For most of the summer Orly has been lead on the rammed earth brick project, and done an excellent job of overseeing the transition from a concept to an actual pile of bricks ready for use. As summer comes to a close, the intern roster changes as some head back to school and other 'terns start to arrive for the fall session. Kerst, one of those recent arrivals, will be taking lead and building on the work Orly did.
Handing Off the Ram
Kerst takes lead on the CEB project
The plan is to keep production going until the fall rains arrive. What's worked best for us, given the high clay content of our soil, is to make bricks during our dry season. We use our backhoe to dig dirt out of the slope where one of our earth-sheltered cabins will go--and it quickly dries out into hard-to-work clumps. In order to facilitate mixing, we run the dry dirt through an old hammer mill. The mill busts up the clods leaving creating a fine, powder that mixes well with the portland cement. Then it's a matter of adding the right amount of water, and loading the processed clay into the ram. Hammermilling the clods is a dusty way to go, but it's giving us a uniform product by insuring that the cement and dirt are intimately mixed.
Recently, Michael and Gretchen, friends from Colorado, pitched in and helped Kerst add another sixteen 12"x6"x4" bricks to our steadily growing stack. It takes a couple of hours to make bricks this way, but it's work that forms a good counter balance to much of the rest of the work we do--daily chores such as watering the gardens or feeding the animals. As with most sustainable systems, there's a notable capital cost up front, an investment which will provide comfort and security in return. In the case of the bricks, once made they'll provide energy sustainability for many years to come.