Glorious Mud!

Mixing the wonderful red clay that we have on site with water and lots of straw. It is cool in the dome and the mud and straw mix is cool too – and it’s very hot outside!

The first stage is to make the mix of much and straw (see blog ‘A Feast for the Spirits of our Land’ on where the straw came from) and this we did in the big plastic bowls in the picture below, using our hands and feet. Then the spaces between the bags are filled with the mix, and then the cob is plastered all over the inside.

Note the glowing green circle on the wall. Bottles were cut in half (not easy!) and joined together and put into the wall to add some interesting touches of light.

Big bowls to mix the mud and straw.

Big bowls to mix the mud and straw.

Friends came to help!  Everyone loves with mud...

Friends came to help! Everyone loves playing with mud…

Working up high in the dome is not something everyone can do! Our workers seem to be having fun!

Workers enjoying their work!

Workers enjoying their work!

On the outside of the dome much the same process happens, except we are using a mix of cement and water, and dipping straw into that, to fill in all the spaces between the bags.

Pulley system to take buckets of straw dipped in a mix of cement and water to the top of the dome.

Pulley system to take buckets of straw dipped in a mix of cement and water to the top of the dome.

Then a mix of cement, sand, water and rice husks goes on, making a waterproof cap. Those pipes you can see sticking out of the dome in the picture below will be air vents to make sure that the dome always has fresh air, even when doors and windows are closed.

The Blue Moon Dome with its concrete cap.

The Blue Moon Dome with its concrete cap.

The Festival of Songkhran is about to begin. This is when everyone throws water at each other and probably began as a ritual to summon the rain, as the dry season is in full force with soaring temperatures and forest fires. We felt we needed to get a waterproof cap on our dome quickly, as the rains can begin any time after the Festival.

We are also hard at work on getting the next dome up and capped before the monsoon begins. This dome is bringing surprises as you will see in the next Blog.

Tess and Toni outside my kitchen door.

Tess and Toni outside my kitchen door.

I am very sad to have to tell you that Mickey Mouse (see blog Spirits Abound) was run over a few days ago.  We miss him.

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Termites are Trouble

Termites! They can find wood anywhere – but they don’t like teak. A friend of mine had a teak wood house, but her kitchen cabinets were not built of teak. The termites found their way up over the concrete base (built to keep them out!) under the teak wood wall, and into the kitchen at the back of the cabinets and proceeded to munch away until finally there were so many of them that the sound alerted my friend!

I have had a ceiling fall down on me – the termites had chewed through the wood frames of the ceiling panels!

A termite mound at the bottom of the garden, about 50 cm high.

A termite mound at the bottom of the garden, about 50 cm high.

What to do?   Well, use as little wood as possible and use teak.  But teak must be about the most expensive wood there is….

About a half hour drive away along a lovely road through the jungle by the side of the River Ping, there is a shop that sells second hand teak.  It is run by a woman who used to sell pork in the market, but switched to buying old teak houses (many Thais prefer to have modern concrete houses) and breaking them up and selling the wood.

So this is where I do my wood shopping.  Not only pieces of wood for window and door frames, but even the windows and doors themselves.

Old teak window sitting on rice-husk-bags, set in a bamboo frame attached to the ‘bird cage’.

Old teak window sitting on rice-husk-bags, set in a bamboo frame attached to the ‘bird cage’.

After the windows and doors are attached to the bird cage the rice-husk-bags continue up the walls.  Then a point is reached where the dome begins to lean in.  The bags, though not heavy in comparison to earthbags, were heavier than I was happy with to be attached to the roof, with gravity pulling them down.

So volunteer Su Lupasco Washington designed a way of folding a sausage-like bag one third the thickness of our regular bags.  The bags continued up into the dome and finally covered the inside of the whole structure – and the temperature inside the dome immediately dropped!

The last ‘sausage’ bags going up into the dome.

The last ‘sausage’ bags going up into the dome.

Su also wove some bamboo shelves which will be covered with cob.

Su Lupasco Washington weaving bamboo shelves.

Su Lupasco Washington weaving bamboo shelves.

Outside the front door of the dome we made a porch, the perfect place to sit and admire the view of the mountain, Doi Chang Dao.   The roof of the porch, formed by an extended eave from the dome, will be balanced on two lovely old teak tree trunks.

Setting an old teak post into position on what will be the porch.

Setting an old teak post into position on what will be the porch.

In the photo above you can see that part of the foundation for the porch is made from earthbags.

The porch becomes a reality.

The porch becomes a reality.

The step up from the porch into the dome is Su’s!    She created a fabulous mosaic in blue, and we shall name the dome ‘Blue Moon’.

Su transferring her design onto the step, piece by careful piece.

Su transferring her design onto the step, piece by careful piece.

And back at home two new additions, kittens Widget and Sophia.

Toni and Widget tentatively checking each other out.

Toni and Widget tentatively checking each other out.

Next Blog – finally – we get to play with mud!