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Four years ago I found myself living alone in a tent in the Turkish hills. There was no power or running water on my land. It was the beginning of an adventure that profoundly changed my beliefs about what is possible, or enjoyable. In this site I share a few of the things I learned along the way, such as:
The most popular blog post from the archives this month is more about writing than building.
The Earthbag Adventure
‘Kerry! I keep telling you, but you just won’t listen. You need to build a house now! Winter is coming. A storm’s coming. It says so on the telly.’ My neighbour Dudu had appeared at my fence only the day before, wisps of hair darting out of her headscarf. ‘And don’t forget. You can always stay on my sofa...oh but you won’t. I know!’ She was wringing her hands. ‘You’re so stubborn. It’s English stubbornness, that’s what it is. God knows it’ll be the death of you!’ She huffed and puffed, popped her false teeth in and out, and shook her fist at me.
From the other side of the fence I looked down at her, not due to superciliousness but because she only reached my shoulder.
‘I’ll be fine, Dudu. The tent is raised off the ground now. Anyway I’m into storms, they’re exciting.’
Dudu screwed up her eyes and turned away in disgust. But she wasn’t the only one to fret over my houseless predicament. Celal, my wiry garden help, wandered up to the fence. He leaned on a large pickaxe and looked me up and down quizzically, his face a brown web of wrinkles.
‘Aye, you wanna be building yourself a hut to park your bum in before winter, look at mine – didn’t cost me a ha’penny but it does the job, eh?
Celal always spoke using little or no punctuation and I was left squinting as I tried to work out what he said. Once the meaning dawned on me, I swallowed a reply. Well, I could see quite clearly his house hadn’t cost a half-penny. It was something of a wonder that shack was still standing. My tent appeared by far the safer option.
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Exactly 4 years ago, I staggered down the sun-flogged track to my land with my tent, a sleeping bag and a pickaxe. I’d woken up one day to find rather disconcertingly that I’d lost the will to teach. I had $6000 left in my account, a twenty-year-old car and my plot of land. That was it. Little did I know on that early summer day, in eight months I’d be building a house. I couldn’t even bang a nail in straight, at the time. But it happened. So if you have followed my earthbag adventure and wonder what exactly went on in those frantic 6 weeks at the end of 2011 while I raced against time and money to create a shelter, Mud Ball is out.
“A joy from beginning to end – a brave, funny, moving account of building a new life and a new home out of mud in Turkey’s mountain wilderness.” Sara Crowe, author of Bone Jack (Nominated for the Carnegie Medal in 2015).
Mud Ball is currently available in ebook format only. The print version is coming very soon.
Sometimes I wonder whether I'm making it all up. And then something like this happens . . .
If you want to know why Rotty the dog is looking so pleased with herself, peruse July's thought for the month in The Mud Mountain Blog.
My hammock may never swing quite so peacefully again.
Atulya K Bingham is a natural building enthusiast living in Turkey, and author of the prize-winning novel Ayse's Trail, and of course the recently released Mud Ball.