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..."

Monday, December 8, 2014

New York Straw-Bale

I spent a few weeks in my hometown of Cato, NY this summer leading the exciting and transformative process of plastering the straw bale walls at John and Julia Furlong's owner built house. I've been friends with the couple for years and have enjoyed seeing their vision take shape, as they took on the ambitious task of building a house for themselves. I was happy to be invited to participate in the effort, as one of a few contractors brought on board. Family and friends contributed to the labor, and the Furlongs worked with timberframer Sarah Highland on the design that includes a timber and stud hybrid frame, bale walls, and lime plaster finishes.

It's always satisfying to turn the shaggy straw, mesh, lathe wall into a smooth, uniform, graceful surface. We did a three coat application of natural hydraulic lime plaster with the first coat shot on pneumatically with a mortar sprayer and large air compressor. Successive coats were laid on with hawk and trowel. 

Monday, October 13, 2014

Greenhouse and Garden Cabin

This little building is located in a beautiful ridge top garden at Hillsborough Permaculture in Hillsborough, NC. The design includes a greenhouse for starting plants and storing tools, and a cabin to accommodate an overnight guest and serve as a studio for writing, painting, and refuge.

 This project has been an exciting opportunity to utilize many materials directly from the site, which really is my ideal natural building scenario. The foundation is built with beautiful stone gathered from outcroppings around the property. The very week I began building I was presented with the material for the timberframe, as a dozen pines fell in an ice storm. The walls are composed of light straw clay and cob infill, with clay soil coming from the site as well. (The walls were just being started in this photo). Lumber came from a sawmill 10 miles down the road.

This photo was taken in July, and I've been working on another project in New York since, but look forward to finishing this building when I return to NC next week, as well as sharing photos and info about the lovely Strawbale and lime plaster house in NY.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Natural Building Summer in Review

It has been a busy spring and summer of natural building and I feel fortunate to have so much to share! I've been trying to come up with an inspirational narrative for this post, but it's been months and I finally realized that waiting for inspiration has clearly turned to procrastination. So lets get on with the update:

Greg Allen and I instructed a series of natural building workshops again. The season began with a natural plaster course at Pickard's Mountain Eco-Institute in Chapel Hill. It's always a joy to return to Meg and Tim's beautiful sustainability learning center where we built our first cob building years ago.

It was exciting to host the inaugural run of courses at Greg's Mud Dauber School of Natural Building with a 7-day cob immersion and a 9-day straw bale and plaster course. The workshops were both very successful in regards of the building accomplished, friendships formed, and learning/teaching happening in all directions. I learn so much from each workshop group, and always leave a workshop so inspired by the energy, ideas, and diverse personalities of the group.

The Oak Tree Collective had another great year building in Planet Roo at the Bonnaroo music festival. Our priority was improving pieces we've built over the years, including finishing the straw bale post office with a natural lime plaster. Lime plaster offers a dramatic visual change from the red clay finish that festival attendees have come to know and love, but will provide superior weather resistance in the sometimes stormy, open festival grounds. We left the lime a natural white color, but will likely tint the building with a pigmented lime wash in the future.

Here is the Oak Tree Collective looking good and happy on one of our last tasks before the festival opening, refreshing the oak shade pergola with new green bamboo.

I'm excited to share more of what I've been up to, including a round timber and straw clay cabin/greenhouse that I built in rural North Carolina. Also my current activity of lime plastering an owner-built strawbale house in upstate NY. Check back soon, it won't be so long again!

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Thea Alvin @ Duke

I had the good fortune to work with master stone mason Thea Alvin this winter on her installation at Duke University's Nicholas School of the Environment in Durham, NC. Thea is a remarkable mason, laying stone in striking and often whimsical forms that inspire me to reconsider the limits of basic natural materials.  Her work on the front lawn of Environment Hall will serve as a contrast to the new building's LEED Platinum concrete, steel, and glass facade. I'm thrilled to have Thea's work so near to me in Durham, and look forward to visiting this lovely piece on my occasional trips to campus. You can learn more about Thea and her work at www.myearthwork.com

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Natural Building Workshops Spring 2014

Greg Allen and Michael McDonough are happy to announce the upcoming opportunities to learn about natural building through hands-on experience in the North Carolina piedmont:

workshops spring 2014:

Intro to Natural Building through earthen plasters [link]
April 26-27
Pickard's Mountain Eco-Institute
Chapel Hill, NC

7- Day Earthen Building Immersion [link]
May 4-10
Mud Dauber School of Natural Building
Snow Camp, NC

9-Day The Permitted Natural Home [link]
May 17-25
Mud Dauber School of Natural Building
Snow Camp, NC

Follow the links above for more info, email with questions and registration information. We're happy to chat about the courses on the phone as well. risingearthbuilding@gmail.com

These workshops mark an exciting development as Greg and Danielle begin to host workshops at their home and initiate the Mud Dauber School of Natural Building!