A House made of Earth – Part 3

This is Part 3 of a three part series of our story of the construction of our house using locally available sustainable material and skill. Click here to read Part 1 and Part 2. I am not sharing too many technical details for I am not an expert. Those who are interested in the finer details of methods employed, please Comment below or write in to me at sudhakar2310@gmail.com

Most of the efforts that go in to building a house are towards the walls and the roof. But all that is seen when you start living in the house are the floors and the plasters. While I am now writing the blog, I am regretting how little pictures we took of the construction to share with you all. Most of what I can reminisce about the walls and roof construction are only stowed away in our memories.

Floors

While the flooring inside the house is pretty simple with terracota tiles, what is interesting is the mud floor in the patio. The mud floor has multiple coats of cow dung. We water proofed it with double boiled linseed oil for the final coat. The patio has a thatch roof and is the favourite resting spot for us and our dogs. The floor is not perfect but it looks beautiful.

Local baked and compressed terracota tiles are an easy and cheap option for flooring
Multiple layers of cow dung over the cob floor to seal the cracks that resulted from the mud mix drying
Before we sealed the cob floor with double boiled linseed oil, there were a lot of termites boring through the floor. One of the errors that we did was we built the cob floor on rubble, instead of a limecrete DPC

Plasters

Women from Agasthiyarpuram helped us to crush, sieve and prepare raw materials for all the plasters. The medieval technique for grinding lime apparently was to do it manually using a ammi kall or using a Bullock-driven mill. Instead of that, we chose to purchase a second-hand wet grinder locally.

My parents took over the ownership of the entire process of mixing and grinding all ingredients of the plasters. We tested out various combinations of materials available to us in the farm and nearby. We evaluated them for color, durability/cracks and dusting. It took appa amma more than two weeks to prepare all plasters through power outages and wait times for raw material prep.

Masons, Arul and Ganesh, plastered all the walls patiently with trowels even though they had no prior experience with natural plasters. Their feedback during testing and grinding was important to get the proportions right. A few small cracks developed here and there in a few walls which is most likely due to inconsistency of materials (esp. Mud i.e. Sub-soil) and the domestic process of plaster making.

We spend at least half of our lives within the walls of our homes. Manufacturing and transport of paints has a heavy carbon footprint. I am also not sure how healthy it is to be surrounded by walls coated with synthetics. So, no synthetic paints were used whatsoever in the house. Only white washing using lime was done for both the bedrooms and passage because the rooms weren’t bright enough during day time.

Mud + cow dung plaster in 3 walls of the hall and the front entrance wall
The Lime + mud + charcoal plaster looks eerily similar to a cement plaster. No one who has visited our kitchen is able to guess what material went into the plaster.
Lime+ mud + cow dung plaster in one of the walls of the hall. This plaster was also done in 3 walls each in the bedrooms
White washed wall over a lime+mud+cowdung plaster in the passage from the hall to the bedrooms
The Lime + Surkhi plaster is Noushy and my favourite color. But unfortunately, it takes a lot of time and effort (and therefore cost) to make fine Surkhi. So we had to contend with one wall each of this plaster in both bedrooms

Way Ahead

A house with features such as ours requires continuous observation and work to maintain because there is greater wear and tear. The wood in the roof is susceptible to damage by termites – I can only hope now that the palms selected are mature enough. Because we have committed to spend the rest of our lives at the farm, it is easier to observe and maintain. I wouldn’t recommend such an endeavour to someone spending their lives in their farm part time. At the same time, I wouldn’t recommend a conventional house (built with cement, baked bricks and steel) to anyone now that we are living in a house where the air is super clean to breathe, the look is so pleasant and rooms are so cool.

Btw, we haven’t yet named the house. Please share with us your suggestions in comments below 🙂

In separate blog posts, I will share details about the compost toilet, biogas plant and solar plant, which are an integral part of the house.

We keep posting updates from the farm on our Facebook and Instagram handles. Please follow us! Get regular updates from us by scrolling down and entering your email address in the section ‘Follow Blog via Email’

Regards,

Sudhakar

P.S. We haven’t put up a video tour of the house because we want to keep the experience a suspense for when family and friends visit us. 🙂

6 Comments Add yours

  1. Arun Lakshmanan says:

    Ah Sudhakar – a fine journey. I have a few Tamil names (please ignore them if they sound stupid )
    1. Mutramum Arambam – The end is the beginning.
    2. Orumai kudu – since “paravai kudu” is bird nest, I thought this house brings people together – so “orumai”
    3. Mann Nilal – Mann (earth) has no Nilal (shadow), but this has one.
    4. Mann paarththa bumi – Usually, we say “vaanam partha bumi” to depict that land is made fertile by rain only. Upping the metaphore ante, I thought that this house made of earth sees earth as its mother, a natural extension.
    5. Puvi sulnda ulagam – Since Puvi is Earth, and ulagam is your world, the Earth surround this world called my home. I know, it is crazy!!

    All the best, fellas!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Radha mani says:

    Like the Tamil poet Bharathi said காணி நிலம் வேண்டும் பராசக்தி அந்த காணி நிலத்தில் ஓர் நன் மாளிகை கட்டி தர வேண்டும். நீங்கள் இருவரும் இணைந்து செவ்வனே தங்கள் பெற்றவர்களின் ஆசிகளுடன் முடித்தும் விட்டீர்கள் . மிகவும் சந்தோஷம். Really you people ( Noushy and you ) are leading a peaceful and very simple life and I really appreciate your parents for their guidance and support .

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sudhakar says:

      Thank you, Chithi! 🙂

      Like

  3. Radha mani says:

    Sudhakar in agraharam there was a room called mutram is compulsory and you can enjoy nature in that place . Mutram will be grilled in the roof that you could have seen in so many south Indian films. In front these houses will definitely have thinnai and mada vilaku with low roofing when entering the house everyone should bow their head . My grandmother house in thiruvayyaru was like this. Marriages will be conducted in these houses itself . Please ask your in laws (Bhuvaneswari and Sathyanarayanan) about this . They have so many beautiful ocassions and memories to share with you .

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Ramanathan S says:

    Excellent! I Love the house and your’s journey 🙂

    If you could bring in more sunlight inside the house, I think that would be great. Is less sunlight because of thatch?

    BTW, Thank you so much for sharing your experience. Admiring 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sudhakar says:

      Thank you, Ramanathan!

      Thatch is one reason. Neem trees in the east and south are another reason. The store room in the west is another reason. We were a little cramped for space when we chose this site. Ideally, we should have incorporated more beer bottles in the walls to get more light in.

      Liked by 1 person

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