Cob build!

Spring 2021!!

This is the first build we are take on as a collective and we are excited to share with you the whole process from start to finish; the highs and the lows, all that we are, all that we are learning and all that we strive towards.  

All four of the original core builders will be working on this build - a 15sqm cob house with a living roof. 

Tue 13th April - We meet on-site to go over the design and check the location before the digger comes to level the platform. We carefully check to see what existing life inhabits this area, our aim is to cause as little disturbance as possible to the existing eco-system, we relocate a small pine tree and gather flowers for our Altar.  

A simple Altar is our offering to the spirits of the land, to Patchamama, to our ancestors before us. We meditate on our intentions for the build, that we come with peace, respect and love, we ask for their guidance and blessing. 

We check in with our client and begin to map our the perimeter of the building, checking our design for reference. Once we have the outline we can feel the space, the size, the flow of the building, the size of the furniture. There is a concerned it may be to small but our goal was to make it discreet, cozy and private...all will be well we hope!

Wed 14th April - In comes the earth mover. It is the first time I have really watched a digger moving the earth, it was mesmerising and less destructive than I had imagined, the driver manoeuvred the machine like it was an extension of his body, so accurate .and flawless We preserve the topsoil for our living roof and create a huge pile of beautiful red earth for our walls.  Once the platform was levelled we dig a trench for our water and electric supply, a small platform for our compost toilet and shower and finally the trench for our foundations. An intense day and such a transformation.

Thurs 15th April - A great morning meeting with the first womens group to be trained with the collective (missing one). We share our reasons for being present and our intentions for the time ahead. I went through the design process, the logistic and the ethics of the collective. My dream is for each one of these wonderful women to feel the joy and empowerment I felt when I learned to build with my hands and for one day to be able to pay them as builders in the collective. Very excited for the journey ahead!  

RUBBLE TRENCH FOUNDATION - this is what we are building and here is a fantastic blog by an inspiring builder Sigi Koko;

Friday 16th April - Working with Melo on site today. The digger had made quite a mess of the foundation trench as it was hard for him to manoeuvre around the platform with such a big machine. The trench was different measurements to what was planned and also not straight. It meant we had a lot of re-calculating, straightening and levelling to do to prepare the trench and the overflow (for excess water to drain away from the building).  

Monday 19th April - Working on-site with Tatti we lined the trench with a fabric filter (so water can pass through it but dirt, which would clog the drainage, will not), added a thin layer of gravel to the bottom of the trench, tamped it, then placed our perforated pipe making sure it is angled towards our overflow. 

We realised that our gravel and sand had been delivered in the same truck and it was quite mixed, plus the gravel was very dusty, so we had to wash it before adding it to the trench so the dust and sand would not clog up the pipe, a lot of extra work.

Left to right - Valle, Maelle, Gaetan, Lola, Bianca & Radka

Tuesday 20th April - The first training day on-site with this epic group. We begin our day by creating a circle...the first circle of many, we share how we're feeling, how our energy levels are and if there are any challenges we have that may affect our mood/behaviour that we want to share.  My goal is to create a safe place for women to learn the art of natural building and create a strong bond between us, to support one another, let our strengths shine and embrace our diversity and all that we are. 

It was tough physical work, there were tough and deep conversations, but we stayed in tune with one another and made great progress both internally, as a group, and on-site. A truly great day!

Storm Lola strikes!!!

Thurs22nd - Wed 28th -  It has been quite frustrating week, filling and leveling the foundations with gravel,creating a rebar structure to go inside our concrete stem wall and creating the wooden forms for our concrete pour, plus a huge thunderstorm (ironically named Storm Lola) has put us slightly behind schedule. What will be will be, we stay positive and look forward to getting to the cobbing part of our build!

Thur 29th - Full power day pouring concrete into our forms. We are using this material for the build due to the time restraints and the lack of large stones (for a more ecological stem wall). A tough day but very rewarding. 

 We left the concrete to set over the weekend then removed the forms, screwed 60 80mm screws into the top of the wall (this will give us a good connection between the cob and the stem wall) then painted the top of the concrete 3 times with a waterproofing paint....all ready to start cobbing!!

Apologies for the lack of activity in updating the rest of the much better at building than computer work!

So...We have mud!!!! So nice to finally be at this stage....lets get stomping!

Sifting the subsoil to remove large stones 
We keep 3 stations going, one team digging up the soil and sifting, one team mixing and one team applying the finished mix onto the wall
The perfect mix depends on the subsoil you have on site. We try not to add to much/any commercial sand at this stage as it is an overused resource. We may get cracking but this is not a problem at this stage.
Calculating the door frame, taking into account the added height of the finished floor and the  positioning of the 'deadmen' (the wooden post which will sit in the cob walls that the door will be fixed too

The trainees! 

We found a beautiful stone, perfect for a shelf in our house. We made holes to hammer rebar through the stone and into the cob walls
Levelling up
The cob continues on top of the shelf and will later be carved to create a beautiful shape 
Adding glass to our cob walls gives a beautiful effect. We use a string dipped gasoline to heat the bottle then submerge the bottle in cold water 
After the bottles are cut they need to be cleaned and dried then taped together at the correct measurement 
We can then add the bottle brick to the wall making sure to level it.
Preparing our window ledge; first sanding
Then scorching with a blow torch and oiling
we 'sprag' the base of the wood with nails so it sits securely in the cob wall and is also fixed with rebar.
Getting creative around the door frame

Trying new techniques with glass by spray painting the cavity in-between 2 glass bricks

Creating a center piece for the main wall

Lola need to practice her handstands!

The floor is tamped and lined with a waterproof membrane 

We then add grave, tamp it and pour 15cm of cement which is reinforced with metal fencing

Long day in the office

Spending time to level the floor will save time and materials when we lay our tiles

Laying our terracotta tiles 

Working on site with an only female crew  is such a blessing. There is no competition, there are deep connections, there is support and a safe space to be all that we are. We build, we share, we laugh, dance and sometimes shed a tear. We celebrate our diversity and our skills, we celebrate the empowerment we feel when we create something with our hands. 

Creating our cob bench

Large stones act as our base

Cob is added and sculpted into shape

Cob walls are finally finished

Carpentry work, embedded in our cob walls are pieces of timber that protrude at the top, this is what we fix our roof beams on to.

OSB boards are added to our roof

Windows are added. Again we place timber inside our cob walls for the window frame to be fixed to 

We layer up our roof with a cork board insulation, a thick pond liner water barrier, lightweight clay pellets for drainage, a fabric filter to stop the drainage from getting clogged with earth and finally a mix of the top soil we excavated from the platform, cow poo and straw.

An exhausting  day finishing the roof!

Final plaster, three layers first earth, then earth and lime and finally lime for maximum protection from the elements whilst still allowing the house to breath

The finished house. It has been an incredible journey, we have learned so much as a team and grown so much individually.  So grateful for this experience, for the kindest and most wonderful hosts, the determination and commitment of the crew and the many lessons we have learned. Thank you