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..."

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Cob Kitchen Workshop

Hey folks! I'm finally getting around to updating the blog with some of my activity from the year. Here are photos from the cob outdoor kitchen workshop Mark and I taught at the Vague Estates in Troy, NY this summer.

This little open air building was designed to shelter a wood-fired earthen bread/pizza oven, and utilize the abundant raw material found on site; including wood, stone, and clay.

We started the week-long workshop by completing a stone and rubble foundation for the cob walls. In a small gesture of regenerative building, the foundation material was harvested from trash dumps around the past neglected property. Clay subsoil was procured from an adjacent cemetery. Diseased or crowded trees were taken for the timber frame.

I've always based my oven designs on Kiko Denzer's outstanding book, Build Your Own Earth Oven. Above you can see us applying insulation material over the inner shell of dense, heat-storing cob. The insulation was a mixture of sawdust, straw, vermiculite, and just enough dried pottery clay mixed in to stick.

Here's Sandra compacting the sand form that defines the oven interior before we apply cob.

Layout lines for cutting the tenon on top of a round-wood post. And yours truly in the background.

Round wood carpentry is tricky, but doable. Looks great in a little building like this but would take a long time for a house!

Thank you Heather for the photos, Missy for the food, and the rest of the crew for a great week together!

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!