Let the Cobbing Continue!

David's picture

Ah, so now, today is going to be the day we really get cobbing. This is what we initially thought this morning. That is until we came to the conclusion that we couldn't, or should I say 'shouldn't', get sand from our usual spot anymore. The little voice in my head was louder today, than it was yesterday. It kept telling me not to go out and get more sand. It was so loud, I had to listen. You see, the sand belongs to someone. There is a road that goes right past it, so surely someone put the sand there for their own use. Yesterday I got a measly eight buckets, but today I was looking for a whole truck load. And that pit wasn't going to cut it. I had to find another means to my end.

I got a few names and made a few calls. It wasn't until midday that I was able to contact a local who had a sand pit, and was kind enough to load me up on a Sunday. We wanted to get sand earlier, but at least we were able to get some today. I went to the mans pit, he loaded up the truck with his tractor, and away I went. The best part about it is the fact the pit is maybe one mile down the road. The man even threw in a old sand screen he wasn't using anymore. This was perfect being how the sand I got from him did have slightly larger rocks that was unacceptable.

Now, with a heaping load of sand, we could get on with business. But first we needed a different strategy than yesterdays. So to begin with, we decided to go with my original thoughts to use the mix ratio of brick 3. We also reconsidered our pit. It seemed like we were always struggling to roll the cob over. There just wasn't enough room. So we pulled out the bales of straw, which made up the walls of the pit, and just laid the tarp flat on the ground. We also decided to keep it to a single batch. A smaller, lighter batch might be a better way to go. Lastly, we changed up on how we mixed it. The original idea, per the book, was to soften the clay with water so that all the hard clumps can break up. But after making some slip clay and our latest experience with the last batch of cob, I found that water turns the hard clumps into wet slippery lumps. Trying to smash a lump of slick clay that's slightly suspended in a clay milkshake is nearly impossible. The lumps seem to move out of the way before your foot touches the bottom of the pit. So instead, we took more of a cooking approach to it. Mix the dry ingredients first. Add the liquid. And then lastly add the seasoning. In other words, mix the sand and clay first, then add water, then add straw. Previously, when I mixed my grout, I did mix the sand and clay first and then added the water. It worked out perfectly. And, in the case of cob, it worked just as good.

All ducts in a row, lets get started. One bucket of sand went in, then a bucket of clay, and on top of that, the last bucket of sand. Now for this first batch of today's cob, we had a couple of volunteers. Dorothy and Aidan were on the scene and were ready to go. So they jumped on in, along with Phoenix, and started mixing. The first part of the mix was not very exciting. Just mixing the dry clay and sand together until they were well blended. But I could tell just by looking at it, that we were already up to a good start. Because the clay was dry, the abrasive sand along with the foot pressure really broke down the clay clumps. By the time we added the water, most of the clay was broken down.

Sand and clay mixed, we then added the water. A little at a time. Now it's starting to get good and messy! Phoenix and Aidan were having a blast sloshing around in it. They'd mix it up a bit, and then I'd pull up on the tarp to turn it over for some more water and mixing. The extra room and smaller batch made it really easy to turn over. Almost too easy. We kept adding a bit of water until all the sand and clay was nice and moist. By that time, all the stubborn clay clumps were broken down as well. Lastly came the straw.

I don't know which of the changes caused it, but it seemed the straw was easier to mix too. Again, a little bit of straw at a time, tread, turn over and repeat. This was it. This was the final stage to see if all the changes we made, gave us a 'good cob'. And botta-boom botta bing, a nice smooth burrito ended up on our tarp. Huzzah! Needless to say, we were pretty proud of it. And just like the last time, Patricia fed me pieces of cob and I laid on the wall. It went on like butter on a pancake, ... nice and smooth.

We ended up doing two more batches after that. And continued to have great results. We will probably stick with this method from here on out. At some point the walls will get to high to work from the ground. Which we'll need to possibly make changes to the mixing location to make room for scaffolding. But that's about it.

Oh, so how much did we accomplish with a total of four batches of cob? As far as the wall goes, not much. We barely made a dent in it. If you can picture it, a single batch cob burrito is about the size of a Basset Hound. Mixing a batch probably takes somewhere between a half hour to an hour. Now, we are just learning the ropes so there is plenty room for streamlining the process. I think I may be able to get away with doing a double batch now that are methods are much easier. The quickest part is laying the cob onto the wall. And I think it will only get quicker once all the stones are covered. I'm not sure how soon we will have the walls up, but we better get a move on. If we aren't done the walls by the end of August, we may not finish the building this season. There are a few people around here who are curious and want to try cobbing, so that will help us out a bunch. And I can't forget Phoenix! She likes stomping around in the cob. I only wish her feet were bigger.

Anyhow, we are finally cobbing. Along with the walls, we need to install the door, windows and glass bottles. We hope that these will speed up the cobbing process but maybe their design and installation will end up slowing us down. We will just have to see.

Tune in to my next blog. Same cob-time, same cob-channel.


Rick's picture

Looks like a good time!

Also a little slow going...but I don't see any need to rush the fun parts!

By Rick
Criddles's picture

Now THIS looks quite fun!!! Great pics!!!

By Criddles