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, August 19, 2009

Catskill strawbale

Here are some pictures of a more conventional strawbale building, to serve as a contrast to the one at Bonnaroo. I worked as a subcontractor on the bale work in December of last year.

trimmed straw, ready for plaster

trimming the bales flush

A jig for ripping bales with a chainsaw

Monday, August 3, 2009

Piedmont cob

Here are some photos of a cottage I built with my friend Greg in Chapel Hill, North Carolina this spring

The building is set on a south slope for maximum solar gain and it's slightly burmed into the hill, which will help to moderate temperature. We built on a rubble trench which combines drainage and footing functions.

The blank slate. Most of our stones were local igneous bedrock. Others are quartzite and sandstone leftover from building the client's house years ago.

It took a few days to set the first course of stones and the threshold. After that our speed increased dramatically as we went along.


I played when I needed a break. I learned a whole lot about stone (and these stones in particular) by fooling with them. The foundation benefeted from it.

This was a dry foundation (no mortar!) and I tested every stone to make sure they didn't move

Greg and I taught a couple of cob workshops during the building process. Here we are mixing cob by foot.

Industrial cob alternative

Cob is composed of clayey subsoil, sand, straw and water. It's mixed to a firm yet malleable consistency and walls are built handfull at a time.

We built the rafters right into the cob walls which made building a curvy roof quite easy. The framing is achored to deadmen (usually pieces of strong forked roundwood) that are buried in cob.

Except for the lumber all the living roof materials were salvaged. Here were are filling the truck with dumpstered goodies.

Green roof workshop

Here you can see the strawbales. The west and north walls are a bale/cob hybrid for greater insulation.

It's not done yet but looking good! We still need to install the woodstove and door, plaster the walls, and pour an earthen floor.