There are some things I’ll never outgrow. Lying in the grass watching clouds dance, the sound of the sea in a conch shell, and splashing in rain puddles still bring me joy. I don’t climb as many trees these days but I’ve been known to hug a few. And while I’ll never be a Master Chef, I still make a pretty mean mud pie.
Imagine my delight at finding this YouTube video on Facebook several months ago. It was like a reaffirmation of childhood, an invitation to visit the world e.e. Cummings called mud-luscious and puddle-wonderful.
Have you ever heard of cob cottages?
But after watching this video, I Googled them and found that cob homes simply speak to my soul. And what they say is “you know you want one!”
These little gems remind me of down-to-earth tree houses, or Hobbit homes from Middle Earth. Which is essentially where they come from as cob is just a mixture of clay, sand, straw, and water. After mixing to the consistency of bread dough, it’s hand shaped and sculpted into thick, free form, curving walls.
The all natural building materials produce a non-toxic, extremely durable, and sustainable home – and a creation that speaks to my inner child.
Their porous nature makes them highly resistant to weathering and they require very little upkeep. As author and builder Daniel Chiras says, “It won’t burn, bugs won’t eat it, and it’s dirt cheap.” Smaller homes can be constructed for $900-$3000, even eliminating the need for a mortgage.
Photo courtesy of Michael Bunch
Champions of energy efficiency, their 1-2’ thick walls absorb the sun’s energy and re-emit it as heat. This keeps them cool in summer and warm in winter while maintaining an almost constant indoor temperature. Heating needs can be met with a wood-burning stove, and cob can even be used to construct a heated bench or bed, fed by the stove’s flue.
My cold-natured self says this deserves kudos in the eco-friendly, staying-warm-is-everything department.
Photo courtesy of Michael Bunch
The organic building materials are a blank canvas awaiting creative, artistic expression. Since cob cottages are sculpted by hand, the architectural and design possibilities are endless, assuring no two are alike.
Windows, arches, niches, and shelves can be shaped and placed to reflect personal expression, and the entire dwelling can be designed in relation to its surroundings. Through focusing on views and the placement of doors and windows, outdoor and indoor spaces can be integrated into a free flowing work of natural art.
Cob homes make great community projects much like old fashioned barn raisings. If all the needed materials are available on site, cost is minimal and group building can greatly reduce construction time. Through bartering and sharing of skills and labor, entire communities can be built while eliminating deforestation and crippling mortgages.
These comfortable, affordable, low-impact homes beg to be built, lived in, and passed down from generation to generation.
Perhaps this is why cob homes are enjoying a resurgence in Oregon and the northwest. As the energy crisis, global warming, habitat loss, and extinction can attest, we’re serving up a recipe for global disaster.
Imagine countless communities built in relationship to, and with respect for nature. Maybe it’s time we showed Mother Earth some mercy and spent more time playing in the mud.
For more information on the Meka Cottage, to schedule a visit, or to contact the builder, Michael Bunch, visit his website at Artisan Builders Collective.
What’s your idea of a dream house? Has it changed through the years or does it include elements that fascinated and delighted you as a child?