‘A Good Reason to Stomp’: Natural Building Workshop in Stanford

Posted on August 16, 2011

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‘A Good Reason to Stomp.’ Natural Building Workshops take off at Blue Moon, a community farm just outside Stanford.

(written 2010)

The wattle and daub structure looked skeletal that morning, standing tall against a breath-taking Hermanus mountainscape. This basic frame had been prepared beforehand by Anton, Blue Moon resident and experienced natural builder. Local aliens where used because, in the tradition of natural building, these are a plant species found growing abundantly in the immediate environment. Wattle’s malleable and bendy quality is also perfect for creating the curving body of such a structure.
A cement mixer is already churning the first patch of (120l) Cob, the mixture intended to be added to the structure; flesh it out, so to speak. Traditional Cob uses clay, sand and water, but Anton has modified this recipe to include paper shredded for recycling. This ‘papier mache’, which consists of strips of paper which have been lying in water to get soft, lends the Cob a sticky, gluey consistency, which makes the mix stick together better. At a later stage, straw is also added, which helps give the final mix durability. Most of the ingredients used in the mix were natural and taken from nearby land. (The suggested ratio is 2 parts clay to 3 parts sand.)
The workshop participants set to work hammering rows of horizontal ready-cut wattle poles to the existing framework to create a basic wall, trimming any surplus ends with a saw.

The Cob has been mixing for twenty minutes and is now ready. A man heaps it by the bucketful onto a piece of shade cloth. The point is to stomp the mixture to get rid of air bubble. ‘Stomping’ proves to be a great leg workout and when a high-fi appears on the scene, blasting music, participants throw vigorous dance moves into the mix.
‘You can get lost in it!’ commented Cathy, an orange-haired mother of twins, as she steps repeatedly on the brown mixture. ‘I feel exhilarated…’
After ten minutes or so of (getting sufficient air into the mixture?) the sides of the shade cloth are lifted to squash the Cob back into the centre, returning it a single compact mass again. The process is then repeated; stomp, lift, stomp… Like a large piece of dough, the Cob is kneaded over and over by many eager feet.
Next on the agenda is to make the walls. The Cob is hauled in buckets to the wattle and daub structure, from there it is patted by the handful directly onto the poles. A wall is quickly formed, molded like clay flesh on wattle bones. Stones are placed at the bottom of the walls stopping the Cob from being in direct contact with the ground. This is to prevent potential damp….

 

WATCH THIS SPACE- more natural building workshops on the horizon.

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