Mud wall

Straw bale workshop – day 2

Day two at the straw bale workshop meant I got to play with mud and I loved it.

The morning began with a recap of the previous day and the plan for day two. There were two main tasks: finish of the outside straw walls and begin work on the interior mud walls. I was straight into the mud walls, something I had been looking forward to. In essence it meant to fill the ‘wall cages’ from yesterday with mud.

The mud we used for the walls was sources locally, from the ground below our feet. The dirt from the excavation was kept on side. It was stored in one large pile and in two smaller barrels behind the house. Due to the rain the barrels and their dirt had turned into a big box of mud. This mud is perfect for the mud walls. The composition of the mud is also fortunate. We did not have to add any clay, sand or stones to the mixture.

For today the procedure was to fill buckets with mud, get them to the walls that needed filling, and to get our hands dirty by getting the mud from the buckets into the ‘cages’. Everyone had her or his own technique to get the mud in between the wiring on the timber frame. In some cases we added straw to the mud because the mud was too wet. We also had to wrap our heads around the fact that whatever mud we pushed onto the top of the ‘cage’ had the potential of coming out on the front or the back of the wall. Some compartments turned bulky but we were assured that it wouldn’t matter in the end.

I loved today’s team work. We had to stop the mud-filling business every now and again to put more chicken wire onto the frame. This preparation of the side meant that about five people had to work together: one had to cut the wire, one had to hold it against the frame, one had to staple it onto the frame, and two people had to saw and screw on the horizontal planks to give extra support to the wire. We all took turns in doing these jobs, helping each other where we could. And when it was time to get our hands in the mud we worked around each other without being in each other’s way. The resulting walls are clearly a team effort.

My main take-away today is how forgiving a mud wall can be. Yes, there are holes and yes, there is bulking but overall it was enough to ‘wiggle’ and ‘jiggle’ the wire to resolve the kinks. I’m looking forward to tomorrow to see how much the walls have dried, what they look like at this stage, and how solid they have become. It will be another day of playing with mud.

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