Saturday, 27 December 2014

Moving into our earthen home

It's been a month since we moved in and it feels like this is where we have always been. It's so much a part of us, I feel like it's almost part of my body I have spent so much time putting it all together. It's been quite a journey and now it really begins! living the life we have imagined for so long, there is still a lot of work to be done, setting a system in place for all our needs and finishing off on the building, but we are there, we are in!

I finished the earthbag retaining wall around the house, it could do with one last layer of plaster

So after having tried out earthbag building on the retaining wall I built a small storeroom using the smae method. A rubble trench foundation then the first course of bags had gravel inside. 

The next two layers were stablised with a bit of cement so I did a damp prrof course before carrying on with earth filled bags.

This is the framework for layering clay to make  built in clay shelves for extra storage

The plastering is quite a big job

The top of the storeroom I used glass bottles to try the technique and to let some light in, there is no recycling or rubbish collection in this area so whatever you can reuse is great. I collected the bottles from our friends who had been saving these up and who run a great lodge close by 'Sable Sands' 

I moved everything in before it was finished as I needed the storage space

The photos below you can see we are getting settled into our new way of life.

Our wonderful new edition to the family 'Whiskey' who came from the SPCA in Bulawayo they are doing an amazing job and there are so many animals who need a good home.  
Making washing up liquid. After asking around alot for a non-toxic source of washing powder and liquid I found out from a neighbour that the sap of an indigenous tree of which we have many can be used for washing! I have not seen any documentation on this  'commiphora mossambicensis' It's great so I can use the grey water from our washing up and clothes washing straight to the mulched areas around the fruit trees as I had hoped. 

This is the sap that I have pounded and then mixed with hot water and lemon juice

It's planting time as the rains have arrived, Millet,sorghum, beans,groundnuts, pumpkins,ochra...
The indigenous fruits are ripe and it's been fun to experiment using them in different recipes. They are such an important source of food and vitamins for everyone in the community especially at this time of year when the food saved from the last season is almost finihsed and new crops have only just been planted. 
The 5000litre water tank has been overflowing and is our main source of water, I need to build more storage for all the water so we can collect every drop.

This stunning photograph taken at night is by my talented husband, as are a few  of the others in this blog. Here you can see the solar lights working so well. 

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Sharing the .... Mud

It's been a while since I last posted, I've been working on the last layer of plaster on the inside and it's taken quite some time to get it just right. It's a lot of fun and satisfying to give it a personal touch and to see it looking almost finished!
I've been learning to share my plaster with the potter wasps of which there are quite a few who all have different methods of making their beautiful little nests for their babies. I kept hearing funny noises and saw that they were collecting balls of my plaster mix and flying off with them( I guess it's a compliment that they like my plaster mix so much!!). They are doing a great job as there have been a lot of caterpillars this season and they have been collecting them to put in their nests for when the young hatch. With all the indigenous fruit trees we have on our place they will also be pollinating these. 

Oliver watching a wasp make a huge nest under the shelf in his bedroom

A new fruit was added to this tree 
I used an old broken mirror to make some small decorations around the house, this dragonfly is being chased by a gecko sculpted in the plaster.

a star over a moon is an african symbol for love

I pressed a small triangular piece of mirror into the plaster to make this pattern around a shelf

Cowerie shells are embedded in the plaster for the body of this dragonfly
I cut out a stamp from an old piece of car tyre to make these lion footprints around the door

I lay these tiles and used the plaster as mortar which worked very well, clay on clay sticks very well! They are along the back of the kitchen counter

for this final plaster layer every batch of sand and clay is passed through a seive to get a good quality finish.

placing the reed mats for the ceiling was a bit of a mission, it took 3 of us but we got there in the end

I have just finished making an earthbag retaining wall around the house, These 50kg bags were filled with the earth that had been dug out to level the area. Just moistened and fill the bags, then ram in place, barbed wire between the layers is like velcro. It's quick but hard on the arms( as to make it quicker as we were only 2 people doing this we filled big buckets to fill the bags rather than small tins as it suggests in the instruction book I used!) 

A lot of friends and neighbours have been coming to see what I am doing, it' good to see interest and some go away saying they are inspired which is what it's all about so it further inspires me. 

I will be plastering the bags soon, they can't be left exposed too long otherwise they breakdown when exposed to UV, it feels very solid....

..... just in case I got an expert in to give it the final touch

Oliver applying a coat of paint to his room, I chose to make a light yellow paint for the bedrooms, it's a mix of  white clay and yellow sand that are found in the village.

It brightens up the room

October is our hottest month here, it's been reaching the mid 40's so far but inside the house is the coolest place to be. It's really great to see the combination of orientation to the sun and thermal mass of the walls really works. Sitting on this clay seat at mid day is blissful! 

Some friends who were visiting helped out by installing the pipes for the grey water from the kitchen to lead to the banana circle. 

These beautiful mermaid trees came into flower and a carpet of yellow petals led to the house, I am constantly blown away by the beauty of what is around us, and feel so strongly protective over all of this life.

As we are planning to move in the coming weeks, we need a space for our visitors, so Misheck came back and built a traditional pole and thatch structure

So we are almost ready to move in, there is still a long list of jobs I want to finish first but in the next few weeks we should be moving in!