Archive for March, 2015

We just ended a week long cob workshop at the Mud Dauber School, where we are building our straw bale house.  What a lovely group of cobbers!  In seven days eight students plus Greg constructed a tiny cob and straw bale building, from digging the rubble trench on day one:

16821236295_5d0efbc4c3_oto finishing the walls on day seven!:



We are excited to be hosting two more workshops this May, one cob workshop and one straw bale workshop.  You can read about them here: http://muddauberschool.com/workshops/

Sharing healthy and hearty meals while working together is part of the experience during our natural building workshops.  In May we will be working on constructing a cob and straw bale dining area/kitchen!  I am looking forward to the creation of this space, as we build the infrastructure for our school.  And looking forward to many more muddy meals.

Thank you cobbers!



Read Full Post »

Plaster Love

I have not posted to my blog in a long time.  I have no excuses other than the all consuming busyness of parenting combined with house building combined with no internet access.  I apologize for any comments I never responded to, as I simply have not logged in here in a long time.  I hope to do so more this year!  We have been busy finishing our straw bale house, which we hope to be moving into soon.  Greg has been working on it full time for many months now, and Leo has been going to preschool two days a week since the fall, so I have had a chance to work on our house as well.  Since the beginning of my full time parenting journey I have not had time for much else, and have been truly enjoying this opportunity to once again spend a chunk of uninterrupted time working with my hands.  It is time I cherish, with an even greater appreciation for the amazing material I fell in love with years ago.  I love clay.

red clay plaster

red clay plaster

Our straw bale house is much larger than our cob house, and soon we will be moving from 300 square feet to about 800 square feet of living space.  This has given us an opportunity to enjoy lots and lots of plastering!  We were able to complete our three coats of exterior plaster before the cold temperatures set in, and spend the winter finishing the inside with the wood stove warming our work days.  A luxury we did not take for granted!

When I plastered my cob house I had minimal plastering experience, and was just learning to use a trowel.  I plastered most of my house with a yogurt container lid!  I have had a few opportunities to plaster again every so often, but this winter I got to immerse myself in it.  And I fell in love.  We decided to plaster the interior with all clay plasters, aside from a couple places where there is lime plaster.  My wonderful friend Joelle came to visit us for a week in December as we finished up our base coats over the bales and began our finish plaster.  I met Joelle the year I began constructing the cob house, as she signed up for my cob workshop.  After the workshop Joelle came back to visit and work on the house with me many times.  So much of my house was built by Joelle!  So much so that I will always think of her when I think of my house.  Joelle has continued working in natural building ever since, and is a talented plasterer, among other things. I was excited to have her work on our straw bale house as well, and enjoyed learning from her. Even though she was 7 months pregnant, Joelle drove down here and slept on our cob house floor, and worked all day plastering for a week straight!


kaolin plaster test batch

kaolin plaster test batch

Joelle convinced us to used bagged clay for our finish plaster.  After many, many hours of digging, soaking, and screening site clay in freezing temperatures for our base coats we were happy to experience to luxury of dried powdered clay.  We live near STARworks, where there is a factory for processing local clays for the many ceramic artists in the area, where there is a rich history of pottery making.  What a resource!  We decided on a kaolin clay as well as the beautifully red Okeewemee clay.

Base coats of earthen plaster, using site clay:

15528285214_867f4b050e_o 15528284454_e6503b562a_oKaolin clay plastering:

16150628175_21ec653042_o DSC_5348 DSC_5350finished!:

Joelle's swirls!

Joelle’s swirls!

DSC_6265 16225606210_a5d21a6321_oThe kaolin has grown on me.  At first its white-ness was strange to me, as I am used to the colors of our clay soil.  But now I am in love with its brightness and neutral gentleness.  I love the floor to ceiling complete continuity of the plaster as well, although it was not the easiest plaster job.  But it is so lovely.

We used the red Okeewemee clay downstairs.  I love walking into the house and feeling the warmth and rich red color of the plaster.  It really can’t be captured in a photo, the way the plaster reflects light just has to be experienced.  I also don’t currently have many pictures of the downstairs on my computer to upload right now.  But here are a few:

16729579388_f2555721ae_o 16294887494_42fdf17f58_o 16731156669_a26b174d7a_o

We used the same red clay for our earthen floor mix that we used on our stairs.  Once sealed with linseed oil the color deepens dramatically:


In the room with our to-code flush toilet, I plastered with a mix of the red clay and kaolin, with the addition of a lot of chopped straw.  I think this might be my favorite plaster in the house, and I’ll have to take some nice photos of it soon.  But for now here are two from my phone.  I sealed it with linseed oil around the sink area, for water resistance.  I love the way linseed oil can affect the color of plaster!  It brings out the golden hues of the chopped straw as well:

16729984470_8d8a41b14a_o 16601180389_2506642ea7_oWhen we completed all the plastering I was satisfied with the accomplishment, but sad to end my series of day after day of peaceful focused plastering.  I am looking forward to all the opportunities for spring time plastering on the many other unfinished buildings on our property.  As well as, hopefully, finally plastering the rest of the cob house!

And thank you Joelle!!!

Read Full Post »