From Chile to Portugal: One Cob Love!

It’s August 14th and once again I am in the air in a plane flying back to California
from Portugal this time. This year started with Lisbon-Madrid-London-Buenos
Aires on my way to the Chile workshop where we were in the total wilderness of
the Bio-Bio region for 6 weeks. In a tent by a freezing creek every night I led my 10
new and old students in the building of yet another cob building. This time a
bathhouse with toilet and tadelakt-walled shower so beautiful the host was
pondering turning it into his home. The talent of the students in sculpting, even
those who have never sculpted, seems to grow with each workshop. Sometimes I
feel that is the reason they come. For the sculpting. Unfortunately it lasts only 2
days, but is worth all the challenge of the previous weeks.

Teaching a small group, as I also just did in Portugal, is a very intimate experience I
enjoy because we all become a tight family within a few days, working hard
together, playing, laughing, joking, crying, suffering, celebrating, and most of all
having endless conversations while dancing in the mud, helping each other make
the “breads”, tossing them in a chain to African beats, and of course on the wall,
trimming, sculpting, plastering….There is something about interacting with the
cob, the mud and straw mix that is like a dough texture you can mold and form
this way and that with ease, that feels like home. Recently my Uruguayan
colleague Hector Nuñez told me that there is serotonin in clay. Touching it relaxes
you. And in a cob workshop we are stepping on it and handling it usually for 3 of
the 5 weeks. Day in and day out gathering the clay soil and sand in buckets,
mixing them dry alone or with ur neighbour, and then little by little adding water
until it becomes the perfect texture, like bread dough. Not too wet not too dry. It
is in these moments that we become one with the timeless ancestors who made it
to build their homes, their pots, embellish their skin and hair and even consume it
to detox their bodies. In this last Portugal workshop some of my female students,
Lea and Clare, would begin chanting African chants repetitively like mantras as
they made cob, sorted, sifted, broke up horse poop with their hands and mixed the
plaster by hand to be one with the material and really know when it is ready. Same
with ur feet, only they know when the cob is perfect.

Students arrive on Sunday and by the Wednesday of cob week they are skilled
cobmakers. I realize my teaching improves with each workshop as the students
get it sooner and there are less really wet and really dry mixes. Each workshop is
an opportunity for me to improve my own teaching skills and organizational
managing techniqes. Each workshop is a new mix of wonderful humans that I get
to know for a month to 6 weeks. I fall in love with all of them and they with each
other. There is such a unique transparent closeness that happens almost
immediately, a comfort and familiarity. Nothing to hide, one heart, one love, we all
share a similar passion for what is real, earthy, beautiful, simple, healthy, clean.
For being muddy and tired and not needing to “look good” because we already do,
just being ourselves. Being seen, accepted, loved unconditionally and
immediately. An automatic community for the duration of the workshop becomes
very hard to leave and this last time in Chile, most of the students all went to Brazil
to build another student’s mother’s home. Today those plus some of the Portugal
students are all in Colorado building a previous host’s hom. A reunion of my
students from 3 different workshops getting paid to do work that feels good and is
gentle on the Earth.

My greatest joy is seeing the excitement when people are starting to get it, when
they are mastering the mixing from a one hour process to 15 minutes. When the
cob tosses go smoothly and noone gets slammed with mud or drops their hardearned
dough. When students begin, on day 3 or 4, to get cob fit and in cob
shape, and are enjoying the workout, especially when we have the playlists to up
the rhythm, I know I’ve done my duty. Almost like when ur child starts walking, or
your child leaves home, those stages of growth and independence which relieve
you. Of course there are many more things to learn while building a cob house,
but once the cob making is mastered, the rest flows more easily.

I amaze myself that I never get sick of cob. After a month-long workshop and
everyone is gone…. there I am making myself some horse manure plaster and
plastering my farm shed “jus for fun”. I loove i when the mix is so perfect in
texture that it just bubbles and expands wih each trowelling. One of my greatest
satisfactions, perfect plaster mix.
As I evolve I reallize how incredible cob is in withstanding a heavy reciprocal roof
with ten people on it, with hardly a crack. I never cease to be impressed and know
that one day very soon, Cob will be duly recognized as one of the best building
materials by all people young and old!!!


You’re Never Too Old To….

You’re never too old to do anything as long as you believe in it and start
stepping one foot in front of the other and don’t question it and don’t look
back. Most everyone supported me on the outside but I could tell they
were concerned underneath. But those who know me knew that if
anyone could bike around the Planet alone it would be me. My
mothering duties were complete, at least the physical part. Xica turned
18 and was ready to move out on his own and begin his adult life,
choosing not to go to college like his brothers did, until he was clear on
what his passions and interests were. I thoroughly respected that as he
had a clarity regarding the excessive cost of higher education and did
not want to be in debt unnecessarily, if even at all.

After helping him move out and preparing to sell the house on my own
after 2 failed attempts with odd real estate agents (Santa Cruz is also
known as “The Weird City”)…the footwork began. I had spent $16000 to
legalize my beautiful very first cob house on my property, which cost me
nothing to build. I had become enraged with Santa Cruz and its building
officials. After all I was the “Cob Queen” of Santa Cruz…I had a
reputation to uphold! Being downtown I could no longer hide or have
privacy from their eagle eyes and besides I had taken over all the space
I could with all of our Eco-Living projects. There was no room to expand
AND I was very clear that I could not and did not want to live there any
longer after 20 years, almost half my life. Santa Cruz had treated me
well despite the torment and suffering of dealing with a drug-addicted
co-parent and the increasing population of loonies and marijuana
plantations in everyone’s basement. We had many friends, a healthy
lifestyle, an easy lifestyle,and lots of travelling adventures to stay
sane….but the bubble of Santa Cruz was claustrophobic and my
European roots and African past-life passions were calling me
elsewhere…I longed for elsewhere…

I had trained my sons well to cook, clean, do laundry, build a house,
grow food, learn languages, read books, not use the computer and
phone so much, travel, appreciate world music and culture, be polite
(they might disagree on that one), eat and live healthily, trust in the
Universe with your dreams, manifest what you need and want, honor
women respectfully as Goddesses, and most importantly, to be free.
I felt very calm and serene that my children were safe and could get on
in the world very successfully and autonomously without me waiting at
home for them. And after solo parenting 24/7 for ten years….it was my
turn. That was what I had promised myself the day I knew they had to
be with me only until their Father decided to take care of his addictions.
I sold my House and reaped the benefits on December 7th, 2014, at the
age of 50. I couldn’t have found better new owners of our eccentric
property and they have since taken it to its next life, “upgrading” the
streetcar house to a very fancy remodeled version that starred on the
“Houzzz” TV show. They kept the treehouse and one cob house and
our cat “Sazzy” and the 2 banana trees and the avocado and apple
trees and the same bright yelow, purple and green paint colors. It looks
great and I am very proud of it.

Two days later, on December 9th, with my new handmade foldable Bike
Friday boxed up, my 4 saddle bags full, bungee cords, handlebar bag
and camping gear bagged up in a soft suitcase, I was escorted to the
Oakland Airport by my eldest son Viva. Usually it’s the parent sending
the child off to travel the world, right? Tears flowed as they always do
when parting from my beloved amazing children….and then there I
was….finally….living the dream, as everyone said….Viva waving me
off…not knowing when and where we would meet again.

Being an Aries, I have always liked adventure, jumping in, not knowing,
new things, new landscapes, new vistas, new people, new challenges,
new gifts, etc. That is when I feel most alive. Not having had much
experience with long-term authentically intimate and present
relationships with a partner in my life, which I imagine is another time
when one can feel most alive, all I have known to bring me this wave of
energy and buzz is the anxiety and excitement of arriving somewhere
you have never been before, not knowing what you will see and do that
day, what you will eat, who you will meet, and where you will sleep that
night. That has been the motto of my 4-year journey, except when I was
stable somehwere for 1-4 weeks to either rest and recuperate or to
teach a cob workshop.

I got used to it and I loved it. Sure there were hard moments, some
scary experiences like being mugged twice (both times I got my stuff
back in miraculous ways…see my Blog for the details 😉 and losing my
personal backpack with my treasures in the rain on a busy road in Brazil
at night (also recuperated!!!), but those were literally the only “negatives”
of my whole 4-year Journey. Well I can think of one more that I am not
really ready to share yet, linked to a male encounter, but I am sure it is
on my BLOG.

Goddess was with me the WHOLE time. I assure you. I would wake up
each day thanking the Universe for her support on this journey. There
was not one day that someone did not ask me if I wasn’t scared
travelling alone, in Brazil, in Senegal, in Cabo Verde, in Colombia, in the
US, in Europe, in Morocco. I smiled and always responded “No, the
people of this World are so kind, so generous, so helpful.” And it takes
getting out there on a limb and being vulnerable, new and
unaccustomed, asking for help, smiling, welcoming invitations and being
polite…to know that the World is really a safe place.

I should have counted my kilometers rode and the beds and places I
slept and camped in. So many different places. Some great sleeps and
many difficult sleeps, just from the changes. And of course I’m no
teenager. But in the end, when I look at photos of myself on the journey,
I looked beautiful, radiant, shining, healthy, youthful and happy. Now
that I have stopped the biking life since August, 4 months ago, I am
missing it terribly and feel the difference in my appearance and
aliveness. This whole transition from living on the road, changing places
day in and day out, seeing amazing vistas, landscapes, smelling new
smells, eating new foods, speaking new languages and most of all
transporting myself on a bike through Space with all my stuff….has been
very hard. I like and prefer being in limbo, being everywhere and
nowhere, not belonging to one place but to all places, being free
physically and mentally, being open to all possibilities, being very
connected to the elements, pushing my body hard all day and then
eating tons of delicious food in between, being very tired and very
worked out, and really enjoying the rest. For me it’s Paradise.
The part of this journey that I have not yet mentioned is the work, the
service, the love of my life that I got to share along the way and continue
to earn a living doing what I love and in the most miraculous ways.
Knowing I did not want to just use whatever resources I had for four
years of travelling without giving back significantly and in doing so
earning money, one of my very initial intenions I decided was to see if I
could hold cob building workshops along the way, somehow. Clearly
teaching cob workshops in California and the US where I was known
and had a following was alot easier than trying to set something up in
the dozen countries I was interested in exploring. I had no idea how I
would do that, and once again I put one foot in front of the other, and
when you are pedaling for 4-5 hours a day there is alot of thinking time.

The first workshop connection was made using the Workaway website
where people put hosting requests online for people they need to help
them with anything. I found a woman (another Aries) my age in the
Canary Islands on Fuerteventura who needed help building a cob
house. In 3 weeks we organized a 25-person 4-day workshop and
finished her 2-story cob house (2 walls were already built). It was a true
miracle. A huge success and bode well for my income idea. While there
I connected with someone who also wanted to host a workshop later
that year. And I found another woman my age in Senegal who wanted
to host a cob workshop. And on and on. And from that first connection
and workshop in March of 2015 to the one I most recently completed on
the island of Faial in September 2018 I have completed 25 workshops
(mostly lasting 14-28 days) over 4 years in 12 different countries. Many
of the workshops were in new places but going back to countries I had
already been in because I would meet the next hosts while doing
another workshop. So in truth I have not been around the world but
rather circled from Europe down to Senegal through the Canaries and
Cabo Verde 3 times, after which I finally set myself free from this merrygo-
round and headed to the US and then South America. I never got to
truly go around the world and besides I have other plans for my life and
it would take a lifetime to see everywhere by bike as I have. I did meet
an Indian man while in Senegal who had been biking for 10 years on an
AIDS awareness mission and was intent on hitting every country in the
world. When we met he was heading to his last 2 continents, South
America and North America. I have to say he was a bit kooky and I can
surely imagine why.

Nonetheless, here I am now sitting in a little rented studio on the island
of São Miguel in the Azores which is part of Portugal, on Christmas Day,
alone with my computer, writing. It seems fitting that I write these words
now as I prepare, in a few weeks, to complete the purchase of these
magical 6 hectares of land in the Alentejo region of Portugal that will be
a new and future Homestead. Today, 4 years later, my Journey is complete                                   and I am ready to birth a unique Ecovillage in a sweet part of the world.
I have been transitioning from the travelling nomad
life to the Homestead life emotionally and preparing for a new project to
collaborate in with others. I want to create a Center for people to
come and rest, find themselves, experience community living and how
to care for and live close to the Earth. Something that we are seeing
more and more of today, thankfully. I hope to make this Center
accessible for everyone, bringing people from all walks of life, all
backgrounds, cultures, races, and ages together to learn true Collaboration,
Communication and Love. I looks forward to working with my three
sons who each have very special skills and interests that will greatly
support and enhance this project.

Shortly, in mid-January, I will embark to Argentina and
Chile, new destinations, where I will meet future workshop hosts
(Argentina) and teach a 6-week workshop in Chile on my student’s land.
My travelling life continues as that is the work I have developed over the
last decade and a half, though I will need to make the time to be still on
the land to begin my journey there as well. I am really thankful Karen
has asked me to put words down and tell my story, as I do have an
unfinished Journal/Blog waiting to be completed, a Book in mind, and
even a Screenplay. This has allowed me to summarize and start the
process energetically. As a by-product, I hope to be an inspiration to all
of you who read this, to know in your Heart that your desire and need to
feel ALIVE is worthy of taking the first step and the next, to do what is
necessary to honor your right and need as a Human on Earth to feel
Free to be yourself always and have a BLAST in this Lifetime! Ho!


It’s been a looooooong road since Day 1 (December 9, 2014)…..

It’s been a year since I wrote the last COBlog, or more. Interesting. The last year of the
Globalcobtrotter Ride went quickly though not without many an event to keep this Cob Queen
busy. Today I sit by an oceanview window in the tiny end-of-the-world village by the name of
Mosteiros (Monasteries) on the Azorean island of São Miguel. And ponder the last 4 years of

Riding like the wind down the Bahian coast of Brazil…struggling breathlessly up the unpleasant
climbs of Colombia… succeeding the highest peaks of the Pyrenées on my tiny-wheeled foldable
Bike Friday while the racers flew by and cheered…and chilling in a hammock for four days on the
Amazon River while my bike took a break too. Clearly the memories are endless and colorful and
have been and will be recorded and edited in book form and, with much new learning and help,
movie format. The material is too good to keep for myself.

My journey was dual, as those of you who have followed me know. I wanted to bike around the
world (glad I even got to do the 15 countries I did) and teach international intercultural cob
workshops along the way for the good of the planet and the people. I did not know how I would do
the latter and had an idea of how I would do the former, as I had already lived abroad and always
with my bike.

As all of you who commune with Great Spirit know, when you are clear and intent on manifesting
your Heart’s Calling, nothing is an obstacle, only a new learning experience faced with excitement
and even some healthy fear. This adventure had everything to keep me entertained, including a
couple of robberies with happy endings. I could not have asked for more support from the
Universe. I am utterly grateful and blissful that I am in good health, good shape, a better person,
more knowledgeable about a variety of places and cultures, more experienced in social relations,
got to share good times with my boyz along the way, and even have more money in the bank than
when I started!!!! (That was the plan)

SInce the last Blog entry there have been 5 cob workshops: Austin, Texas…Carrancas, Brazil…
Guatapé, Colombia…Trinidad, Colorado…and Faial, Azores. Oh and the first CruzinCobGlobal
oven workshop taught by my students Krystal and Bea. They were a combination of 3 month-long
complete builds (the roof is always a wild card), an oven/bench combo, and a 3-week wall
workshop. My intent for 2018 was to hold 4 month-long workshops and I managed 2. Brazil was
cancelled due to organizational difficulties and Morocco was cancelled due to cultural confusions
and my own tired self!

With each workshop it seemed the students were more productive and were able to build faster
and more. Even the Wild Woman workshop in Faial, which did not quite turn out as I had
imagined, started with a 2-story building with a 50cm wide foundation and bottom of wall which
took a week and a half, and was still able to complete the walls, sculpting and plaster in only 2.5

Each workshop has taught me something and grown me. Whether it was about including more
Circle Time and extracurricular activities like yoga, dance and salsa, or joining the students on a
field trip to Taos for the weekend, or letting go completely of my plans for the morning and sitting
and processing personal issues all together instead, I always received something from each
workshop and each student. And I know that each student took away alot more than just a new skill
and knowledge of how to build themselves a house. Even if that was all they took away, hallelujah!
But CruzinCobGlobal is definitely fulfilling its vision and mission of spreading the COB throughout
the Planet while giving students a memorable intercultural experience in each country.

Often it is a challenge for Cob Instructors to sustain themselves teaching in Third World countries
where people have less or no funds to pay for a workshop, which is why the international format
succeeds by allowing the students who can pay for a workshop to subsidize the possibility for the
ones who can’t. In the end we all need each other to build a house, a village, raise a family, live,
learn and grow. Cob workshops are a microcosm of a Happy Planet, with its ups and downs,
different personalities, celebrations, joy, difficult moments, rituals, playfulness, hard work, good
shared meals and all in all an opportunity to connect with the Earth and People in an intense new
way. You are guaranteed to come out transformed and with new ideas.

For me personally, as a solo lone wolf mama, the upcoming workshops are always exciting to look
forward to, to try new things and meet another new set of students. Working with new hosts I have
never yet met in person has proven to be a challenge alot of the time and for that reason I have
decided to only work with hosts I know or have had a chance to meet with in person. Yes there is
nothing like feeling out each other’s energy and getting a real take on your ability to work intimately
with someone for a month and their ability to host successfully. After 14 years of organizing
workshops I know what it takes to host. It is no small feat and most people underestimate the work
they need to do before and during to make it work well on all fronts. With all the documents I
provide, and photos and videos online, and conversations…just like childbirth…you just don’t get it
until you do it!

Nonetheless the workshops have been separated by wonderful journeys from one to the next
through lands I have wanted to bike through, which was my intent in designing my route and
finding hosting opportunities along the way. Who knows how many kiometers or miles were
pedaled..ALOT!!!!! My legs know, my arms and wrists know and my back and eyes know. Some
of the people I met along the way who were biking or who hosted me are now still on the road and
a small part of me wants to join them! Small! Cause I dont know if this body wants to keep going
and sleep outside night after night in a new spot with new sounds, new things to be aware of, new
foods, new adventures. I’m a bit tired though short month-long journeys I can see in the near
future. Once a bike traveller always a bike traveller!

For now…I am trying to adjust to incorporating this vision I had of myself gracefully sliding into
settled living and finding the land, the partner and the community with ease. Yeah, right? Did
anyone remind me that I would also unbeknownst to me gracefully slip into emotional postnomadic
withdrawal symptoms and depression? Noooo! I am freakin’ out! I was hoping that if I
just quietly made a call to live in the Azores and shipped all my belongings (54 boxes) by boat for
$3800 from Oakland, CA to Ponta Delgada, São Miguel, posted it publicly on FB and and told all
the important people in my life….that all would unfold perfectly. NOOOOT!

I have been on and off crying for the last 5 weeks, feeling quite restless and bored as fuck (not my
usual MO) and wondering what the fuck made me think that a fun and easy free-flowin’ bike ride
around this island for two weeks 2 years ago, camping everywhere and feeling free, would qualify
this place as my future ideal home. Did I even think of the people aspect? Hello!!! Society,
friends, music, salsa dancing, good restaurants, organic farms, Black culture, art life, and a culture
that stays up past 10pm and opens their windows to the world??? Heavy Heavy.

Well after 3 retracted way-too-fast offers for land and weird old tear-down houses that woke me up
to the reality of “You will be based here for a whiiiile…if you put that money down”…and woke the
real estate agents up to the confused foreign woman who you should stay away from….I’m pullin’
back, chillin’ out, and even if my worldly and emotional possessions are on a boat on their way
here after travelling for 2 months through hurricanes and the Panama Canal…I’m cool now. As my
son Viva says, “ Just take this sacred time for yourself Mom. Be with yourself. Love yourself. Make
your scrapbooks you’ve been wanting to do. Read a book. Don’t do anything. Just BE!”
And yes that is the word I’m hearing from on high too. Just relax now. Stop tryin’ to make things
happen. Stop pushing forward with the next plan and the next to-do-list. Man it’s hard. The first
thing I do when my eyes open in the morning, actually before they open as it is what make them
open, is think about my to-do-list. But my happy to-do list. My exciting to-do-list. Not the one with
“Call the IRS” on it. The endless creative development one. Still, it’s a to-do-list. And what I really
need to do is just be now. Smell the flowers. Save the poor juvenile endangered cagarro birds
walking the village streets at night because they fall from being blinded by the street lights and get
disoriented and need humans to take them to the beach. Talk to my neighbor Tania about the
weather and the figs on her tree that she downt want. Watch the endless flow of tourists park their
shiny little cars and get out with their 8” long lenses to take a few sunset photos, walk on the sand,
see the Beauty, and get back in to head to the next stop. Watch the teenaged boys, just like
anywhere in the world, huddled up in their hangout spot under the trees, smokin’ cigs or joints, and
checkin’ out the white bulbous female bodies they will never have an exchange with. Watch the
short, older well-wrinkled fishermen also huddled together lookin’ at the same white bulbous bodies
they will never have an exchange with.

The only life in this village is the kids and the elementary school. That is the saving grace of
Cecilia, my landlady. The youth keeps her sane and motivated. Like everywhere in the world,
right? The pre-10 year olds that haven’t been corrupted by much of the world happenings and
technology yet. Maybe. Anyway here at the end of the island it’s still a safe place. Safety,
security…THOSE are the key things that stuck with me about this island actually. That I could
sleep openly on any unoccupied field and noone would care or try to rob me or bother me. The
locals are shy that way. That there were no “Camping Prohibited” signs along the way. That I had
alot of space to just be. Of course that was after travelling through Africa and Morocco. It’s all
about contrast. We learn what we value and what is a priority for us when we don’t have it. The
key is to find the middle point where we don’t need to be in extremes all the time. I guess that’s it.
What’s my middle point that I can live with with my greatest needs met and my not so great needs
partially or not met. Greatest needs: my children nearby, mom close by, healthy environment,
moist climate, good drinking water, healthy agriculture, ocean nearby, cool, progressive society
with Afro-based dance and music, community vibes, ease to build and create…. and economical!
Not too much to ask for and probably most people I know’s greatest needs list too.

It’s funny. So many people are wandering on Earth looking for “home” right now, like the Jews of
yonder, of which I am a descendant. Only we self-chosen nomads are very fortunate to be free,
have some money-making skills, know how to create our income while being mobile (thanks to
those devices), and how to live without a home base. We get very good at it. We recognize each
other and commune easily. For a while. And then we are gone again on a plane, a boat, a train, a
car ride, a bike, our feet, away from here and going there. Cause we heard sopme good things
about it. Got some good referrals for housing and food.

And then there are the temporary nomads that after having saved up their income opportunities
and had minimal expenses for years on end, are ready to stop and buy land and create their
Permaculture Homestead with a bungalow or two to rent out and a food forest, some goats for milk
and cheese, and maybe room for a few friends. That is what I am finding here on São Miguel too.
Perhaps it is the budding next mecca that will take over the traditional island culture. And create its
own new culture with some contributions from the old guard that also knew how to thrive here in a
different way. But the squared-up white concrete block or rock-covered-with-cement houses all
lined up and facing each other with a few windows facing the street and the rest of the innards
hidden from the ocean will then be replaced because the New Generation of Azoreans have other
ideas. They want to face the ocean, see the sunrise and sunset, ride the waves, feel the wind,
work the land productively and naturally, many people together, grow as many fruit trees as
possible, repopulate the island with juicy joy, music, dance, parties, festivals, communities,
gatherings playfulness, and electric geothermal-generated transportation. Maybe the people who
came here years ago had to escape, run, and then kept going to the Americas and Canada and
saw this place as harsh, scary, overwhelming. And so that is how they built their homes. To protect
them and hide them from the elements outside.

So there is change in the air. Many lands are being sold to the newcomers for a hefty price. But it
is allowing a slow takeover and transition. Maybe that is what I was attracted to. The possibilities
inherent in this place. I didn’t think of the people because I didnt feel connected to them, as the
others here also feel. And this is cause for a strange feeling to be here and not connect with the
people who have lived here for a long time. When I say the people I mean more the villagers who
are a tighter-knit community because they are the ones who remain here year in and year out, who
rarely leave to visit other parts of the island even. One woman here, my landlady, goes to town
once a month and has never been to some other parts of the island I asked her about. What a
funny contrast with the nomads of the world who can’t sit still!! This village, Mosteiros, really puts it
right in your face. Maybe it’s not all boring here. It just is. And we have been too overstimulated
with our phones, computers, ipods, even books and movies, etc. Maybe just being with what is is
happening right here right now, all around me, and I can’t escape. Mosteiros, Monasteries, an
enlightenment immersion, if you so wish to embrace it. May the Force of Self-Love be with you!



I had a feeling this workshop would be the one that would reach my personal goal of truly completing the whole building right to the roof covering. It is the third month-long cob workshop I have led and for factors that I managed to control this time, the previous two did not attain the roof completion. I am learning to stay strict about building size relative to number of students and strict about the schedule. I think I am also learning to support the students mentally and physically in maximizing their potential.. I still realize that whatever number I declare to be the daily individual goal for cob batches, people rarely attain that consistently. The lesson this time was that as I lowered the daily goal to 3, the lowest yet, people lowered their output. If I had declared it to be 6 batches, everyone would easily be making 3 batches a day. At 3, there were many 1 batch days for a number of students. My intention in the cob workshops I teach is to have students experience the intensity of effort it takes to complete a cob building in a reasonable time frame. Most cob projects I have heard about take an excessively long time to complete because it’s hard work and not systematized or consistent. On the job sites I have had, the only way we can advance effectively is to have systems of concentrated production, multi-tasking with trimming, and of course having all the inserted materials prepped and ready when needed. Same for the workshops. When talking with other teachers or students who have taken other workshops, what I hear is that a full building is never completed. I know that students really want this experience and when they accomplish benchmarks like finishing the wall, there is such an ecstatic bliss that sets in, along with fulfillment, pride and confidence, that I know I am doing the right thing.

The Texas workshop students had a phenomenal synergy. There was the youthful crew that worked hard and played hard, every night, and weekends…and then the others that paced their energy with early bedtime and restful weekends. Nonetheless the closeness and joy of the whole group grew quickly from Day 1 until the difficult goodbyes one month later. The deep bond that was formed in the creation of this beautiful sculpted cob studio is irreparable and eternal. Each student has gained the knowledge and ability to do the same when they return home or wherever they are. For this reason, the Complete Cob Workshops will become CruzinCobGlobal’s standard offering 4 times a year, all over the world. It is this type of workshop that will produce confident and able Cobbers, ready to be assistant teachers and ready to build cob projects.

Congratulations to the new class of Advanced Cobber graduates! Well done!


CruzinCobGlobal whirls thru 4 Portuguese-speaking workshops in 2 months!!!

I knew when I scheduled the last 2017 workshops of the Euro-Afro Cob Tour from Cabo Verde to Castro Verde between May 14 and August 7 that I would be in for an intense period of “work”.  Of course perhaps to the outside world it appears as a paradise lifestyle, earning a living teaching cob building workshops while travelling to places like Cabo Verde, the Azores Islands of Portugal, the Alentejo region of Portugal, France, Spain, Morocco, the Canaries and so on, but trust me once the workshops get rolling it’s nonstop intensity and very hard work to pull it all together and complete a quality building in a short period of time with new cobbers and an avid host or two .  Of course that’s why I love it. I like the extremes of working my butt off for a defined period of time, creating a fulfilling win-win-win outcome and then chilling in exotic locations.  And of course I LOOOOOVE spreading the passion of cob to new hands, hearts and feet who speak all kinds of languages.  The cob is the glue of the Heart & Soul that creates happy families during and after every workshop.  Long-lasting friendships are born and long-distance communities created and sustained by the love of the cob building experience.  My pleasure is knowing that I am providing each and every one of my students with the skills to build their own future home with minimal financial input and thus gifting them FREEDOM

Hallelujah we did it!

from dependency on the system for the one thing that can enslave us the most: our own shelter, an inalienable right according to the Declaration of Independence of the USA.  Freedom to use their time and energy to do what they love, follow their Heart’s calling, explore, learn and just lie on the grass looking up at the sky and daydreaming about whatever comes up!!!  We need more free unstructured time in our lives to be the creators we were born to be, the intentional actors in our stories, which comes with less financial pressure which, in the West and more of the rest of the world than ever, comes with no monthly mortgage or rent payments.  Right?

The glee on people’s faces when they see the cob building begin to look like a home, with plaster on beautiful sculptures, the roof structure going on, the finished floor being poured…and the excitement they exude about going “home” to build right away….are my Soulfood.  As the time draws near for this global cob journey to wind down (Summer of 2018), I will continue to grow CruzinCobGlobal’s reach and impact with an inspired and energetic team of committed assistants and future teachers from all over the world.  Who can resist a life making your income by teaching Cob Building all over the world? I need teachers who can speak all the languages required to hold workshops everywhere.  I have demand coming from every continent. Seriously! Give me Spanish speakers, Portuguese speakers, Romanian speakers, Wolof speakers, Arabic speakers, Norwegian speakers, Russian speakers, Hindi speakers, Chinese speakers….and let me train them!  I am doing my best  to make the workshops a win win win and affordable to all who want to come. Next year I will begin collaborating with sponsors for the interested students who cannot make a financial contribution or need assistance.

This Spring 2018 I will celebrate my 54th revolution around the sun in Bahia, Brazil with my 1st workshop in South America, a one-month Complete Cob Build in which we will be staying in a brand new Ecovillage and building their first communal building out of cob….the hearth, the kitchen, the food love space!  The Ecovillage is only a few miles from the beach and situated in a protected national forest on a river.  I cannot wait to see this place and Brazil after 30 years!  Save the dates: March 17th to April 15th, 2018!!!  Until then my friends we have an Oven Workshop in Santa Cruz and a Complete Cob Workshop in Texas as the grand finales for 2017.  Is it time for you yet to join the action?


Fastest Build Yet: 7 days Foundation to Roof in Sal, Cabo Verde (w/ video!)

I am not sure if I am becoming a more efficient teacher, if my Portuguese is getting better, if Sal is the perfect Cob Building environment or I just got blessed with a Power Building posse of students in May…but this was the fastest 10km2 build yet!

I arrived on a Friday afternoon in Sal airport and was met and whisked away with excitement by Paola Mariani in her white flatbed delivery truck!

Best Hosts

Paola, an Italian wild woman (Leo) and her husband Camilo, an Argentinian wilder man (Gemini) brought me to their giant nursery and abandoned animal park at the entrance of Santa Maria, the largest concentration of tourism in Cabo Verde.  Their outfit is the only one of its kind on this dry desert landscape and an outpost of GREEN, humidity, shade and comfort on Sal.  Locals and tourists alike come to enjoy a break from the heat and sun and pretend they are in the temperate zone of Europe, romping on the green lawn and picnicking under the variety of once-local tree species.  All the vegetation is fed by reclaimed greywater from the endless resorts on the island and rows of dried poop from the septic tanks lines the hectares of unused land around them.

Grateful to collaborate with such a vibrant and effective young couple, I got to work immediately on Friday afternoon as we brainstormed the easiest and cheapest foundation materials.  Used tires!!! Yes!!!

Tires for foundation

And Paola sent Boris, their man-of-all-trades manager, off to collect tires everywhere!  Within an hour he was back with the 50 tires we needed to build our two-level foundation for a 10km2 structure right at the entrance to the tour of Viveiro Cabo Verde!  Within a few hours we had dug the trench, poured in gravel and lay the first row of tires densely packed with gravel with only half the builders (4).  We had 7 days to get to the roof.  Visitors were already showin’up to check things out after Paola’s Facebook launch only a few days before we started.

What followed was one of the most exciting worksites I have had the fortune to lead in all my experience.  Sal has clay soil everywhere, mostly red, and mostly free, or so it seems.  It does require an addition of “rough sand” to make it perfect, which we found in the riverbed, free too.  The only momentary challenge was the “straw”, which we created out of palm frond leaves separated a couple of times to reach the ideal width by a happy group of women who enjoyed the talk/work setup while the guys were sweating away.  I like to have men and women working on the site but in this case, with a time crunch, it was useful to have some active muscle at work bringing materials, making cob, building, throwing, etc.

My 7-8 Cabo Verdian mixed student body, as usual, did not know what was coming.  Some were from other islands, some had a building background, others specialized in landscaping and plants and we had one soccer player/bartender and one musician.  In 7 days they all became experienced cob builders and their eyes grew wide as did their smiles as they saw the red, personally sculpted “casinha” bungalow grow taller and more beautiful under their hands each day.  At the end of their 8-hours, they would all stand back and look at what they had accomplished that day and their self-confidence and empowerment grew as they realized the unexpected gift they had been given in these 7 days: the skills and knowledge to build themselves a beautiful, solid, organic home for free!  A real house that worked and would stand out from all the others!  No cement, no blocks, no rebar and little or no money!  With trade they could gather all they needed and afford a home soon!  The glee and passion I witness in my students all over the world as they accomplish and complete a structure is my gift to myself.  I know it will then go out and replicate bringing Joy and Happiness to more people, feed their Souls, expand their Consciousness and Images of what is possible on the Planet.  Most important of all for me is that I am benefitting the health of the Earth, my Mother, our Mother, who sits under us humbly gifting food, building materials, water, Beauty, comfort and Love.  I know I am doing well by Her and that is my Peace.


Salaam AleyCOB!!!

Morocco is where my mother was born and raised. It is between Spain and Senegal, and east of the Canaries and northeast of Cabo Verde. Two years after beginning the Global CobTrotter Journey, I am completing full circle. Actually 3 full circles. Spain to the Canaries to Cabo Verde to Senegal to Cabo Verde to the Canaries to Spain to Portugal to Senegal to Cabo Verde to France to Portugal to Spain to Morocco. Fitting that I finish this triple circle in the middle and in my mother’s homeland. She is now 77 and after 40 years in NYC has moved back to the neighborhood of her youth, with her friends of her youth. While NYC is my hometown, I have been introduced to Morocco on many occasions but never have I introduced COB to Morocco.

Once again, I find an ancient earth-building culture that, like all the others, has strayed from its roots replacing them with inefficient, ugly and expensive concrete blocks. Our workshop was in the countryside which allowed us to experience more of the roots of traditional building techniques. There is a form of cob walls with no straw or fiber, and there are adobe blocks, also with no fiber.
Because of the minimal rainfall and the rich red clay content, these walls endure. However upon examination of a shake test of one of the very old (300 years?) walls that stands as ruins outside Jamal’s doors, we found no coarse sand at all in the mix. As a matter of fact it was about 30% clay and 70% fine sand. The ratio was ok but such a mix would be very sticky and not structurally as sound as a coarse sand cob mix. As I learned from my teachers and I teach my students…Cob is forgiving. But is it even true Cob with no fiber? Naaaah. That would be weak adobe.

Thus I had something to teach not only my American and European students , but my trio of Moroccan students, who will, hopefully, pass on the good deed to their friends who will show their friends, and so on. When they saw us mixing with our feet and getting all muddy, the Tadelakt (lime finish plaster) artisans would have nothing to do with us. Dressed pretty in their leather jackets and jelled hair, they watched from afar lest Jamal encourage them to join in. What is it about getting muddy and “dirt”y that is “lowly” in the eyes of non-Westerners? In Senegal it took a bit for the Senegalese to feel OK jumping in once they saw the white folk enjoying it. We, the new eco-generations, thrive on being one with the land, living in earth houses, eating mostly plants and ignoring plastic.

Eventually the locals cannot resist as they see how much fun it is despite the hard work. With some rockin’ Islamic prayer tunes followed by peppy Michael Franti and Cabo Verdian-Japanese fusion, our bodies move easier and our collaboration is more fun. Once again a new family is born, the cob bonding with cob and bonding the humans, who came from the clay and become transformed in the clay. Artists and sculptors emerge in the last days, embellishing and personalizing the sweatily-built walls, bestowing life and unique beauty upon them. Satisfaction reigns when we stand back and look at our work. The plaster is the reward, smoothing and finishing the walls with horse poop for ultimate protection. We work together on the last day to give our Hammam as much as we can, taking away the skills to build one out of cob one day, and finish it with the age-old smooth-as-silk Moroccan lime finish cultivated right here in homemade lime kilns.

Amazing food, amazing people, amazing vistas and souks to get lost in….another wonderful experience! Shoukran!!!



Time to Reflect After France….

Dear Friends

Sitting here under a starry sky punctuated by my bright MacBook Air in total contrast to the peaceful cricket background hum and dark outline of the pine trees against the Pyreneean night.

I have spent the whole day in a 36 round fut cob/straw hobbit hut complete with ochre sculpted fireplace and smoke pipe. IMG_9944I have spent 3 weeks sleeping in this humble natural home with no door, exposed to the spiders, ants and other flying bugs that make it their home too. Outside my hut is a 270 degree panorama of open field, lined with fir trees and farther off the Pyrenee foothills begin. The evening is a welcome relief from the searing 100+ degree days with no wind. I can sleep clotheless and comfortably at night without sweating or chilling. Perfect temperature.

Today was Decompression Day after my 11th Cob Workshop since I started my World Bike Tour in December 2014. I am proud of myself for keeping at it and continuing to spread the good word and the good deed. Each workshop is a new adventure and has its own sets of challenges and new discoveries. Apart from the new soils and sands and straw or straw alternative to work with, I have new people, cultures, settings, climates, students, projects, etc. IMG_9686I am learning and growing and realizing, little by little, what it takes to make a good workshop while remaining open to the fact that I can’t control all the elements all the time. And getting to know my own personal preferences in terms of my needs as well.

This last workshop was a smallish one with 5 lovely diverse students who worked very hard to complete a 12m2 structure in the 12 days we had. Always the hard work starts and breaks everyone in within a few days. We find our groove and relax into the earth work. As the wall grows, people feel happy to see their work show up clearly before their eyes. The first 2-3 feet are always the hardest…straight cob around and around. We insert rocks for some reprieve from the endless mixes. This workshop I made a goal of 4 loaves per person per day. Even that was always a push. IMG_9720Maybe I should say 6 next time so 4 seems less overwhelming. There’s alot of mental effort as well in this work. I am learning that people need to feel ahead of the game. Satisfied with their days’ work. I am learning to have smaller goals. I tried to keep the structure small and once again the owners wanted bigger. Deals were made that were not maintained and once gain the push to complete the walls was on.

It seems a part of me wants the students to have that great satisfaction of finishing the wall(s) and seeing the results of their hard work, and another part wants everyone to take it easy and have a good time. I am always between the Owners of the land and the students, trying to find a happy balance. However in alignment with my own driven personality, I tend towards encouraging the students to work hard to complete. Another reason I prefer the goal of completion and its intense time frame, is that once COB BUILDING gets rollin’, especially with a group effort, it’s good to keep it rollin’. IMG_9940Earthwork is heavy and effortful and done communally it all goes much more easily. These are the points I want the students to experience: the physical work, the pace of actually getting the walls up, and the importance of bringing in a community to work together in a more productive and enjoyable flow. This is how a cob house can get erected in a “useful” timeframe. Working alone you’re looking at 4-10 times longer. For me it took 4 years. It becomes a long building meditation. And that’s fine if you have the time. But if you want to move in in, or if you are hired to build for someone, energy management is key.

On the other hand students who pay to learn in one of our workshops also don’t want to feel like laborers. Thus it is important to have chunks of downtime, yoga, playing and other activities to nurture the energy for the building. So many things to fit in, and still have the solid fresh energy to make those mixes for a week or more. Each workshop gives me the opportunity to improve the experience, for myself, the client and the students. Yet there is always the unexpected, especially as one moves over the Planet into new realms. This is what I chose and why I chose it. I was yearning for NEW, SURPRISES, UNKNOWN, CHALLENGES. And with these I am growing myself, as graciously and gratefully as my 52 year-young self will allow me to. One day at a time.



“Santiago Workshop On Fire”….by Viva Hansen

There is an ideal mission for CruzinCobGlobal. That mission is to effectively deliver the tools and knowledge of Cob building to people who need it. The workshop formula is a great way of achieving our goal. But it is always tricky realizing organization and coherence in our execution through different cultures.

This last workshop in the small town of São Domingos, Cabo Verde embodied the fullest expression of CruzinCobGlobal’s mission statement to date. The success of any workshop is directly proportional to a host’s desire and need for Cob,

Mom and Elayni

Mom and Elayni

which is proportional to their understanding of the importance of natural building and its role in community integration and environmental consciousness. All these things and more were evident in Neiva when she approached Claudine just days after we finished our work in São Vicente.

What Neiva had always wanted was a different home. She was tired of the monotony of concrete around her, and she felt there were other options she might not know about. The only thing slowing her down was the lack of professionals on her island. So when she saw Claudine on Cabo Verde’s news network she immediately began taking steps to manifest a workshop in her town as well. What was singular about Neiva was her effort to petition local government and non- profits asking them to appreciate the importance of a paradigm switch in the building practices in the community. She worked for

Almost there

Almost there

two weeks to present them with evidence that Cob building is a legitimate alternative to concrete and steel, and what she walked away with was word from local non-profit City Habitat agreeing to sponsor fifteen students to take our course. Fifteen young men and women, college educated and currently unemployed, who wanted to learn something they could expand on in their professional life. The students were architects, plumbers, electricians, masons, professors, government officials, shepherds, musicians and more—people that expressed interest in the alternative.

The first day everyone kind of milled around waiting for the



start. It was foggy, we were up in the mountains. It was good cobbing weather. We starting using the very earth we was dug up to build the foundation. Two buckets of that, one bucket of sand and a handful of straw we had collected from up the mountain. People started taking their shoes off and feeling the mix on their feet. As always the smiles start appearing—people rolling up their pants and turning their hats backwards. People getting into it.

The thing is, as the walls go up something sparks the imagination and we start to clearly see how we would use this medium of Cob. Now I’m on the hill overlooking the collaborative celebration that is a cob workshop and hearing everyone talk about what kind of house they would make.IMG_8963 People debating whether or not Cob could be used in this or that setting. Wondering if salt water would work for people who live by the beach and don’t have abundant access to water for building. And as the weeks moves on these students, these young people, start coming back earlier and earlier because they are excited to see this house that they are creating come into fruition. It cannot be stressed enough how empowering of a feeling it is.

But what was so refreshing about this particular workshop experience was that it really was the clear expression of CruzinCobGlobal’s goal. Here you have an organization that believes in the power of natural building enough to sponsor a group of budding professionals to build a model home in order to create a team to spread the practice throughout the land and into the future. Basically it feels like we’ve done our job very well. That we’ve helped plant the seed of sustainable construction in another community that might never have gotten it this straightforwardly, informally and easily.

A Familha Beleza!

A Familha Beleza!


The Cabo Verdean Culture of Rock n’ Cob Houses Opens the Door to Something New…

As I make my way into new countries and cultures, especially non-industrialized, non-Western (all these labels are kinda janky, as my kids say) lands I am always excited to discover how my introduction of Cob will be received. In Senegal, traditionally a mud house-building people, especially in the Southern Casamance region, IMG_7397our techniques were still of interest. There they don’t use straw in their mix and often use termite mound mix which barely has any clay in it and washes away with water. Some areas do have really good yellowish clay soils that may be akin to the red ready-mix of the Sierra Foothills. They mainly use block-making building style with forms. They certainy don’t take time to test as we have been taught and teach others. But heck, if it’s still standing after the rainy season then it’s a good mix.

Here in Cabo Verde the tradition is rock with cob originally and now cement mortar. You only see them in the rural areas. It seems cob is faster and easier and cheaper though. It took the “pedreiros” or “stoners” (heehee) 4 days to build a 12m2 foundation! Rocks are heavy and unless they’re right where you want to build, the transport is costly and demanding.

The first day we started the wall the masons were still there and curious to see what we were up to in the workshop. Within minutes of starting the first mix, they were piqued. They watched intently as I demonstrated the pisé cob dance and came in

Nuno's First Cob Mix Ecstasy Dance

Nuno’s First Cob Mix Ecstasy Dance

closer to pick up on the fine details. They were excited. Everyone was… as they always are on Day 1. Come back on Day 5, 6 and 7 and see how excited everyone is! The “pedreiros” jumped in and began their dance with agile feet and a good rhythm. Everyone always has their unique steppin’-in-the-mud style but the Black Africans in Senegal definitely had a groove I’ve never seen that is somehow connected to their tribal dance steps. They twist their feet outwards and use their whole body weight at a nice clip. Here in Cabo Verde, not as African, there was a little less initial naturalness. As I said they are a rock land.

Nonetheless it wasn’t until we were almost finished with the walls that people REALLY got it. “Wow, these walls are strong!” the cheesemaker, the welder and the other rural folk began complimenting our work. “Touch it! Go ahead! Kick the walls!” I offered up. They did. A bit shy and surprised, they were not sure what to make of this new



technique for building that was clearly cheaper, natural, beautiful, local and sturdy. This part of the world is very set in their ways, we have learned. Things take a long time to come into effect. They got used to cement, didn’t they? We are moving forwards people….come along for the ride….

University professors, architects, engineers, contractors, the national TV, students and more neighbors all came by to see. You can talk about COB all day long….but it’s when you take action and make it happen by letting people mix and build and feel and see the wall growing in their hands that the magic of awakening and revolution begins to happen, one mix, one cob loaf, one builder, one cob family at a time. The auburn green-roofed12m2 room we built is now visible on the horizon to every passing vehicle on the road. Its unique shape and natural colors draw the eye and attention. Calháu will never be the same and has begun its road to showing an alternative to the concrete landscape of today. May the cob house speak for itself, silently creating transformation, a sensual kiss on the surface of Mother Earth.

Perfect Symmetry

Perfect Symmetry