Frieda Byler

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since Jul 24, 2014
Virginia, USA
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Recent posts by Frieda Byler

Hello again, folks,
Glad to hear that interest is still alive and growing here in Va.!
We are planning to attend a natural building workshop in July.
In the meantime, we've enrolled in an online cob building course that has [so far, for us] contained some useful info. While it's not as great as actually "being there", we feel confident enough to at least get started on a small barn. Hopefully, we can connect with some of you, as the project progresses. We can hardly wait!
Here's the link, if anyone's interested: http://www.members.thiscobhouse.com/online-cob-house-workshop/
5 years ago
cob
Hello again!
We're finally back home and back to a more normal schedule after the holidays.....

That's good to know, Jay. It would be nice to take a class or two at Yestermorrow with our son in the next two years. It would give him a feel for the school, and regardless of outcome, we'd all be learning!

Well, here goes. We plan to watch this month's videos starting this evening. We've already selected a site for a small barn/coop, and expect to wait for warmer temps to actually implement most things, except perhaps gathering materials. We will also need a building permit here. Just for the challenge, we'd like to try building this little barn with as little money as possible. Wish we had a pile of useable rocks! My parents have loads of fieldstone, but to haul them from Pa. seems a bit impractical........
5 years ago
cob
Hi Jay,
Thanks for commenting; I was hoping you would! I believe you would be the perfect candidate to review this course for the rest of us. Better yet, put your own internet course together and we'll all enroll!
My husband and I read your posts with great interest, [as well as our 16 yr. old son.] Our family hopes to build a natural home in the forseeable future, but feel like we need some experience before we tackle something we will be living in.
We have worked with conventional building and are somewhat experienced, but have become seriously disillusioned with it, especially since codes seem to be always changing; precious little in the conventional building field seems very enduring. Even so-called "green" manufactured, off the shelf building materials seem a bit counter productive and expensive. Natural, handcrafted homes possess a beauty that no expensive home in the suburbs even comes close to. [Not to mention, better health for the occupants!] It's great to see so many people returning to traditional, natural methods, but it can seem like a jungle out there trying to sort out the "experts" from the "wannabes". We definitely want to learn natural building the right way! Building something for our animals that doesn't require plumbing, wiring or a lot of expense while we study and work at home seems very appealing right now. If we don't succeed at it, well, even less than perfect attempts usually result in lessons learned, so all is not really lost. At least, we learned that from building our cob oven!
Our sons are very interested in all things "backwoodsy" and our family would like to find a piece of property with enough natural resources to build [and continue to live] mostly "off the land" and debt free. Since we are not "experts", we've got a lot to learn and need to start somewhere.
One of our boys has been interested in Yestermorrow, a natural building school in Vermont. Do you know anything about them?
6 years ago
cob
Just got this info., and thought some other folks might be interested. Our family is definitely going to give this a go and maybe build a chicken coop or small barn while we learn. We've been dying to attend a workshop, but family obligations and time constraints have kept us away.

http://www.members.thiscobhouse.com/online-cob-house-workshop/
6 years ago
cob
Hello again!
Lisa, it sounds like there is definitely a lot of interest in cob/natural building here in Va.; we're all just waiting for someone else to build something first!
We were planning to build a small cob barn this last summer, after we finished our cob oven, and after participating in a workshop earlier in the spring. [A barn sounds pretty "safe" to us, since our goats and chickens need one anyway, and we'd rather practice on something we aren't going to be living in.] Unfortunately, my Mom had a stroke in March, and all of our family's plans had to be postponed, and are still somewhat on hold.......
So! We are enjoying the only project we managed to do [our oven] and wish we could go help someone else with a build not too far away. Lol, it sounds like many of us are in the same boat!
We'd love to have some help with our barn, but since we haven't managed to even get to a workshop [time constraints and they all seem to be far away], we feel too inexperienced to invite others to build with us, since we're pretty amateur and we wouldn't want anyone to learn something the wrong way because of our "practicing"! We do have [some] conventional building experience, but no experience with cob. To tell the truth, we've considered hosting a workshop just so we can learn along with others and get something done at the same time. We don't have the space or facilities to have a dozen people setting up tents and campers here, but a local workshop, where only meals are provided might actually work. We'd have to check with a couple instructors......
If we do, we'll certainly let the Va. folks know!
6 years ago
cob
Toasting oatmeal? What a neat idea; I can't wait to try that!

An economical and super easy breakfast that our family enjoys is cooked wheat berries. [Although not gluten free] Mix three cups water for every cup of wheat grain. Add some salt, about as much as when cooking oatmeal. Cover tightly and cook overnight at a low temperature or in a crockpot. We usually use our cob oven, after we bake pizza, bread, etc. Serve with honey, maple syrup, butter, milk, cinnamon, coconut milk, whatever suits you. Chewy and delicious. Also good with berries or other fruit, in season.

Something else that we've been learning lately is growing fruits and berries from cuttings/starts. Most of the time, people are happy to share from their berry patch or grapevines, especially if we offer them homemade bread, jelly, yogurt or something like that, and often we get growing advice to go along with it that far surpasses any mail order nursery! People can be very sentimental about their fruit trees, berry patches/stands, rhubarb, asparagus that they've grown for years, etc., and are already familiar with their growth habits, preferences, and tendencies. I'll take starts from another enthusiastic grower any day rather than order online if I have a choice. Folks used to share plants like that years ago, and I'm always happy to share as well.
6 years ago
Aaron, sorry to hear about the issues your family is running into. Usually, the smaller the better, as far as permits go. Here, we have an easier time if we stay below a certain square footage. What exactly are the size requirements? Maybe an older home would be a good solution for your family as well? Those are often smaller than what the average "norm" is today.

6 years ago
Hello again,
Athena, you may be able to incorporate natural building techniques into an older home, if it has a good strong foundation and frame. It would make code issues easier for you, also. We first began learning about "natural building" techniques about five years ago, after we had done a good portion of remodeling on our current home. If we had known what we know now, we would have done things differently, and I feel like we'd be much, much happier with the results!

One example: We tore out the old, central chimney in order to put more cupboards in our kitchen, and decided to use a newer flue that the former owner had done [cheaply, with concrete block, with most of the thermal mass outside the house] in the living room for a wood stove. [BIG MISTAKE!] I'm sure that central chimney was put there for good reason, the brick went all the way upstairs, so there was much more thermal mass, etc. We're convinced our home would be much warmer and easier to heat, if we had payed attention to some of those details! Now, I'd gladly give up the extra cupboard space in the kitchen for a warmer house, even though that old chimney would have needed a liner. It would've been worth it! Unfortunately, although we had some knowledge and experience with remodeling and building, it was mostly modern day, conventional wisdom. The wood stove makes a big difference in our energy costs, and we can cook on it, but we feed it a lot of wood! Thankfully for now, wood is cheap; we have plenty of dead trees here, but even now, we're considering redoing the chimney and building a more efficient rocket stove or masonry heater.......and then, there's always the ever-present insurance and code issues to consider with that, as well!:0

So, you definitely have an advantage, [probably more than you know!] Take advantage of this site, with all the wonderful info. available, learn all you can, and an older home just may be your answer!

Another note: We definitely survived ok, but it would have been much better for us to buy an older RV or trailer to live in temporarily, while this house was being worked on. I'm convinced the work would've gotten done in half the time! It's was often hard for my hubby, [who is naturally a night owl] to quit the noisy work just when we were gaining momentum, because "the baby needs to sleep!"......and yes, there's noisy work even when building/remodeling naturally, more than we think, not to mention dirt and dust! On the other hand, I'm glad we're not completely done with this place, because we've learned a lot in the meantime that can still be incorporated.

I can so relate to your juggling act with responsibilities to family, work, growing/putting up food, etc.! I am there as well! It's frustrating when gardening/canning season is also "building season" when most of the workshops are available, and yes, some of them seem a bit pricey. Our teenage son is also very interested in natural building, and some workshops offer family or group discounts. We recently got a copy of The Hand Sculpted House by Ianto Evans, and have been studying it like a textbook. Lots of neat inspiration in there, and it's a way we can read together for 15 or twenty minutes at night and brainstorm as well as "dream" a little! We find ourselves thinking more in terms of what our family needs and loves, finding more joy in simplicity. We also have Alex Summerall's Cob Building Step by step, Kikko Denzer's Build Your own Earth Oven, and have managed to build a cob pizza oven that we absolutely love. Our outdoor patio plans have changed a lot, all because of that oven! We never attended a class, but were able to build an oven after reading the books, and just getting in there and trying it once. our next "practice project" will be a small barn/chicken coop. If we mess up, at least there won't be much money lost!
If there's one thing I have learned so far, it's that building/planning a homestead needs to be enjoyable and fun, or we burn out eventually and make bad decisions. I'm learning to enjoy the process and learn all I can. You don't have to wait to "live the good life" until everything is "done". [We've been eating awesome food from our humble cob oven, which was just supposed to be a practice project!]

Sure wish you the best; keep us posted, and let us know if you plan a workday!


6 years ago
Hi Athena,
How are things coming along for y'all? Always glad to hear of people building naturally in Va.; that's where we live, and plan to do the same in the foreseeable future.

I certainly wish you well in your endeavor, and appreciate your mindset very much. Although we currently live in a "conventional" home, we've had our share of adventure.:) We bought an older fixer upper, and have been busy ever since, remodeling it as we had the cash, and making do without things that many American families consider necessary; we even did without much of a kitchen for a few years, and learned the meaning of the word "improvise". Hey, did you know you can pull out stumps with an old minivan?:)......as long as they're not too huge, and you dig around them first!

Even though we would definitely do some things differently now, I've never regretted choosing affordability and paying as we go. I cooked on a camp stove [for a long time], our bathroom walls were torn down to the studs, [on the inside:)] and our "kitchen" was turned into a winter storage area the same year one of our babies was born. I don't think living in a newly built, small space with a baby would be that hard, if you're properly set up for it. I probably wouldn't recommend moving in before it's finished in such a small space; it could be a little stressful moving things around with a little one!

We definitely learned how to improvise and make do, and to not let what others think is necessary define our vision for our family, and at the same time realizing that we indeed don't live in a third world country; life is different here. We have building codes to follow that are not an issue somewhere else in the world. We may be ok living without some things for awhile, but unfortunately our county isn't ok with us not having them! So some things we just have to plan for, and adjust.:0

I met a pastor from Kenya last winter whose family lives in a sort of cob house with a thatched roof, and after questioning him about their building practices and learning how their whole community gets involved in building, I was impressed. I told him I thought that was wonderful, and we'd like to build a home like that for our family. He looked puzzled for a moment, then asked. "Why? You have all these wonderful things, these large homes, why would you want to do that if you don't have to?" I explained in brief that all these "wonderful things" cost a lot, and keep people in debt and in bondage, we have these things called building codes that sometimes make no sense, but can be expensive, they sometimes force people to put things in their homes that they don't even want [that they still have to work to pay for], and so forth. He looked even more puzzled after that, after which someone with experience in conventional building explained a little further. It really made me realize how messed up and materialistic our society has become. Some things are definitely better, but being chained to a mortgage for half of our lives is not one of them!
It would be great if our families could somehow help each other! We've wanted to take part in some natural building workshops, but time constraints, job, parents needing assistance, etc., have prevented us from taking that much time off, and [in most cases] traveling that far. We could however, handle a Saturday now and then, if it's within a reasonable driving distance, and would love to build and learn with others!

Cob would be our preferred method; if it ends up being the best thing for us, we'd be delighted. If my info. is correct, we may be able to pull it off, at least in some counties, as long as the house gets a frame first. Have you considered it, Athena? I wish I knew someone with a cob house in Va. I'd love to ask some questions!


6 years ago
Hello y'all,
Looks like this thread is a couple years old, but I'm curious as to how everyone's endeavors are coming along. We live in south central Va., and have been very anxious to give cob a try. We did build a cob pizza oven and are very pleased with how it turned out, [Bakes amazing bread and chicken, too!] but next on our agenda will be a chicken coop and/or small shelter for our goats. Eventually, we'd like to build a natural house of some kind for our family of six. So far, we're leaning toward a timberframe with either cob or strawbale infill. In the meantime, we're "practicing"! We'd love to help some fellow Virginia folks with a build and learn along the way. We have kiddos in school and parents who need us, so time hasn't allowed us to attend a workshop, as much as we'd love to. We could do a Saturday at a time within a reasonable driving distance, though!
6 years ago
cob