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cob and bottles

Today I saw this call for support and want to help spread the word.

In 2009 I had the great pleasure to go to Hopiland in Arizona and work with Lillian Hill and Hopi Tutskwa Permaculture to start the construction of a house for Lilian’s Mother Serena. I was touched by the community spirit and the strength of the cultural roots that we experienced there.

Lilian Hill from Hopi Tutskwa permaculture

Please consider supporting her and her community.

Serena Dewakuku cobbing

 

 

 

 

cobbing in the rain

rain

Every workshop leader’s nightmare among earth- and strawbale builders: Rain on day 1 of the workshop- especially for a weekend workshop. There you are, ready with tools, tarps and Straw hat and a handful of curious and excited  future cobbers and the sky opens up…

Here are some ideas to keep up the spirit in your group:

  1. Go outside and meet at the building site: its important not to get stuck in “under cover” or “inside” mode
  2. Use positive language: gratitude (rain is good for growing…) and avoid talking about the weather .
  3. Mix mud, even if you can’t build it: people want to learn the feel of the mix.

    rainy day at the workshop

    even in the rain we mix cob

  4. Have a fire where people can warm up and even dry a bit: the fire always becomes a community spot and allows people to connect
  5. At break time serve hot drinks, perhaps some cookies: we like our treats and warm cups =warm hands

    warming up with coffee

    warming up with coffee

  6. If you have to retreat to shelter use this time to teach about building with earth and natural design: keep it lively with sketching on whiteboard or paper, allow plenty of questions and discussion

    escaping indoor and learning another way

    escaping indoor and learning another way

  7. Build models under a roof: models allow creative ideas to develop and people work with mud
  8. If rain persists, build a temporary roof to work under: now this is something to consider having in place to begin with. A roof not only protects from rain but also provides shade when it gets hot

    make a roof over the site

    make a roof over the site

  9. Finally: Good food, it feeds the body and lifts the spirits.

Thank you to Doris Leitner and Carina Leithold for the use of their images.

 

 

 

The gable is protected by wooden boards.

The gable is protected by wooden boards.

Going for a walk recently we came upon this old house. I’m always curious when I see clay-infill or earthen plasters, so the exposed bits of earth caught my interest right away.

Post and beam on the ground floor

Post and beam on the ground floor

I’ve learned a bit about the local historical buildings too and could tell that this was what they call “Umgebindehaus”, where on the ground floor you see wooden posts and beams in the face of the wall behind which lies the livingroom (Stube) made of heavy wooden slabs that are covered on the outside by earth. The upper story is built on top of the post and beam structure, in local Timberframe (Fachwerk) style, also with earthen infill.

On the sides the Timberframe is visible

On the sides the Timberframe is visible

The corner post is mostly missing. Notice the Earthen wall against the woodslabs of the living quarters.

The corner post is mostly missing. Notice the Earthen wall against the woodslabs of the living quarters.

 

Once it was cozy inside with double windows to keep the cold out

Once it was cozy inside with double windows to keep the cold out

The owner’s dog was alerted by our looking at the front corner, which in turn alerted the young woman living in the new building behind the old house. She called out “Are you interested?” And when I explained my curiosity she invited us in to have a closer look.

 

 

 

“We’re trying to give it away”, she said, “it’s under protection as heritage building (Dekmalschutz), so we can’t tear it down. “

There had been interested parties – someone wanted to take out the “Bohlenstube” –the wooden livingroom- but then decided against it.

The old Livingroom with typical ceiling boards is still in good condition

The old Livingroom with typical ceiling boards is still in good condition

“You can take away the upstairs pieces and rebuild it somewhere else” she went on.

Upstairs we noticed that this building is seriously threatened: the roof is leaking in one place and on the other side the wall is open and the earth is getting wet and falling onto the floor.  Nobody is fixing it- instead a new building was built behind for the family to live in.

Wattle and Daub wall comes apart due to broken roof

Wattle and Daub wall comes apart due to broken roof

 

Sadly, this is not an isolated case: in this region rich with historic buildings, there are many in poor repair. Owners of heritage buildings must negotiate any changes with the department for heritage buildings. Unfortunately this often blocks good ideas, and discourages good intentions in the name of protection.

But when people can’t make changes (to increase ceiling height, create more windows, add pieces) then these building get left to break down and rot. And so they stand witness not to the beauty of former building skills but to a lack of positive cooperation on the part of those that are supposed to be their protectors.

One outcome of this conflict of interests is a very low market value of heritage homes.

In the case of the one we looked at: take it away for 1 Euro.

Should you be interested in contacting the owners, please email me

 

In Crimmitschau, Sachsen, gibt es eine Gruppe von engagierten Forschern, Handwerkern und Restauratoren , die das Projekt “ Deutsch-Tschechische Lehmstrasse “ plant. Diese Lehmstrasse bezieht sich auf eine Auswahl von Häusern die mit Lehm gebaut oder renoviert wurden, entlang einer (noch) virtuellen Strasse.

Als Vorbereitung für dieses Projekt (während der Wartezeit auf Fördermittel) hat die Gruppe Exkursionen zur Information und Weiterbildung der Mitglieder durchgeführt, die auch die Beziehung zueinander vertiefen sollten.

Hier sind einige Notizen von der letzten Fahrt, auf der wir eine Reihe von Orten innerhalb und am Rande der zukünftigen Lehmstrasse Region besuchten.

Der Fokus dieser Exkursion war überwiegend die Geschichte der örtlichen Bauernhöfe und deren Gebäude. Unserer freiwilliger Experte, Andreas Klöppel, gab eine Fülle von Fakten und Informationen in einer sehr zugänglichen Art und Weise zum Besten. Sein Wissen über die Höfe war umfangreich, einschließlich einiger Anekdoten rund ums Dorfleben.

Ein typischer Bauernhof wurde hier um einen Innenhof gebaut und bestand aus 2-4 Gebäuden: ein Wohnhaus, ein Stall und eine Scheune. Materialien waren in der Regel Stein für Keller und manchmal Erdgeschoss, dann Eichen-Fachwerk für das obere Stockwerk und das Dach. Das Fachwerk wurde historisch mit Stroh-Lehm ausgefacht. Dächer sind oft Schiefer (schwarz) oder Ton-Ziegel (rot). Im Inneren befinden sich große Balken und darauf breite, manchmal verzierte, Deckenbretter. Was Sie nicht sehen können, ist die Lehmschicht über diesen Brettern, über die der nächste Fußboden verlegt ist .

Die Gebäude, die wir besuchten datierten bis ins 15. Jahrhundert zurück. Alte Steinhäuser zeigen in Aufschriften das Baujahr und manchmal Namen des Erbauers. Anderswo sind Inschriften in das Holz über der Tür geschnitzt.

Bei der Fülle von alten Gebäuden in den Dörfern, frage ich mich, wie können Menschen sie heute nutzen? Eines der großen Probleme dieser Dörfer ist die Tatsache, dass sich die Landwirtschaft verändert hat und junge Menschen in die Städte ziehen . Wir sehen viele leer stehende Häuser und leblose Bauernhöfe. Was sind neue und machbare Strategien diese großen Ensembles zu bewohnen? Für mich laden die schönen Gruppierungen von Gebäuden zu modernen Formen des Zusammenlebens ein: co-housing, Ökodorf, Generationsnübergreifendes Wohnen.

Während unserer Tour sahen wir das Beispiel des Kunst und Kräuterhofes Posterstein , wo Keramik, Korbflechten und Kräutermedizin Kurse stattfinden. Gruppen und Gast Räume sind in der ehemaligen Scheune gebaut worden, im Erdgeschoss des Hauses ein Laden für Kunst und Handwerk, und Gäste sind eingeladen, durch den Kräutergarten bummeln.

Als Handwerker sehe ich die Herausforderung zur sorgfältigen Restaurierung der alten Fachwerke; dazu elegante Lösungen zu finden, den modernen Anforderungen für mehr Licht (größere Fenster)nachzukommen, Wärmeschutz zu verbessern, und offene Räume in die vorhandenen Grundrisse von alten Gebäuden einzupassen. Im Folgenden finden Sie einige Beispiele, einschließlich des schönen Lehmofens von Eckhard Beuchel mit seiner warmen Bank und Rückenlehne.

Ich hoffe, dass durch das Projekt Lehmstrasse Besucher durch Beispiele des modernen Lebens in alten Rahmen inspiriert werden, und dass das Leben wieder in die alten Höfe zurückkehrt, die schweigend darauf warten.

 

Keeping the timber in front of a larger modern window

Check out the size of Timber around this door at Hof Schramm in Jonaswalde

 

At Kunst und Kräuterhof Posterstein the old farm has been changed into a art, crafts and herb farm and guest facility, where workshops and events take place and provide income for the owners.

Coffee break in the dining room at Kunst und Kräuterhof Posterstein

 

The large Heitsch Hof in Breesen is waiting to be revitalized

 

Modern life sometimes requires opening walls


 

A beautiful Mass Heater with warm bench is a welcome feature in this newly restored home in Engertsdorf

 

There is a group of engaged researchers, builders and restorers in Crimmitschau, Sachsen, Germany who are planning the project “German Czech Lehmstrasse” . Lehm means claysoil – good for building- and Lehmstrasse refers to a selection of houses built with Lehm along a (for now) virtual route.

In preparation for this project (while waiting for funding) the group has conducted a few excursions for the education of members and to build connection with each other.

Here are some notes from the most recent drive on which we visited a number of places inside and on the edge of the future Lehmstrasse region.

The focus for this excursion was largely on the history of local farmsteads and their structures. Our volunteer- expert tour guide, Andreas Klöppel, shared plenty of facts and information in a very accessible way. His knowledge of the area’s sites was extensive, including anecdotes around village life.

A typical farm here was built around a courtyard and was composed of 2-4 buildings: a residence, a stable and a barn. Materials were typically stone for basements and sometimes ground-level, then oak timber frame (Fachwerk) for the upper story and roof. The frame- infill was historically done with straw-clay. Roofs are often slate (black) or clay-tile (red). Inside are large beams supporting wide, sometimes decorated, ceiling boards. What you can’t see is the clay layer above these boards on top of which the next floor is laid.

The buildings we visited date as far back as the 15th century. Old stone inscriptions give the year of construction and sometimes name of the builder. Elsewhere, inscriptions are carved into the timber above the door.

With the abundance of old buildings in the villages, I wonder, how can people use them today? One of the big problems these villages face is the fact that farming has changed and young people are moving to the cities. We see many empty houses and lifeless farmsteads. What are new and feasible strategies to inhabit these large ensembles? To me the large groupings of buildings call for communal living schemes: co-housing, ecovillage, multi generational living.

During our tour we saw the example of the Kunst und Kräuterhof Posterstein , where pottery , basket-weaving and herbal medicine courses take place. Group facilities have been built into the former barn, the main floor of the house holds a storefront for arts and crafts, and guests are invited to meander through the herb garden.

As a builder I see the challenge to carefully restore the old frames, finding graceful ways to fit modern needs for more light (larger windows), better insulation, and open rooms into the existing footprints of buildings. Below you will see some examples including the beautiful mass heater by Eckhard Beuchel  with its warm bench and backrest.

I hope that as the Lehmstrasse project continues to evolve, people will be inspired by examples of modern life in old settings, and that there will be life again in those old courtyards that stand waiting.