Last week I was lucky enough to participate in the second half of a 10 day cob building workshop facilitated by the Mud Girls, a natural building collective that works across western BC. Our mission was to create a farm gate store and cob oven at Funky Revolution Farm on Salt Spring Island. Over a 2 week period approximately 30 participants completed a cob oven and got the farm stand almost ready for stocking.
It was a fantastic week of sunny weather that saw about 15 participants camping, learning about cob and other natural building principles, swimming in the nearby lake, enjoying the tasty food provided and hanging out with the kids. Childcare is included for all participants at every single Mud Girls workshop and although I don’t have children myself I appreciate how this can mean the difference between attending or missing out on a Mud Girls event.
I enjoyed getting familiar with the basic building processes of building with cob – see a very brief description below – and was lucky enough to try out some plastering on the finished walls.
- Measure out your ingredients (clay and sand in a set ratio followed by water and finally straw – it’s like rebar)
- Smoosh it all together until homogenous; feet are good for this
- Build your walls a handful at a time; do your best to keep the walls straight (plumb)
- Incorporate features such as windows, pretty glass bottles and dead men (not literally; they are wooden frames that can then be used to attach items such as shelves and door frames when building is completed)
A highlight was getting to meet the farm crew (I admit I had farm envy of their young orchard) and chat with the other workshop participants. It was a diverse group which included Amanda and Max from Laughing Mother Farm in California and Sarita from Habitat Landscape Design on the Canadian Sunshine Coast.
The workshop facilitators were always ready to answer questions and enter into discussion about natural building and we covered a great range of topics.
- Building foundations
- Incorporating recycled materials such as tyres and bottles
- Different ways to finish walls with plaster
- Adding windows, door frames and arches
- Using ‘dead men’ and corbels
- Methods of insulating structures (straw bale and clay/straw slip insulate while cob provides thermal mass)
I was equally fascinated by how the Mud Girls functions as a successful cooperative that has now been going for 8 years. They practice consensus decision making and accessibility to their services and workshops is a key priority. With Molly in her third trimester and Sheera with a 10 week old bub, they were a a true demonstration of what can be achieved with commitment, determination, passion, skill and support.
If I could do it again next week I would so a big shout out goes to Nico and Mykal of Chainge the Cycle who first put the idea of a Mud Girls workshop in my head!
Thanks to Lisa Rilkoff for the photos.