Sunday, November 13, 2011

Cob Cottage Company - Grounds Tour 8/2010

[THIS BLOG HAS MOVED!  All posts from this one can be found at the new one, check it out! ]

As a follow up to my post on the $1,000 House workshop at the Cob Cottage Company I've got a ton of pictures of the land and all of their other buildings.  This is a BIG post and it's a tad extensive, if not excessive, but I can't be the only person out there that needs to see everything I possibly can when it comes to cob and natural building.

The pictures are ordered as if we were doing a walkthrough, more or less.  We'll go from the driveway right up to the gargantuan maple tree at the top of the property.

A note on the pictures: all pictures were taken in August of 2010, so I'm sure quite a few things have changed since then (if you've got newer pictures of the same buildings you should put them online and send me a link!); and all but five pictures are my own, just things I forgot to get, I believe taken by Brian Liloia of The Year of Mud (I'll point these ones out).

I am going to write this, as with most of my other posts on here, assuming you have a basic working knowledge of cob, but on the off chance that this is the first time you've seen this I'll explain a little.  Cob is an unfired earthen building material, similar to adobe and pisé, whose variations can been seen all over the world.  Most, if not all cultures have had something like this at one point in time.  Your average cob mix consists of clay-rich soil, coarse sand, and long straw all mixed up with a bit of water. Mixing is done in many ways and I personally prefer mixing it on a tarp with my feet.  It is mixed drier than your average adobe so that it may be applied by hand in whatever shape you choose, is freestanding, and does not require a mold or form.  The most common way of application is by forming the soil mix into a loaf shape, or "cob" --- an English term for a loaf of bread, or sometimes even a small horse, not in any way associated with corn on the cob --- and building them up into a solid wall, sewing the straw in with your fingers or a stick for tensile strength.  Due to its simplicity, many other building materials can be incorporated, such as stone, timber framing, straw bales, wool, and glass bottles and panes.  Finish layers need to be breathable, so plasters such as lime are commonly used, though any clay would do.

The Cob Cottage Company also published what might be the only book you need on the subject: The Hand-Sculpted House.  An excellent place to get your footing in natural building.  Highly recommended.

First things first, the Cob Cottage Company is headed by Ianto Evans and Linda Smiley (whose house you see at the top, but we'll look at that toward the end).  They share 400 acres of temperate rainforest in Coquille, OR with the Mountain Homestead, an intentional community founded by Chip and Clara Boggs aimed toward permaculture, sustainable building, and ecoforestry.  Both CCC and Mountain Homestead offer a wide array of workshops, as well.

Here we are looking down the driveway at some truck-ends in the parking lot.  Such dense green!  CCC is to the right of the trucks and the Mountain Homestead is straight up the hill.

Ianto's truck, a sweet ride for sure, and still in service (it hauled our urbanite for the workshop!)

Our builder's gravel and crushed rock piles.

Before you get to the bridge leading up to the main complex there is a path that forks off and up a long, long hill...

...and at the top of the hill is the first building made on the new site, after their move to Coquille from Cottage Grove.

Hop's Castle is named after a cook who used this as the CCC kitchen for some time.

It's hard to imagine one person feeding forty something people out of this teeny kitchen.

The loft is a little low, but the quality of light (thanks to the passive solar design) is just lovely.

There were two earthen ovens on the property and why only one of them was shaped like a bear remains a mystery to me.  Simply: the coolest.

Back down the path from Hop's Castle is the bridge which leads over a little stream and up to the heart of the CCC property.

Here's the outside of the kitchen-and-teaching-space-to-be, a good example of how a huge building can hide itself in the woods.  And it'll be even harder to see when the living roof goes on.

Inside the future kitchen/teaching space: the rumford fireplace that the teaching area circles around.  Cob is a fantastic medium for fireplace and oven construction since it is fireproof.  The few bricks on the bottom edge and hearth are there to protect to cob from logs/shovels/other destructive things.

Some high relief plaster work next to the fireplace.  Even the rough plasters can make some pretty detailed stuff.

Still inside the teaching area (did I mention it isn't finished?) we see the models our workshop produced as part of the course, all made from the same cob as everything else.

The models were for the plaster workshop which was to be constructed in Sept. 2010.  It was an addition to the building you can see in the back-left.  The models were quite strong once they dried.

These next few interior shots of the future kitchen are up here more so that we can compare them to the finished building, whenever that may happen.  This will be the cooking space.

This will be the (rather large) cooler and food storage area.

Sunray Kelly had a hand in designing and building the roof with it's wild curving ridge and shoulder beams.

Looking in the back door of the Tool Library.

This is the Tool Library which would find itself being the subject of the Sept. workshop on the plaster studio.  Again, these shots are up here more so that we can compare them.

This is actually a very good educational photo.  This is the foundation trench for the future plaster studio, which we started building during our workshop.  In this photo you can see every stage a rubble trench foundation goes through in construction.  Left to right: The raw trench, the liner tarps, the drain hose, the rubble filler, the folded over tarp, and the first foundation stone course keyed into the trench just a few inches below grade.

The foundation was laid by Janis Kornouhovs and is a thing of true beauty.

The kind of stonework that lasts forever.

This is the sweet treehouse that our cook, Wren, lived in.  One of CCC's apprentices made it for himself one weekend a few years ago.

Who really needs windows anyway?

Down the hill from the tree house is a cool little hut that some kids made by themselves during some workshop their parents were attending.  The roof is just ferns and moss, the walls are a little bit of cob on the bottom and pajareque (long straw dipped in slip, twisted, and woven in and out of stakes) on the top.

The outdoor kitchen (and one of our cooks, Jen).

The food that came out of this place was consistently God-tier, easily the best I've ever had.

The pantry.

The tea and cocoa station saw some pretty heavy traffic.  Those drinking water jugs are filled over at the Homestead and wheelbarrowed back over (tap water is unfiltered from the creek).

Our typical eating area in front of the kitchen.  That's that back of the library you see there.

Almost every building has a wall of some sort connecting it to the next and each gate needs something to keep the deer out, otherwise we wouldn't have any veggies in the garden!  Bob made these beautiful bent sapling gates.

Right to left: The new kitchen, the above wall and gates (outdoor kitchen behind it), and the library.

The Myrtle, as it's called, is the library and is an excellent example of finished plasters, lime, and living roofs.

This simple wooden bolt does just fine for keeping the door shut.

The rocket stove (a super efficient down-draft wood stove) which gives supplemental heat to the Myrtle.  Exhaust is piped out to the left and run through a large bench for thermal storage.

I flipped out when I saw the inside, they've got so many good books.

The back door to the library.

A wide sweep and then we'll look at each part.  Left to right: the library, the office, the new wall surrounding Ianto's man-cave, and the gardens off to the right.

The office has a rather cool window that acts as a solar calendar.

You'll notice that all of the wall have a little roof over them to protect them from the rain.

Ianto's man-cave, dubbed Jaba the Hut, is a testament to how small a living space can be.  Not a far cry from the first cob building I ever saw (I was trying to track down real-life hobbit holes and round doors on the internet one day).

I'm about 5'11" and I can easily reach up and touch the ridge beam.  Depth is about 6' and the width isn't much more.  White lime wash around the windows help reflect light and brighten up the inside.

Fun spider web collection at the head of his sleeping area.

Desking area and some books.

That little metal drum and pipe surrounded by bricks is a small rocket stove and heats this place up just fine.

The roof is wild, like some giant ribcage.

The exterior plasters have some wonderful textures.  Adding a little chopped straw can make your finish coats look really soft.

Detail of the wall meeting the foundation.

The wall to the right of Jaba.

Detail of the wall's plaster: lots of chopped straw.

The gardens are where Ianto spends most of his time.  Just about everything is grown here and much of the food we ate came from here, too.  Each row is huuuuuge and I believe there are 18 of them, all food.  There is an equally huge greenhouse that runs along the whole thing, it's ends poking out on the left and right.  Ianto even has a couple of his own fava bean breeds.  Whole workshops could be centered on this garden alone.

A greenhouse on the western end and most of the wild flowers found in the garden.

Gives you an idea of the volume in which they grown their crops.

Another lovely gate out of the garden to the north.

The back of Jaba the Hut, just outside of that gate.

The huge woodpile, partially for winter heating and also firing the bread oven/hot water heater.

This would be the entrance to one of the most interesting places at CCC: the composting outhouse.

As with most buildings here, the outhouse is well hidden amongst the trees.

This one was left open so that you could enjoy the creek running by down the hill.  A sweet bathroom for sure.

The main compartment is divided in two, with screened vents on the bottom and one large vent running the full width and up the back.  The composting process is as such: one side is closed off and you use the other side, sprinkling duff after each use; liquid waste is separated (via screened funnel in this case) into a container and is switched out as needed (separating solid and liquid waste keeps smell down in a major way and helps the composting process); when the side you're using gets nice and full you switch over to the other side, letting the full compartment sit and compost for however long it takes to fill up the newly opened side.  Average turnaround time for side-switching is one year, but CCC does it every six months due to the large volume of people coming through.  There are a lot of good books out there on this subject.
When all is said and done you end up with fantastic composted fertilizer for your garden, as well as the liquid waste which (when handled properly) is equally beneficial as fertilizer.  No more flushing all of our soil's minerals out to sea!

The seats for the split composting compartment.  The closed side had been closed for only three months and the smell was totally gone and the compost seemed ready enough to be put to use.

Most fun outhouse ever!

The gateway heading into the...

Pizza parlor! Although we made pizza only once, usually it was bread.  This small earthen oven turned out more baked goods on a daily basis than I ever would have guessed.

A simple design that could be built by just about anyone, and when fired correctly will bake anything you like for hours and hours!

If you had any doubts about cob's strength or fireproof qualities...

CCC's average visitor is a workshopper, and your average workshopper usually camps out the whole time.  That's my tent tucked behind the bread oven, where I lived for a month.

This cabin is named Dusk, since it's entrance faces west.

And attached to Dusk is the Dawn cabin, facing east.  The two cabins share a wall in the middle where the rocket stove is built into the wall and heats both sides.

Inside Dawn: the radiant heat barrel is built right into the wall and the exhaust snakes through the cob bed platforms on both sides before it exits out of the north wall.

A fun wall surrounding the Dawn & Dusk cabins.  Those little specks on the left are holes from mason bees.

This is the washing/toothbrushing station and behind it is the shower, all fed by the creek.  Showering outdoors regularly is a wonderful experience that I'd recommend to anyone.

The solar hot water panels were one source of hot water.  The design is simple: black plastic hose is coiled in a big flat disc inside a frame lined with black tar paper (or whatever else works), with insulation on the back.  Glass covers it up like a greenhouse and you get some burning hot water in peak sunlight, especially when you gang a couple up like this!  Super easy and could be added into any existing "traditional" shower system.

This rocket stove hot water heater is hot water source number two.  Instead of having a radiant heat barrel and channeling the exhaust through a bench the heat is channeled around a 20 gallon water tank from an electric hot water heater.  The tank is behind the lizard and the feed and burn tubes are on the right.  By having the exhaust enter at the top and exit at the bottom you assure that you get the most heat transfer possible.  Firing this for about 20 minutes, with not much wood, will give you hot water for quite some time.  Just make sure it doesn't burn too hot, or you might give your pressure safety valve a workout!

The top half of the wall surrounding the shower is pajareque (mentioned above in the kid's hut).  You can really see how twisted and braided each bunch of straw is and how it weaves in and out of the frame.  Quick and easy to build and highly insulating.

Next to the shower is the future bathhouse, whose north wall and part of the west wall are bale-cob.  This technique uses straw bales to produce a load bearing wall with cob squished in the seams to seal it and tighten it up.  The cob is not applied like mortar to bricks, as that would cause a thermal break: heat would be leeched from the inside and transferred outside.

Here's a really nice shot of some tightly packed and clearly defined bale-cob.  Remember, the cob is only on the surface and does not go all the way through the wall.  Photo credit: Brian Liloia

Up the path from the shower are two beautiful cottages, Bedrock in front and Ridge House in back.

Bedrock is highly sculptural with a very nontraditional roof shape and sits halfway on a large slab of bedrock (from the door to the right).

Our instructor Brian under the huge eaves.

 The Ridge House is a little bigger than Bedrock and has plenty of space for cozy living.  The design is simple and follows passive solar heating principles perfectly.  I personally loooooove this house!  Photo credit: Brian Liloia

The interior is finished off quite nicely.  That little hump under the loft is a miniature rumford fireplace, and it apparently works very well.

The ceiling over the bed was formed using chicken wire which was then packed with cob.  Finish plaster makes it look smooth and soft.  More white around the window brightens up the room.

The bench along the north wall ends under the loft (where Justin and I are sitting), with just enough head room for your average person.  It's just the coziest!

The rocket stove that heats the bench on the north wall and the "temporary" door.  The real door is an awesome chunk of 1,500 year old cedar that is being fitted to the door way.  Just out of frame to the right are the deadmen that will support the future counter and cooking space.

Back on the main path and just up the hill is the site for our workshop, the Lion's Heart and Den.  The two story portion was built as a standalone structure and the little one story addition was an afterthought, as was the addition we built where Brian, Jim, and Wes are digging the foundation trench.

 Inside the Den before its finish plaster.

The Lion Complex at the end of the workshop, with our new cooking/eating/desking space on the left.

The Lion's Paw.

Up the hill from our worksite is the Meadow Suite.

Lovely use of found building materials.

The rocket stove and heated bench under the loft has plenty of room.

Colorful plasters surround the (currently boarded up) cooler in the North wall.  Carrie was doing a plastering apprenticeship and the Meadow Suite was her baby.  Just a simple lime wash with mason stains.

The plaster in the loft is a kaolin-based mix with mica flakes in it.  After troweling it on you let it dry to leather hard and give it a swipe with a clean, damp sponge.  The mica pops out and gives it a truly ethereal look.

Lovely curved details.

This part should have come after the Ridge House if we were walking through, but I saved it for last since it's sort of the centerpiece of CCC's finished buildings.  And while this wall is very nice looking, it's what's behind the wall that I'm talking about...

This is where Linda and Ianto live, seen here receiving a new lime wash.

John, one of several apprentices, was making this outdoor rumford fireplace toward the end of the workshop.  It lives against the perimeter wall to the west in the yard.

A nice shot looking down at the smoke shelf.

The outdoor fireplace's hat.

And the house itself, after its fresh lime wash.  This house was made as an example of something that could be built in most neighborhoods and not stick out like a sore thumb.  Cob is an infinitely adaptable medium and this shows us just that.  And while this house was certainly the biggest one on the property, it is still much smaller in stature than almost any "traditional" standardized prefab box-house.

The beautiful kitchen windows let in plenty of light.

Regular window frames are both imbedded in the cob and also used in frames so they can open.

On the SE corner is the kitchen, and possibly my favorite space in this house.

The stove top is built right in, with a flip-up piece of counter to cover it when not in use.

The sink and custom granite countertop fit in as well as everything else.

The quality of light through deep set windows is just wonderful.

On the North wall is the cooler, which never gets any sun exposure and as a result is quite cool year round.  Perfect for veggies and leftovers!  Photo credit: Brian Liloia

The outside of the cooler.  Photo credit: Brian Liloia

The shutters.  Apparently bears are of no concern in Coquille, OR.  News to me!  Photo credit: Brian Liloia

The way cool bathroom in the NE corner.  Just out of frame to the top is the window with little broken pieces of mirror set in all around it to reflect more light.  Photo credit: Brian Liloia

Spiral stairs set into a log in the middle of the house.

A detail of the step down into the living/hangout space.

The living room with its rocket stove on the far right and heated bench along the western wall.

Cozy sleeping space upstairs.

Just about the coolest railing I've ever seen.  No metal used.

Why hang art on the wall when you can just paint it?

And that's it!  This is all my camera could get in one shot of the humongous maple tree at the top of the hill, past all of the buildings.  Being from CT, I had never been around trees like this before.  It was grounding and reassuring to say the least.

This next bunch of pictures are of the people in the workshop.  Sadly, I didn't even get close to getting everyone, but here they are:

About a half to two thirds of the workshoppers.

Justin Murphy's birthday happened during the workshop, and it became a very special occasion.  The pies and cake were baked in the cob oven.  I provided the Sacrificial Mayan Step Pyramid decorations to the cake without knowing it was for Justin's birthday.  A happy accident.  And while we certainly didn't have cake and pie every night, this gives you an idea of the caliber of food we ate.

Sharon and Lynn

Sharon, Erika, Patty, and Michaela

Ayako and Recep






 One of our instructors, Donkey

 Our other instructor, Brian

And Tammy and Bob

And lastly, since CCC isn't the only thing happening on this land, I've got just a few pictures of the Mountain Homestead, run by Chip and Clara Boggs.  I would have gotten more if I wasn't in such a note writing blaze when we had our tour.

There isn't as much cob over on the Homestead, but what's there is quite beautiful.  The Cathedral is a wonderful space for gatherings, talks, and just relaxing.

The roof work is super creative.

And behind and all around are the gardens!  Permaculture is the focus of the Mountain Homestead, so purposeful planting abounds.

They've got a pretty sweet place for their outhouses and showers.

A side view.

Sadly, this is the only picture I have of this house.  It's called Two Cedars because that's what they used to make it.  Two large cedar trees were cut down on this site, sent off to be milled and were used for the framing, woodchip insulation, and finishing clapboards and paneling.  Not to mention the rad door.

And lastly is a sweet little combination woodshed/loft that I dug a whole lot.  Something about it seemed very treehousey.

Other things of note on the property are their cob root cellar, huge gardens, water purification system, and their amazing electricity setup featuring solar and hydro.  Both the Mountain Homestead and Cob Cottage Company are entirely independent of any town operated utilities.

I realize that was pretty long-winded, but I have yet to see much of this stuff publicized online.  If you dig what you see then go pay a visit!  If you can't manage any of the workshops, apprenticeships, or even dropping in for a little stroll-through, don't forget about their book, The Hand-Sculpted House.  That book was my first look at anything even remotely like this and definitely changed the course of my life.  Thanks for taking the time to look and don't forget to spread the word, this is the sort of thing can really make a positive impact on this country and the whole world!

1 comment:

  1. Hi Adam.
    I enjoyed a nice 45 minute tour. Inspiring in several ways.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.