Over the weekend, I staked out my building site. I started by staking out the very center of the house, and then I positioned additional stakes to form the east-west and north-south axes. The house is oriented to take maximum advantage of solar gain. Using string, I was able to determine the slope of the site, which thankfully is not too-too dramatic. Then I drove a bunch of stakes in the ground at various other measured points as guides to create an outline of the shape of the house. I have pretty much committed the shape of the cob building to the ground at this point.
Last week was very rainy, but thankfully the past few days have been warm and dry. Since I am digging the foundation trench by hand, it is important to have very optimal soil conditions to dig. I started digging a drainage trench today (not part of the actual foundation trench, but a separate trench on the high side of the site to intercept rainwater), but the soil is still quite damp and difficult to move. The soil here has an incredibly high clay content which holds moisture for a long time. (All that clay is great for building, though!)
Unfortunately, it is supposed to rain again in another couple of days, so I won’t be able to get too far with the digging before I have to stop again. Tomorrow, I am having a huge dump truck full of gravel delivered to my site. Eventually, once the trench is completely dug (all two and a half feet of it), I will lay in 4″ drainpipe (or drain tile), fill it in with tamped gravel, and then begin work on my urbanite foundation.
It’s safe to say I’ve officially begun!