Building a cob house

Cara graver cob house builderCara Graver built a cob house. An artist who has worked in many materials, she had attended a six week workshop in Oregon on natural building and came back to build what is now “The Cob Studio.” A cob house is built out of clay, sand, straw, and water. Graver says cob building has been done on almost every continent, and in every age. “Cob” comes from the old English word for loaf. About her house: Most of the clay she got from a neighbor who was building a house. There was a big hole with a pile of dirt beside it and that dirt was full of clay. More clay she retrieved by the roadside where there was exposed land. Graver led a nine day workshop with 25 participants to build the cob house. Your correspondent asked her to demonstrate the process: First you put clay and sand on a tarp and add water. You stamp and mix it with your feet . Next with your arm full of straw, grab a chunk of the clay mixture, combine it all together and shape it into a ball. Once you’ve formed the ball you shout “Cob toss” and toss it down the line of people to the person at the wall. That person puts it into place and tamps it down with their fingers. The wall is just built up from there! (Gravers was interviewed at the High Point Cafe craft market at the Allen Lane train station in Mount Airy, Philadelphia,  in 2023.)

Watch video interview here


Chestnut Hill Local disposes of bound print volumes

Shaffer chestnut hill local bound print volumes

Bound volumes get your own piece of Chestnut Hill historyThe Chestnut Hill Local has been published since 1958 and for decades, until about 2018, copies were bound into annual then semi annual-volumes. The Local kept a set and two other sets were maintained by the Chestnut Hill Library and the Chestnut Hill Conservancy according to Leisha Shaffer, Real Estate and Classifieds Manager. When the library experienced flood damage some years back, salvaged volumes were brought to the Local’s offices. Now it’s time to make more space.  Shaffer thought members of the community might want to retain some of these volumes as keepsakes - a little bit of history for a year that was of special note such as the year they graduated high school or got married or such. So she's been running an ad - in the classifieds, of course! The Local is now offering these history-packed editions to the public and asking for a $20 contribution for each.

Editions of the newspaper from recent years have been preserved in digital form and the Local had looked into digitizing all back issues but cost considerations and the pandemic intervened, according to Shaffer.

Your correspondent was unable to ascertain whether the Conservancy has a complete print set or what years it may make available in digitized format.

Watch video interview of news weekly's Classified Manager about disposing of old bound print volumes of the Local here.


Come volunteer! Northwest Philadelphia

Northwest Volunteer Connect

Summit Presbyterian Church in Northwest Philadelphia partnered with the East and West Mount Airy Neighbor Associations to host a “volunteer connect” event on Saturday, January 6, 2024. The format was like a job fair. Representatives from a couple dozen organizations in the community were circled about the room to discuss with potential volunteers ways they can get involved. In the accompanying video, representatives from the following organizations answer your correspondent’s question “What kind of help are you looking for?”


Chestnut Hill Meals on Wheels
East Mt. Airy Neighbors
Food Moxie
Friends of the Wissahickon
Germantown Avenue Crisis Ministry
C.W.Henry School PTA
Hosts for Hospitals
Mt. Airy Tree Tenders/Germantown Tree Tenders
Northwest Mutual Aid Collective
Pathways to Housing
Stenton Manor
Unitarian Society of Germantown
Urban Resources Development Corp.
Welcoming Homes
Wesley Enhanced Living at Stapeley
Woodmere Art Museum
Wyck House and Garden
Yes! And...Collaborative Arts
Quintessence Theatre

Regrettably, your correspondent didn’t get a chance to speak with Whosoever Gospel Mission or Cliveden

View more photos of the volunteer event here.

View video snapshots about the organizations in the Volunteers playlist.