Kate’s cob diary

Every month Kate Edwards used to write her Cob Diary in the Norfolk magazine Eco Echo. They are full of useful information on cob building so here are some of her past diary entries for you to read.

Kate’s Cob Diary March 2009

Build your own house with earth

Welcome to Kate’s Cob Diary. Each month I’ll give you a taste of the latest projects and developments taking place at Edwards Eco Building and give you a chance to get involved. Roll on the cob revolution!

A bit about cob

Cob is a mixture of sand, clay and straw. The sub-soil dug out to create the foundations of your structure is simply mixed in the right proportions to create cob. Cob is load bearing, versatile, appealing to the eye and has almost zero embodied energy.

Mud glorious mud!
Above is a marvelous example of what you can create yourself, given the right direction. Kevin McCabe has been a huge inspiration to me over the years and this is his dream home. This beautiful example of a three story, five bedroom cob house, was made in-situ from the clay and sand removed from the foundation trench. Kevin just added a little straw, water and a lot of mixing. The walls for this house went up in three short weeks with three people and a JCB to mix with.

This year, you too can learn how to build your own home out of cob. With a little simple instruction from me, and a little practice, you can create a masterpiece. Many people look at me in amazement when I say this, but ordinary people have been building in this way for thousands of years. My house on the edge of Filby Broad is a simple thatched cottage, and was most probably built by the reed cutters who lived here about 400 years ago. Building with cob really is very simple and needs no special skill.

And of course building with cob isn’t just easy. It’s also the ultimate in terms of sustainability, considerably cheaper than conventional building, incredibly beautiful and great fun. So now you know all this – what are you waiting for?! It’s time to build your own home from the earth!

Kate’s Cob Diary February 2009

Beat the credit crunch with cob

When it comes to the crunch, you can’t beat cob

As the credit crunch seems to be consuming us all, I felt it might be a good time to remind all you readers about one of the very clear advantages of cob – it’s cheap!
It’s very difficult to make claims about actually how much cheaper than regular building cob really is because everyone’s circumstances are different and everyone’s unique designs will incur less or more money. For example, my colleague in Devon makes state of the art, three storey, five bedroom, works of art cob houses with integrated cob laundry shoots, cob spiral staircases with hand-made Italian tiles set in, custom built spiral showers etc. These cost him around £250,000 to build (including paying for labour to help him). Having said that he then sells them fo £700,000, but anyway, I digress.
On the other hand, the man who trained me, Ianto Evans of the Cob Cottage Company based in Oregon, has built a very cosy but very beautifully designed two storey, one bedroom cob cottage for substantially less. Using all reclaimed and found materials, his home cost him a mere $500!
So how was this possible? Well let me explain! The stem wall of a cob house can be made of stone or brick. Now this can be bought from an expensive stone merchant for several thousand pounds, or from Jewson for slightly less. Or you can simply look in the free ads for free reclaimed bricks, advertise for unwanted building materials yourself, or go on an exchange website where you can get free bricks, timber and many other items.
The cob walls themselves are made from the earth that you dig from the ground beneath your feet and so this is completely free! And the small amounts of straw you need to add are affordable at about a pound a bale and readily available in our area.
Of course all this takes time and time is money; but I estimate even if you took a year off work to build your own cob house (assuming you don’t earn an astronomical salary), you’d still have saved shed loads of money, not to mention the planet!
If you’d like to find out more or come on a cob building course, please visit www.edwardsecobuilding.com, email sheepie32@hotmail.com or call 01493 369952.
We run a range of courses – from 1 day courses on building a pizza oven to 5 day courses on building a house!

Kate’s Cob Diary December 2008

Dragon selects us as the winner!

This month at Edwards Eco Building we’re feeling rather chuffed and we can’t resist telling you about our big win! Last month we entered a competition judged by Theo Paphitis from the TV Show Dragons’ Den. For those of you who don’t watch much television, The Dragons’ Den is a program where entrepreneurs pitch their business ideas or product to a panel of successful business people known as the Dragons.

The competition was looking for the best business, which benefits their local community. We were delighted Theo Paphitis understood what Edwards Eco Building is all about and judged us as the winners – giving us a month’s free advertising on Radio Broadland. We work to improve communities in many ways – through our range of courses we empower people to build affordable, energy efficient, beautiful homes out of the earth beneath our feet. We are passionately committed to teaching as many people as possible to build from the earth. We also design and build new projects for other people and renovate old cob buildings.

Building with cob is significantly cheaper than conventional building methods as the majority of the materials cost you nothing – you dig them from the earth! Cob is also incredibly ‘green’ for this same reason. You source your materials on site – there’s no CO2 produced from the manufacture of bricks or concrete and there’s no or very little transportation of materials. All the other pollutants created in conventional building methods are also eliminated such as the hideously toxic insulation materials and plastic based products which litter the building industry.

As natural builders we mainly work by hand to sculpt and shape the earth into houses that are warm in the winter and cool in the summer. We teach people how to make the best use of passive solar design principles which utilize the thermal mass of cob to store free radiant heat energy from the sun, and radiate it back into the house when it’s needed.
So thank you Theo for picking us – it was a great choice!

Kate’s Cob Diary October 2008

The Round House Party

A huge thank you to the 200 + people who came to enjoy the cob bale round house opening party in New Buckenham. We made a profit of £300 on the door for the East Anglian Children’s Hospice – a charity chosen by Julie Reynolds who owns the studio and very kindly organised the event.

Everyone who attended the open day was hopefully inspired after seeing and feeling the undulating walls, exploring the crevices and alcoves and experiencing the wonderful peaceful atmosphere inside the studio.

The day began with a rare opportunity to experience a special opening ceremony conducted by a Druidess. We were invited to hold hands in a circle, and be part of the celebration which included a blessing to Mother Earth, to thank her for the fruits of the Autumn equinox and the new studio. The experience was enjoyed by all. And after all, who better to thank than Mother Earth, since the cob studio is built from the earth itself!

As the sun went down, the day ended with the fantastic sound of the women’s drumming group reverberating around the high circular ceiling of the studio.

If you missed the party and would like to visit the round house for yourself and learn more about the possibilities with cob, please call Kate on the number below.

Kate’s Cob Diary March 2008

Earthen Floors

We’re just putting the finer details to the cob bale round house which we’ve been building in New Buckingham. We’ve laid the final coats on the earthen floor, consisting of sieved clay, chopped straw and sand. It looks stunning and highly finished with several coats of linseed oil and beeswax, making it not only beautiful but washable. The floor will be further enhanced with natural cinnamon pigments in the top coat – this will give the floor a sensual terracotta feel and will help to draw in and store the radiant heat energy from the sun’s rays, as they fall on the floor. We’ve installed three huge triangular panels of stained glass into the roof, on the south facing section, to better aid this passive solar process. The essential ingredients of this floor, clay and sand, were both dug directly from the site. Straw was purchased from the farmer next door. The walls were also made from the clay and sand sub-soil dug out to build the foundations. Therefore no energy was used in either the manufacture or transportation of the building materials. I find this part personally very satisfying.