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Archive for the ‘homestead’ Category

The past week and a half the weather here has been crazy. I feel as if I have been living in a rain forest! The plants love it and so do I. The cob house however, does not! We had to keep the house covered for a few days so the walls weren’t able to dry as quickly. I don’t mind so much though because everything here is absolutely beautiful and in full bloom. It is inspiring to see everything growing while my house is too.

On the rainy days I read as much as I could. Researching everything from ancient cob to timber framing. While researching I found an old article talking about how in old cob houses they used “shillet”; small gravel sized pieces of shale. Then it hit me, substitute shillet instead of screenings. Luckily for us there is a shale pit right above the cabin.

Shillet 🙂

So we made a test batch. Two parts sub-soil, one part creek sand, and one part shillet. It turned out to be the best batch of cob we have made so far!

Incredibly… we have everything on the property that we need other than straw bales. We are actually waiting/looking for some right now. Then we can start building up the north walls!

Trevor and Alexor

We had a lot of help this past week. My cousin Jake stopped by and helped us finish some foundation work. Alexors brother Trevor came up and helped us get ready for straw bales on the north wall.

Alexors mother DMarie, his aunt Darlene, and his cousin Mitchell also came up and cobbed!

DMarie and Darlene mixing their first batch of cob

Darlene adding straw

My family was in town due to a new arrival! My younger sister Joslyn had a beautiful baby girl and my whole family got together for Memorial Day weekend. I have a really big family! 🙂 Alexor and I took a much needed break and hung out with everyone.

My mother Mitchelle, my dad John, my sister Audrey, and my two younger sisters Clare and Gracie, and my baby brother Jack came up to check out our new place. They helped us clean up/organize the site and cleared some invasive bushes away from our retaining wall.

The next day my sisters Emma, Myah, Clare, and Gracie came up and helped us gather materials and cob.

Alexor, Mitchell, Emma, Myah, Clare, and Gracie screening sand

After gathering two loads full of sand we all went up and started cobbing.

Emma and Myah seemed to enjoy mixing cob

Clare too! 🙂

I am pretty sure everyone did!

Because of all the help we have gotten lately we were able to build up our north walls and to put in our very first window!

First Window

Outside view of window

Thanks to everyone who has come out to help us so far. You all are greatly appreciated!

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In the past few weeks Alexor and I have been hard at work. Our main focus was the foundation. We walked up and down the creek bed looking for the flattest and strongest rocks. Carrying them up the steep bank was a job in itself! In two weeks we probably loaded and unloaded the jeep with a few tons of gorgeous stone.

After collecting as many stones as we could we started mortaring the foundation. Alexors brother Trevor, cousin Mitchell, and our friend Paul came out and helped us! None of us had ever done it before and were flying by the seat of our pants. I think we did pretty good for our first try.

We decided to use mortar. Finding hydraulic lime where we live is virtually impossible and expensive. For a 40lb bag it was $60 not including shipping. Unfortunately that isn’t in our budget!

Sophia checking out the foundation

Another project we have been slowly working on is re-pointing the chimney. Alexors Mother, DMarie came up and helped us. Whoever had built the chimney used clay to fill in between the stones, and over time weather and age took its toll.

Re-pointing the chimney

I also took a chisel and hammer to the front to remove the wall they had built to convert the fireplace into a wood stove exhaust. Only to find that after they built up the wall a little they poured concrete in and filled it to the top.

It was pretty scary looking up and wondering when the stones might move 🙂

Chimney so far

As tedious as mortaring is, all in all, it was a lot of fun.

We worked on a ton of small projects. Screening clay, digging a hole for our cellar and building a bird feeder kept our down time productive. We also started a medicinal herb garden, a vegetable garden and planted some tobacco. And… we got our new baby chickens!! 🙂 Sophi loves them more than we do.

Finally after all of that we were ready to start cobbing. Our local 84 Lumber started saving us their used wood tarps.  Thank you! After that everything just seemed to fall perfectly into place for cobbing.

Shake test

Screenings and sand from the creek

We are trying to use everything from our surroundings. We have screenings and sand down in the creek that are perfect for our cob mixture. There is clay right under the house where we want to build a cellar. For some reason, everything just seems to keep working out perfectly.

We started soaking lime

Alexor mixing our very first batch of cob

It was extremely enjoyable to start cobbing! It was immediately like second nature. My mom, Virginia, and my sisters Emma and Audrey came up to help us cob. We mixed 5 batches today!

My mom supervising my sisters

My family applying cob

My mom using a cobbers thumb

Our first spine and ribs

Today was a very rewarding day. Thank you to everyone who has helped us this far!

Our total cost for the house at this point is $129.95

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The title says it all. With the help of Alexors  father, Stan, we were able to tear down the remaining walls. Clearing the way for us to start preparing for the fun part. Cobbing 🙂

Alexor and Stan

One wall down

The next wall was a little tricky. We had to cut through some of the cabin logs with a chainsaw so the porch wall wouldn’t fall with the chimney wall. We plan to keep the porch wall with the original logs and fill it in with cob. The top log of the porch wall was completely rotted and trees were growing out of it! Fortunately there are  salvaged logs in our wood pile that we can cut to size and place on top.

Porch wall meeting chimney wall

Before the fall

After the fall

Last wall down

While Stan had the Chainsaw out he started clearing the overgrown bushes away from the rock wall in the back of the house. It looks incredible. It is as if I am in a dream world when I am back there. Everything is so peaceful.

Rock wall

All that stands now is what we will be restoring with cob and salvaged wood.

The part of the cabin we will be restoring

Side view of wall we are trying to save

We are going to have to buy  cement, lime and sand for the  mortar  mixture to fix the chimney and the foundation.  Another cost will be the straw bales, and AFM Sealant. Other than that we can find everything we need from the earth. Cob is a mixture of clay, straw, sand, screenings (or in our case we will be using small stones from the creek beds), and water. Tomorrow we plan on cleaning up the site from todays deconstruction and to start gathering stones for the foundation. Hopefully we will start cobbing by the end of next week!

Day 2

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Today Alexor and I started cleaning up the site a bit. Before we got to work we took a leisurely walk down to the creek. It was the perfect weather to work. There was a slight drizzle all day, with a cool breeze, that allowed us to work harder without evidence. It was entirely too beautiful. The lighting was perfect, not too sunny, not too dark, and the birds were singing to us. We had a perfect “first day”.

The waterfall

This is my favorite spot along the creek. Right under that big rock in the middle is a nice little water hole about 4ft deep that I know will come in handy when summer finally reaches the valley. I can imagine just laying in the cool water after a hard days work in the hot sun.

We tore down one of the cabin walls!

After our walk, we got right to work. We tore down one of the cabin walls and carried all of the heavy beams to a pile. Some of the beams may be too weathered to use for construction but I am sure we will find some use for them.

The pile

We cleared out all of the wood and beams that were piled up in the foundation. Here is a before and after picture.

Before

After

After that we started cleaning around the rock wall. We removed some wood beams and a big black plastic tarp. We were lucky it wasn’t too hot or there might have been snakes under the tarp! We ran into a big black snake that was just hanging out in the tree next to the front of the house yesterday. Today we were moving some of the tin in the metal pile and we ran into him and a baby black snake with a yellow ring around the back of his head.

We decided that we needed a dry place to store tools and salvaged wood. Alexor removed all the nails from the wood and I organized the pile on the porch.

Porch

Today we also worked on cleaning up the small room that used to be the old kitchen.

The old kitchen

By the time we had finished cleaning out the kitchen it was 6pm and we were absolutely exhausted.

Day 1

 Pretty good for a days work 🙂

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We have been contemplating where to build for the last year… and finally we have decided!

Building site from the road

If you look closely you can see the log cabin! We are going to be fixing up a beautiful run down log cabin with… COB!  The site used to be an old homestead, with a large garden, green house, out house, and a breathtaking moss covered creek running right down the hill from the cabin. Our site is way back in the mountain, and down in a small valley that gets sun all day long. The green house sits off to the left next to a  creek that only runs when it rains. Black berry bushes line the driveway all the way down to the small outhouse.

Descending down the hill

I love that everything is wild. Nature has begun to take over what man created, and it is beautiful. In my eyes it is the perfect balance.

Around the bend

When you finally get down to the site, and you look around, you completely relax. The sound of running water, the smell of fresh wild air, and the beauty absolutely consumes you. Bright green grass covers the sunny front yard, while moss and watercress descend down the bank to the creek and up the waterfalls.

The amazing gnarled tree next to cabin

This tree is my absolute favorite tree. I am not sure what type of tree this is but I am in love with it!

The log cabin needs a lot of work but I think perseverance and hard work will pay off tremendously.  Our first goal is to tear down the existing walls that used to be the living room and clean up the area. After that we plan on widening the existing foundation and fixing up areas of the cabin that will be staying.

Log Cabin

In this picture you can see the walls that we need to tear down. The amazing thing is that there is a foundation there ready to go with a little tlc. The fireplace will also need a lot of work, but I think we can save it.

Cabin wall that will be torn down

Room of the cabin we will be restoring

We will be restoring this room, and using the attic above for storage space. This room used to be the kitchen. Off to the right, there is a front door to a cute little porch.

Front porch

The porch opens up into a small yard surrounded by a rock wall.

Rock wall wrapping around the porch

The outhouse

Here you can see the outhouse. It sits on a concrete foundation and luckily is quite sunny!

Alexor found a bench

Alexor (and Sophie) found this adorable little bench under a gorgeous weathered picnic table.

Picnic table

The Garden

In the garden there is already a kiwi tree, a giant grape vine, an apple tree and some asparagus! It has a 7 ft electric fence around it that needs some repair. I’ve been told it still wont keep the deer out! Luckily it is the perfect spot to have our movable chicken train coop. We will get eggs, fertilizer and they will be protected from predators.

Our new house

We definitely have a lot of work ahead of us, but it will be well worth it!

Wish us luck 🙂

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