the snail garden continued and adobe bricks

We have already begun to transplant artichokes (alcachofa) and creeping camomile (manzanilla) in the outermost layer of the snail garden.  Both are hearty perennial varieties.  Artichokes can withstand cold temperatures and the creeping chamomile can handle light foot traffic.  San Miguel is at about 6,300 ft above sea level.  There is one monsoon season in the middle and late summer and occasional spring rains, but otherwise it is a very dry climate.  The temperature also changes dramatically, you will fry during the day, but need a sweater at night.  These factors make growing food more challenging.   This garden is a perennial food and medicine garden so we must pick plants that can handle this extreme climate throughout the year.  We also submerged the ollas, which are the porous ceramic pots that maintain humidity in the soil.  They are an ancient design brought to us by the Chinese, muchas gracias.  They are so very helpful in reducing water use and increasing the viability of gardening in a desert climate.  Here are some photos of the work we did on the circle garden in the beginning of the week.  We have since made more progress, I just didn’t get a chance to document it.

las ollas

fixing the edges

the center of the garden, ollas in the right corner

I also had the pleasure of visiting the construction site of my new friend Ombertos adobe house.  He is making all the adobe bricks himself, using dirt and manure.  The manure contains fibers which bind the dirt particles together much like cob, but on a smaller scale.  The different types of earth building are interesting to explore.  There are so many methods and variations that use fundamentally the same ingredients.

hand-made adobe bricks

the materials, manure in the back and the dirt to the right

Ombertos soil is very silty, good for growing food, but not for making his bricks, so he gets his dirt from about a quarter of a mile down the road.  It is amazing how dramatically the soil can vary from place to place even as close as 50 feet apart.  In the spring Omberto grows the three sister, corn, beans and sqaush in the fields surrounding his casita.

the three sisters field

close up of the bricks

The bricks and the binder between them is made of the same proportions of dirt and manure.  With all earth building the materials are cheap, sometimes free, but the labor is demanding.  Think about hand making enough bricks by hand to build a house, or building a cob house handful by handful.  It is definitely a process, but when you consider its environmental cost in comparison to conventional building it is well worth the trouble.  Plus earthen buildings breath because they are alive 🙂

Please check out this video!  Part 1 of the UMASS permaculture project documentary…

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One response to “the snail garden continued and adobe bricks

  1. AWESOME! It’s great to see your guy’s progress. I REALLY WANT TO LEARN ADOBE. Can i get hooked up with you friend at the beginning of april? does he need help?

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