California Cob Hits “La Casamance” in Senegal


Forest Beings Come to Each Village to Give their Medicine!

Finally biked into “La Casamance”, the lush breadbasket of Senegal that is separated from the “North” by Gambia and a plethora of cultural differences. Immediately the land welcomes you with its diverse forestry, greener landscape, greater living spaces and new language. Diola is the majority ethnic group in this land of rebels that say “Kassumei” rather than “Nangadeff”. It is more tranquil here, less Muslim, and palm wine is the beverage of choice. Tapped every morning by professional tree climbers who take along plastic water bottles which they hang on the tree after lightly tapping holes to find the fountain of this elixir which I am told brings a myriad of health benefits, akin to coconut water. The taste in the morning is fresh and bubbly and naturally earthily sweet. It has a watery milky appearence and people swig it up as they walk down the path home from the boutique. It flows readily most of the year and goes for 250CFA or $.40 a liter.

So here I am now in the land of “banko”, the mysterious earthen construction material and technique I have been told about since my arrival in Senegal. Still not quite sure what to expect as it has come in many different descriptions, I think I have finally figured out. “Banko” is the material of termite mounds which is 90% sand and a small sliver of clay in the shake tests I have performed. IMG_7398Nonetheless when they break it IMG_7397down, wet it and form it into 16” long by 6” wide and 8” tall blocks, they are used for construction, cemented together and perhaps traditionally with some kind of earthen mortar. Upon closer interaction and after dousing one with water and scraping it with my nails, I find that it disassembles and disintegrates instantaneously and feels like it’s all sand. Oh my!!! No wonder people don’t want to build with it and give it a terrible rap. In addition they build directly on the ground, in a climate with about 4 months of big rains. Some houses I hear withstand the rains for years under the protection of significant “hats” or rooves. Good for them! Other people add cement to the mix. The smart ones don’t cover the bricks with a cement plaster, others bear the consequences and perhaps learn. I am told that there is a cob-like technique called “poto”, demonstrated to me in hand gestures that look like handfuls of some clay mix are balled up and then added to the wall. The big difference with cob however is the lack of straw in their mixes. Despite the extensive presence of straw in this part of Senegal, it is not a custom here to put straw into earthen mixes, only on rooves or for fences. I think that is a major weakness I am happy to share.

Within a few days of landing here we met Peter Diatta who welcomed us onto his land and set up a spontaneous cob workshop. Peter lives in Monterey part-time with Jenny his American wife and so our Santa Cruz origins were the immediate glue. Peter and Jenny (absent and in the US) were delighted to have a California Cob bungalow on their property and within another week we had found the rare clay source, straw and an uncomfortable excuse for coarse sand. IMG_7473There is no such thing here so we decided to use their laterite gravel which cost us our cob bounce but seems to be working. One day we used small shells when we ran out of gravel. They could work too as we have seen them used in making cement blocks on islands where there is no coarse sand or gravel. They are certainly easier on the feet but we would need double the amount to get some real texture into the cob mix.

So here we are on Day 3 and 70cm up the wall. We have a small group of avid learners of all ages. We tried hard to get some more paying students besides Jenny’s sponsorship of Peter and Maimouna, but it is no easy feat to gather people up with a few days’ notice and ask for 175 Euros on top of that…in a land where you can live on $1 a day. Most “Toubabs” here have giant plots of land, cars, an entourage of labor and live a very comfortable life on their “small” pensions. Nonetheless our last minute timing did not work for them. A few definites never showed up. My boys and I gave up trying to meet our minimum fee of 100€ a day and were grateful to have a beautiful cozy place to build our campsite, water and a gas propane tank. A short ten minute walk to an endless beach of warm water, fresh fish daily and afternoons off…the good life!

Building a 10m2 structure is a wonderful relief. To complete a building from start to finish with a group of students is still not something I have accomplished, both because most buildings have not been finishable in the workshop timeframe and because I usually let the owners finish the roof and the finishing touches for their own ownership of the building. IMG_7587However I have heard that there is a real desire for that in the student community and so here I hope we can meet the goal for the first time. The second time will be in Cabo Verde where we will have two workshops in which I plan to complete the structures with the students. It’s been a good life so far and I feel graced to have two of my boys along for the ride, learning and sharing. We are making very memorable memories…again…on the road. As I map out the rest of the Global Journey I cannot turn my back on even if I feel tired and ready to stop here and there…I am focusing on my hotspots and aiming to set up workshops ahead of arriving with my cob and ecovillage connections on the various continents I have yet to visit. This means completin somewhere in December 2018, a year longer than I had envisaged, after my learning experience of not circling around twice but just moving forward with some good pre-planning using the good old Internet. Next stop after Cabo Verde….Cameroon!  Bechikanam! A bientôt!


Cob Perma M’Boutik launched in Toubab Dialaw, Senegal

After the 8th CruzinCobGlobal international cob workshop and our 4th one in Senegal, I am starting to see some trends that make me happy about the work I am doing. One is the family feeling, friendships and love that develops when a group of people bound by an interest in doing the right thing for the Planet and the People come together to learn and build a Soulful structure. Even more so when IMG_6723that group consists of individuals of various cultural origins who may not even share a common verbal language. It is a real “high” to be a part of and to watch. Something about touching and working with the Earth dissolves barriers and inhibitions. We come from CLAY, ARCILLA, BAN, L’ARGILE, ARGILHA and water and, like clay, we breathe and absorb and release water through our pores. As we age our skin gets drier and we develop more wrinkles like cracks in clay.

Secondly, one of my favorite times during cob workshops is when the sculpting begins. Some people get very excited and anxious to see their creations come to life on the walls, and others become scared and insecure about their sculpting skills. In the end all IMG_6913kinds of beautiful surprises arise and often the ones who affirmed that they were not artists and would not be able to contribute anything worthwhile, produce the most amazing wall beauty.  There is a yummy feeling in the sensual act of sculpting clay. A total freedom to express ourselves simply and easily. Our inner artist and inner child come out to play and there are no rules. Even myself, I am proud of the bas-relief art I adorned my walls with in Santa Cruz. I love to see how entranced the students become as they spend endless hours detailing and refining their work. IMG_6853IMG_6966

Thirdly I love the interaction of passers-by and their growing interest and appreciation with each day of work. They become part of the family as they are our fan base, noticing and applauding the growing building.

Fourth, when the plaster goes on and the building’s finished look begins appearing and the end is in sight….EVERYONE smiles! The physical relief of having finished the grunt work of the walls and IMG_6988transitioning to the lightness of the trowelling and detail work, especially using the plastic trowels, is one of the well-earned just desserts Over and over again these phases repeat themselves from workshop to workshop, country to country, people to people.

Cob building is hard physical work that everyone has in them to carry out, no matter the degree. Seeing the daily progress at the end of the day and the next morning keeps us going to the top, little by little. But truly, the most special part of this type of construction is its feeling of health, simplicity, honesty, community and pride. The large delicious lunches, the music on the site, the laughter and conversation, the mutual support and the universal access by all everywhere are what make this building art so attractive and keep our cob workshops happening. Can’t wait for the new experiences and new friends awaiting us in Cabo Verde in May and August….



Secret Cob Village on Coast of Senegal (or is it?)

Adventuring into the unknown on a fully-loaded bike heading south from Toubab Dialaw, our most recent base in Senegal. My 24-year old son Viva and I love bike touring through new lands as a way of IMG_6164getting exercise, seeing the country slowly, finding beautiful hidden nature spots, meeting people along the way, and feeling fulfilled with the completed kilometers every day.
The Palmarin coast is an off-the-beaten-path destination only accessible by hard-packed laterite and sand roads with nary a IMG_6147Soul on it. The country is actually building an asphalt road here and so for now it is off limits to large amounts of traffic. Though the sun beats down there is a breeze that gently pushes us forward towards the ocean.
After several hours of dirt road we spot the whitewater in the distance, past lagoons of flamingoes. We stop for a nude sunbathe on a deserted beach before heading south on the beach at low tide. It’s quite a joy riding at sunset on the beach and not knowing where we will stop. As always the Universe provides and we spot what looks like a terra cotta-tinted cob ecovillage resort on the left. IMG_6196 IMG_6192      We find eighteen adorable heart-shaped 25m2 bungalows in which the two rounded pop-outs are the bedroom and bathroom and a central square shape is the living room. The bungalows are iron oxide-plastered and have some simple symbols on them like “X’s” and “O’s”. Entering, the interior plaster is white with straw specks and I am smiling at the home-made shelving, bed platforms, storage holes, archways, sink holder and unusual windows, typical of cob structures.
IMG_6214To my dissappointment I learn that these beautiful earthen structures that look like original African dwellings are made with cement. Bummer. The fact that the rooves are flat and contained inside of the walls with spouts exiting them towards the ground is the hint that we are not looking at cob dwellings. IMG_6208However it is unfortunate that the inside is cement-based as well, and that the floor is bricks and not cob. Nonetheless it gives me much pleasure to see this alternative paradise in a home of earthen building, Africa. And inspires me for my upcoming ecovillage design project.
IMG_6199It feels like a gnome village with short arched openings to all the public spaces and between clusters of bungalows. In short it feeds the Soul which is half the reason for the mission I am on: “Feeding the Soul and Beautifying the Planet One Unique Cob House at a Time. For this reason alone I am grateful for the efforts made here by a Frenchman Olivier and his son. The coastline here is the quietest and most clean I have seen yet and Viva and I decide to hold a 3-day Vision Quest here camped in the shade on the beach, the whole place to ourselves. To be in Africa in silence is magical. Even if we do not stay in the bungalows, their visual presence brings joy and peace.IMG_6193



The First CruzinCobGlobal African Cob Building Workshop is a Success!

In 20 days 16 students from Europe, the U.S. and Senegal came together and became one loving building family spending 5 hours a day under the hot African sun mixing 24 batches of cob together daily to add 30 cm to the 40m2 3-room house located in Yene Kao, just an hour south of Dakar.  They came from all walks of life: Lena, the Austrian art history student, Morisha, the New-York based masseuse, Barbara, the New York former jazz singer turned wood jewelry artist, Lorenzo, the Sicilian raw vegan mountain boy, Bosco, the Dakarian civil engineering student, Saco, the New York-based Japanese musician and urban permaculturist, Beverly, the Santa Cruz political and environmental activist and Kira, the California outdoors sports enthusiast specializing in skiing. 


Within a few batches of mixing cob with their new Senegalese friends: Aziz, Wuz, Big Mamadou, Medun, Small Mamadou, Ablai, Mbarou and Oumy, there was no difference anymore, as always happens with cob.  The mud joins.  The initial separateness becomes moot and unconditional love happens. We are focused on raising a building together and with our bare hands and feet mixing and compressing the material, molding it, tossing it, placing it, shaping it, thumbing it, trimming it and starting over again…day after day…watching the walls rise slowly but surely. 

CHeck this out:

Each morning we arrive to see the good work from the day before, the walls turning into a house, “ndanka ndanka” or “little by little”.  Cob building is slow and satisfying.  You cannot put the walls up in a day, like in mainstream building, with industrial materials that will begin rotting within a short time because they don’t breathe and accumulate moisture.  Windows, shelves, altars and niches all go in along the way, and when the cob walls are done the walls are done:  the insulation, the structure and the surface.  Same with the floor. 

In 20 days, this talented group of new cob builders built 100 feet of 6-foot walls.  The original project was supposed to be half the length, for a 25m2 guest house.  Clearly we would have wrapped it all up with this power group.  But it wasn’t about muscle power, but rather chi, prana and “katan” as they call it in Wolof, the native language here in Senegal.  Not only was our group split evenly between Senegalese and “toubabs” (foreigners), but it was also split evenly between females and males, builders and non-builders (at least before we started). 

Whatever happened here, the chemistry was such that each day, despite the ups and downs of physical and emotional conditions, we were excited to build.  Today January 21, almost 7 weeks later (with at least 5 days and all weekends of no building) the walls are done.  This is fast cob and with the African sun setting our walls quickly each day, we were able to build 6 feet of wall, lay two coats of floor and put on the base plaster coat, all while having the best time ever!  I am so proud of this group and grateful to the hosts Hans and Roos, Oliver, Aziz, Viva and Sissy for all your work and support in the success of this project.

For all the photos you can go to the FB page, or the Gallery on this website!

On to the island of São Nicolau in Cabo Verde for the next long-term workshop  building a beautiful round cob yoga studio in the new Cachaço Ecovillage!


California Cob comes to Senegal Village!

Yène Kao is a traditional Lébou fishing village just an hour south of Dakar where Hans and Roos, the Dutch hosts of CruzinCobGlobal’s first month-long cob building workshop in Africa, have leveled out the upper part of their plot to build the first salvaged tire foundation/cob and sandbag house in Senegal.

Prepping the tire foundation for cob with toothy laterite rocks

Prepping the tire foundation for cob with toothy laterite rocks

With 100 feet of cob walls built using their own ochre and brown clay soils dug up to create their 10-foot deep septic tank and added to local sand and straw, the house build is a very visible model of sustainable locally-sourced and affordable construction for the passers-by to witness each day.  Hans and Roos moved to Senegal 4 years ago to create a non-profit called Studio Placemakers, in which they team up with locals to create attractive and artsy functional public spaces from abandoned and unkempt land.  The building of their house is an opportunity for Senegalese and foreign students to come together and learn cob building while erecting the walls of their house.  The tire foundation was built the week before the cob workshop began by Ecomen 3000, a local non-profit that has trained people to build tire foundations all over Senegal.

All the students coming from Europe and the US are living in two rented houses right in the middle of Yene Kao, right on the beach, and each day walk to the build site after breakfast getting ready to make their 6 daily batches of cob with their Senegalese counterparts.  Everyone is new to this material, even the Africans,

The Afro-American Cob Dance

The Afro-American Cob Dance

who have forgotten the art of earthen construction through the last few generations and are amazed at how hard and simple the cob is.  Yesterday was our second day of wall building and it seems everyone is getting it quite quickly.  The 7 foot walls will go up quickly with this 20-people strong workforce, the hot and dry climate and the quick-drying mix which is rock hard after only a few days of drying.


Early morning run below the gorgeous ochre, orange, red and purple Gareye cliffs

Each morning at 5am the Imam prayer calls from the beachfront Mosque wake me to my meditation time.  Sounding like Sanskrit mantras, the repetitive chants are a soothing reminder of Gratitude and Love for the day to come.  Early morning workouts on the beach are communal and I am met by the other healthy bodies jogging back and forth on the sand in their soccer garb as I spread my yoga mat out to welcome the morning in Africa.  The big yellow disc rises over the land behind me highlighting the palm trees shading the village houses.  The small and large children call out their morning greetings: “Toubab! Toubab! Ça va?” “Oui, ça va bien. Nangadeff?” “Mangui fi! Yanguisi jam?” “Jama rek”….and on and on.  Greetings in Senegal are indispensable.  They are a sign of spirituality, education and politeness.

At 8am Sissy has the breakfast ready that will launch our day.  Watermelon, rice cereal, round Moroccan bread, local exotic baobab, green lime and cashew apple jams decorate the morning table and welcome us to a new day.  The Tai Chiers arrive and soon the long wooden tables are a bubbly atmosphere of laughter, stories and happy smiles.  IMG_5297Oliver calls the warning bell and at 8:50am more or less we are off to the site across the road,  where we meet up with our Senegal counterparts waiting with big welcoming smiles.  Sometimes we have to remember we are in Africa because we are a little bubble of a family enjoying our learning vacation here in Senegal.  Walks through the old village at night, down the beach or on the road through the line of fishing villages bring us back to the reality of Africa.  My favorite times have been when I am not visible and can watch the Africans in their daily activities without my presence interfering.  On two occasions I could not help but follow the African drum sounds at night and ended up once  in the middle of the whole village celebrating their Soccer Championship with IMG_5318wild drumming and dancing and another time watching a very whiny and endless Baye Fall chant accompanied by drumming and ritualistic stepping movements that went on all night.  I love those moments. True Senegal. True Africa. A lifelong dream come true.


A Stay at “Le Tremplin”: A Model Ecovillage for Dakar Street Youth

As all good things happen when you are open and in the flow and on your Heart Journey following The Call…Fred, our gracious Warmshowers host who picked us up when we arrived at midnight in Dakar with bikes and bags, told me about Village Pilote.  Within minutes of hearing about this organization focused on “natural building” located on the path of our (my son Viva and I) first bike ride through Senegal, I felt driven to see it.  Looking it up online I was filled with even more interest. But its 2-D representation did nothing to prepare me for the grand Soulful experience  of spending a few days with the 120-strong Community of 3 to 25-year olds and their Counselors, Teachers and Mentors living near the famous Lac Rose (Pink Lake) region 50km north of Dakar.

I contacted the French expat Director Loïc the day of our departure who, upon hearing of my own mission of COB trainings in Senegal, came right over with map in hand to introduce himself, shake my hand, and invite Viva and I to stay there and share meals with the group.  As always happens when 2 or more Eco Freaks get together, vibrant conversations of compost toilet cover material, earthen building styles and the latest on cob oven fuel sources ensued.  I knew I was in the company of my global “family”.

After 2.5 hours on the most blasphemously long, polluted and dangerous road I’ve yet biked, the 15-mile stretch of “Route Nationale” that is absolutely (they say) unavoidable when wanting to leave Dakar and go anywhere else except for the airport…Viva and I finally lowered our physical, emotional and face guards after turning left onto the smaller offshoot towards Keur Massar

The majestic and ancient Baobab

The majestic and ancient Baobab

and the even smaller offshoots taking us to the tourist-heavy Lac Rose area.   

Biking through the salt mounds of Lac Rose

Biking through the salt mounds of Lac Rose

The villages became smaller and more bearable (only 20 rather than 50 onlookers surrounded our bikes in excitement) until we arrived at the source of all of Senegal’s salt.  The water looks red because of an algae that lives in it, the only thing that can withstand the ridiculously high salt content.  Flurries of “salt flower” foam line the shore as do repetitive mounds of greyish-white salt being packed into bags for shipment.    Now our road is an undulating and hard-packed (thankful!) dirt path weaving through the salt mounds until we reach the end of the Lake accompanied by a fast-jogging gaggle of young girls who have spotted us.  Eventually between questioning passing locals, trying to make out GoogleMaps on our phone and using common sense with regards to the ocean direction….we were on our way to the Village Tremplin in the distance.

We arrive at Deni Biram Ndao at dusk, led by a local co-biker Mamadou,  hesitating to stop lest we get surrounded once again with a team of short onlookers.  IMG_4894The sun is set now and the last minutes of light accompany us to the Tremplin Village of red mud brick buildings that announce adobe land.  A big smile of happiness and relief fills me with joy to have found my brethren here in Senegal: natural builders, no concrete. Immediately the feel is different. We arrive to a scene of 30 male sandy soccer players of all sizes in the center of the village. Noone cares we are there. They are used to the visitors. Giorgui the 2nd in charge comes to welcome us. He shows us to our room in the main red building with a giant thatch roof. It is dark and the generator is not working and they don’t have enough solar panels to light the night. He tells us that when we hear the triple clang of a metal spoon on a tire rim, dinner is served. Viva and I have been pedaling for 6 hours or so, with minor food stops, and we happily go bucket shower ourselves and prepare for a wonderful dinner experience Senegalese-style.

There are about 100 youth here of all ages.   They have been found on the streets lost, away from their families and up to no good. They come from Dakar neighborhoods known for street kids and have been brought here if they passed the first three steps of showing willingness. Here they are in a safe, joyful, IMG_4931healthful setting which is also strict, regulated, organized and focused. They get loving teachers and counselors who teach them life skills, work skills and academic skills…all on this large piece of red sandy land dotted with trees. This is the brainchild of Loïc Treguy, a French expat, who has garnered the support of France, the US and some other organizations to create a beautiful model of community, brotherhood, love and support. IMG_4930Here the boys all work and play together within the strict rules of the village and receive all they need to grow into confident, respectful, hard-working and inspired individuals. They receive schooling and practical specialized skills in the area of their choice: woodwork, electrical, metal, masonry, cooking and general cleaning services.

Viva and I are blown away at the fluid and happy flow of life here at Le Tremplin. With only red mud (laterite) brick buildings built by the youth specializing in “masonry”, compost toilets that are emptied daily into a big hole in the ground, shower water lifted up from a well, a huge commercial kitchen that is spotless, this simple place with a vegetable IMG_4922garden and sheep is a wonderful model for the world. I imagine grabbing the inner city kids in the US and placing them in somewhere like this, even bringing them to Africa, would heal them quickly. Lastly, the food we ate out of a large communal round silver dish in a circle of 7 IMG_4939spoon-ready mouths each meal , quietly and respectfully, was phenomenal. Perhaps the love with which it is made adds to the deliciousness. No desserts but noone is complaining. They are happy with so little. Few have phones, but they have each other. Love, companionship and mentorship.  We have been well-taken care of here. Kindness abounds. A deaf youth follows us and stares, picking up all the information he can. Apparently he is one hell of a rapper, despite his inability to hear. We watch him beat rhythms on the walls, unconsciously.  One of his “brothers” passes him with a supportive pat on the back.  Viva and I decide we will be back to build a giant cob oven with these boys.  It is hard not to come back here.  There is so much LOVE in the air.  My Heart is touched. Bless this place.



“Rio do Prado”, a unique Portuguese Eco-Hotel, November 8, 2015

IMG_4572On a 40-mile bike ride with my son Viva through the country roads and villages of the famous Óbidos region, we IMG_4568noticed an unusual cut-out wooden sign that kept popping up on our circuit.  “Rio do Prado” was all it said, in a very humble fashion.  It was clearly not an official government sign pointing us to a local river.  After another mile we finally came upon the official Rio do Prado sign, at the entrance of a well-attended parking lot.  We tried to see beyond the cars and were able to detect an unusual sloping building that looked like it was diving into the Earth as well as several IMG_4570other box-like “rooms” that were partially Earth-covered too.  Sisal poles decorated the doors and all in all it looked very discreet, quiet, alternative and special.  Like a secret spot you either researched hard, happened upon or got lucky enough to be told about.  It reminded me of Esalen, in Big Sur, with its very old, simple and uneventful sign.

When I got back I found it online under  The ex-mayor of Óbidos created this low-key and pricey eco-hotel for the busy city folks to completely get away and sit with what’s real for a few days.  For 350€ a night you get to IMG_4562bathe in a concrete wave-bottomed bathtub that sits behind your double bed.  The design is very avant-garde yet the materials are simple, inexpensive and local.  All of the outside furniture and dining room chairs are made from recycled and reused wood from vegetable/produce crates.  The rooms are Earthship-like, with the back of the IMG_4553buildings underground and the roof garden-topped.  There is a long skinny greenhouse attended by happy Portuguese farmers, which doubles as a meeting and yoga room!  The menu looks fantastic and prices reasonable. They use their own organic produce as much as possible AND the ocean is only 10 minutes away as it sits at the edge of a long lagoon that fills and empties daily with the tides.  Great surf too!

It really touched me though if I were to create this place I wouldn’t charge such extravagant prices excluding most people from getting to experience it.  But everyone is welcome to visit and eat there.


Pictorial Evolution of a Cob Bathhouse, November 1, 2015

Just a short quick blog here to visually demonstrate the steps in building the bathhouse, which is still waiting for its green roof….

Next up:  An ultra-cool zen & sleek partially open cob house in Yène Kao, near Dakar in Senegal.  Here is an idea of the floor plan designed by Roos, the host of the workshop along with her husband Hans.  It includes a tire foundation and a two-tier roof for insulation reasons and an open front veranda….perfect for the Senegal lifestyle!

Senegal Workshop House Floor Plan

Senegal Workshop House Floor Plan


Wow! Coolest & Prettiest Bathhouse Ever Sits on a Hill at El Molino de Guadalmesí, October 23, 2015

I am so utterly proud of my 15 students who together brought into existence the most beautiful bathhouse I have yet seen.  With a blank and flattened slate of 25m2 atop a steep hill hidden in the woods to begin with, we spent the first few days before the course began emerging a unique triple circle design based on sacred geometry


that would enclose the compost toilet in the southern circle, the shower in the northern circle and an attractive walkway between them with niches, arched shelves, a sink and ultimately a flower of life design in the center of the structure\’s earthen floor lit up by the oculus at the center of the hexagonal roof structure, made from local eucalyptus roundwood branches and small trunks.

We began to dig the trench on Day 1 for the next 3-4 days and then used the large local rockpile from a torn down old house to build the foundation with hydraulic lime and sand mortar.  The rocks were walked up a steep path one at a time by our burly rock crew Viva, Sylvain, Normunds and Greg.  Sylvain from Fuerteventura led the rock wall building which took the next 4 days to complete. \"IMG_3662\"

When the lunch gong rang, relief filled our well-worn bodies, ready for some  luscious vegetarian fare cooked up by the Molino staff and work trade crew, a variety of home-grown veggie specialties to titillate our taste buds day after day.


As we relaxed around the shaded wooden communal eating area, filling our tummies to happiness and recollecting the morning hours…the siesta hour called us to the hammocks, chill spots, tents and beds, giving great gratitude for the long-standing southern Spanish cult of downtime for the next 2-3 hours, which grew smaller as the month advanced and the ends of the wall called harder.

Afternoons were also beach time, yoga time, massage time, music time and building time.  Perfect weather spoiled us the whole month and the ocean temperatures concurred at 60-65 degrees F.  Excitement set in when it was finally time to start building niches and bottle and arched windows, sculpting and when Jamal arrived to lead us in the Tadelakt process to seal the bathroom and walkway walls.  Finally a pause from the cob day in and day out, though big rocks helped advance the wall a bit faster.  Now the artsy part, the beauty, the aesthetics \"IMG_3883\"for which cob walls and houses are so renowned.  Everyone picked a spot to work on and, as always, I saw the artist in everyone begin to blossom and fire up.  Sam and Sari went to town on the beautiful tall tree sculptures that grace the east entrance\"IMG_3870\", merging the surrounding forest with the earthen bathhouse, to the point of embedding some real olive branches directly into the cob as the continuation of the cob trees. Goretti created her own version of tree on the northside, while the westside entrance welcomes you with bottles and the Molino logo \”Head, Hands and Heart\” encrusted into the cob with special local brain-like rocks, a handprint, and a heart rock.

The last few days brought us happily to experiencing the wonderful pleasurable earthen plaster made with local horse and cow poop, the green onsite clay, fine sand, and fine straw.  A totally different feel than the tadelakt lime-based plaster \"IMG_3946\"which, with the specialized thick cedar trowels and plastic trowel, results in a waterproof and breathable ultra-smooth finish that you want to rub your face on.  The special Tadelakt finish is smoothed with a very polished green mottled granite rock.  Students got to experience both, each one having their preferences.

While we never got to put the roof on, everything was ready for the eucalyptus rafters and hexagons that would come on next.  Our days were full for sure, full of work, full of laughter, full of learning, growing, loving, deep experiences in the sweat lodge, around the fire circle, during mealtimes and in the final checkout straw pile.


\"FinalCheckout\"Deep friendships always happen around cob, emotional release and lots of growth and self-confidence and empowerment, especially for the Earth Goddesses.

Thank You El Molino for hosting us and Thank You to Samantha, Sari, Greg, Roberto, Eduardo, Fran, Sylvain, Normunds, David, Mano, Goretti, Laurie, Samuel, Viva, Johnny, and Jamal…best COB CREW ever! Good luck with all your endeavours and may you spread the COB wherever you go!  You are always welcome to come assist or take another workshop!  LOVE LOVE LOVE!!!! See all the photos on Cruzincobglobal\’s Facebook page.




Here We Go in El Molino…Week 1: Trench & Foundation, September 12, 2015

The most southern tip of Spain is Tarifa and 12 km to the east lies El Molino de Guadalmesí, IMG_3541an ecovillage and farm on a hilly oak woodland trimmed by 45 healthy goats, with the Río Guadalmesí (River of Women) running through it, lined with colorful Moroccan hammocks, a big veggie garden, a sweat lodge and beautiful old earthen buildings on this old mill site.  Viva and I arrived Friday, a few days before, along with Samantha, Sari, Greg and Samuel to start the trench for the new bathhouse with compost toilet, shower and sink that would be nestled in the forest.  We spent the first few days in the design process, learning about the creative Dragon Dreaming cycle with Johnny, one of the founders, and came up with a beautiful, symmetrical circular flowing design based on Sacred Geometry and built around a Flower of Life mosaic in the center.IMG_3552IMG_3533

The rest of the group trickled in on Sunday from all over Europe and Monday morning the digging began.  Tough digging in a clayey soil good for cob that we would use in our mix.  The location is not the easiest for sure as we climb uphill every day and use a quad to transport the sands and everything else we will need to build this bathhouse which will be finished with Tadelakt, a beautiful Moroccan clay and lime-based polished plaster that is waterproof.


The first week saw the trench finished and the rock and hydraulic lime-sand plaster built on a steep slope that caused the lower walls to be three times taller than the upper ones.  Hard work and sometimes a bit frustrating to figure out in such a short time.  IMG_3567In between we are nourished with amazing all-organic and local fantastic meals prepared by the staff and some of the students, and learning Thai Massage and other activities including building a cob oven with Roberto from Sicily.

Life is good at El Molino. Air and water temperatures are perfect (at least for me!) and the beautiful quietude of the Strait of Gibraltar Natural Park, broken only by the sound of the windmills, is relaxing.  Only a fifteen minute walk to the Mediterranean ocean for an early morning or afternoon plunge to wash off the clay and the physical effort…we are happy in our new family for the month, figuring out our new rhythm as we build and work together every day.

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Life is good.