Natural Building, Day 4…Only the Beginning

The last day of class was great fun. I finally had to get my feet in the mud, the roof is installed, all but one wall is finished. We got creative with glass bottle inserts and some all-natural wall hooks for the humanure room. So much love goes into hand-built walls, that this little corner of Koinonia Farm is radiating with agape energy. Nicole is staying on for a couple of days to help us finish the last section of cob. There are plans in the works for a 2012 workshop, stay tuned for more details. Koinonia was a front-runner for affordable housing back in the 1970’s, perhaps we will have the chance to revolutionize the way Americans build in the 21st century? Who knows…for now, thanks to everyone for the best time I’ve had all year:


This is where we left off the day before...


Mike, Ryan and Sara, our artists from Baltimore


By 3pm half of the cob was done. Glass bottle inserts in the earthbag wall will form the shape of a cross.


Earthbag wall


Slip straw + cob + bottles = highly functional art!


Burlap sack lining before the metal roof was on


Couldn't help but smile when Brendan and I were dancing to mix the cob


Bare feet are the best tools for mixing clay, sand and straw


Cliff and Barry nail the roof down tight


So happy together!


Our new friend Sage kept us stocked with snacks while we worked


Christina gets out of the kitchen and into the clay


Sand plaster applied to earthbag wall


Entrance to new humanure toilet room


Pretty colors


Goat's horns embedded in the cob become hooks in the humanure room


Brendan's cob-stained feet

I can honestly say that life will never be the same after this experience. As Nicole put it, it’s so empowering to know that we can build our own houses out of the freely-available materials provided to us by the Earth’s abundance. Can’t wait for the next earth-built blitz!


Natural Building, Day 3

Intensity was the name of the game today. From the early-morning cob-making, to noontime truss-setting, to a trio of techniques in the afternoon, to a spontaneous talent show/ drum circle. Yesterday’s persistence at the building framing paid off. Everyone’s energy level is high, and the rapid transformation is unbelievable. A week ago today, Cliff had not yet arrived at Koinonia and Wayne hadn’t yet begun the front yard swales. Tomorrow we will be putting the finishing touches on the building…but I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves:


Homeschool Cooperative students, getting in on the cob oven construction


Cob is all about community...all ages and lots of fun!


The first layer going around the oven sand form. Trinity and Ida showing Wayne how it's done


Alex and Julie hard at work...nearly finished by lunchtime.


Hey mom, look what we helped build!


Ryan and Alex tamping down the central slip-straw wall, one section at a time


Nicole and Ned moving right along...


Barry takes it to the next level.


Mike, Josh and Cliff filling the first earth bag for the base of the outer wall.


Happy Brendan!


Cliff, tamping the earth bags


Nicole learning to mix earth plaster


The "aha!" moment...getting the plaster just right


Alex and Sunny applying earth plaster to bamboo lath


David and Penryn filling the gaps with cob


With all this activity, even the bunnies are tired.


Plaster wall complete!

Grand finale coming tomorrow night!

Natural Building, Day 2

Another glorious day was ahead of us, and everyone was ready to get down to business. With so many people working in a small space, Wayne decided to make use of the many hands, so a cob oven was added to the agenda. Roof support beam is set, bamboo lath is complete, oven form is ready, and tomorrow we start applying the cob.

The plants that feed raised beds in the yard near the construction


Muscovy ducklings, watching us work


Cliff's sketch of the entrance to the new building


Side view of building, perhaps with a glass bottle cross design built in?


The sawdust was flying!


Bamboo is beautiful


Nicole and Juby, hanging more lath


Josh and Cliff raise the roofbeam


At 1:30, the cob oven site looked like this...


...and when I returned at 5:00 this is what I found!


Amazing work, amazing people…it doesn’t get much better than this!

Natural Building, Day 1

The first day of Koinonia Farm’s first Natural Building Workshop was tremendous. After learning more about Koinonia’s history and getting the basics in a variety of natural building modalities, the students were itching to get out in the sunshine and get to work. They spent the afternoon splitting bamboo to be used as lath for mud plaster, stripping cedar bark from the structural poles, preparing a drainage trench to redirect water away from the building, and supervising some hard-working kids.
Wayne Weisman of the Permaculture Project and Cliff Davis of Spiral Ridge Permaculture will spend the next few days sharing their natural building expertise and letting the creative energy of the students take hold. I’ll be posting our progress each day, to show you what our 13 students (plus some community members and homeschool cooperative kids) can accomplish in 4 days’ time!

Wayne giving a breakdown of the building design.


Brendan and Cliff, sharpening tools


Juby with the split bamboo lath, Alex stripping bark from a cedar post


Ryan and Michael, taking a break from digging the drainage trench


Kellan, age 4, using a draw knife to strip cedar poles


The first post is set! And Cliff and Nicole hanging the bamboo lath


The Prendergast girls, hard at work! Ida, age 7, loves the patterns that insects created under the bark


Happy students = happy teacher!

More to come…


For weeks now, I’ve been wanting to get back to blogging. My vision for this site has changed, and I want to keep you all up to date on the progress of all the amazing and inspiring work happening at Koinonia Farm. My posts will be shorter and (hopefully) more frequent. For longer philosophical musings, check my other site Turning Dreams Into Deeds.

As a jumping-off point, here’s a peek at some of the work done by students in Koinonia’s fourth Permaculture Design Course. In preparation for next week’s Natural Building Workshop they’ve been digging swales and drainage trenches in my front yard. These will direct water away from the earthen walls of the building and towards the fruit trees and annual garden beds. More photos to come as construction begins next week!


Students dig a drainage trench around the existing structure



The building site, prepped and ready to go!



Digging a swale uphill from the building site



Testing the swale to make sure the water will wind up where we want it to go