Harry Mud Has a New Look

Harry Mud with his bald pate

This morning a Meetup was held at my property (Finch Frolic) for the San Diego Permaculture group (http://www.meetup.com/SanDiegoPermaculture/ ).  The agenda was to tour the garden and build the second layer – the insulation layer –  on Harry Mud, the cob (earthen) oven begun at a similar Meetup last July. There are three installments posted on my blog; you can search for cob oven, or read about the third installment here: http://www.vegetariat.com/2011/07/cob-oven-3/ ) (sorry, I can’t seem to get the hyperlink to work).

During all this time Harry has patiently sat under his tarp awaiting a second layer.  Today was his day.

One of the reasons I wanted to work on Harry is that my garden will be on the Association of University Women’s garden tour on May 12th (OMG!  Only four weeks away!!!).  I’m hoping to inspire a lot of people to research permaculture for their own properties, and to show off earthen building.  Harry will be a star.

With 29 people signed up to come today and projected rainshowers, I scrambled a bit to make sure there would be cobbing opportunities for all.  However about 15 people toured, the weather although windy was dry and beautiful, and all goals were accomplished.  Hopefully everyone came away with what they wanted to hear about, and not so much dog poo on their shoes.

A dirt and straw pedicure.

Although I enjoy speaking with groups of people, the drawback is that I don’t have the chance to speak with individuals and find out their stories or learn from them.  Everyone has wells of experience and tidbits of knowledge (or buckets full!), and you never know how your life can change with just a passing  comment or chance encounter.

Anyway, many of us had mud manicures and pedicures, the group dwindled, and Harry became even more handsome, if that is even possible.  Three intrepid souls stayed for Harry’ First Fire, and we lunched and chatted about all kinds of interesting topics, such as communication between plants.  It was a good day.  Now that I’ve soaked the mud off of myself in a hot bath with epsom salts, I’ll show you what went on.

Sifted soil in wheelbarrow being resifted through smaller mesh.

To create the insulation layer, we sifted dirt through two progressively smaller screens.

Screening dirt.

That was mixed with water and a lot of straw, which took a lot of time but was fun.

Fancy cob footwork. Cob is a community event.

That cob mixture was formed in a four-inch layer around Harry.

Harry looks as if he's going bald, but he's actually getting a straw afro!

Just in case all 29 people showed up, I had prepared an extra cob project.  I thought a work table next to the oven would be a good idea, so stacked two old tires, topped by a tire with the wheel still in there.  These had been part of the fill on my property when I moved in 13 years ago.  Two intrepid permaculturalists then filled the inside with rubble (small bits of urbanite left over from walls) and sand left over from Harry Mud.  A piece of wood was propped in the center to hold the top in place.  At some point the entire thing will be cobbed.

Filling stacked tires with cement rubble and sand for future cob table.

Harry’s First Fire was set.  Handsome, isn’t he?

Harry Mud, all fired up!

He is a little thicker towards the bottom (I know how he feels!) because the mixture slumps a little, but he’s thick enough all over to insulate well.  Harry will eventually receive a slip coating on the outside, which will help protect the insulation layer and be decorative.  The urbanite base will be covered as well.  I’d like a shade structure over the area, built out of the shed leftovers of which I have plenty.  Harry will have to be protected from rain by a tarp as usual.

Thank you everyone who helped out!

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