Our Cob Recipe

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The ingredients:

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clay soil dug up from the site

Clay-rich Soil

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slaker

(soaked overnight, at least. Seen here in a tub under a plywood lid to keep mosquitoes out.)

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crushed sand

For a small batch, We use two buckets of sand. For wall-strength we use crushed sand,  so it holds together. For the plaster coat,  We will use beach sand for a nice polished look.

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straw

And straw.

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Plop the bucket of clay over the mound of sand, in a little crater you made with your foot. Kick the sand over the clay to “Corndog” it. (Watch the groin muscles! This can really hurt you the next day.) Then start stomping!

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The mix begins.

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Getting there…

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And cookie dough consistency is achieved!

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You know you’re there when it rolls up like a nice, smooth log (insert 4th-grade humor here).

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Sprinkle straw on the log and stomp it flat. Sprinkle more straw and roll and stomp until incorporated throughout. (It’s incorporated! Now It’s a Person, according to some…)

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Take a little break. Squish it onto the wall and stab it all over with a stick (Dibble) to “sew” layers together with the straw and leave a rough surface for future layers to key into.

Now, repeat 3,000 times or so. Voila! Cob haven!

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Container Gardens

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My concept for a garden was simple. Build decks that would add living and garden space. We built one deck this spring and adorned it with containers of mixed vegetables, herbs and flowers.

Due to previously mentioned woodrat mischief, it’s obvious that next year we need to build an enclosed mini-greenhouse, or cloche, to protect it from sharp little teeth. I have a bird net over the most vulnerable plants now and I bring the basil inside each night. Also, if we get the cloche completed before September, we can start kale, lettuce and a late-season garlic for winter (another reason to love the pacific northwest).

The wonderful thing about container gardens, is that each pot is its own little garden. When I go sit on the deck I am among my many gardens.

My biggest contains tomatoes, marigolds and nasturtiums. Another holds creeping rosemary and garlic. Sweet woodruff’s tiny white stars fill in between purple and white lavenders. Four varieties of thyme grow out the edges of a wooden wine cask, surrounding a dwarf sunflower. I love the look and smell of corsican mint spilling out of some smaller pots randomly placed on chunks of brick or marble. (We dumpster dive for marble and tile at countertop warehouses and shops. Bricks are occasionally free on Craigslist.)

Another reason container gardening rocks is the weeding and digging factor. I didn’t want to take part of this wild land, already abundant with life, and force it to grow what I wanted. Containers provide their own environment and can be moved around until a comfy spot is found.

I am not into matching pots and showy annuals. I like to grow plants I intend to use. I can dry the lavender for culinary or strewing purposes. I make and can pesto from the basil and nasturtiums leaves. Rosemary and dried thyme can season our soups all year.

It’s a small-scale operation, minuscule, really. But a little bit of gardening adds delicious flavor to a simple life.

The Regathering and The Going On

Back up goes the kitchen. Back up go the tarps. A new delivery of dry wood. Remove some nails. Pound in new ones. Dash outside when the sun shines. Hole up with a warm fire and a movie when the rain pours and the wind blows. I can see spring just around the next bend.

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rocket

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Life feels much warmer these days.