Wednesday, 28 August 2013

'The problem is the solution'

I have been busy building and having little time to write. I have had to re-think what I am doing with the building project completely.

The structure I have been building in cob I have left for now, the termites have gone after removing the black plastic from the walls. I have left this structure for now and still plan to use it, either finish building it as it is or have half walls with a pole roof structure over it. We will see maybe next year what to do with it.
levelling the ground, this took quite some time!! 

So I have levelled the ground, dug the trench and have been building the stone foundation for a small two roomed structure to have a place to stay as soon as possible. I am making sun-dried mud bricks with no straw. I have been playing around with the mix as it is not as strong with no straw. I have found that after all that, termite mound clay is way better than the clay I have been using in the cob! I didn't want to do this as I didn't like the idea of destroying a termites home. It seems that as long as you don't take away everything, leaving the colony and the queen, they are fine and they rebuild. I didn't decide to use this because of vengeance, but the smooth nature of the clay that requires little soaking shows why people have been using this as a building material for so long here.
marking and pegging the foundations

The fact that natural building techniques are being replaced more and more with modern materials which are less comfortable, and so much more expensive both financially and for the environment, comes a lot from the idea that it is a poor peoples building technique. So the style of the house I am building now, is using similar techniques to the traditional method, but with the style of house that is considered more modern.

I have had to make a lot of test bricks to see what is the strongest, I have had to use more sand to stop the clay from cracking, which is a common problem with this clay. I have found the best mix to be 1 1/2 clay, 2 pit sand straight from the ground below, and 1 1/2 river sand.

Another lesson learnt is to accept some help, so yabani has been coming to help me a few mornings a week, which definitely helps things move faster!

I will post more recent photos soon, I leave you with a few photos of an amazing community I visited with my family a few months ago. This is a whole group of villages in a communal area in the chimanimani mountains, who have been practising permaculture for 20 years!! It's truly inspiring, Julius Piti showed us around and I was totally taken aback to see how successful this was, flourishing. Something to aspire too!! Of course being at the base of a mountain range is not the same as being in the Kalahari sands, but it's even more of a challenge!!