Saturday, June 6, 2015

A New Phase

June 5, 2015

Once again we want to put out an appeal to anyone who is
ready for a Brazilian adventure and eager to learn about cob or desirous of participating in a permaculture project – come join us for a week or a month, or even longer. To come from the US you will need a minimum of around $2000  for airfare and incidentals. We will pick you up at the airport in Brasilia and host you (good food and wonderful sleeping in a quiet dark space where the stream gurgles by and the stars jump out at you at night) in exchange for working alongside us, a few hours most days,  very flexible. We have people scheduled for this Fall and Winter, but right now June, July and August are wide open. Contact us through the Comment section below, or by email or Facebook.

A new phase begins
This is where we left off at the beginning of the rainy season. We covered the cob to protect it from the daily, sometimes torrential rains that we expect between November and April. 
The rainy season is finally coming to a close – the June 2nd full moon may have brought in the dry season - and we’ve taken the cover off the cob house.  On Monday, June 1, we mixed our first mud cob and started building again. It took us four days to complete a full round and now we’re ready to work on the floor for a few days – a new task for us.

We started at the upper side, covering the foundation stones.

We wet down the dry cob so as to lay down a new layer.
The earth is waiting on the tarp to be trampled into cob.

About three inches higher on either side of the doorway.

A complete circle added. The cob at the far right starts at floor level, behind the pails, about 18 inches. The outside walls have a high foundation to protect them from the rain, so there's only three inches of cob on the high end.
We’re moving slowly, a bit tentatively since about five and half months ago I entered a period of chronic pain caused by degenerative disc and osteoarthritis symptoms, both cervical and lumbar. I’m finally better but more limited in my activities than before. I’ve had to give up some of my jobs such as tree hole and trench digging, and heavy weeding.

Re-cap for those who missed earlier phases (you can, of course, go back in the blog and see our work from the beginning, including references to some of the sources we’ve used):

At this point we’re building the first bedroom of a two bedroom house with bathroom, open space for living room and eating area, and ample porch/patio area. 

First we made trenches with a lining of gravel, over which we built the stone foundation. 

We determined the correct mix of earth, sand and straw for our cob mixture, and began building up the walls. Guy and I can do it alone, but we’ve enjoyed the company and help of several people: Sofia, Camila, Kimberly, Lisa, Hale, and Cesar. Victor, Sofia and some neighbors helped with the arduous task of collecting stones along the road and creeks.

Sofia and Kimberly putting down the first layer of cob.
We’ve spent less than US$500 (R$1500) for construction grade gravel, several bags of lime for the foundation mortar, and a load of stones to continue the foundation for the second bedroom. Soon we will need to build or buy doors and windows, and eventually wood and tiles for the roof. We’ll probably also pay for outside help – we hope to move more quickly now in order to finish at least the two bedrooms by the end of August, but even better the whole house by the end on the year!

The pit where we get our earth, an appropriate mixture of clay and sand, is close enough to the building site.
The sand mound that provides additional sand for the cob is left over from when our
brick house was built two and a half years ago.
What else is new? I’m in the middle of harvesting cotton from one plant and coffee from two little trees. 
Cotton and coffee.
The lemon tree is full again of ripening lemons and a second tree is starting to produce this year after two years of pruning. Both trees were here when we arrived, in the middle of pasture land where the cows rubbed up against the trees, breaking branches and trampling new growth. Our new trees this year are a cashew, a caj√°-manga, and a tamarind. And six banana plants forming a grove just back of our house, where the  water from the kitchen and shower drains.

Newly planted banana sprouting a new leaf.

Stay tuned for the next chapter: GOATS!