Monday, August 20, 2012

The Natural Cottage Project Workshop

I left the Strawbale Studio a few weeks ago to spend some time with my family and I will return tomorrow.  I thought I'd share the progress on the cottage up to that point. We didn't completely finish it, but it's amazing what we were able to accomplish in just 2 weeks!

I already shared some images (mostly of the Timber Frame) in the last post, but here are some more to give you a more complete picture of what we accomplished - foundation, stone stem wall, straw bales, plastering, and thatch. 

The red stone is pumice or lava rock, added for insulation in the sub floor.  Here you can see the stone stem wall, the cob bond beam on top of that and the wooden toe-ups. The machine is a tamper to get all the rocks compacted and they are making sure the subfloor is level in this photo.
Miwa chisels out a groove. (Photo by Paul) 
Timbers all chiseled and sawn... ready to be assembled! Very nice chisel work!
We harvested small fresh trees (so they would still bend a little) to use for the perlins and then stripped their bark off.

Miwa and I are attaching the perlins to the rafters to support the reed thatched roof. (photo by Eva Wimmer)

Most of the group! At one point, there were 70 people on the property! (photo by Eva Wimmer)

Straw bales are starting to go in after the stick framing of the windows and doors was complete.

Straw bales almost all in! Great Insulation for those cold Michigan winters! We staked them down and tied them together, but they are also very tightly wedged in there. (photo by Eva Wimmer)

Here I am with a few people saving the straw bales from the storm moving in! whew... nice save.

Here you can see the finished straw bales with a plaster coat started over them (gray) made of clay, sand, water, and straw. To the left, you can see the garden wall built.  It will be plastered and a living roof with plants will be added.  There is also an archway going through it to the door - in this photo, there is still a form holding the arch top in place.  (photo by Eva Wimmer)

Here is the first and second coats of plaster on the straw bales.  It's coming along :) Here you can also see how the thatch is sitting on those perlins in the roof.
Denise and several other people worked on these niches in the cob wall.
A relief sculpture was added as well. The wood is the platform for the living roof. 
Once we added the first row of reed (phragmite is what we used in that area), Deanne told us what angle we were looking for on the underside.

Blake and I tap them under. Reed has a good insulative value as well.
Deanne talked about how the rest of the rows get tapped upward to blend with the row above them.  (photo by Eva Wimmer)
We really got moving on the nortside of the building. Here Coleman was working on the fourth layer.
Michelle and I were adding the final bundle of the workshop. Each bundle gets placed, untied, spread out and pinned in place with a needle and wire that gets passed through the roof and around the perlins. It is also tied down with a long thin stick, called a sway. you can see the sway holding the fourth row in place in this photo.

Forth layer complete! Lookin' good.

Next up, we will finish the roof (if we have enough reed - it is harvested starting in December), finish the plaster on the outside, inside, and the cob wall, and put in an earth floor. Exciting stuff! More to come in a few weeks!


  1. Love it! I'm jealous you get to go back!

  2. Fantastic pictures, Laura. Thanks so much for putting them up!
    Hope to see you next summer.

  3. Laura ! Hey, I just looked at this awesome blog from the 2012 Natural Cottage Project. What a "blast from the past
    ' ! Sure happy you and Eva took these awesome pics and put together a blog that will hold this event in memory for a Long Long time !
    What are you up to these days? What is alive in you? Warmly, Deanne


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