to the point where we can begin setting rafters and framing the roof!

Monday, May 17, 2010

And so grew a house.

The walk up from the road.

Eric had mixed a batch of mortar for raising our stone columns, so I snagged some of it to install the threshold. The top of the bricks will be flush with the finished earthen floor, when it's poured in October.

I didn't notice until uploading this photo how perfectly the branch in the background completes the arch.

We repurposed this lumber from an old, dismantled bookshelf to use as an exposed interior lintel. I anticipate this being my favorite nook in the cottage, once a desk goes in.

Our cob.

This shower glass will be sculpted into a series of arched windows with cob.

Below the glass, there are blocks of rigid styrofoam. This is so that the glass has a soft bed to sink into when the cob settles over time. To prevent any cob from getting under the edge of the glass, I stuck straw between the blocks of foam.

Eric has begun to raise the interior columns for the arches.

A morning look over the northwest corner, into the building.

Who is on the wall?


Danielle! Bale-hop-cobbing. Michele is the lady who dragged me into this project. And of course Eric, master-cob-trimmer.

With the threat of rain, tarps are draped over the walls, making it look like a forest sculpture poised for a dramatic unveiling.