Thursday, August 14, 2014

Finishing the cob bench

August 14, 2014 - Backtracking a couple of months

 The cob bench served as an experiment for us first-time cob-makers. It's about as thick as the walls we plan to make for our house, which is now in progress. This post is mainly a photo gallery as I go through the steps of plastering the bench, to protect it frm the elements and make it prettier.

Gathering subsoil from an area of our property that will eventually be a fish pond.
Sofia and Guy sift sand to add to the soil/sand/straw plastering
mixture. The sand is left over from the construction of our first house

Sofia mixes the cob.
Water to wet down the bench that has dried out completely, and scraping
to prepare the surface for the new cob plaster to adhere.
Testing the plaster mix by flinging it from a few feet - if it sticks it's good.
Guy and Greta start applying the plaster.
Sofia and Greta pat on the plaster.

It's a sensual earthy experience.
Guy and Sofia adding final layer of plaster.

Smoothing it down. We added a significant amount of fresh cow dung to the final
mixture for increased strength and added impermeability.

Here it is! It had to dry for a few days. It's as solid as we hoped and we feel confident 
about the walls we'll be making for our cob house.

My son from the States and his son (Zeke and Luke) came to Brazil for the World Cup in June and early July. Along with my daughter, Sofia, and other son, his wife and their daughter (Victor, Ana Claudia and Camila), they spent a lot of time on the farm where we watched most of the games together.

Family gathered on porch of farm house.
My grandchildren enjoying the bench.
And where was Fofo during all this? Just hanging out, paying attention.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Working on the Cob House

July and August 2014 

Traditional earth dwellings of the Pueblo Indians, Taos, NM
Vernacular buildings record lifestyles of the past, when people had to find a sustainable way of life or perish. Just as we will have to now. The new importance of vernacular building is that it has vital ecological lessons for today.  Building with Cob: A Step-by-Step Guide, David Pearson, Earth & Spirit  Weismann, Adam; Bryce, Katy (2006-02-01). 


Would you like to spend a few months in Brazil this year? We’re looking for one or two people to live with us for a while and work alongside us on a variety of projects - permaculture, gardening, bio-construction, advanced composting, and working with bamboo. We offer room and board in exchange for a few hours of work a day. You pay your own round trip fare to Brasilia, we pick you up at the airport, show you around, assist you with practical matters, help you learn Portuguese if you wish. If you’d like to know more, please email me at    

Bit by bit we’ve been building the foundation for our cob house. Guy dug the trenches and lined them with gravel, placing rounded tiles along the bottom of the trenches to provide a conduit for rainwater to drain. However when he tamped down the gravel it appears that the tiles broke. We believe it won’t be a problem here since the earth drains well, but we do plan to make a second ditch about a meter above the house to draw excess water away.

The trench digger

Fofo inspects the trench

Since we’re trying to build as much as we can with local materials that can be had for the taking, we’ve been collecting rocks along roads and streams within a 3-mile range.

White rocks along a sandy road, at 4000 ft altitude.
Sparkling creek and smooth well shaped rocks.

Building those muscles.

The rock pile grows.

Building with rocks is new to both of us and we’re learning as we go along.

The first puzzle-like layer.

Greta's second layer

Guy's second layer.

Mixing the sand/lime mortar.