Cob is a many-splendored thing. It doesn’t burn and can be used to make an outdoor oven. It insulates from temperature changes and sound. It molds into any shape, so one can let their creativity run free when building. It is also very inexpensive, depending on the local soil composition. Also, since this is a health blog, cob is very non-toxic and natural and would be excellent for someone with chemical or environmental sensitivities.
I could go on about the usefulness and beauty of cob, but instead I would like to show you how it is made! Over the summer I attended a workshop on natural building technique. In alignment with my desire to eat a more natural diet and live closer to nature, I have had a dream for many years to live in an earthen structure that I design and build with my own hands. The workshop has given me a clearer picture of what I need to make my dream a reality. It was held at the lovely Ananda Village up in Nevada City, CA.
I spent an entire week camping out in a beautiful forest with many adventurous and like-minded people. We ate all our meals together and worked side by side all day, every day. The food served for all 3 meals was heavily grain-based, gluten-free, mostly vegan and low in fat, which was a drastic shift for me! I could spend an entire post on the way I was affected by the diet, so stay tuned for that in a later post.
The first thing we learned during our stay was how to make cob and how to tell if it is good cob.
We start out by collecting soil, which in this area is dark red in color and full of clay.
We then mix the clay with some sand.
We then add water.
We mix the water in by grabbing both ends of the tarp and shifting it around.
We then get to stomp on the soil and sand to completely mix it with the water. It feels pretty weird, especially when it mushes in between your toes!
You then throw in some straw and stomp on it.
At this point to test the cob, you grab a handful and pull it apart to see if it holds together fairly well. If it seems pretty firm, then you have good cob, otherwise, you may need to add more straw or you may need to adjust your clay to sand ratio.
One big pile of cob burritos
The rest of the workshop dealt with building the actual structure from below the ground up, using rocks, straw bales and cob. Stay tuned for more details and pictures of the building process and of my experience with the workshop.