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Petrolia, CA
Mother of two, writer, creative, publisher at
Recent Activity
I am so grateful for all who have supported the Muddy Hands blog and Sustainability School Project. After nearly 20 months of dropping this blog, I am back to explain why this blog ends here, and share with you where it begins again... The last Muddy Hands blog post was... Continue reading
Posted Mar 10, 2014 at Muddy Hands
We knew we wanted to highlight the best view in the house which will be on the west side of the second floor, looking at the Mattole river. We decided to put a series of three round windows here. To do this in the slip straw walls, we used willow... Continue reading
Posted Jul 15, 2012 at Muddy Hands
They don't call slip straw "light straw clay" for nothing. The mixture is pretty lightweight which is why we are capping all the walls with what is referred to, not so elegantly, as heavy straw clay. This mixture tops the slip straw walls to better keep the wall secure and... Continue reading
Posted Jul 13, 2012 at Muddy Hands
This building season is mainly about height. Our primary goals are to get the upstairs walls of the largest pod built and a roof on this pod. This means lots of working in the air. The old river path ladder (with a new handrail) is serving us well for getting... Continue reading
Posted Jul 9, 2012 at Muddy Hands
The new slip straw walls were the most noticeable addition after the Cob & Natural Building workshop a few weeks ago. Slip straw, or light straw clay, is a technique that involves fluffing up the straw and... ...mixing it with a thin clay slip to lightly coat it. This mixture... Continue reading
Posted Jul 8, 2012 at Muddy Hands
It's already been a week since we said goodbye to Michael G. Smith and a group of energetic spirits who participated in the Cob & Natural Building workshop. This was our second year hosting this workshop with Michael and the energy was just as infectious. It felt great to start... Continue reading
Posted Jul 7, 2012 at Muddy Hands
The last month has been mainly about wood and power tools. We've been working towards raising the roof of the largest pod. After the shoulder beams, the ceiling joists and rafters were the next structural framing to put in place. The framing uses pretty traditional construction techniques so we won't... Continue reading
Posted Jun 28, 2012 at Muddy Hands
It's been a few weeks since the Mattole Elementary's middle school field trip here, but I couldn't pass up the opportunity to highlight their trip from June 1st. After taking a look around the various natural building wall systems, the students got muddy mixing up some earthen floor. Ethan, who... Continue reading
Posted Jun 27, 2012 at Muddy Hands
The past couple weeks have been mainly about wood. We've been simultaneously framing walls for slip straw and doing some structural framing for the roof. We used a winch mounted on a temporary post to help raise the two 16 foot long 6 x 12 inch shoulder beams into place.... Continue reading
Posted Jun 22, 2012 at Muddy Hands
The giant tarp (old billboard) and many smaller tarps that were the winter roof for the house are now off. Ahhh.... it feels like the house has breathed a big gulp of fresh air. Here is the view from above as the big winter coat comes off. The framing of... Continue reading
Posted Jun 2, 2012 at Muddy Hands
We were thrilled to host our first school field trip on May 15th (a couple weeks ago now). The 3rd-8th graders at Honeydew Elementary School came in the afternoon to learn a bit about natural building,... ... see a demo of the earthen floor building,... ... and try stomping cob... Continue reading
Posted May 29, 2012 at Muddy Hands
It's been nearly a month now since we did the tests for our earthen floor. We tested three mixes and based on the shrinking and cracks we noticed, we decided on a mix between A & B (the two closest ones in the picture below). Ready to start mixing and... Continue reading
Posted May 18, 2012 at Muddy Hands
Early last August we laid the first layer of the earthen floor, a 6 inch layer of drainage rubble. Last winter we did our best to protect it from debris that could clog it. We laid tarps on top where we could. You can see from the picture below that... Continue reading
Posted May 16, 2012 at Muddy Hands
Michael G. Smith, master natural builder and teacher, explains straw bale construction techniques at the 2011 Cob & Natural Building workshop here in Petrolia, CA. Continue reading
Posted May 4, 2012 at Muddy Hands
In this short video, Michael G. Smith and Ryan M. demonstrate how to mix slip straw, or light straw clay, at the 2011 Cob and Natural Building workshop here in Petrolia. Continue reading
Posted May 1, 2012 at Muddy Hands
I've finally converted the videos from the Cob & Natural Building workshop last summer and they are almost all up at You Tube. I'll release them on the blog in the coming days. This first is Michael G. Smith discussing slip straw, or light straw clay, construction. Continue reading
Posted Apr 27, 2012 at Muddy Hands
As we're gearing up for the building season, our earthen floor tests are one of the most visible sign of new efforts. All of the ground level floors in the house will be earthen. We may overlay brick or tile in a couple rooms. Our plan is to pour two... Continue reading
Posted Apr 24, 2012 at Muddy Hands
We are thrilled to be hosting a Cob & Natural Building workshop for the second year in a row with Michael G. Smith. Michael G. Smith (far left) leads a group demo at the 2011 Cob & Natural Building workshop in Petrolia) This June 24-30, learn to build your own... Continue reading
Posted Feb 17, 2012 at Muddy Hands
Back in October I posted some photos of our preparations for the rainy season (October-April/May in our part of the country). Our camera broke being dropped from a ladder in the middle of this and so it has taken me a while to get more photos and give you the... Continue reading
Posted Feb 6, 2012 at Muddy Hands
One of the many things I love about natural building is that it is accessible to a wide range of ages and abilities - especially kids. Our 1 year old, Ayla, and 3 year old, Axel, were frequently present on the job site (I say "were" because we are in... Continue reading
Posted Nov 27, 2011 at Muddy Hands
It's been over three months since hosting a week-long intensive Cob & Natural Building workshop with Michael G. Smith. I think we are nearly recovered. Hosting a workshop like this is a big commitment, and a lot of work. For anyone who may be contemplating hosting such a workshop, or... Continue reading
Posted Nov 24, 2011 at Muddy Hands
We imagined we'd spend September and October framing and putting up a roof over our cob walls. We underestimated how much time it would take for every step. It became apparent to us pretty early in September that even if we had the resources for the actual roof (which we... Continue reading
Posted Oct 11, 2011 at Muddy Hands
It's been a while since I've shared any updates here - partly because of the season (preparing for rain and harvest time) and partly because Ayla broke our camera and so we didn't have new photos until I took the card in. In any case, a lot has been happening... Continue reading
Posted Oct 7, 2011 at Muddy Hands
Our house will have two stairways, one on the northern pod and one on the southern pod (the middle pod does not have a loft). Under the stairs-to-be, we laid a single course of urbanite and then began a cob wall. We don't have the entire stair plan worked out,... Continue reading
Posted Sep 11, 2011 at Muddy Hands
Before I post about our staircase in progress, I wanted to post some of the amazing stairways that inspire us. Cob staircases are very intriguing and can be quite unique because of cob's sculptability. photo by Fresh Peek House We have also been drawn to stair railings that use whole... Continue reading
Posted Sep 10, 2011 at Muddy Hands