The last day of the workshop was an exhilarating team effort to finish our wall. The walls were being plastered, the hobbit doorway got a wooden gate, the bench in the “lovers’ nook” got its finishing touches, and a few of us were busy planting a living roof of ferns, sedum, and moss over it.
At noon, it was all (mostly) done, and we were really pretty proud of what we had built in nine days. Three more walls and we would have an entire house. Or — since cob houses don’t need to be rectangular — not even three; we could simply continue the funky, curvy lines to make the two ends of the wall eventually meet.
What we have learned is now written on our bodies: dirt under fingernails, rough skin where we were rubbing against cob most intensely, muscles stronger than they were a week ago, body memory of how to do it all over again. This may come off as novice builder’s hubris, but Dan and I left the workshop feeling that we had learned all the essentials of what it takes to construct a small house out of cob. We still have much to learn, and are hoping to get more practice with a few smaller, low-stakes projects over the next couple of years (a cob oven? a garden shed? a wood frame sauna with light straw-clay insulation?). But I think we already have the most important qualifications for one day building our own house: we are able-bodied, persistent — and never feel too old to start learning new skills.