Mordecai Hamlin

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since Jul 02, 2020
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Recent posts by Mordecai Hamlin

Oh I'll try that with the rock bar. I had just been slamming it into the ground as hard as I could. (lol) It wasn't real effective. I saw a video of people getting clay by using a power washer and basically cutting into the ground. Wish I had that to try. I'd still have to remove the roots by hand though, probably.

Oh about the ground settling, I am worried about that. I could remove all the dirt to a totally different area, and level it that way. Then I could use the dirt later as cob, from that pile. Would be more work, but maybe better. Yeh last thing I would want is for the ground to shift under the weight of an earthen house. Though, I do think having pole beams in the ground and as a frame, might help keep the house from collapsing if it did. Still I wouldn't want to find out the hard way. I wonder how long it would take the ground to settle if I continued as I am.

About the dampness: yeah, it gets pretty humid, sometimes foggy. It is kinda in the clouds.Not a big deal. But, it makes sleeping miserable, especially when covered in cuts from rose bushes and mosquito and tick bites.

For water I plan to put a water catchment system on the roof. I've helped put up a few of those already, for others. It works remarkably well. On a structure the size I'm planning, one rain would easily fill a 500 gallon tank. I kind of have a loose plan to raise the tank as much as possible, thereby creating water pressure. If I do it right I could put a semi-outdoor shower downhill of the house.

I've collected alot of wattle and clay out here in the past for other projects, but not for this. It's 35 acres, all overgrown woods. Most of what we've cut down in the past has already grown back. Kind of an accidental copice system. (lol) I haven't collected any for this project though. I was really fired up to get the structure started. Though, now, after digging in this spot for awhile, I think maybe you are right. It might be a nice break to cut down some of the bigger trees I'll need for beams. I'll have to wait for the wattles, since it needs to be fresh when I put it on (flexibility). I am collecting any rocks I dig up. I'm just not getting as many as I had expected.

Oh, I am building this in Missouri. That is what initially attracted me to this thread, the OP mentioned that they are from MO. It's my brother's land. I had been coming out here to help him with his building projects. We have been planning to build him some sort of earthen house. He suggested I build a smaller one for myself to stay in, while I'm here helping him. It is kind of far from a town, but not too bad, about 30 miles to the nearest town, or 40 to my town. Right now there is no house or anything here at all. My brother lives here right now, but he is just sleeping in a 4 ft x 8ft shed. It does have a water catchment system on it though, with a 250 gallon tank. Even with that small size roof, it gets full after 1 or 2 rains.

About my name, I believe it is originally ancient Babylonian. It means "Follower of Marduk". It was a Babylonian city god. Then when Babylon turned into an empire it became one of the chief Babylonian dieties. Later when the Israelites were in captivity there, they began to use the name. So it ended up in their religious texts too, and eventually in the Christian bible. My parents got it from a 70's movie called The FlimFlam Man. (lol)
4 months ago
cob

John C Daley wrote:A vapour barrier could consist of heavy duty black plastic.

The same stuff that is used under concrete slabs, its pretty affordable.

Moisture will easily wick up through your proposed height.

I have built using shovels and hand tools. But I learnt the benefit of modernisation and use it often.
How big is he area you are working on?
Are you using the whee lat all?
regards



My plan for the structure is 12 ft by 20ft. I think that would make a comfortable living space. It is subject to change though. If I run into too many unexpected difficulties I could see the stucture getting smaller (lol). So, I figured for that, I needed to level at least 16 by 24. The area was completely covered with brush, (especially roses) and small trees, and a few bigger trees. I got rid of all that with a hand saw, that I used mainly like a machete. I know it's probably not the right way to use a handsaw, but it works surprisingly well, especially on roses. Then I dug up the top soil and stumps with a mattock. Since then I've just been digging on the high side, with the mattock, then shoveling the clay towards the low side. It wouldn't be so difficult, but the clay is very dense and absolutely packed with roots. Clearing went fast (1 day). Digging up the top soil went fast (1 day). But when it comes to digging up the deeper clay. I've worked on it 3 full days so far and not even half done. >.< I have a rock bar too for digging the post holes. But, for general leveling it doesn't feel like the right tool. I wish I had a powerful tiller for this stage. That would make short work of it. I do have a tiller. But it's not very powerful. It locks every time it hits a root, which is about every two inches. (lol)

Thanks for the suggestion of the vapor barrier. I will do some research on that. Since it's on a mountain there isn't any sitting water or anything. But the humidity is extremely high. Whenever I'm working there I camp in a hammock. My covers and pillows are completely wet before I even get in them. Anywhere that isn't cleared is damp and the top soil is full of mycelium. As soon as I clear any area though, the top soil gets completely dry and crumbly. The day after that the ground is rock hard.
4 months ago
cob
I had been wondering about wood ash in a cob construction, to maybe give it a darker color. Wasn't sure though how it might react chemically. I guess maybe this is the bio-char that the previous poster mentioned. I wasn't aware that it was a thing before now. I have heard others mention adding different mineral dusts to earthen constructions as well, for color. Not to sure on the specific details though. I've also read about adding ox blood to cob. I think that had a different purpose than coloration, but it probly would give it a very dark brown color.
4 months ago

Brian Rumsey wrote:My back yard slopes, not an extreme slope but enough that it's an issue for gardening. I'm looking at close to a 5 foot drop over 120 feet. I'm thinking of creating two terraces, an upper "yard" terrace and a lower garden terrace, supported by retaining walls. Each retaining wall would be approx. 2.5 feet. Rather than simply level my soil, I'm thinking I'd rather add new, because under a thin layer of decent topsoil, I've got heavy clay.

The obvious option is to have soil delivered from a local company, but that's a lot of soil and cost. By my calculations about $10,000 of soil per terrace for screened topsoil. I might go this route despite the cost but am interested in alternatives and/or cautions about the idea. One possibility I thought of was to do most of the leveling with wood chips that tree services will provide for free or at low cost -- perhaps something like hugelkultur -- topped by a layer of screened topsoil. But I'm thinking as the wood chips decompose, they will subside and require additional topsoil to be added. This could be a problem if I don't want large machinery driving on my ground every year or few years.

Does anybody have other ideas, or affirmations of either idea I've mentioned above? Good sources to look at for further info?

Thanks.



Hi Brian. I was gonna suggest hiring a bulldozer, if you were willing to pay 10k$ anyways, it would be cheaper. Now I see that you said you didn't want to level it. In that case heres an option you might want to consider. Around here saw mills are often giving unlimited amounts of sawdust away for free. You just have to pick it up from there. It's basically the same idea as wood chips, but easier to acquire. We got a truckload and made raised beds from a mixture of sawdust and clay dirt, like you mentioned. The plants didn't do real well though. Later in another garden we tilled in woodchips, that we had used as mulch the previous season. Those plants had some problems too. Eventually, we came to learn that wood decomposing in the soil leeches nitrogen to aid in it's decomposition. In both cases the plants didn't die. But they were very sickly. So, that is something to consider. Still though, it might be worth it, rather than buying 10k$ in top soil.
4 months ago

I am interested to know when the ancestors were using metal roofs, I am surprised, but also delighted that you will consider a good material.  



Yeh, they used thatch according to the video. I would be tempted to try it but, it's a little outside of my skill set. (lol) Like you said, they had a deeper understanding, since they were exposed to that building style their whole lives, probably. Today, I think, alot of us are just trying to piece together this lost knowledge, at least in my current culture (USA consumerism).

Water vapour barriers stop it wicking though the soil.  



Do you think that if I did a raised solid cob floor it might compensate for this? This is what I have been planning to do. I'm still leveling the land now, by hand, on the side of a mountain. (lol) This part of the project is taking much longer than I had anticipated.

I do have a little experience doing wattle fences, and I built a raw timber raised cob and cordwood chicken coop, with my brother. But those projects didn't have moisture as an issue. The bottom of the coop is about 5 feet off the ground on a wood beam and pole base. I guess because of that, even when it has gotten blasted with storms, it's bone dry a few minutes later. If anything, it's too dry. We didn't even use an overhanging roof on that one. The roof just comes right to the edge of the wall, single slope.

So far, the entire plans for my project will be 0$, except the metal roofing. I'm worried that the moisture barrier might be too expensive. I also don't really have access to alot of stones or gravel, except the occasional rock I am pulling out of the ground, while leveling. Anyways, I'll try to make a thread once the project gets a little further along, with pics. And definitely asking for advice (lol).
4 months ago
cob

I am interested to know when the ancestors were using metal roofs, I am surprised, but also delighted that you will consider a good material.  



Yeh, they used thatch according to the video. I would be tempted to try it but, it's a little outside of my skill set. (lol) Like you said, they had a deeper understanding, since they were exposed to that building style their whole lives, probably. Today, I think, alot of us are just trying to piece together this lost knowledge, at least in my current culture (USA consumerism).

Water vapour barriers stop it wicking though the soil.  



Do you think that if I did a raised solid cob floor it might compensate for this? This is what I have been planning to do. I'm still leveling the land now, by hand, on the side of a mountain. (lol) This part of the project is taking much longer than I had anticipated.

I do have a little experience doing wattle fences, and I built a raw timber raised cob and cordwood chicken coop, with my brother. But those projects didn't have moisture as an issue. The bottom of the coop is about 5 feet off the ground on a wood beam and pole base. I guess because of that, even when it has gotten blasted with storms, it's bone dry a few minutes later. If anything, it's too dry. We didn't even use an overhanging roof on that one. The roof just comes right to the edge of the wall, single slope.

So far, the entire plans for my project will be 0$, except the metal roofing. I'm worried that the moisture barrier might be too expensive. I also don't really have access to alot of stones or gravel, except the occasional rock I am pulling out of the ground, while leveling. Anyways, I'll try to make a thread once the project gets a little further along, with pics. And definitely asking for advice (lol).
4 months ago
cob
I saw someone mention that cob might not work in this area, and to look for traditional building practices for this area (Missouri). Cob is the traditional building material in this area. Well, wattle and daub. I just watched a video about this (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X-UKDRQpZo4) Though, from the video, this moisture problem is probably removed by the open ventilation at the top of the Cahokian structure they are showing.

Interestingly, I am building a structure very similar to this, and only just found out that it was the traditional type for this area. I was thinking I invented this particular type of wattle and daub (lmao). Could this be ancestral spirit guidance? idk (lol). Basically, I'm building a pole barn style structure, with wattle spun between all the beams. Then the whole thing is covered in cob/daub. I'll put on a single slope, metal roof though. My plan is currently no foundation at all, as is traditional. But I am considering raising the floor about a foot from ground level. Basically, I just plan to fill the whole inside floor with cob to about a foot higher than ground level.  Idk if that might help with any moisture related problems. I would  throw stones or gravel down under it, but it's kind of hard for me to get (unlike wattle and clay). Of course ill make sure water flows away from the structure via hills and trenches.

As far as mold is concerned. I couldn't give a crap. (lol) In my mind worrying about mold, when it isn't even destabilizing the house seems like a luxury. I'm more concerned about the op's wall temperatures. So, cold. Luckily, in Missouri there is an infinite supply of trees, for firewood. At least in my area. Maybe if the op got a bigger wood burning stove and kept it going at all times, this might help dry out the structure at least and warm the walls a bit.

I did recently see another build, where the builder was recreating  an ancient wattle and daub structure. He used 2 parrallel rows of wattle and daub around the entire house with clay straw in between the rows, as insulation. Apparently this is how the ancient structure he was recreating was done also. Supposedly it has crazy high insulation ratings. That's alot more labor intensive though I think. Basically it's double everything. >.<
4 months ago
cob