Sunday, February 7, 2010

Do You Igloo?

My children want to build an igloo. In Long Beach. That's SOUTH of Los Angeles. An igloo is not gonna happen.

But I am pondering the notion of allowing them to build a cob dome, rather like our cob oven, and make it look like an igloo. Cob is a dirt-cheap construction material, made of nothing but clay, sand, and straw. I have plenty of straw, which I get for free from pumpkin patches in early November. It is a habit for me now to scan craigslist for "straw" the week after Halloween. Clay is available for the digging - our subsoil (only about one foot down, two at the most) is almost nothing BUT clay. So all I would have to buy is sand, and that's pretty cheap. Might even be able to get it free once the rain stops and people want to be rid of their sandbags.

This is what I looked like the summer that I made the cob oven. I dug a shallow hole and lined it with a sturdy tarp. Into that I put a few buckets full of clay, one bucket full of sand, and added water enough to make a mudpie out of it. Then I trodded it (what is the right verb conjugation???) with my feet, mixing in straw until I couldn't get any more in. I did it barefoot, which is actually quite pleasant in the summer, but some folks do it in old boots. Construction itself is very like making mudpies, plopping one on top of the other. But as you stack them, you squish your fingers vertically down into the pies (more accurately, cobs) to poke the straws from the mudpie on top into the mudpie on the bottom. Once dried, the structure has impressive compressive and tensile strength.

Something tells me, however, that if I let the kids do their own cob project, what they come up with will not end up looking like an igloo, no matter how much Michael proclaims that is what he wants (with a hole in the roof, no less, "so we can make a fire and have the smoke go right up!") No, I'm thinking a building project of theirs, besides being remarkably messy, wouldl end up more like this.

What backyard would be complete without its own little hobbit abode?
Perhaps the tactile nature of the building process, not to mention the necessary planning involved, would be good for an ADD kid. Or perhaps they would abandon it in the middle and leave me to finish it (not likely) or attack it with a pressure hose to reduce it back to a heap of dirt.

I continue to ponder the possibility.

1 comment:

  1. How long did it take you to make the cob oven? I had to get rid of my truck before Halloween, so I wasn't able to get any free straw this year, which was a real bummer.