Have you heard about the cob houses, homes built from mud, straw, and clay? For anyone who is dreaming of living an off-grid life, this could be very inspiring. This off-grid home was constructed in Oxfordshire, England by Michael Buck, a 59-year-old who worked several years as an art teacher at St. Edward’s school in Oxford. His artistic flair can be seen about the cob house home design, inside and out, and it’s truly original work of art. Although you can find it behind the local pub, at the bottom of the hill, under the largest of three ancient oak trees, this lovely tiny cob home is so off the grid; it may not even have a postal code.
To build his DIY off-grid home from scratch, Buck referred to the ancient technique of cob house building, all of which he learned out of a book. He used only natural materials he could find, including mud, straw, and hay from his property, as well as other recycled materials. He built it with his own bare hands and the help of 20 volunteers, using no power tools or nails, and the cost was only 150 British Pounds, or approximately $250 US. Even the interior’s shelves are made from hand-carved wood. The tiny off-grid home took over eight months to construct. Buck is proud of his hand-built home and hopes it will inspire others to do the same. He feels that people should try their hand at cob building when they’re fresh out of school, rather than spending three years at university – the hands-on learning experience is far more valuable, and you have your own home to live in or to rent out when you’re finished. He is particularly thrilled with the low cost of building it, and the zero cost of running it.
This one-bedroom cob home stands at 300 square feet and is so well-insulated with its thick cob walls and sheep wool-stuffed ceiling; it requires no electricity. Nor does it have running water – that, you can fetch from the nearby creek. When you step inside this off the grid house, you’ll see that it has a single room. The kitchen and dining space are on one side, and there’s a wee living room area with a wood-burning stove on the other. The bedroom is nestled above the stove and is big enough to fit a double mattress that’s tucked around the chimney, to keep its occupants warm at night. Today, the Bucks rent their home out to a local dairy worker who pays his rent in cream and milk. Michael Buck is happy with this arrangement because he never wanted this home to be a commercial endeavour.
Cob house building has a rich history in Europe, particularly in England, but using simple earth, grass, and clay to build homes is a practice almost as ancient as human life on Earth. Throughout the ages, earth and mud have been used to build homes on every continent all across the world. And although we tend to think of earthen homes as being ancient, somewhere between a third to a half of our current world population is living in them as we speak. The unique style of cob building began in England, and cob refers to building freestyle with mud, using no forms such as bricks or structures made from wood. Although it’s difficult to say when, exactly, cob homes arose in Great Britain, the first ones were recorded in the 13th Century.