Natural Building CAMP!
Well, well, well! It’s been many a year since Culture’s Edge at Earthaven hosted a natural building camp. But this August (24-29), we once again are offering a full six-day adventure into the world of cob and its sophisticated cousin, compressed earth block.
Both cob and the blocks are started with the same basic ingredients—a good, clay-y soil, and sand. Cob, however, also has a significant amount of straw crushed into it and is put on quite wet in cobs, or loaves. Compressed earth blocks are made without additional water or straw, and often a small amount (ten percent) of Portland cement is used in the mix.
The other big difference is that the neat rectangular blocks are made by a big machine requiring mechanical power, and are set in place with an earthen mortar, whereas cob can be made by a pair of folks and a tarp (although it can also be mixed several other ways) and requires no mortar at all.
Since cob is a basically seamless material, the way the molecules adhere to each other depends especially on the water and the straw in the mix. Ideally, the soil is soaked in water ahead of time to allow the molecules to fully absorb the water and become as sticky as possible. The straw acts like a crisscross of fibrous “nails” that interweave the cob mix and make it the most solid of natural building materials. Another similar earthen material is adobe brick, which is a hand-made version that is pressed wet into forms. Adobe brick thus takes significant drying time to use and is probably in its best setting in dry climates.
At this year’s Natural Building Camp, participants will be working on a cob and block tower for the new Village Arts Building at Earthaven. The recently built rubble trench foundation with its two-foot stacked stone base wall will take a couple of rounds of cob and then be continued with the earth blocks.
The Camp will begin with a comprehensive tour of natural and green buildings at Earthaven, featuring a wide variety of traditional and experimental techniques. Our experienced staff and natural building interns will be on hand to demonstrate, teach and guide participants through the basics of hands-on natural building. There will be plenty of time for questions and discussion, plus all the good things about summer camp—group meals, walks in the woods, dips in the creek, and starry nights around the campfire.
As the famous cob builder, Becky Bee, explains in the documentary First Earth, there’s nothing like natural building to bring people of all skill levels together, creating the very sense of community we seek by the process we use to do it. We’re very excited to be reintroducing this delightful approach to housing ourselves and our activities to the public. Folks are welcome to sign up for the entire six day camp or to come just for the weekend. More information is available at www.culturesedge.net.