Couple sculpting home of their own

November 13, 2002 11:00 pm

By AMY LINDBLOM

Misha and Elisheva Rauchwerger are building a home off Tuolumne Road entirely with their own hands, and feet.

It's a cob house — a mixture of clay, sand, straw and water stomped into a mass and sculpted to form graceful, strong walls that are always unique, limited only by the builders' imagination.

The Rauchwergers met and fell in love while mixing mud together at a cob house workshop in Oregon in 1998. Both were there on quests to find a way to live according to the Buddhist philosophy of dharma, or in harmony with the natural world.

"When I found this way of living it was my dream come true. It has become my passion in life," said Elisheva, 40.

Misha 35, and Elisheva have since helped people build cob homes in Oregon and British Columbia. In turn friends they met have helped them build their Tuolumne County cottage.

"One of the best times we've had building this house was the day we raised the ridge beam," said Elisheva. "It took all day after first bolting it together on the ground then raising it into position. But cob building is just such a nice way of bringing people together to build beautiful structures."

Since learning the art and engineering of making cob homes, the Sonora couple has become enthusiastic supporters of cob structures they say are stronger, healthier and more affordable than conventional homes, which they call "uninspired boxes."

Cob homes are much cheaper because the materials come from the earth, usually found right on the property.

The Rauchwergers have spent just over $240 so far on the 900 square-foot-cottage. That was the price for the delivery of a truck load of cut trees delivered to their property.

From the logs, Misha honed the ridge and support beams inside the cottage. He also made a wooden ceiling for the second floor by milling logs into half-inch thick planks.

Other materials for the cottage were bartered or free. Doors, windows and flooring are recycled — they came from houses earmarked for demolition.

It has taken the couple about seven summers to build their cob cottage — admittedly a slow process. But with more people to help, bigger mixing equipment rather than their own feet — and continual construction — a cob house can be built in a year, said Misha.