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, November 20, 2013

Finishing Dani's house

A few photos of Dani's house, plastered and nearing completion. We're working inside; finishing the floors, hanging doors, trim-out, cabs, counters, fixtures.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Dani's House

It's been a busy season and I haven't taken a picture in months, so here's what the great room looked like this summer. We used fans and a blower-door to hasten the drying the straw-clay mixture, and are currently finishing up the final interior plaster. I guess I have to take some new photos to share, things are really coming together over here on blackwood mountain!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Straw clay and Lime plaster

My focus this summer has been on leading the construction of the straw/clay walls and natural finishes for a new house in rural chapel hill. It's been an exciting project to work on, the house is unique in many ways.  I'll write more about the process and technical details later when I have a little more time, lime plastering is underway!

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Introducing the Oak Tree Collective

After five years of growing enthusiasm for this project we finally realized that we were on to something and have started an organization. Visit our website at oaktreecollective.org and see photos of our work at Bonnaroo 2013 via instagram at http://instagram.com/oaktreecollective

The idea for a grand entrance to planet roo had been tossed around for a few years. Design criteria included the use of locally sourced natural and reclaimed materials, a variety of finishes and textures, and plants growing on top. We decided 2013 was the year to build the arch early on, but the specific design didn't evolve until we were on-site and discovered what materials were around to work with.

The arch sits on a foundation of reclaimed concrete slab. This masonry footing was fast and easy to build and the materials were gathered from a broken driveway on the farm. Next, an armature was framed with random lumber scrounged from around the site. This skeleton was covered with various materials, including cob, which is an amalgam of site soil, sand, and straw. Cob is a load bearing structural material, but for speedy building, we simply attached a few inches of cob "venner" to the arch framework via wire fencing.

The top of the arch is finished with rough cut oak boards and local bamboo. To cap it off and complete the look, a variety of living, breathing, plants were perched happily on top. The piece became interactive, as "Rooers" touched, carved, and wrote in the fresh clay plaster. Some festival goers enjoyed the experience of pitching in with re-plastering throughout the weekend as we continued to refresh the surface with new mud.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Cob Workshop

Our 7-day Cob workshop at Pickard's Mountain Eco-Institute turned out to be an inspired gathering. It was a joy to spend a week building with everyone. Thank-you students, interns, hosts, cooks!

We spent a week building an outdoor cob pizza kitchen and exploring natural building through hands-on experience. Were fortunate to have a skilled photographer attend, so here are a few images that artfully capture some of the week's activity:

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Light straw clay

Light straw clay insulation and clay plaster in a country cabin in Bahama, NC.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Pickard's Mountain

We're looking forward to teaching a series of workshops at Pickard's Mountain Eco-Institute in Chapel Hill this spring. Pickard's is where be built our first cob building and hosted a wonderful workshop four years ago.

Here's a link to an early blog post on our first project at Pickard's.


Sunday, February 17, 2013

Chapel Hill Cob Workshops 2013

I'm pleased to announce that Greg Allen and I will be instructing four cob and natural building workshops at Pickard's Mtn. Eco-Institute outside Chapel Hill, NC this spring! 

Here is a brief outline, follow the links below for more information.

This photo is from last year's 7-day cob workskop in Durham. These workshops will be in a more rural setting, at Pickard's Mountain educational farm and sustainability learning center. Pickard's is where Greg and I held our first cob workshop four years ago, and it's exciting to building there again!

Contact Mike at mpmcdono@yahoo.com or (502) 381 5004

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Happy New Year!

With the turn of the new year I'm encouraged by ever expanding interest in ecological building. There is clearly a surge of interest in building small, and using local, minimally processed materials. It's exciting! I'm looking forward to documenting the projects of my colleagues and I on this blog as the year unfolds.

The 2013 workshop schedule will be posted in the next few weeks, so check back. We are offering multiple workshops in Durham/Chapel Hill, and likely other locations including Tennessee and New York's finger lakes.

This photo was taken in the house we built in Durham and it's one of the best pictures I took this year. I feel like this photo captures the building's warmth and cheerful feeling.

The bathroom's walls are finished with a lime plaster, which is water resistant, tough, and has a charming hand made texture. lime can be used over various substrates, and in this case it's the final layer on a stud, lath, and plaster wall.

The ceiling is tongue and groove pine, and the shower is ferrocement. You can read about building the shower in detail in an older post on this blog.