yup – still alive and kickin’

It’s been a few months since I wrote here last.

I was in Australia and Singapore for nearly 3 months enjoying the sun and family and wine and seafood.

I’ve been doing heaps of research on all aspects of cob building and when I get a second I’ll pull together all the cool sites I found and share them with you. I may post them as a permanent page at the top of my blog. I could also do them up in a pdf that I’d be happy to email to anyone that would find it useful. Let me know if you want it.

Some of the areas I have been researching include:

  • small house design
  • passive solar design
  • compost toilets
  • straw bale and hybrid building
  • designing a rainwater collection system
  • non concrete foundations
  • architectural salvage in Ireland
  • walls & windows
  • ceilings
  • roofs
  • energy technologies
  • earth floors
  • kitchens
  • natural finishes
  • gathering stories and photos of cob builds

Slowly, slowly I’m gathering information and good sites. They are all saved to favourites and to my files but I need to do some proper sorting and cataloguing. Give me a month or so. Nothing like a deadline to motivate!

I mentioned on another post that I had bought a lot of very interesting cob building books from Walnut Books through their online store. Nora is a dote and very helpful.

Well, it seems to me that there’s a section missing in all their books and a lot of the sites. This became clearer to me when I was talking with my friends that are sustainable renovating their cottage (see previous post for photos).

They borrowed the books and then said that there’s nothing about what materials to use to build the bathrooms. Obviously you can’t have exposed cob – as water and cob are a bit like vampires and sun – melting. And quite a few materials won’t adhere to cob or allow a proper airflow. My friends solved the problem and now have 2 gorgeous tiled bathrooms. Anyway – that’s a section for someone’s book.

Speaking of my friend and their cottage. It’s nearly finished and I’ll post photos in a few weeks. It will be available for rent and is the soul of peacefulness. You can sit on the decking and look out onto the curving stream (that legend has it – Charles Atlas used to swim in as a boy.) and the mountains. The downstairs has an open kitchen/living/dining and a HUGE det of french doors to the decking – as well as 2 bedrooms with ensuite bathrooms. One of the bedrooms and bathrooms is wheel chair accessible.There are stairs to a lovely mezzanine/ entertainment area plus another bedroom and toilet. It’s a clay, hemp & lime build with all sorts of sustainable materials.

I’m going to book myself in for a week and just retreat and write. The cottage has been in Frank’s family for 7 generations and will soon be part of the Greenbox sustainable holiday rent scheme. If you’re interested in renting after May this year let me know and I’ll link you to them. I’m going to help them develop a blog with photos and a small video tour of the cottage.

It’s not easy finding designs and photos of small house design. Some people’s idea of a small house is something just under 2000 sqft! And as our American friends would say – Hello!! Here in Ireland we are used to living in much smaller spaces.

If you want to see a really interesting small house have a look at Simon Dales self built home in a woodland. I call it the hobbit home and I love it. And – just for the fun do a Google of hobbit homes.

If you do a Google search on small house design some interesting sites do come up.

Check out the natural homes site. It has done a mashup of Google maps and you can see where natural builders have their sites (in real time and online) around the world. If you have a site – add it in.

The other thing I’ve found really interesting is going to You Tube and typing in ‘cob building’. There are a heap of short videos and slide shows with some of the cob innovators as well as tours of homes. Worth a wander.

Still looking for land around Ballinamore at a price I can afford. I have one of those feelings that something will come along around June or July. House and land prices in Ireland have dropped a fair amount in the last 6 months.

You know – part of sustaining a dream is to allow for the moments when you wonder whether it will happen – or should you change you dream.

I wonder if I’ll find the land for a reasonable price within 5 miles of Ballinamore. I wonder whether the bank will give me a loan to build a cob house. I wonder whether the Leitrim County Council will give me planning permission – if I get the land and the loan.

All fair wonderings. Right now I’ll just wait and see what comes up in the next few months.

Meanwhile I can still share with you the information I find from my research.

Take good care.



12 thoughts on “yup – still alive and kickin’

  1. Greetings Liz, so happy to see you’ve added to your mudwoman blog. I would love to have your pdf list of research materials. I too am putting together my own list from this side of the pond for someone who has asked for it. If you want I can send a copy to you as well.

    My continuing and relentless pursuit of my dream finally resonated with my husband who (I think) decided he better jump on my bandwagon or get left behind. He found a builder in the area where we are looking to build (northwest lower peninsula of Michigan) who is building small homes using a modified type of cob. This guy uses forms for the walls (interior and exterior). He designed a remarkable mixer from recycled parts in which he mixes his straw/clay mixture. Then the mixture gets dumped into the forms while friends, family, neighbors, strangers, etc. all stomp the heck out of it – kind of a rammed earth modification+neighborhood gathering. He is more than willing to be the general contractor in charge of making sure we think of everything and that everything passes code while we do as much of the work as we possibly can ourselves. Since my husband, Doug, was a plumber in a previous life Doug is willing to design and install a plumbing system that will include a greywater system, outdoor shower, and other water saving things as well.

    Speaking of energy saving/sustainability – I was in Lowe’s (a monstrosity big-box store for home remodeling/improvement(?) stuff) a few days ago. I needed some new clothespins for my solar dryer 🙂 (clotheslines) but could not find any so I asked. The 30-something man who helped me said they do not carry clothespins. He then stated, “That is what they make clothes dryers for.” I said that clothespins are what we use when we have gobs of very warm AZ sunshine. He had no retort and walked away.

    Good luck on finding your land. That is where we are currently at – finding the perfect piece with the just-right solar siting. And you’re right – it is difficult to find homes/plans in the USA under 2000 sq. ft. unless they were built prior to 1950. All the homes around us that are new are monsters with only 2 people living in them.

    Namaste, Lindy in AZ

  2. Hi Lindy
    Lovely to hear from you and I’ll send you the pdf list as soon as I get to it – which will be in a month – ish.

    Interested to hear about the guy doing the modified cob using shutters. Sounds like it would work.

    Good luck with the land search.


  3. “You know – part of sustaining a dream is to allow for the moments when you wonder whether it will happen – or should you change you dream.”

    I LOVE THIS QUOTE! It gives me HOPE! I know I’m very early in my research, but I do have times of wanting to give up and just practice being content where I am. My darling has days he considers my ideas, and then days I’m sure he thinks I’m NUTS! LOL! I am also FRUSTRATED that composting toilets and such make city officials upset, ‘cuz it cuts down on their money-makin’!

    So what size home would a family of six occupy in Ireland? The plan I like best I think is a 1042 sq. ft. If I were single or did not have children, I think these are SOOO CUTE! http://www.tumbleweedhouses.com/houses.htm

    (((((HUGS))))) sandi

  4. Hi Sandi
    Yeh – the tumbleweed houses are delightful.

    No idea what size home a family of 6 would live in here in Ireland. I think it all depends on what money people have in the Dublin inner city they would be living in relatively small spaces. In the posh Dublin4 area they would live in 2 or 3 storey luxury.

    I know about the doubts.

    Since the slowdown in the housing market in Ireland the banks have become very cautious about lending. There are no more 100% mortgages so it’s hard for first time buyers to get their deposits together.

    Me? I’m not sure how I’ll finance buying the land. I can save some money but I’m creating a major project at the moment that won’t make me money for a while – so income isn’t high.

    I’ll just wait patiently and see what opportunities arise.

    Sometimes it’s about being still and refraining from pushing too hard into the future.

    take good care

  5. Hey Liz~I am thinking of you because I found this site that gives me renewed vision! pathtofreedom.com Not that my cob dream has died, but that I live the dream now where I am rather than wait in limbo while doing nothing about it. I don’t know if you’ll be inspired in the same way, but right now I am overwhelmed with ideas! Anyway, sure wish we were closer and could putter around together on our properties, enjoying some of these ideas! (((((HUGS))))) sandi

  6. Hello there,

    We are living in Galway and getting ready to design our cob home. Have you broken ground yet? Do you have a builder lined up?
    We would love to come check out your cob home if it is in progress already.


  7. HI Mona
    Lovely to hear from you.

    I’ve put my plans to build on hold for a few years.

    I need to either get the money together to buy land or find someone who will lease to me for 50 years … if I live that long!

    I send you best wishes for you build.



  8. Greetings MudWoman! I, too, am on the quest to build a cob house. My floorplan is very small, I’ve been referring to it as “cozy-sized”. My challenge is doing it on essentially no budget (yikes!) and that requires a lot of DIY projects. I’ve found several info links that may be helpful to you. If you go to papercrete.com you’ll find a host of helpful links at the bottom of the page. Those links include information on digging your own well (if you need to do that), alternative energy sources and more. You might also check out greenroofs.com. They have some great info on sustainably topping your home.

    Best of luck to you!

  9. What a great blog! I’m in Australia making plans to build a cob house with my 2 kids 😀 Having similar issues with planning permission *sigh* and trying to find a way for a single mother on a pension to get a block of land – despite the fact mortgage payments would be cheaper than rent banks don’t like me lol
    I have also noticed that there is a lack of advice what to do with bathrooms in a cob house – I would love to know what your friends have done!

  10. It’s been a long time since I visited, but I found you in my thoughts today. I am still a lover of cob, but I must admit to finding another love in pre-fab yurts! Yurtworks.com has some really amazing structures. The hubs still thinks I’m NUTS, and that’s okay. 🙂 Who knows what will happen in the end?

  11. Hi Liz great blog I found you when searching for cob building in Ireland ,I am in co Down just outside Newtownards .At present I am a mature student (Ceramics) in the uni of ulster .My plan is to build small artist studios with a woodfire kiln it will be a group helping each other out . I have a idea of the plan of the studio and I am starting the planning app (nightmare) Have you heard of any one who has built cob close to me I am looking info on building control etc , you can see my plans on my facebook site ,will look in to see how you are getting on with your plans
    All the best

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