Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Cob Cat House that Community Built

By Mira Luna

This is a story about how my cat finally came home, because my community built a home for her without money.

A few years ago I had to find a temporary home for my cat, Cleo. This is a story about how my cat finally came home, because my community built a home for her without money.

About four years ago I became ill around the time I lost my job as the economy tanked. Fortunately, my best friend took Cleo on her farm in Oregon and she's been living there happily ever since. Late last year my partner and I created a cat-friendly housing collective and moved in together. I wanted to bring Cleo home from the farm, but she needed to be outside of our new house during the day in order for everyone in the house to be happy.

It became clear that we had to build a dwelling for Cleo before she could come home. I wanted to find out if it was possible to build a sustainable cat house without money since I don't have much. Plus, I thought it would be a fun experiment in living in the sharing economy. I’d taken a couple basic workshops on cob ovens and the ovens looked like small animal dwellings so I decided I’d use a cob oven as a model.

In a stroke of luck, the day after I decided to build a cob cat house, an email about free straw bales was posted to a local urban agriculture listserv. Bob Besso of Recology (an urban reuse and recycling center) met up with me to pick up the straw bales he’d posted, helping me load them into my car. Bob later posted another email about a wood structure, which would be used to provide rain protection for the cob house. When I went to pick it up, Bob took one look at my tiny car and the big wood box and decided it would be safer if he delivered it to my house in his pick up truck. He took a half hour off work to help us out.

Kerrick designing the cat cob structure, photo by Marshall Hilton
Then I posted my need for help to design the cob structure to our local timebank in San Francisco, still feeling uncertain in my mastery of cob. I got several responses. A fellow named Kerrick Lucker responded. He had taken a cob building class at Emerald Earth (one of the best places to learn cob in the country) and wanted to help me design the structure. We met to assess the site and draw out the design specifically for a cat and the local microclimate and laid out the shape of the foundation. I paid him three hours on the Timebank for his consultation. Kerrick also offered some left over clay and sand for free that was needed for the cob mixture, which I picked up from the house he'd just moved out of, saving him some effort to move it himself without a car.

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