why rising earth?

The title of this blog draws from my time as an apprentice at the Cob Cottage Company in costal Oregon. If you spend time with natural building folk, you'll eventually find yourself around a fire, sing silly songs about cob and natural building. Folks usually refer to these oftentimes improvised tunes as "cobsongs". I often sang..."There is a house in old coquille, they call the rising earth, it's been the work of many hands, and you know what that's worth..."

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Natural Building Workshop - Troy, NY

I'm really looking forward to the upcoming cob outdoor kitchen workshop July 17-23 in Troy, NY. We've been preparing the site, gathering stone, choosing trees to use for framing. There is still availability in the class, so get in touch if interested!

Monday, May 9, 2016

Outdoor Kitchen Workshop

Natural Outdoor Kitchen Workshop
July 17-23, 2016
Troy, NY

Join Michael McDonough and a group of natural building enthusiasts in building an outdoor kitchen with materials from the land! We'll use stone, earth, and wood to craft a small outdoor kitchen that shelters a cob pizza oven and food prep area.

We will:

  • Create a stone and rubble foundation 
  • Build cob walls with local soil
  • Build and operate a cob oven 
  • Learn about earth and lime plaster basics
  • Learn carpentry basics
Three farm fresh meals will be prepared onsite daily. Camping is available and encouraged. Evenings are unscheduled, providing time to explore Troy or sit around the campfire.

The site: The Vague Estates is set on 48 acres remarkably located less than two miles from downtown Troy. Adjacent to a natural area with swimming holes and waterfalls, we have an outdoor shower and big beautiful garden.
Registration: $850, email risingearthbuilding@gmail.com. Group rates or work/trade may be available upon inquiry.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Springwood Manor

This spring signals a big transition, as Melissa and I begin our first year in Troy, NY.  We enjoyed a very sweet life in Durham, and I mostly built my building career there, but I've always wanted to return home to New York. We found the perfect spot for a new start on an old homestead in the upper hudson, a place called springwood manor, in Troy.

Here are a couple old Polaroids John found to help illustrate the beauty up here. We've found ourselves quickly at home, putting a wood stove in the house, cleaning up the barn, making garden beds. I'm looking forward to finding my niche in the ecological building community, and have a few little projects in the works.

We are lucky in spring to witness the burst of rebirth and luckier still if we have the sense to recognize out place in it and imbibe in a little of the seasons eternal optimism... Let's see what we can come up with this year.. :)

Friday, January 8, 2016

Log Stairs


One final touch in the treehouses was creating this log staircase. With the help of the Durham parks department, we located the perfect log standing dead in a city park. Post oak is known to be quite rot resistant and as its name implies, traditionally used for fence posts. A standing dead tree was really perfect because the wood was off the ground and dry, limiting decay. It had dried enough that checking and warping of the wood was limited after carving, and was ready to accept fungicide and finish.

The first step after the log was on site was to cut it to length, and peel the bark off. Then I power-washed to remove the fibrous inner bark. After drying, the log was treated with timbor fungicide to lengthen it's useful life outdoors. With a chainsaw, I cut out the notch where the log bears on the treehouse deck, and cut the bottom flat. We installed the log with a bobcat, and after cutting the steps, I poured a concrete footing underneath. Fun stuff!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Cob Garden Wall

Now that the treehouses are complete and Hideaway Woods is open to the public, I have more time to post other projects from the year. One highlight was working with the kids at the SEEDS educational garden to build a cob wall at the entry of their new garden plot.

This project was a great combination of so many aspects of natural building that I love. The work was done by wonderful people, for a great cause, and in a public location where the beauty of natural building has the opportunity to inspire many hearts.

We had different volunteers and friends helping every week, and I enjoyed introducing folks to cob and providing their initial natural building experience. The youth gardeners were the impetus behind the project, wanting a beautiful way to accent the gate in the fence of the new garden. It was a joy to build with kids taking pride in their work, and having fun of course.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Hideaway Woods Treehouses

It's been a wonderful season of working on the new exhibit at the North Carolina Museum of Life and Science, Hideaway Woods. The centerpiece of this unique exhibit is a series of nine treehouses, connected via cable and rope bridges, from six to twenty five feet up in the pines.

Rising Earth is fortunate to have been one of many great partners in the creation of Hideaway Woods, a whimsical, inspirational, and educational woodland playground. We provided local custom carpentry while Pennsylvania treehouse builder Dan Wright and his company Treetop Builders were the treehouse experts on the job.

We're only a few short weeks away from completion, and I'm looking forward to enjoying visiting after the public opening. It's going to be easy to enjoy this project, playing along with excited families, kids, and museum guests.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Natural Building Workshops 2015

2015 Workshops at Mud Dauber School of Natural Building:

Michael is once again collaborating with Greg Allen in instructing natural building workshops in North Carolina. We are offering two week long courses that will provide a thorough introduction to building with earth and straw through the construction of a community kitchen. Participants will learn through hands on experience wood framing, straw bales, cob, slip-straw, earth and lime plaster. Each course is focused on either strawbale or cob, but a wide variety of materials and techniques will be covered in each. Visit muddauberschool.com/workshops for details and registration information.

Natural Building Immersion - Strawbale focus: May 3rd-10th 2015

In our strawbale immersion, we will be stacking bales in a variety of ways: in a stud wall, in a post-and-beam-style wall, and in a “balecob” hybrid wall system. We will also use straw in its loose form to make slip-straw walls. The foundation and some framing will be in place; we will complete the framing, install a metal roof, and then build our natural walls. You will learn how to design around bales, shape them, connect them together, protect them from water, and finish them with plaster. We will integrate doors and windows, as well as sculptural details. We will tour local, permitted strawbale homes, and will have discussion surrounding the permitting process. We will additionally be building with cob and wattle-and-daub. There will be a good amount of time to get comfortable with mixing and applying natural plasters, too!

Natural Building Immersion - Cob focus: May 3rd-10th 2015 is SOLD OUT.