Tuesday, December 9, 2008

New Bedroom Coming Right Up!

Hey, guess what?? IT'S COLD!!! Me thinks it be too cold ta work...plus I've had a case of the snifflies. So no cobbing for us since before Thanksgiving. Grrrrr. And we've taken to unmolding our moldy bedroom (and when I say "we" I mean Brian). This, of course, has turned into a nightmare (black mold, rotted wood, ungrounded wires, big hole in the floor, etc., etc.). So, like a virus, Brian and I have spread to yet another room in Meme's house (that makes 3 plus a hallway). So one room is completely torn apart, another room is for sleeping/working in, and all of our crap is piled in yet another...oh, and now Papa has to share his bathroom with us. So, instead of working on our house, we will be replacing rotten beams and floor boards, installing a bathroom fan, re-installing the toilet, sink, and shower, re-doing drywall, re-taping and plastering, and repainting EVERYTHING, and putting down new floors...all by Christmas. Riiiiight. Well, that's the plan anyway. And given Brian's frantic and stressed-out state, it just might happen. As for me, I'm trying to stay out of the way, not breathe mold, and illustrate a children's book. This is normal, right? Right?

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

It's gettin' there!

The walls are getting higher, and it's getting chilly! We were forced to bust out the winter attire (Hence the hat that I made for Brian and then stole. It's times like these--when I look like the Little Dutch Boy--that I miss my long hair. Sigh.). But once we got started, it didn't take long to warm up, and if you wear gloves under the rubber gloves, your fingers stay nice and toasty! So that's good!

Look! I can barely see over the wall from the outside!

And the mud is higher than my left elbow on half the house on the inside

Now I need "scaffolding" to trim!

And look how tall the wall is next to Brian (who is also tall).
Well, I guess that's all for show and tell! I'll try to post more soon!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Howdy, Buck-a-roos!

So we're finally up to window height! Yippee! Well...actually...I guess we were up to window height a while ago, but just didn't know it. Oops! But that's ok...we like spending our free time undoing things we've already done.
So we had to saw part of our wall out! We thought this was going to be a huge pain in the gluteus, but actually, it was pretty easy. We just drew chalk lines on our wall, and went to town!


(Using a screw, tape measure, and some string, McGruber...er Brian...found a way to center our window.)

So now we've got a window buck (a rough opening) for our window, and part of a sill, too!
This makes it a little easier to "play house".
Grass soup and mud pies, coming right up!

These are some pictures of our house as of Friday.
We've got two window bucks in, and about 3 feet of wall.
And I know 3 feet doesn't sound like much (and trust me, I wish we had more than that), but it took a LOT of work to get those 3 feet. So instead of getting discouraged about how much we have left to do, I try to focus on how much we've done.
The good news is, that I found out from Kindra (Workshop Instructor Extraordinaire), that we can keep on building until a bucket of water freezes to an inch thick over night...which might not even happen in Oklahoma. Which means that we can keep on building indefinitely! This is a huge relief because we thought our building was going to have to come to a screeching halt for the winter. So I guess we'll keep on plugging away! It's great to not feel so rushed (it makes building that much more enjoyable), but now we've got to make sure to stay motivated (oh, wait, we're living with our grandparents...motivation found!). Also, I guess we can put our roof on 2 to 3 days after our final course of cob! So it looks like we might have a house sooner than we thought!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Footloose and Fancy Free

Here are some pictures of us gathering our building materials! Most people go to the lumber yard...we dig ours up! Fortunately for us, our friend, Chris, has mountains of clay out on his land that he lets us help ourselves to. He also has a Kubota, which comes in real handy....and it doesn't hurt that Brian operates it like a pro! Hello, cute farmer guy! I help out too, by driving the truck a little bit, taking pictures, and fretting.

Watch those shoelaces, Wren!

I need a hero...I'm holdin' out for a hero 'till the end of the night...

After doing an angry drunken high-bar routine, Brian picked up some straw bales. These are actually for standing on...they make for good scaffolding for us shorties...plus we can add them to our cob should we run low...

...and they make pretty prom decorations.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Aerial Shots

How cool is this?!!! Our friend, Jake (who also happens to fly a plane), was doing a little espionage the other day, and decided to fly over our land and take some pictures while he was at it! So, just in case any of you thought we were kidding when we said we were out in the middle of nowhere...

Kinda purty, ain't it?!

Some of my Favorite Things

Here are some more pics that I like that, for one reason or another, I hadn't been able to squeeze in yet!

I told you he had some weird sort of fire skills!
["By the power of Grayskull--IGNITE!"]
Zac Christian, Gravel Warrior

Meme, having a quiet marshmallow moment

Me trying to stop Tyler from catching "snowflakes" on his tongue--snowflakes being floating ash from the fire (not so yummy).

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Our "workshop" weekend finally arrived! After much anticipation the big day was finally here! Heather and I got up bright and early, and headed out to the Hollow for some preparations. Keep in mind, it was freezing cold out, and everything was soggy from the rain the night before, so starting a campfire was no easy feat. We tried burning paper plates, and paper towels--even our precious straw--anything that looked even slightly dry. We huffed and we puffed...but to no avail. Of course Brian showed up and out of nowhere miraculously produced a bag of crispy dry newspaper, and of course all he had to do was look at our soggy logs and they immediately flared up into a blazing inferno. I would have been ticked if I hadn't been so happy to get warm. Anyway, Heather then proceeded to construct a "ladies room" out of shower curtains, and I threw together another luggable loo. We laid out all of the yummy food we had bought for the people who signed up...but wait a sec...where were all the people?????
I'm sad to say they were a no-show, and Heather, Brian, and I were left feeling like awkward pre-teens at a middle school dance--hair fluffed, jeans tapered, and dancing the Roger Rabbit in the corner of the gym because--despite all of your hopes--no one has asked you to dance. Well, that's more hot dogs for us! 48 of them to be exact...which really goes a long way between three people...especially when one of them is a Pescetarian (that would be a vegetarian who eats fish...not a Calvinist Protestant). Fortunately for us, good ole Jake and Abby eventually showed up to help us eat some dogs and s'mores! We can always count on Jake and Abby to make us feel all warm and fuzzy! And Brian, Heather, and I were still able to get 3" or so all the way around the house...and had lots of fun all the same!
Now Friday was a little better! Our sister Laura flew in for the event, Heather's husband Jon got into town (with Andy and Darcy--their English Sheepdogs--in tow), and Rhonda was able to come! And we had some surprise guests, too--Meme, Papa, and Sharyl! And, of course, Jake! And with our crew of 10 (plus two dogs), we were able to make some serious progress--on both the house and the hot dogs! We lapped the house twice, and I think we were able to get between 6 and 9 inches all the way around. Pretty good! but the best part was getting to spend some quality time with the family all together outside on a beautiful day. I just love that so many memories are being made right along with the house. Brian and I are blessed! So to all of you who came (some of you from quite a distance), thank you so much--it really meant a lot! And, Heather, thank you so much for putting this all together for us! You're the best!

From left to right: Jon, Laura, Heather, Sharyl "Sewing Machine" Braddock, Meme, Me, Brian, Rhonda, and Papa...Taking the Picture: Jake!

Laura found her calling: Professional Mud Stomper! She saved the day with her stomping skills, and had a ridiculous amount of fun doing it! Wish you could be here every day, Laura! Your "hopetimism" is contagious!

Here is our house at the end of the day on Friday. This is by far my favorite time of the week...when our work is done, the tools are put away, the sun is setting, and we get to take a look at how far we've come.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

It's a Family Affair

Work it! Work...it!

Well, just when Brian and I were starting to feel sorry for ourselves, reinforcements arrived! On Friday, Meme, Papa, and Rhonda showed up bearing lunch, lawn chairs, and enthusiasm, making that three generations of Harrisons working on the house! Papa was in charge of the bucket brigade, Rhonda was a stomping queen, Brian manned the mixer, Meme was all thumbs, and I pitchforked the cob with a devilish flair! Later, Everette showed up, and so did Jake (who might as well be family), and assisted all--making it quite the productive day! It was nice to feel so loved! It's quite the thing having people willing to get all muddy for you! Needless to say, we all had Ibuprofen for dinner.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Go Team Harrison!

There have been some big developments since I last updated you on our progress! Some very, very, good developments! Namely the CEMENT MIXER!!!!!
(I heart you cement mixer!)

Now I know some of you cob purists out there may see this as cheating.
Well...tough cookies! I want a house!
We didn't try the cement mixer sooner (I just kicked myself again) because we read that it wouldn't work. But what we figured out is that it mixes the sand and clay together beautifully if you mix it really wet! Then, all that's left to do is dump it out on a tarp, squish out the few remaining clay clumps with your toes, and tread in the straw! Easy-peasy!
Which leads me to the next big development....

(this is Brian's invention).
Because we no longer needed to make cob balls (you'll see more about that below), we needed a way to get the cob from here to there...thus, the cob conveyor belt was born! Now we just roll the cob burrito from one tarp to the next around the house until it's close to where we're working.

Like this!
And the reason we don't need to make cob balls anymore is because we are now using...

... a PITCHFORK!!!!
Oh, the time this spiky little angel saves!
Now I just scoop it off the tarp, and slap it on the wall!
Kersplat! Like this!
This new plan of attack is saving us a lot of time...and more importantly a lot of energy! Brian's been manning the cement mixer, and has been able to keep a steady stream of cob coming so that by the time I finish slapping a batch on the wall, the next one is ready for me. That's not to say it isn't still exhausting! I'm tellin' you--those pitchforks of cob are heavy! I'm going to have Popeye forearms by the time all is said and done (which I can't say is really the look I've been going for, but, hey, whatcha gonna do?). So I think it's safe to say that with these new little tricks, we're probably doubling our speed! Yay, us!
That being said, I was still about ready to "throw in the tarp" on Monday. I totally underestimated the amount of manual labor it was going to take to build this house, and I keep finding myself thinking "what on earth are you thinking!"
But then I'll see some progress, and it'll hit me that we're actually building our house, and I'm in awe that Brian and I get to do this really cool thing together. I mean how many people actually get to try something like this? It's really pretty neat when you think about it.


Ok...I'm horrible at taking pictures! I don't know what it is, but I really stink at it...that's if I even remember to do it! So, sorry, folks, but this is all I've got of our Open House! Despite what the pictures would lead you to believe, a.) there were people there, and b.) we had fun!

It was a beautiful fall day! We had a steady stream of visitors from one o'clock until six-ish. Tyler especially liked the cider...and so did the bees! I thought bees were supposed to be going extinct or something! Well, not in our neck of the woods they're not--they were a real buzz kill (Get it? Bzzzzz kill! I'm funny). There's going to be some cider and marshmallow flavored honey out there this year (which actually sounds pretty good now that I think about it). Anyway, I digress. We spent the day talkin', swatin', sippin', toastin', munchin', scratchin' and walkin'! Pretty good stuff! It was nice to be able to show people first-hand what we've been talking so much about. So thanks to all of you that were able to come! There are going to be a lot of memories built into this house!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Open House

If you've been curious about this "cob stuff", now is your chance to see what it's all about! Come out to Harrison Hollow, toast some marshmallows, have a cup of warm apple cider, and see our work in progress! Bring a lawn chair, and hang out for a bit...or if you feel like it, wear some play clothes, and get muddy! Either way, we'd love to see ya! (Weather permitting, of course).

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

I'm a Doofus

Ok, apparently that figure I came up with of 2, 634 cubic feet of cob was just slightly off...by 1,554 cubic feet! Yup. Not really sure what happened there...but, praise the Lord, I'm a pin-head! According to my new estimations, our house will consist of 1, 080 cubic feet of cob! I was praying for a miracle, and it looks like I got one! Much, much, much much much better!!! Now, even if Brian and I stay at our poky pace (20 cu. ft/day, 4 days a week), we should still be able to finish the mud in a little over 3 months! Now, if we can double our speed (or get some help), we might be able to get it done in less than 2 months! Now, excuse me while I go breathe a sigh of relief...

Sunday, September 28, 2008


Ok, this is a cry for help...HELP!
I just did the math, and if we don't get some help,
we're going to have to resort to child labor.

So here's the breakdown:
If a 5 gallon bucket = .777 cu. ft., and if a batch consists of 1.5 buckets of sand, and .5 buckets of clay, then a batch of cob = 1.554 cu. ft. Combined, Brian and I are averaging 14 batches a day (or 21.758 cu. ft.). I thought this was pretty good, until I checked the book, and found out that eventually we should be mixing twice that amount in a day. Hmmm....looks like we best start eating our Wheaties. Anyway, if I calculated right (and I'm kinda hoping I didn't), then we need about 2,634 cu. ft. of cob to make our house. That would mean it would take Brian and I 122 DAYS of mixing to get the job done! Since we can only work on the house 4 days a week (ok, more like 3) at best, we could get it done in 7.625 MONTHS. This is no good...no good at all. If we can work up to mixing 40 cu. ft. of cob a day, then it would still take 65 days or 4 months. Which might be all fine and good--EXCEPT WINTER IS COMING!
Thing about cob is, it has to be dry before winter, because if any moisture freezes in the wall it will expand and crack them. Hmmm. Not so good. Our goal is to have the mud portion of the project done by October 31st. That'll give us November, and into December to let it dry out, and get the roof on. After that, we're hoping to get the windows in, and maybe put the wood stove inside so that we can keep it from freezing, and keep us toasty while we're plastering the interior, and working on our earthen floors and the millions of other things that we'll have to do. But I'm not going to freak out, because I am just bubbling over with optimism (just read the previous post). Plus, I've got faith. Lots and lots of faith.
So, bottom line--Friends, Romans, Countrymen, lend me your feet! If anyone out there reading this would like to help, please let us know! We'd love to have you!

One down, one million to go!

We made it around the house! Woo hoo! We've got about 6 inches of cob all the way around! That's one small step for man, one g...no wait, it's still a small step, but its kind of a big deal! There was a lot of learning to be done in that one trip around the house--for example, determining our best mix, and how to mix it most efficiently, and how to get it up on the wall the right way, and how to make slip, and how best to transport it, and how to divvy up the tasks, and trimming up the edges...so maybe it was a little slow, but I really do think the next layers will go much faster. Am I being overly optimistic? Probably. But, hey, when has a little optimism ever hurt? I'm just excited to see wall!!!
So here's what had to happen first:
Had the land surveyed
Attended a cob workshop
Read The Hand-Sculpted House
Decided where to build
Cleared a road by hand
Had a culvert put in
Harvested cedars and stripped them
Designed the house
Cleared out the building site by hand
Dug trenches for the foundation
Dug trenches for electricity and water
Ran electricity and water to the house
Got the water and electricity hooked up
Did a LOT of research
Got limestone
Built a stem wall
Found clay and transported it to the land
Found sand and had it delivered
Found gravel and had it delivered
Found straw and transported it to the land
Moved sand and gravel from here to there
Got an address
Put up a mailbox
Put in a gate
Gathered tools
Set up camp
Built a tarp roof
Made test bricks
Ordered windows
Bought doors
Made window bucks
Made door jams
Mixed cob...and all this while holding down our day jobs!

Tent-ative Housing!

So Brian and I got a tent!
It's our little home until we have a home.
Now we can camp out, and work on the house more (and save a 20 min drive each way every day). We've got a hot pot, a hot plate, a mini fridge, a solar shower, and a bucket to poo in...
so, ya, dis ma crib!

It's a one bedroom, with a kitchen. But the bathroom is huge--roughly 20 acres!

Believe it or not, it's 7 feet tall in the middle, so we can actually walk around standing up!

And there is electricity!

Thanks, Scottie, for the mini fridge...and, Jake, thanks for the cord (yup, that's a refrigerator to the left of the lamp)! Now, whenever I want a nice cold juice box, I can have one! No more hot juicy-juice for me!

I've got to say, camping out has been a lot of fun...and relaxing--which is something I have been desperately needing. Brian and I have been able to spend some good quality time around the campfire, staring into each others smoke filled eyes, talking about life, love, politics, and Bigfoot--you know, the important things. And he's been very good at pretended not to notice how much camping does not agree with my hair and general appearance...which is very sweet, and takes quite a bit of skill ('cause let me tell ya--it ain't pretty). Anyway, the point is that the 20 acres is already starting to feel like home...which is a really good feeling.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Long Time, No See!

Hello, Everybody!

I'm sorry that I've been MIA for so long...and sorry to say that I'm going to have to stay that way for a little bit longer! The bad news is that I've been busy to the point of exhaustion (or the Cliffths of Inthanity)... the good news is that some of that busyness has been spent working on the house! So...bear with me, and I promise to have more juicy tid-bits, fun facts, and hot pics for you soon...or at least something for you to look at.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

From Here to There

Hey, guess what...more cob! Here's our wall at the end of day two...
...and day three!

On day two, we had some help! Aren't Rhonda and Kenny the best!?
And I think they actually had fun!

Hey, look...I found Robinson Crusoe.
On day three, Beardy and I figured out that it's much more efficient when we each mix batches on separate tarps. We raced. He won...but he probably cheated somehow. So from here on out, to each his own...tarp, that is.
I don't like Ike.
It'll probably be a while before there's anything other than rain to report.