Corbell Cobs

To make the arch over the windows and doors, we need to use super strong fiber straps made of sticky clay and straw. The arches distribute the weight of the wall evenly over the openings.

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Corbells
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Grab a handful o' straw, all facing the same direction.
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Spread it out in one thin layer.
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I scooped out clay directly from the slaking bin.
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Spread it all out over the straw.
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Rollout up and squash and squish and squish it.
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Slather the outside of it liberally with gooey clay.
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And, Taadaa! Super strong corbell cob for arches and shelves!

Planning

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To plan projects, we talk a lot. We cruise around the property and imagine little and big changes, trying to explain what’s in our heads. Soon, words break down and we pull out the notebook to illustrate, communicate, and document our ideas.

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We keep all little scraps of paper, bits of napkin, paper bags… everything with little drawings or notes related to the property tucked in our notebook.

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Cobbing With Children

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Aki and Allena build a cob house

One of the joys of cob is the peaceful nature of the construction. It’s quiet, nontoxic, artistic, sensory, fun and communal.

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Painting by the fire pit.

Our excellent good friends visited last week with their two small children. They were amazed at the idea of a mud house. It took them a bit of time to jump in, but soon we were all busy.

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Akian post-voodoo doughnut

At first they enjoyed sprinkling the straw while we stomped the clay and sand together. Then the job of walking the wall to stomp the cob layer down entertained them. Allena was our dibbler. Akian pushed bottle caps and beach stones into the layers. Finally, they wanted to get their feet dirty and wiggled their tiny toes in the soft, cool clay and the scratchy sand (sensory learning!)

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Dibbling

In between batches, they made art with sharpies and cedar fence board ends. I set up the easel by the fire pit and they painted their creations. Nathan helped them make a fort with bales of straw and they set up an art gallery inside!

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Creating art

They also followed Nathan around, shoveling clay and sand into buckets. They carried fistfuls of cob mix in 5 gallon buckets to the wall. We made a cob mushroom and a cob fairy house. (Allena made a cool fairy nest, but her dad accidentally made it into a baseball.) We read books by the campfire, told many silly jokes and riddles, made up games and stayed up really late.

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The fort/gallery

It was a perfect visit, except too short. Cob with kids! They bring unexpected magic that I’m convinced is absorbed by the walls and released slowly into the living space.

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Art by Allena. Nathan and I on a blanket.

The Projects

This year we are focusing on three main projects: continuing the cob house walls, building an outdoor kitchen/Firepit, and redoing the bathtub area by re-leveling it, rebuilding the firebox and topping it off with an atrium so our baths will be inside a mini greenhouse when we’re done. We have been rotating our work between courses of cob to give them time to set up.

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Cob House Walls
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Cob grill and fire pit in process
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Bathtub area make over