Deck Family Farm – Cob Cottage

In March and April of 2015, Eva led the finishing of a cob cottage at Deck Family Farm.

The clay, straw, wood, manure, and milk for these finishes all came from onsite at this beautiful 320-acre organic farm in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. The main construction of this building was designed and led by Ali Maggio and Christine Deck.

I was hired as the lead and brought on some super talented colleagues Angela Francis, Erica Bush, Emily Jantzen, Alexandra & Nick Tomaselli and Max Edleson. As a team we completed the wall construction, did a fair amount of trimming of cob and bales, finished doors, handles, trim, installed windows, added shelves, sills and benches. There are always so many details to complete before plastering! The interior of the building was then finished with a clay based plaster and painted with an aliz. The exterior plaster was oiled with two coats of Claylin finishing oil.

What a joy it was to work on such a beautiful building at an amazing farm with my friends! And the fact that so many of the materials came from right onsite was very fulfilling.





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Albany Pallet Building


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In 2011, I taught a 3 week workshop and gave a presentation at the Natural Building Extravaganza in NC. A student in the course, Max Livingstone, was intrigued by the pallet building projects I had worked on and consulted with me on how to build his own.

In 2015, after Livingstone had completed the main construction, I was hired to plaster the building. The initial plaster coat on a pallet building is an important step, as you need to build out the wall surface. I always choose a straw clay plaster for this initial coat. I worked with the builder Max Livingstone and Bethanie Ruffo, along with Emily Jantzen to make clay slip, chop straw, put up trim, make niches and bringing this pallet building to the next level.

So often in my work, I get hired to teach workshops. Workshops are a time for me to share the techniques of what I love to do. I always meet a few people in each workshop who I continue to work with.  Thanks for this wonderful opportunity Max Livingstone, and thanks to my friends and family who stopped by to help! Chad Gaetz, Sebastian Collet, Eli Edleson Stein, Kat Jank. The first photos show the base coat plaster and the latter show the interior finish and the earthen floor I completed with Maeve Riley.

Discarded pallets are a great source of free wood and they make for what I feel is an easy and low cost construction technique. Hopefully you will find inspiration in these photos to build your own!

Further Reading:

Complete Cob Workshop at Cob Cottage Company – Bandon

Jun 11-19, 2011 in Bandon OR

Max & Eva taught a 9 day intensive course called Complete Cob.

Our project was to build a pavillion that is a large part of a budding outdoor kitchen at the home of Bob and Tammy Van.  During the nine days, we sculpted this structure with local soil, driftwood, redwood and found windows. The course covered in depth all aspects of cob and building techniques such as foundations, construction of walls, arches for doors and windows, roofing, plumbing, electric, shelving, furniture, earthen floors, artistic details and finish work.  In addition to the outdoor kitchen, Bob and Tammy wanted to renovate their garage into a meeting place and so we also worked with them to remodel their existing stick frame construction with ladder trusses and the participants mixed and installed light straw clay insulation.

Added bonuses were the rumford fireplace we built in the pavillion and plastering the new Cob Masonry Heater at Cob Cottage Company!  Our course also covered general natural building strategies such as siting and passive solar design.  We had a beautiful time and are so thankful to our generous and talented hosts!

Making the model

Building and Carving

Windows and Arches

Shelves and Chiseling

Ridge Beams, Rafters and Lashing

Making a Rumford and an Earthen Plaster on the Cob Cottage Masonry Heater

Making a Beautiful Outdoor Kitchen!

The Cob Pavillion with Rumford Fireplace

More photos of the finished roof, plaster and the straw clay retrofit coming soon…

Straw Clay Retrofit – Village Building Convergence 2011

This year at the VBC,
Eva led the second phase of a light straw clay retrofit in SE Portland
at the Planet Repair Institute!

Light Straw Clay technology has been used for centuries!
People love the low cost, low toxicity, and its use of sustainable, native and locally available materials!

Over a ten day period, with hands on learning, I taught students how to make and use straw-clay effectively and efficiently to build insulated walls.  (See also last year’s post.)

Participants learned about Larson truss framing, and the many facets of mixing and installing straw clay and cob for both interior and exterior settings. We all enjoyed the incredible benefits of this natural building technique as we retrofitted a previously poorly insulated Portland home! I returned later with students to put a base coat plaster on all the walls. Next year at the VBC I will lead the finish plaster, aliz, and sculptural details on this project with Molly Murphy of the Mud Girls.

And good news!  Light straw clay has now been approved by the City of Portland!  This is Portland’s pilot project!  Click here to see the info from ATAC about permitting this technique...

More about the Village Building Convergence…
More about the Planet Repair Institute…

Join our mailing list to receive updates about the finish plaster and more!

Chicken Palace

Stop motion photography by Jonathan Shaw

We had a lot of fun at the 2010 Village Building Convergence!

In addition to the straw-clay retrofit, Eva Edleson led the construction of this of this Chicken Palace with Sol Crawford and Mark Lakeman at the Planet Repair Institute. These projects were designed by Mark Lakeman.  It is Portland’s first elevated, spherical, solar-powered Chicken Palace, with a spiral chicken ladder!

To build the Chicken Palace, we began by removing a small fibert tree from the location which we then used for the palace posts. Next, we created a egg-shaped frame that we cut out of scrap plywood.  Once we mounted the frame on the posts, we attached branches that served as wall wattle.  The walls were then filled out with a straw-clay mix that we wove in.  This technique is often called pajareque. The Chicken Palace has a wooden floor and a box in the back to harvest eggs.  We inserted 3 roosts for the chickens and also built in colored glass skylights.  At the VBC 2011, we will complete the stairs, door and finish plaster.

Join us this year for VBC 2011 – Urban Alchemy !

And if you like natural building for chickens, check out these two posts from The Cat Palace / VBC 2009

Straw-Clay Retrofit at Planet Repair Institute

This year, during the Village Building Convergence 2010,
Eva led the installation of one of Portland’s first
residential straw-clay retrofit projects. 

In just a few days, with many hands, we filled walls that previously had no insulation.  The new insulation is estimated to have an R-Value of between R-1.6 and R-2 per inch. When finished, this “wall sandwich” will have an overall R-3o value, which definitely exceeds the requirements of current energy codes! This project is at the Planet Repair Institute (PRI),  nestled amongst many wonderful natural building and permaculture projects.  PRI is at the home of Mark Lakeman and is the birthplace of City Repair, the annual VBC project, as well as of Communitecture, the sustainable architecture & planning firm. Mark is working with natural builder Charity Li Montez to legalize straw-clay building in Portland, OR. (Update!  They did it! Check out this info from ATAC about permitting this technique…)

The photos show the project with a base coat plaster we applied once the straw-clay insulation had dried. We will be applying a beautiful finish coat in early Spring.  Stay tuned for updates! See more of what we did the second year here…

Pallet Structure- The Fuddy

Eva Edleson FUDDY- Photo Laura Luttrell

In September of 2009 Eva designed and led the construction of a pallet structure, called the Fuddy, at Spirit Pine Sanctuary. (Click on images to enlarge!)

All of the pallets were free and reclaimed from a nearby farm.  The pallets were stuffed with straw-clay insulation and protected with an earthen plaster.  I was inspired to build this after completing the pallet barn, a project led by Dafyd and Yolanda Rawlings. Three students participated and learned about pallet construction with me, including the talented residents of Spirit Pine.  The 10′ x 15′ structure focuses on passive heating/cooling, beauty, efficiency and storage. It is a simple design for a small, affordable structure that is adaptable for many situations.

The summer weather at Spirit Pine can be very hot and dry.  The Fuddy’s roof reaches down to touch the nearby hillside, which creates a small room on the north side of the building.  This area remains very cool and offers a great place for cold storage.  There is a small intake window on the lower north side and which lets cool air in, and an opposing window near the roof to let the air move through and cool the structure.

We had many materials available to us on the mountain.  We harvested serpentine rocks for the stem wall, churt for the base floor, and all of the clay came from the creation of the site.  The straw was locally grown and the windows and doors and wood-stove were free. Even the materials for the earthen floor, free!! This structure engaged students in knowledge that is applicable to many buildings and a variety of construction methods.  The Fuddy was a wonderful opportunity to learn about design, foundation, drainage, walls, insulation, thermal mass, windows, doors, roof, plasters, earthen floors, shelves, art, etc!

Stay tuned for further interior development of the Fuddy…



Check out this video of all kinds of useful things you can make with pallets!

Adobe Pump House

This adobe pump house was built to reduce the sound coming from a generator at Spirit Pine Sanctuary.  Betty Seaman made the bricks and together with her apprentice, Natalie Spears, they built this structure in December of 2009.  Max led the construction of the roof which included milled lumber and cement- “ceramic” roof tiles.

Alex’s House

During 2006 & 2007, Max and Alex Edleson set about the building of Alex’s house in a clearing in the woods on a community-owned piece of land in the beautiful Rio Azul valley, near El Bolson, Argentina (Patagonia).  The building is a hybrid of natural building techniques including round-pole timber framing, rustic carpentry, non-load bearing strawbale, wattle and daub and living roofs.  We harvested about half the wood for the building from the woods around the house and a had a local woodsman bring in the other half by truck, some of it milled.  Our good friend Simon Van den Heede grew the oats that the straw for the straw bales came from and one fine fall day, with the first sprinklings of the season, we swept the recently harvested bales off of the field and stored them under the newly constructed roof.  We still have yet to make and place the shingles on the front roof so the corrugated asphalt roof is temporary.

Consider the whole structure an homage to the sun, completely oriented to that infinitely generous source of heat and light….

Adobe Meditation Studio

In October 2009, Eva, Max and the fantastic Betty Seaman of Spirit Pine were hired by an accomplished healer in the Santa Barbara area to construct a building to do prayer in.  Perscriptions for the building were that it be affordable and that it follow basic Huichol cultural guidelines for such a space which included being made of adobe and having few windows.  Here’s what we built….