Bricks of mud

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This is a recipe for create mud bricks a type of construction.

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Written by a skillsurfer

When we finally found the place where we can imagine settling down for a while, it is worth considering building a proper house using local natural materials. Here I will share my experience from Beneficio where we were making the first bricks of Fran’s new living roof house.



Ingredients

  • Earth: to achieve a good final result the used earth must contain a certain amount of clay, to check this grind a good handful earth into a glass of water and wait for a few minutes while the clay gets separated from the rest of the earth, you can find it in the top layer and it is usually grey or green. In our case the clay – earth ratio was 1:3. The best is to start searching the building materials close to your future home, first try with the earth excavated to flatten the surface, then if needed look around in the close surroundings, and remember that it is not worth going to far as you will need a lot of earth for your bricks. After having found the appropriate building material you have to eliminate the big stones using a filter and a shovel, the best final result can be achieved with homogen material containing small particles of earth.
  • Donkey or horse pooh: collect a good amount of pooh to use as gluing component in your bricks, the straw digested by the animal will make it stronger. Grind the dry pooh into a bucket with your hands.
  • Pine needles: try to find fresh pine tree branches broken down by a storm, avoid breaking down living ones, you can also look for dry pine needles though their natural glue content is less than the fresh ones. Prepare a fireplace and a big bucket to boil the collected pine needles in it.
  • Flat surface: it is very important to prepare a flat surface to store the wet bricks; otherwise they can loose their shape and get deformed because of the sloping ground.

Steps

When everything is prepared wait for 2-3 forecasted sunny weather, invite your friends, neighbours and start the construction.

  1. Boil the pine needles in water for 15 minutes to extract the glue.
  2. Mix the earth and the pooh in 1:3 ratio in a big bucket.
  3. Add the boiled water (without the pine needles) to the mix until the desired consistency is achieved. To check this you can use the method showed to us by Bambi which he learnt in India: take a handful of your mix and roll it into a sausage form, then let it drop 10 cm out of your hands. Your mix is too dry if your “sausage” stays in a straight position; it is too wet if it breaks down; and it is perfect if it leans down but it does not break!
  4. Use your feet to mix everything well together.
  5. As a moulding use a rectangular object in the size you need, we used a drawer which we recycled from a cupboard of Jan’s restaurant which was destroyed after the invasion of the German punks! Remember to wet your moulding before each brick to provide a smooth surface. Put your wet moulding onto the prepared flat surface, fill it up with the mix, pressing it several times towards the corners and down, when it is full, wet the top with water to smooth it, then carefully lift up the moulding, and your first brick is READY! Remember to protect your bricks from rain and humidity, and enjoy the construction.

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