Wednesday, February 22, 2017

The big cob-house update

The last time we showed you our cob house the roof frame was beginning to go up, back in October. I'm taking a step back to show the whole process of getting the roof up. By the end of this post the house will have developed dramatically. I hope you enjoy these photos.

October 17, 2016 - The house unprotected. For a year we had a tarp over the house to protect it from the rain. Guests slept in the rustic rooms with good windows and doors but only a large blue tarp to cover it.
Oct. 19 - The roof structure goes up.

The recycled tiles are made from used milk boxes - heating and molding the aluminum and plastic remains
into strong but  lightweight and pliable tiles.
We hired a local builder and his brother to put up the roof.
The weather cooperated, cloudy but without rain.
Nov 10 - The finished roof, nicely rounded with a small circular saw.
Another view of the completed roof.
The space between the wall and roof must now be filled in. Eventually the roof
will be supported by the wall and some of the posts will be removed.

Handing up the cobs to be added to the top of the wall.
Cob meets roof.

We created vent holes with screening. 
Dec 28 -The walls of the two bedrooms and the bathroom are almost completed.

Jan 17, 2017 - Now it's time to work on the two level floor:
living room above, entry-level kitchenette below.

Guy empties one of the unending wheelbarrows of gravel. At the back sits a
handmade water level. 

Lolita and Cindy inspect the premises while Guy starts filling the lower level.
The tamper is used to make the floor as solid as possible.

Stones, gravel and sand are delivered just outside our property since the
bridge isn't strong enough for heavy trucks.

It's a pretty stretch but long after about twenty cartfuls. 
Especially since its' uphill.

Feb 1 - The next floor layer is made of earth, sand, gravel and straw.
It's pocked so that the next layer will adhere. 

We decided to make a ramp between levels since we have a wheelchair-bound
friend. And, who knows, we might need it ourselves in the future.

Feb 7 - Now we're placing the used windows we bought back in October. 
The three large windows have to be propped and tied in place until
the walls go up around them.

We get an idea of what the windows will look like from the outside. The space looks smaller from this perspective.

Today, a week later (February 22) I took the final photos for this update. 

The cob has gone up almost two feet, holding the windows firmly in place. 

Since we've decided to wait a few weeks before building the front wall with its doorways and window, the cob wall has been tapered so that the next piece of wall supporting the main doorway will join more securely.

                     The space looks inviting in the morning sun. The tall window at right will open into an alcove.
(I just realized I should have a photo taken from the same angle as the first photo in this post. I'll take that picture and get it posted as soon as I can.) Feb 23: Here it is:

The cob house as of February 23, 2017

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

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 to participate in a permaculture project – come join us for a week or two. 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 four or five hours of work a day, very flexible. Of course, there is a whole lot more to see and explore in Brazil and Latin America. Contact us through the Comment section below, or by email or Facebook.

Mangoes and guavas on window sill.

January             2017

In these times of political unrest, both in Brazil and the United States, I sometimes wonder if we’re in the right place, doing the right things. Guy often wishes he were in the US in order to participate in marches and other actions to protest the direction this new president is taking the country, and to hold our elected officials accountable for preserving the rights of every American as well as safeguarding the rights of those world citizens, including countless children, who have been displaced as a result of the war-making in which the US is complicit.

On the other hand, our work here compels us to continue with ongoing projects. The cob house is more than halfway done, goats and chickens need daily attention, fruit trees require care. We’ve also taken our commitment to ‘living into our place’ to another level as we help found and build a non-profit organization which will dedicate itself to the preservation and recovery of springs and creek beds in this high plateau where many rivers have their source.

Looking North toward the crest of the Continental Divide of Central Brasil and to the beginning of the Amazon Basin beyond. We live just South of the divide at the beginning of the La Plata Basin. 

Just two miles north of us runs one of the ridges of the continental divide - between the Amazon River Basin to the north and the Plata Basin to the south. Rainfall here has decreased steadily over the past few years (climate change?) while farmers, large and small scale, continue to clear land with reckless disregard for ecological balance. People in this area of abundant water are for the first time in memory worrying about the  water running out. In Brasilia, only 60 miles away, water rationing  has become necessary. If it doesn’t rain enough between now and May, when the dry season starts, the situation could be drastic, even deadly. So it makes sense for us to stay here and do our bit for sustainability.

The site of a spring that has been totally cleared of trees to make a watering hole for cattle. 

Our permaculture project began its sixth year in August and we moved into the first house we built a full four years ago. Trees that we planted back then have begun to bear fruit: pomegranate, pitanga, coffee and orange. Guy has produced two years of fully-cured humanure that we use in our vegetable garden and on our fruit trees. I’ve developed a flock of chickens with Rhode Island Red hens that are just beginning to lay, and we collect four eggs a day already. Our goats provide enough milk for our daily needs and we’re learning to make cheese.

Among other things, I would like to plant ginger and turmeric – both grow well around here -  to use with goat milk to make turmeric tea, supposedly a powerful anti-inflammatory.

Very soon I plan to post a complete update on the cob house so I won’t go into any details in this entry. Please stay tuned.

A peek at the cob house with its new roof.