Monday, July 31, 2006

Cob Together

I'm back from my cob workshop up in Williams Valley, Oregon. I have so much to say I don't know where to start. It was really really great and far exceeded my expectations and hopes. I feel empowered to actually start building! I'm ready to go.
The workshop was held on a beautiful farm, which operates as a non-profit educational and csa (community supported agriculture) organization. 62 acres, with about a third farmable. There was an old barn where meals were prepared and we ate out front of that in the shade of some old fruit trees. (The food was, as one person put it 'out of control good'). Much of the food we ate came directly from the farm, including goat milk and eggs, and produce from the huge and lovely gardens. Our long friendly meals were a real high point for me.
Up a little hill was the big common house and all of our building projects were there. We built the cob oven and the attatched walls shown above, we built two other strawbale/cob walls-one with an arch, we worked on a straw-clay slip wall, we did all phases of earthen plaster on our walls and the sauna, we 'poured' an adobe floor inside the common house. We mixed countless batches of cob. We had design sessions, and guest speakers with inspiring slide shows. We watched a great peak-oil documentary on Cuba on night. We went on a field trip to see three dwellings under construction in the Valley. We swam in the big pond to cool off and camped under a huge white oak and the clearest night sky I've seen since I was a little boy.
Along with the paying participants and the staff, there were interns there for the whole growing season. They work in exchange for room and board and getting to attend the workshops--a real win win situation for everyone. Getting to know them was another high point, as they are all magnificent young folks (all between 25 and 30 I think). They brought a wealth of experience and knowledge to the workshop that deeply inspired me.
The two presenters--Jim Haim and Taylor Starr were just wonderful to work with. They had such a good program that I think all of us came away feeling confident about building our own places. And they are such great human beings it was just really enjoyable and fun.
Check out my flickr page for photos and click for more info about White Oak Farm and Cob Together.
Unfortunately for me, on thursday morning, while we were playing a really fun group game, I busted one of my toes! It was sticking out sideways and I had to yank it back into position. Ugh. It hurt like an ongoing yellowjacket sting, and it probably wasn't helpful that I continued to work as much as I could and then drove home for 5 hours. It's actually more swollen now than ever and I just hope that's part of the healing process.
It's ironic, getting injured, because the construction site itself was so safe. I've got a picture of Macy, Jim's little two year old, playing along with all of us barefoot workers. That photo is a real testimony for cob. Jim's wife Katie was the main cook for the week and a really good cook! But also really fun to be around. Watching the way she and Jim were parenting Macy, and the way Macy enjoyed all the interns and attendees was heart warming.
It was so good to see Krista and my own girls after 9 days gone (with no communication!), but I'm also sad it's over. It was a true peak experience with a fantastic group of folks.

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