Tuesday, November 5, 2013


Mixing up some earthen plaster to fill in some low spots inside.

 Time for the scratch coat of lime plaster.

This was tile that Danielle had embedded in the lime plaster on a windowsill of the original cob house. That window bay was removed to accommodate the addition, and so the tile has been sitting around the site, wanting to be used.

Finish coat of lime over the scratch coat...

Saturday, November 2, 2013

WInter Home

Soon, my parents will be back in town, and it will be time for us to move out of their Durham home. And since our new strawbale home is not even close to being completed, we decided that Danielle's cob home would be the best spot to inhabit for the winter. This means finishing the interior, of course! So I have been working for the past week on preparing the cob house for our stay.

The structural cob is complete, but there was plenty of sculptural cob to be mixed. The weather has been very pleasant, and accommodating for bare feet. Leo was excited to get in on the foot-mixing, along with me and our friend Gray.

One of the first things I worked on finishing was the little gable roof on the east side. It has been sitting for a year and a half without any tar paper or metal. I had enough metal scrap laying around from the other house to use for this small job.

The next big project was pouring the earthen subfloor for what will be the living room. I foot-mixed a 1:3 (clay:sand) subfloor material, and troweled it out on top of the gravel drainage layer (with some old lumber tarps in between to prevent the floor mix from falling into the spaces between gravel).

One of the local cats was excited to celebrate the new subfloor with his tracks - these will get covered by the finish floor layer.

I installed some built-in shelving near the sink area. I think our plates and cups will reside here. I was able to pick a lot of great lumber from the free scrap pile at the sawmill nearby, and make a lot of great shelving from it - pine, cedar, oak, other hardwoods... I can't believe it's free!

Old hardware from the shop of a father of a friend of Danielle's mom's, that will be put to good use in our new kitchen.

This is the wood stove that we originally bought for our strawbale house, but decided would be more appropriate here because of it's small size. It draws really well, and is a pleasure to use. I look forward to wood heat this winter!

I began working on countertops the other day: tile around the sink, salvaged chestnut for the main preparation counter...

The chestnut still needs to be finished with a butcher block finish, and then it will really sing!

I loved seeing the mud dauber wasp nests that were built with cob around the basin of the sink. It's such intricate, incredible artwork.

Leo and I built a little cob bench together, so that we have a place to sit and take winter boots off when we come in the back door. Here he practices his troweling on the bench:

Danielle took some great shots of and from the green roof. Things are very much alive up there - it's exciting to see the growth! All I did was throw soil up - no watering, no planting, no maintenance.

This is a shot from the upper roof (the original roof). You can hardly tell that you're looking down to the ground past two roof tops. It looks more like Danielle is sitting up on a hill. Can you spot the edges of the two green roofs that are in the photo?

And here are some other photos of the house from all kinds of perspectives:

While I was in the country, I also took the opportunity to built a quick little pump house for our new well (to keep the pressure tank from freezing). The blue foam is free from a friend who was taking down chicken houses. And the door is made of some more of that great free lumber from the sawmill - some really wide hardwood boards - so simple and beautiful!

Eventually, this building will have wooden siding, but for now I just wanted to make it frost-proof.