As many readers stumble here for cob updates (it's very much long tail, very few people blog about cob houses, I've looked) I promised to follow up with them to see how they've dealt with their first Iowa winter in their cob house. Their insights are both helpful and interesting.
What's the latest with your cob house in the winter?
First, the confession. We just returned from two weeks in Florida. It wasn't that the cold forced us out, however. The house has been cozy throughout this harsh winter and a friend stayed there while we were away. Most of the lessons we have learned this winter are not particular to cob, but here they are.
What were some unforeseen challenges you faced?
An entryway that is closed off from the house is important in a cold winter climate. We hung a quilt on a curtain rod inside the front door to block blasts of frigid air coming in when the door is opened. Later we found out that this kind of thermal door curtain is a common practice in England.
If you are using a wood stove as your primary heat, give it a central location and outside air intake. A tight house and a wood stove drawing air from the living space is not a good combo.
Even though this is the most organic house we have ever been in, it is not the same as living outdoors. Moving indoors this winter was a challenge for Lin and I because we had been bathing, working, cooking, and eating outside all spring, summer and fall. The tiny camper where we slept barely separated us from the bugs and rain. To soften this seasonal transition, we are contemplating an attached building that would have a greenhouse on the south wall, an internal water wall for heat storage and solar heat collection on the roof. Hopefully, it will be a winter garden similar to what Anna Edey achieved on Martha's Vineyard: http://www.solviva.com/
What are you grateful for with your cob house?
Driving back from Florida, we listened to Garrison Keillor talk about how nature periodically tries to kill off anyone foolish enough to spend the winter on the northern plains. Native Americans didn't maintain year round communities in this region. They would head to the protected woodland valleys until spring. Eventually, our house will be sheltered by forests. For now, it is a wonderful place to live and dream.
The Mullenneaux's Cob House at Christmas, 2008. Photo Credit: The Mullenneaux's
Here is another great article in Radish Magazine, "Comfort of cob: Fairy tale cottage takes shape with mud, straw" by Linda Egenes who wrote the original article on our home.
For more information here are the rest of my cob house posts:
Building A Cob House
Building A Cob House-Follow Up
Cob Houses Around the World