How to Become a Cob Connoisseur

     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.


“cob burrito”


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.

We Put the Stink in Instincto

raw paleo

Instinctotherapy is a form of raw, paleolithic diet wherein one relies on their instincts to determine what and how much to eat. According to the theory, food will smell and taste wonderful if you are in need of it and whatever vitamins and minerals it contains.  The same food will repulse you if you have eaten enough of it to fulfill your requirements or you do not need it at the moment. The caveat is that it must be completely raw and undenatured, otherwise it will purportedly “fool” your instincts. In other words, no mixing of ingredients, no adding salt or spices, etc. Also, you are not to consume previously frozen foods. The food must be one that could be eaten raw, so no legumes or potatoes or similar foods. You are free to eat raw vegetables, nuts, fruits, eggs and meat, along with raw, unfiltered honey. If a certain food item tastes and smells good, you eat it until you suddenly don’t like the taste and smell of it anymore. This is referred to as a “stop”.

This diet was one of the first paleo type diets I tried at the very beginning of my health quest.  I could not get enough to eat on this diet. I tried it for several weeks or maybe it was months (it is all a blur at this point) before I gave in and started mixing my raw foods and also eating previously frozen items.  It was very difficult to find pasture-finished animal foods that were not previously frozen in my corner of Eastern Washington, where I was living at the time. If you remember from my previous post, I was already severely underweight by around 40 or so pounds. Well, my weight dropped even more after trying this diet for only a short time. I was hoping that it would help with my digestion and many other symptoms, as it seemed to be a very clean, basic way of eating.

I noticed that despite following all the proper rules, I never enjoyed eating green vegetables like they said I would. Leafy greens were always bitter and fruit was always pleasant and sweet. Raw meat was never very flavorful or appealing. The only thing I was able to eat in much quantity were raw nuts, but due to the many naturally occurring toxins found in them, they only disrupted my digestion more. After studying the Weston Price information, I realized that soaking the nuts in brine would have helped in their digestion, but that would have been a no-no.

Suffice it to say, I had many unpleasant side effects, due to poor digestion and lack of calories. My partner at the time had a different experience than I to this raw paleo diet. He lost weight as well, which he was wanting, but he also experienced some very interesting personality and mental changes. He began writing plays and poems. It was unusual because he was normally, how you say… stoic and unimaginative, though undoubtedly intelligent.

So while my partner became artsy and philosophical, I mostly laid around without much energy and dreamed of those big, juicy burritos that you can buy, where they cook all the ingredients in front of you while you wait. Perhaps the instincto way of eating can help one connect with parts of the brain that it never knew it had, or perhaps it was sheer misery that drove his sudden burst of creativity. We may never know.



Stay tuned to read more of my story.  I will post about primal diet, instincto, raw paleo, paleo, SCD, gluten free, Weston Price, as well as various exercise and lifestyle choices I have made that I feel have had an impact, positive or negative, on my health. Thanks for visiting!