Our First Cob ‘Mini-Mix’

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My youngest daughter Annabelle, and I decided to do a little mini mix to test a larger batch than the hand mix I did, making cob-patties. Here, we made some chunky bricks. Linda McKee, the local cob guru, who will be running the upcoming workshops on wall raising, popped in also, with some advice, and we did a bit of planning.
Annabelle and I stomped a small batch, using the earth from my now very large pile, that I had soaking in buckets to break up the very hard clay lumps, crusher dust (have a pile onsite left over, using inlou of coarse sand, barley straw, that seems to be in season (perfect!!) and water.
We made some tester bricks (test when dry for shrinkage, cracking, strength etc) and had a pile left that we moistened and wrapped up in its plastic for later use, storing in the shade.

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Yep the little batch was fun to make, finally I get to play with the earth and Annabelle really enjoyed it… great! Cos there is heeeaaps to do!! Not sure about the other daughters though, think Hannah (14) has said nnoo way, and Lara (13) wants to be in charge of refreshments hahaa. They’ll come round when they see how fun it is *for sure!* My son Khai is visiting from Sydney soon also, we’ll get him cobbing too…

Don’t forget to check out the workshop dates and details in the previous post. I really want to make the most of these two facilitated workshops, for my own learning and confidence, and everyone else’s who feels to come.

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Cob Workshops!

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Firstly I can say SORRY for not posting for so long. Again, I have been upkeeping FB, but time is at such a premium as the build goes along… I am so busy!!! I can hardly wait to move in, apart from being in my own home again, one that I have worked on in so much detail and care, but there will be one less place to ‘rush off to’ because I’ll just BE THERE. Mud December is for moving … that was meant to be ‘Mid’ but mud is quite appropriate here haaa …

Anyway… what I have been wanting to do all along is nearly here… Cob mixing and wall building! YES very excited!

Linda McKee (see her Bio below) is facilitating 2 weekend workshops:

The first one: 30/11-1/12
Second one: 7-8/12
Each day 8.30-4.30
$80 for the 2 days tuition (ea weekend) and lots of hands on (mixing, building).
We really wanted to make it affordable, and just cover costs. Bookings with me and prepayment essential, as numbers are limited.
Does not inc accom, but the Show Grounds in Maleny are within easy walking distance (just across the road and the lovely Obi Obi River), and there are plently of BandBs, hotel etc.

LINDA McKEE’S BIO
“Linda was taught cob house-building and cob oven making by Ianto Evans and Linda Smiley from the Cob Cottage Company (Oregon USA) in 1995, during their Australian trip.
Since then, she has run cob house building courses at Caboolture (with Mal McKenna), in Northern NSW and at Bellbunya Community near Eumundi. Linda has also run workshops to build over 70 cob ovens at various community gardens and private homes in Qld, NSW and Tasmania. She has great ‘recipes’ and experience in various natural renders also! Linda is a Teacher and Permaculture Consultant who has taught permaculture at community gardens in Brisbane, and managed Edible Landscapes Nursery at Northey St City Farm for 6 years. She has now ‘retired’ to her property at Reesville, on the outskirts of the Sunshine Coast hinterland town of Maleny.”

I hope you can make it to one of these weekends! If not, there will be several months of cobbing ahead, even after I’ve moved in, I’ll be cobbing around daily life 🙂 yip yippee. Love getting hands and feet in the earth, and expressing some creativity along the way.

I have created an ‘Event’ on FB with all details, the link of which is on the Cobhearthome FB page.

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This lovely huge pile of earth will soon be transformed into cob walls!! It has lots of clay in it, and I sourced it from 10 minutes down the road, at Witta. It was free, but I have had to pay for delivery.

At my first inspection of it, I thought it was very ‘stony’ (ouch not good for feet stomping at all!) on soaking and playing with it in buckets, and jar testing, those lumps are CLAY and it is around 40%. This is quite high, and will prob need some coarse sand added (and of course barley straw, water). I’ve made some testers with the crusherdust on site, it looks and feels GREAT. Those walls are going to be very solid!

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Linda and I are going to make some larger ‘bricks’ to have a better look at cracking, shrinkage, strength etc. so far we are happy though!

There is lots to do before cobbing fun, let the days roll on!!

If you’d love to learn and come and play and mix and build, but cannot make those facilitated workshop dates, there will no doubt be more along the way (inc natural renders workshops), and me putting calls out for happy helpers, so keep in touch.

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Battens, Fascia & Tails

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Well my friends and followers, it’s been about 3 weeks since my last post… Life building a home, working and children, is, ummm… QUITE BUSY. I think I am *just* keeping my sanity, although family and friends may disagree… ?!

Hardwood battens have been fixed to rafters, framing and bracing ply is complete on the raised floor side where specified, and I’ve sourced some beautiful bloodwood hardwood from a local private mill for the fascia boards (an ad on Gumtree!).

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Attaching the fascia boards, we’ve been moving the trestles and plank to get them up and fixed, they are heavy!!

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David builder (and there is Maya helping her Dad!) has made some lovely tails for the ends, extending off the battens and attached to the fascia. They are from leftover hardwood floor joists and some lovely old hardwood pieces David had at his place from an old Maleny dairy. They’ve been cut and angled, arissed and timber coated. What a lovely finish on the house.

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The fascia boards I found from a private mill were half the price of commercial local mills ($10/m, $600, would have been $1,200) although there may have been a few more ‘imperfections’ in the cut timber (some bits on ends not useable) fascia is not structural so it does not have to comply with strength standards. Preprimed pine or tin is what is ‘usually’ used for fascia boards. I am very happy with the outcome here. The boards have been sanded lightly on the outer (visible) side to remove most of the rough saw cut marks, arissed on the bottom edges and 2 coats of a water based uv-protective timbercoate product.

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The build is coming along nicely, and I am excited to say that the ‘TIN ORDER’ is being placed on Monday, after having received 3 quotes. This is all materials for the roofing – zincalume (plain silver, not colourbond) custom orb sheeting, gutters, ends, flashing etc, around the $4,200 mark. Builder is doing the roofing, I’ll be staying on ground or ladder level passing things up I believe (phew). Have discovered I’m not too keen on heights!

Next post I’ll detail what ‘s happening with windows, plumbing and electricals, and some excitement on upcoming cobbing!

Thanks for being with me on my COBHEARTHOME journey. See you soon.

Jodie (and Lara-daughter in this pic, taken by her tonight) xo

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Roof Beams!!

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Hullo! And welcome back…

So we’ve been busy at the build and have started with some roof structure (ooo closer to cobbing walls my thoughts remind me, whenever the roof is mentioned hahaa).

The larger skillion side has manufactured I-beams running from the main internal load bearing wall out to the beam that runs along the bush poles. I agreed to these ‘Smart Joists’ as they are called, on recommendation of the engineer: because there is 24 of them at around 6 metres long and they are around one fifth the price of hardwood. They are evidentially used a lot in contemporary building practices, are not visible or in the weather (enclosed in roof-ceiling space) are light to move around (I can carry and move one on my own) and reportedly amazing strength. Because we’ve got them out in the weather until the battens and tin covers them, my builder suggested I slap some paint on them, especially the internal upright section that looks very ‘chunky chipboard’, the tops and bottoms are ply looking. So that was last weekend… have I mentioned yet that I reeeeally dislike painting…

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… 24 I-beams, 6m long, both sides painted aaarrgh! The last hour a friend turned up with another paintbrush, thanks Phil!!

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And the above image is how it looks now… hardwood roof joists with some battens starting to go up on the smaller (raised floor) side, and the I-Beams all fixed on the slab side. Exciting!!!

It was ‘fun’ trying to fix those Smart Joists, we had them just sitting up there in position, but the wind whipped up and actually started sliding and jostling them around…

The below image is some builder David inventiveness… getting the beam up in between the 2 bush poles on the veranda. It involved borrowing the ‘continuous chain’ pulley again, fitting one ladder in and up through a trestle and David getting the beam in place up there in the notched out spaces awaiting it. I was pretty well the nervous standby watcher…

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Look at this gorgeous fan light below … not mine, but just what I’d like! We have spaces in the framing above the 3 girls bedroom doors for fan lights. And the girls bedroom doors are the only ones I have yet to source. All other doors I have are preloved beauties, from various locations, and my latest door acquisition is the 2 old ‘VJ panelled with square fixed glass’ that were the front entry doors to the Maleny Community Centre before its recent renos, if you live around here, you’r know the news doors are rather impressive hey?! The old ones have a new home: for my toilet and bathroom heheee, what a very useful reincarnation.

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In the coming weeks, I guess after the roof is on, I’ll be taking all the doors and windows that clutter my living space where I currently live (leaning against any available wall!) to their new home, some need stripping back and I’ll have the room there to do it. Although most are perfect how they are. I’ll then post some pics here of what preloved windows and doors I’ve got, where they are going specifically in the building and where they came from.

And a last word (or a 100) this peaceful Sunday evening… a wonderful thing about working on your own house, is the little changes in design you can make along the way. I don’t mean structural items that would require engineer and certifier approvals. What has been changed in the last couple of weeks has been: the roof pitch heights, which then changed the height of the small wall between them that now allows me to place in some fixed windows high up there, bringing more light through the home; the pantry design in the kitchen, centring the doors on that wall (and thinking of narrow double doors there) and making a niche into it on the bench side of the pantry; 2 windows instead of one long one in the main kitchen wall, with a gap between that I can envisage feature shelving; a narrow return bench coming off the main bench along the other wall toward the veranda door; removing the wardrobe space from bedroom 2 and giving that space to the bathroom for the inclusion of a bath (was only going to have the outdoor bath, but daughters are protesting!); and I am sure there were some other little bits that I cannot recall at the moment!

And to be able to do these things, also requires the help and communication of the hired and trusted builder, so for friend David working on my house with me, I am thankful. I love his ideas and understanding of spaces, and willingness to discuss options.

So… all is well in my world! It’s Monday tomorrow and I’ll be back onsite in the morning before heading to work (the paid stuff), and hopefully another productive building week is on the horizon.

Thought I’d leave you with a happy-snap… 2 of my daughters, Annabelle & Lara Rose, and friend Jane, headed for a little shopping and beach trip on Saturday, this is us at the boardwalk Caloundra after coffee and icecream! And yes, a day away from the building site.

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The Owner Builder Magazine Article

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Well here it is lovelies! My article has been published in this current edition of the fabulous Australian publication The Owner Builder Magazine (TOB): Aug/Sept 2013. Very exciting to have support and interest so widespread. I love TOB magazine for all the interesting amazing builds that people undertake, the passion they have for what they do, and the materials and products widely available (and the creative way in which they can be used). It is inspirational for me to read of dreams and action!

The images in the article have been supplied by my Architects ‘Ecolibrium‘. These images look like photographs, but are actually RENDERINGS, using the plans they show what the house will look like when complete. Amazing. Also amazing, is the progress we’ve made on the build!… it was only earthworks and footings prep when the deadline for magazine submissions came around, so they are the only pics I had to give…

TOB Mag PDF Article

Raised Floor & Framing Starts

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Well it’s been a busy couple of weeks! I still dream about playing with earth, sand and straw and creating thick curvy cob walls, mixed and molded with friends… but first things first!

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The bearers have had their protective coat of 4:1 sump oil and boiled linseed oil (latter acts as a drying agent). The hardwood joists have been ‘triple-gripped’ on (lots!!! of nailing) after the bottom sides were visually decided (most concave edge) then those two edges arissed with the planer. The builder then had to plane some edges along the tops to get them all exactly level for the placement of the floor sheets.

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The joists butt up to the slab and will be dyna-bolted on, as well as sitting on a small ledge created with the boxing at concrete stage.

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Yellow tongue is the name of the floor sheeting that has been laid on the raised floor. It is a chipboard product, and evidently has less glue content and off-gassing than ply woods… Anyway, it will be my temporary floor on that side of the house (kitchen, 3 daughters’ bedrooms, bathroom & loo) until I have the time and money to lay T&G over the top of it. I’d like to learn to do that myself also. The double layer then, will offer superior insulative qualities in chilly Maleny winters, where cold creeps through straight timber floors and created warmth dissipates quickly… So hopefully I can have the lovely timber floor top laid by next winter! I have done one sealant coat of WB polyurethane on this floor, should do another asap.

Framing starts!! Room spaces begin to be defined… window and door dimensions now important…

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In the above image, you can get an idea of the heights of the 2 skillion roofs. The heighest framing there above ‘the kitchen’ (which will continue along that wall) shows the approx height of the roof over the slab/cob side, and the lower framing is the roof height on the raised floor side.

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My gorgeous youngest daughter Annabelle came to help me yesterday. David builder was not on site, and I had a couple of jobs to to, so Annabelle helped with passing me clouts while I was up the ladder nailing on the bracing ply that David had put in place (lots more of that to put up this week!) and she thought the place was a bit messy, so got busy sweeping! She also checked-out how big the space is under the raised floor, planning a permanent cubby house already!

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My lovely patents came to visit yesterday also, from Tewantin, an hour or so north on the Sunshine Coast. They were just interested to see it, as they hadn’t been on site for a couple of months… They loved seeing some rooms and SPACES take shape, and their enthusiasm and encouragement is so appreciated. Thanks Rene & Reg!

Soooo my friends… I ‘m just sharing a little laugh with you here. While Mum & Dad were in Maleny visiting yesterday, we all went for coffee & hot chocolates at the most wonderful (new) book store EVA, ‘Rosetta Books’ (they’ve recently put in a little coffee bar inside the front windows). We enjoyed our beverages at the large communal table then browsed the shelves, and I found a brilliant book!!…

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My children and friends know I just LOVE kale. I’ve not visited the ‘Fifty Shades…’ phenomenon, but think I’d prefer this kale version anyway!

As well as cobbing, I am looking forward to creating beautiful edible gardens… greens greens and greens, herbs, berries, flowers, roots and fruits. A little mini paradise: of sheltering nurturing creative home and flourishing gardens, a place of ‘welcome’ to share with family and friends.

Love and Peace, see you soon, Jode x

Cubby Houses, Jaboticabas & Tree Ferns!

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All my children have enjoyed making ‘cubbies’ and my youngest Angel, Miss Annabelle at 10 years of age, still loves it. So… the first cubby house for our new home was built by her (blue stripey top) and friend Alice on Sunday, when they came to the block to keep me company. Love it! And a lovely view. They requested a picnic…

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It was in the crusher dust pile, they made a bench seat in it covered with grass for cushioning, and a roof with stakes, steel and a shovel, covered with towels from the car. It kept them busy for some time, along with picking dandelion flowers for the 2 cows over the fence, and rolling down the hill on the land below. Little happy bunnies to have around!

Whilst they played, I painted a protective coat on the posts (supporting timber floor side) with 4:1 sump oil and boiled linseed oil (latter a drying agent). These posts also sit out of the ground in stirrups and concrete. They now look a dark brown/black.

Sunday afternoon saw me giving the slab another clear sealant coat, it’s had 3 all up now, and the water (that regularly falls from the sky around here!) beads very nicely on it, although it seems to be still getting stained, esp by any bark that comes from the standing bush poles that lays in water (tannins?)… Lucky those natural tannins blend well with the colour scheme… I’m not too precious about it, and imagine all that mud that will be around the slab and muddy cobbing friends, when cob walls begin in earnest?!!

Tuesday!! The large hardwood timber order arrived, $6,000 worth in fact, quite amazing, and my builder is very happy with the quality and timber species that has been delivered, so I am happy too! So yesterday we started putting the bearers up (after sizing, arissing and carrying/dragging!) where David had cut into the posts ready for them. Wow, they are HEAVY. Today I sump/linseed oiled them, and cut some more bolts. Tomorrow, more bearers up, more oiling, and I think we’re getting extra help (stronger than me) to lift beams overhead on top of the bush poles along the slab edge, where cob walls will curve in, out and around.

I think I can now truly say ‘the house’ instead of ‘the block’, as it is taking shape and looks like it just might be a house (home in the making).

One more thing, I planted some Jabiticabas, 4 of them along one of the boundaries. The neighbours wanted a screening up (they were going to plant Mock Orange…) so on the spur of the moment in conversation, I suggested Jaboticabas (Sth America tree species) for their beauty, dimensions for screening and fruit bearing capacity. The latter grows directly from the trunk, dark purple tough skinned large berries, to eat fresh or make jam, jellies and wine! I had 6 of them at Crystal Waters, and I just love them!

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And a sweet little end to tonight’s post, are the gorgeous Tree Fern fronds, that have grown from spores on the wind (most likely just up from the lush growth around the Obi Obi Creek winding just down below). They’ve lodged in the crevasses and niches in the rock wall on the ‘cob side’ boundary, and unfurl themselves with simple elegant beauty! Oh I love Tree Ferns!

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Posts & Poles

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Oh I can hardly believe it’s been weeks since my last entry! Although I have updated my FB page. I’ve just been busy with Life: children, school holidays, paid work, building between rain, winter colds, birthdays and social events! Mentioning the oddity of winter rain… not much has happened on-site because if it, and we’re waiting on delivery of around $6,000 worth of hardwood…

But the 100x100mm hardwood posts for the raised floor have been bolted to their stirrups…

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And a back aching tedious job for me, was hand mixing (in the wheelbarrow) 20 mixes of concrete to fill 2 and a half 1200deepx350mm holes under the veranda area, that we ran out of concrete for in the pour for the piers… I bought four bags of concrete and mixed it 1:6 with my leftover pile of crusher dust. Oh, and a mattock is kinder on the back when mixing wet concrete in a wheelbarrow, I’m thankful for that advice by a friend I ran into at the hardware store the morning I was buying the concrete bags!

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And daa-daah!! The timber bush poles are up too! It looks like it just might be becoming a house 😉

Here’s the first lone-pole, it stood by itself for a week…

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David & I got all the poles in alignment ready for lifting (by rolling them on 3 little logs aka ‘Egyptian wheels’).

Then the others rose to join it, 4 of us on-site that day last week: David, Paul, Khai (my son) and myself…

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There is still one of these beautiful bush poles not raised: the very long corner veranda one, which was also the most recently cut and is ‘green and wet’. It was waay too heavy, we’ll have to think that one out, it may require machinery unfortunately.

These poles came from a friends wood lot in Crystal Waters Village Conondale, where I used to live. Of course these trees cut are now no longer living, but it feels good to know their history, who planted and cared for them, and that they were grown to be used as local building timbers. One of my first posts on this blog was the journey of these poles up the hill to my block in Maleny.

The look and feel of my cob walls (and such, eventually lime rendered) I think will be enhanced by the earthiness weaving and wrapping around these natural poles.

We are now waiting on a large hardwood timber order, which I am advised delivery will be another week… So now David builder is cutting and chiselling in for bearers and beams. Meanwhile, my next jobs are to cut around 80 bolts from the galv threaded rods with the grinder (cheaper than buying bolts), 2 more sealant coats on the slab on top of the two already done, and debarking/sanding/sealing poles. And please stop raining!

Thanks for your interest, I’ll be back with more progress… when it happens!

Peace and Love, J x

More Piers, More Concrete, More Rain…

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This week we had Rodcat back with his earthworks machine. He dug 20+ piers at around 1200 deep (but some could not make it to that for rock) as engineer specified for the raised timber floor portion of the house and veranda. Concrete pour was booked for Friday and yep… it started raining again Thursday night!! Thankfully it wasn’t too heavy and had stopped by mid Friday morning and we decided to not cancel the concrete and line pump, but just keep our 1pm date. Clouds threatened but the sun actually came out for a while yaay. I had squares of black plastic ready to cover the holes and any poured councrete if need be, but thankfully we did not need them. The pump was a smaller one this time, as it was 3m3 of concrete for the piers to be filled (but we did run short on 2 and 1/2 holes because a couple of the other ones in the steep bank area ended up so huge!) compared to the huge pump truck for the 30m3 (6 trucks!) for the slab and footings…

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Yes the sun shone for a couple of hours, here it is all aglow on builder David who is setting H-stirrups into the concrete, with level, string lines and measures. Had to work fast before the concrete started ‘going-off’.

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My youngest daughter Annabelle has been at the site with me a couple of days this week, she has loved dancing on the slab to music from her iPod, entertaining me while scraping out the bottom of poles (final prepping them for concrete) moving some crusher dust about and scoring some artistic work into the concrete pier tops, oh and sprinkling them with some left over red oxide, as well as herself…

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This coming week we will be taking off the slab boxing, mixing some concrete by hand for the couple of piers under the veranda area that didn’t get filled, and starting to put some timber up!

Well Life is certainly busy here!… between children at home on school holidays, work and building… but it is ALL GOOD and I am feeling appreciative for so much in Life, especially the love and support I feel from family and friends, even though I feel like I am neglecting them somewhat, from my time challenges. Thankyou for reading and your interest in my endeavours, see you soon! Blessings, Jode xo

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Boxing Up, Steel, Concrete & Colour!

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Hello! I’m a bit excited because IT DID STOP RAINING IN MALENY and I’ve finally got a concrete slab on which to build cob walls with little ‘sticky-out’ strip footings for cob walls extending from certain spaces of the house… but let’s start back at the boxing up…

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… Timber boxing around slab perimeter, fiddly stake’n’plywood boxing for curvy bits (time consuming for builder). All gaps from the earth to timbers had to be packed with bits of wood, rocks, and waxed cardboard cut and chocked with crusher dust, so no concrete would ooze from gaps. I understand it all now, after seeing the force at which the concrete enters the spaces!

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Rainy Maleny! It was a big job of a full day with helpers getting all the steel in to place… box steel in strip footings, rio on flat slab area, z bars, starter bars… zip ties and wire ties… Doing a fiddly dance around steel in narrow awkward spaces. Site was ready for concrete pour the next day, some rain was forecast, but it was clear by the following morning (last Friday) that it was definitely not going ahead. I awoke at 3am to the sound of steady rain, that did not stop. Cancellations and rebookings. Concretor, pump and concrete… co-ordinating everyone is tricky and was all booked again (thanks David) for Monday (yesterday).

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FUNNY… when my builder said we’d need to hire a pump for the concrete, I don’t know why but I just pictured something like a water tank pump…?! So you can imagine my surprise when after my morning shift at work, I arrived on site to see this massive truck with a very long arm, shooting concrete from a tube which was fed from the concrete truck… Oh to add, there was dramas with the pump, it was hours late because it broke down at the previous job, which of course set our pour start time of 11am back considerably… and the poor concretor was working into the dark with some limited work lights, and the big full (super) moon just past…

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I purchased some red and yellow oxides to be spread/sprinkled on the top, which the concretor was (relatively) happy to do for me. That was, after taking an hour round trip to Maroochydore and back to get different oxides, the ones he preferred working with… He also had reticence about it because evidently people are often not happy with the outcomes, I assured him it would be fine, just chuck ’em on and spread them around!

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I love it! This was my look at it this morning 🙂 Today I purchased some water based ‘impregnater’ sealant, which repels stains and marking, is not a gloss finish but rather keeps surface as is, and will need 2 coats applied after around 5 days of concrete curing.

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The veranda will sit inside that front curve (half cob wall to be) and attached to the left side of the slab in this image above, will be the timber floor side of the house. Piers for which are scheduled to be drilled tomorrow! All action around here while the sun shines! 🙂

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Well, that was the last pic for today. Just showing you one of the strip footings for cob… the concretor and David went along and nicely smoothed them out, I went along and messed them up hahaaa. A nice little carved track through the middle for the cob to key into and focus weight INto rather than disperse toward outer edges, and I roughed up the surfaces around the valley-track. This was done to all the protruding footings that will have half cob walls and more exposure to the elements.

Well, that was rather a long post huh! I do flick things up more regularly on FB though 🙂 Thanks for reading and journeying with me through this medium. I love what I am trying to achieve, with the help of others, my own desire and dreams, and your support, so Bless you! xo

Getting Ahead of Myself?

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Exciting!! Look what I received in the mail today… “The Natural Plaster Book – earth, lime and gypsum plasters for natural homes” by Cedar Rose Guelberth & Dan Chiras. Ordered via The UK Book Depository online, where I generally source ALL my books.

So… along with my other favourite books on COB building (see Resources)
I’ve got lots of good stuff to read, learn and be inspired by, while it still rains here in Maleny! (Nope, one week after earthworks, still no movement, except for the water that runs through the mud and slowly drains down through piers, and the winter rain that falls from the grey skies…)

I have the ideas of using fine earth & chopped straw plasters for interior cob finishes, and lime & cow poo with ochre colours on exterior cob walls… BUT I wonder what juicy plaster gems I will discover with the pages of my new book…?! Hmmmm, better put the kettle on 😉

Earthworks and Rain

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Thursday the excavator came, as did crusher dust delivery (for under slab) and my electrician Ralph (elect & Telstra lines in conduit in 600mm trench to box at slab)… and the low cloudy Maleny skies threatened rain. I am amazed at how long the earthworks took!! We finished up around 5.30 and it was getting dark. The land was flattened, strip footings and piers for the slab were dug, as were the curvy cob arm strip footings. You can see some pink spray paint coming off the dirt area, where the strip cob footings were yet to be dug. I got cosy with the shovel for the day, neatening up trenches and helping remove earth from the piers when the machine’s spiral hole digging attachment was on making deep holes. I’m sure Rod from ‘RodCat’ earthworks would love my inventive tool names 🙂

The crusher dust was spread over the slab site area last, and we promptly covered it with black builders’ plastic IN CASE OF RAIN. Oh, the very last job was the curvy cob strip footing coming off the front on the veranda (to be half wall) done by excavator headlight, and a patient operator who used the bucket well to follow and dig out the pink line in the dirt.

It started raining yesterday and has increased today, evidently to continue through the week. Bummer! Was going to box up slab and strip footings today and tomorrow, call for an inspection, then hopefully pour by week’s end. Not to be I don’t think 😦

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Today I checked the black plastic had stayed on overnight in wind and rain, with our strategic rock placement… yes it had. I did also enjoyed a good barefoot squelch around in the mud and water pooling in the trenches and loosely dug up earth all around the site… and thought about squishing dirt for cob walls… soon!

But yes, beautiful rain in winter, when we normally experience ‘the dry’.

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Facebook & Little Update

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FACEBOOK!

www.facebook.com/cobhearthome

Well I’ve done it… I am not as technologically challenged as I thought, as well as getting this blog up and running, and basically just throwing myself into it learning as I go, I’ve now created a Facebook Page for Cobhearthome. It’s all not that hard really, like the planning and permissions of building a house, and building it (yes, which I’ve yet to do you may notice…) there are processes to follow and guidelines of which to adhere. So I’d love you to find me on Facebook, like my page and spread the word, please? That will be a place where I can post lots of beautiful cob house and natural building images that aren’t my own, from all over the world: they provide much inspiration, bountiful ideas and lofty day-dreaming! Even to get people thinking about incorporating ‘bits’ of natural materials or methods, as I am with my hybrid home, is a beginning of great change – for the love of Earth, each other and harmonious living. This blog is all about my own home and it’s ‘owner builder status’ (me!) and cobbing walls with family, friends, workshops, togetherness and learning – FB can be for all the ‘other’ wonderful natural building stuff out there.

TODAY’S UPDATE

David and I have been doing some profiles on the land the last couple of days: pegging and string lines and levels. It’s really all about accurately ‘mapping’ the house boundaries in detail, on the land. To know what/where earthworks are being done, what holes are being drilled for piers, and then markup/boxing for concrete slab and poles after that.

My electrician (and oh yes! another friend working on this job, another thing I love about OB’ing) Ralph met me on the land today to discuss the electrical supply lines into the house, where the trench goes and when he’s required. Basically he’ll be back on Thursday, because earthworks are booked for then, they’ll dig his 600mm deep trench the 22m it needs to go from the street box to the house corner, Ralph will lay the lines in conduit for the electricals and Telstra (phone and internet) and the trench will be back-filled in the same morning. Unfortunately though, my electrical meter will have to be in the front first curve of cob wall, highly visible at entry point, because looking at the plans, Ralph has advised me (more rules) there are very specific requirements about distance of meter box from the first corner of the house, and also from any window. Oh well, I can colour code it the same as the cob plaster, whatever colour oxides or ochre I decide to include in my renders, or make it highly visible and have my 14 year old Hannah artist daughter paint it 🙂

Always learning. See you soon.

♡♡♡

Council Approval

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This morning I was at my block doing some profiles with builder David, it was raining on-n-off (of course, it’s Maleny Show w/end!) and came home to check on my girls briefly, to receive THE magical phone call. It was my certifier advising me he has approved my plans for building, and the approved copies would be in my email inbox today! How fantastic, this is a house that has half its walls designated as hand-sculptured COB woohoo! … Council approved for the Sunshine Coast Regional Council, in the middle of suburbia.
The councils (local gov) have privatised certification for building these days, it only took them a couple of days once they had engineered plans, to give approval. I recall sometime ago it would be about 6 weeks in the wait.
I am giving myself a little pat on the back today, and feeling a little more than excited!
Another exciting thing, although I envisage cob walls beginning to go up in early Spring, is that I have started asking around for clay earth. A friend of mine gave me a contact this week and my local ‘cob expert’ Linda came with me today to look at it. There sure was a huge mound of beautiful rich red Maleny dirt, but hardly any clay, only little pockets or the odd streak. We did take a jar sample though, and left with dirty hands and lots of red earth stuck to our boots. Feels great to make a start on the clay dirt search, it’s like I’m really seriously ‘putting it out there’ now!
Earthworks booked for next Thursday 🙂

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The Obi Obi

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I’m soo soo happy my little piece of land and soon to be house is within walking distance to the beautiful Obi Obi Creek. I love being near flowing clean water. When there has been a lot of rain I can hear the water rushing from the block.

Coming from ‘the valley’ in Crystal Waters Conondale prior to moving up the hill to Maleny, creeks and rivers were an everyday experience: swimming in and walking by the majestic Mary River, or the meandering Scrubby and Kilcoy Creeks that bordered CW and entered The Mary.

It is the energy of the creek, the peaceful flowing water going about its business, the land that cups and holds it on it’s journey, the vegetation that befriends its banks, the wildlife the depend upon it and rejoice, and of course its simple but deeply felt beauty that nurtures me.

Thank you Obi Obi for your flowing waters, and to all the dedicated people in the past who have cared for this river system (Barung Landcare & hinterland community). I am very grateful to be nearby.

All Signed Up!

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BSA OB Permit # visible. Tick!
Construction site sign & pretty fencing as warming/deterrent. Tick!
Reminder to self to look at OB Insurance. Tick!

Plans update: Builder David & I agreed with the engineer on some final changes (to bring me back into the already tight budget), now the waiting game from the certifier. The lovely Maggi has wisely suggested I enjoy this ‘lull’ period, because very soon building will start and life will become extraordinarily busy! Oh Yes… 3 daughters at home (son in Sydney) part-time work, project manage my build, part-time labourer for David, organise cob materials & workshops, build cob walls, get creative, natural plasters!! Wooohoo the last few sound like fun (and labour intensive and time consuming, but the THINGS I MOST WANT TO DO!) 🙂

Oh, nearly forgot… somewhere in there we also get to MOVE IN.

Ho-Hum…

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Well lovely followers, not much to report I am afraid (well not really afraid, more like frustrated!) so just thought I’d check in with a quick update. I have really been playing the ‘waiting game’ these last couple of weeks, as plans have been with the engineers. On Friday I did receive the exciting news that they had been done, and were waiting for me in my email inbox after work, yaaaay. I printed them out and sat with builder-David to see what changes were made to the originals sent to them from the architects. Well there was quite a lot, mainly in things like ‘upping’ sizings of timbers, cross bracing, depth of piers, slab engineering… some specified requirements add up to substantial amounts of money, especially considering my tight smallish budget. So I am now re-thinking some materials and processes in the house, not the design or layout, but certain items that can help keep costs to a minimum (for example, they TYPES of rafters in the larger roof, 8 of them x 6m long 300x75mm F17 HW = $4,000 whereas I may need to change to steel C profile which is around $760 and not have them exposed, or exposed and encased in vj timbers?? …) All food for thought, but I don’t want to be thinking too long as the longer I procrastinate means building start is delayed, and the engineering once complete, needs to be sent to the private certifier for their stamps of approval and go-ahead. I guess it’s gathering the information and making informed sound decisions, the best I can at the time. And faith that all will be well. I’m usually pretty good with that  ♥

Tomorrow (Tuesday) I’ve organised for the block to be ‘trimmed’ by the lovely Froggie, friend and brushcutter extraordinaire! She used to help me look after my acre at Crystal Waters 🙂  It’ll be good to get the long grass (and weeds) down for doing up the profiles prior to earthworks machinery.

Tomorrow I’ll also be putting up my BSA OB sign on the block (required by law to be displayed) with some very official ‘construction site’ looking fencing near the street frontage, along with my little ‘construction site sign’ that I purchased from ebay, that is if it’s waiting for me at the post office…

The Bush Poles

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Prior to moving to Maleny, I lived at Crystal Waters Eco Village in Conondale, around 25 minutes out of Maleny town. A long term resident Peter planted a wood lot there around 20 years ago, of mainly Gympie Messmate timbers and some Gums. Well of course the trees are quite large now, and do require some thinning. Peter prefers to sell his timbers to locals at a very minimal rate, as the large companies were offering pittance for them. He also likes to help friends and see his timber go to good local building use. So… I thought some natural looking bush poles would be perfectly suitable to stand along side some earthy cob walls. On the plans in My Cob Home, the dark dots/circles along the cob side of the house, and around the deck and one feature one on the internal cob wall, are all going to be Peter’s poles! They form part of the post and beam structure, and the large exposed rafters in the raked ceiling, travel to each pole. I LOVE using materials that are local, and have a known history to me, and especially that I know Peter and that he had planted and tendered these trees all these years. The land on which they grew, in the Conondale Hills of Crystals Waters, with the nearby Mary River, holds a special place in my heart also.

They have been selected and cut (some had already been felled from previous recent jobs) but it was quite a job to get them up the hill to Maleny without spending a fortune on crane trucks that had to come from over on the coast and charge depot to depot, or earthmoving equipment and trucks that would need two trips. Builder David comes up trumps, with a truck from his friend, who only wanted a minimal borrowing fee, and David’s time, the price and timing (a beautiful Autumn Sunday!) was right!

Ok, logs on truck, a friend's shirt and stick hanging off the 'probably slightly illegal log overhang...' ready to go up-hill to Maleny.

Hullo David! Logs on truck, a t-shirt and stick hanging off the ‘probably slightly illegal log overhang…’ ready to go up-hill to Maleny.

I enlisted the help of several friends, and oh boy did we need it to lift those 11 rather LARGE logs onto to tray back. One had to be cut in half before loading also, thanks to Paul for racing off for his chainsaw. So David, his Dad Pete, Jane, Michael, Paul, Bruce, Rens (thanks guys!!!) and myself loaded up the truck, while the kids played nearby, strapped it all in and off we went. David and Pete in the truck, me following in the car: for the first materials delivery to the block, woohoooo.

Leaving Crystal Waters, the logs on their way.

Leaving Crystal Waters, the logs on their way.

A little bit exciting, seeing plans into action. And feeling thankful for friends’ help and support.

A glorious Autumn Sunday on Conondale country roads, the bush poles travel ahead.

A glorious Autumn Sunday on Conondale country roads, the bush poles travel ahead.

Literally UP THE HILL the logs go... Maleny bound.

Literally UP THE HILL the logs go… Maleny bound.

YES, thankfully they were strapped on well, and our devised last minute ’emergency signalling’ did not have to be effected!

Annabelle is excited, any opportunity to dance! David and Pete unload.

Annabelle is excited, any opportunity to dance! David and Pete unload.

A job well done.

Great to see a physical start, beyond plans and planning, to my building adventure and family home in the making.

♡♡♡

 

 

A Little Bit of Mud Play

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I recently went to my newly acquired little block of Maleny land, armed with shovel, bucket, some water (none connected there yet), some glass jars with lids and a happy outlook! I wanted to dig for clay, to see what potential the earth  has there on-site for cob walls. I am quite aware I will also need to ‘bring in’ come clay earth to build my walls, as certainly I am not expecting my little suburban block to provide all I need. But where I can, I will absolutely use it. Traditionally of course, cob homes, or for any fully natural home for that matter, the materials are found directly on the land or nearby surrounds, using what you have at hand, that Mother Nature has provided, and that will eventually, organically crumble, decay and retreat back into the ground from whence it came.

So back to my little bit of mud play, YES it was fun. I found what I think is really BEAUTIFUL clay!! The topsoil was fairly gorgeous too but the gardens will love that, not the house walls. I dug down below the top soil and unearthed (haaa literally!) some lovely reddy looking clay, mushed it around in my hands dry, then added water, squelshed it between fingers, made some mud patties, and did the jar test with the earth, water and detergent (shake, settle and observe). See The Hand Sculptured House for more detail on that last process.

Oooo some lovely reddy clay down there.

Oooo some lovely reddy clay down there.

The Jar Test, waiting for sediment settling, to get an idea of clay content...

The Jar Test, waiting for sediment settling, to get an idea of clay content…

There are a couple of cows over the back fence which is rather special for ‘town’ living, and if there are no car sounds and the wind is blowing right, I can also hear the creek below, that is the Obi. And that I can walk to swim in also. Feeling blessed about that!

Some of my beautiful neighbours coming to see what I was up to. Hello lovely cows :)

Some of my beautiful neighbours coming to see what I was up to. Hello lovely cows 🙂

Tasks 1: Must look around locally for extra dirt. Not just any dirt though, high clay content for my living room cob walls. I hear there is another development about to start earthworks over the other side of Maleny. I shall find out and report back! Obviously the less miles traveled the better, for use of great local earth is preferable, and sustainability importance (less fuel and truck haulage in travel and of course less cost to my tight budget).

Task 2: Take some river (course) SAND and STRAW to the block (and more water) and make some ‘cob loaves’ (bricks?) with this lovely clay earth, and see how it performs on drying. Stay tuned.

Mmmm Squishy Squelshy!

Mmmm Squishy Squelshy!

The Plans So Far

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ENGINEERING

After many months of creating and fine tuning plans, with my ‘design team’ as I shall call them (Ecolibrium architectural crew of Brett and Richard, and local builder friend David) yesterday they have finally been finalised! That is, as far as I/we can see, there are no more changes or little itty-bits in design or material choice to alter. We really wanted to get it right, well as best we could without that luxury we call hindsight or retrospective clarity. So, with completed plans, we forwarded them to the Engineer I chose. We sent the plans out to 4 different companies on the Sunshine Coast and each sent back their schudule of work and fees applicable to the plans. Considering the job was the same for all of them, I decided to go with the cheaper end of the scale which was Empire Engineering, Brett and Richard have used them before also, so to some degree they are also a ‘known quantity’. My allowance in the budget for engineering was $2,000, and they came in at $1980. Considering the others ranged up to $4,500… I am pretty happy to keep to budget with this! The cob walls are in no way load bearing or structural: they are infil to a post and beam structure, so we are certain the engineers should not see a problem with it. The house being a hybrid, the other half that is not cob is very mainstream with it’s pole/timber floors and modern claddings: bracing walls easily found there to keep engineers happy!

Thank you beautiful tree! The Camphor Laurel that shades my western corner of the block... it actually sits on the bordering farm.

Thank you beautiful tree!
The Camphor Laurel that shades the western (late afternoon sun = hot in summer) corner of my block, from the bordering farm.

BUILDING CERTIFIER for LOCAL COUNCIL APPROVAL

So now we are seeking a certifier. Plans here in Australia need to be certified by private certifying companies who we pay to approve plans to the Local Council (local form of government) standards. Standards of structural integrity, electrical, plumbing and glass certificates and energy ratings, with specific inspections along the way to certify that all processes are being done correctly, to plan, specifications and council regulations/law. Until you have the ‘Final Inspection’ passed your house is not officially Council Approved, and there fore actually illegal to dwell in. As with all services, certifiers charge different rates also, so today Brett sent out for quotes from several Sunshine Coast based certifiers. One has been returned already at $2,318. My budget allows for $2k, so we’ll wait and see what else comes up. Some certifiers, even though they all perform the same work, may feel differently about such a unique dwelling that is somewhat ‘out of the box’ from the standard dwellings usually built, so choosing a certifier that is happy to assess my home, as well as a tick for price, will be the winner. The quicker we get to it though, the sooner building can start. Now plans are done, and considering I am paying rent in the house we are temp renting, AND a mortgage on the land… time actually IS money (!) … I am very keen to start building works. Being Owner Builder, I am involved in pricing and ordering of all materials, and contractors: combined with builder David who of course has extensive knowledge about all building aspects and processes (with exception to cob wall infill, which is my gig!).

When the building phase actually starts, I should be able to work out time frames, to start planning cob walls and workshop dates, woohoo! Those details will be found on the Workshops tab along the top of the blog page.