Thursday, 6 June 2013

Fierce creatures

It's been over six months since my last post, several reasons for this the first couple of months this year we saw heavy rains, very heavy, so no building. I covered the walls with plastic sheeting and waited. The whole time I waited I could barely sleep, I was worried about my friends the termites. I would go and check and I started to see their little mud tunnels going over the stem wall to the cob. I would break them and go back a few days later and they were there again!! Most natural builders will tell you to check once a month around the house for tunnels and break them, but this was non-stop!

Lots of rain!!

To go back to some decisions I made along the building process, I opted to not put in a metal termite barrier, as if cob was to work in this area, it had to have as little external costs as possible, for others to be able to try this technique. Also the environmental cost of metal is high. I took every precaution with wood in the building, there was to be no wood directly in contact with the ground. The window frames and doors are a hard wood that the termites would find hard to eat. Yet the grass straw became appealing to the termites. I took some risks, and maybe with more precautions such as using the metal termite barrier this would be enough to stop them getting into the cob. 
Termite art! 
There are several reasons why the termites would have been attracted to the walls, the black plastic covering the walls during the rains didn't allow the walls to breath so a dark damp environment is what the termites love most!! The straw I used was not real 'straw' as wheat(or other cereals that can be used for straw) is not grown in this area it made no ecological sense to bring it in from the other side of the country. So I improvised, tried out something different, using grass that was cut after it had dried out. There are other people who have built with cob in Africa with no problem, this doesn't mean it isn't possible here. In our area in particular though we have every kind of termite under the sun!! Termites that eat wet wood, dry wood, grass, the bark off of living trees etc etc!!

Using a slasher to cut grass on the road
Cob was my first love in my natural building discovery, and I was a little bit blinded, I wanted to build with cob no matter what, as I love the process so much, but it may not be the most appropriate natural building technique for this area. So this does not in any way mean that it is the end of my mud dancing story, absolutely not!! I have had many other adventures these past few months that have helped me to see the way forward.(I will write another post soon about this) I think it is important for me to write about the problems I have faced, even if it's hard so that others can learn from my mistakes or the risks that I was willing to take in my journey towards a life in sync with the earth beneath my feet.

Fruits of the rainy seasonI've been busy making jams, chutneys and pickles from both indigenous and exotic fruits that fill the trees in this area
during the rains.
These mushrooms can grow to a metre in diameter and they are delicious!!