Mud as Mortar
Adnan mixing mud.
'Chuck some of the 'bok' on will you!' Celal yelled at Evren. He was holding a huge wedge of stone up with one hand and grimacing. Evren stuck his hand into the wheelbarrow, formed a nice round ball of mud mixture and lobbed it deftly under the stone. It hit its target with a satisfying 'plop'.
Now, I should point out at this juncture that 'bok' is not the most refined word in the Turkish language. But then mud-plastering isn't the most refined work either. It generally involves dancing about on dung heaps of festering plaster and getting covered in crap (bok).
I can't remember who made the great leap between the noun and the verb that afternoon. Was it Evren or Celal? But I can say for sure that it was on my land that the term 'boklıyalım' was born. Boklamak. To crapify. And what exactly were we crapifying? A stone wall.
Through a little trial and error we have learned that creating great stone walls without concrete is easy. The Turks and Greeks have been doing it for years. Traditionally stone houses were constructed using ‘kerpic’ or mud plaster as a mortar. The result was a stone home that was both solid and warm and lasted for lifetimes.
As in many places, the skill of making mud plaster has steadily been eroded in Turkey. Locals are persuaded by both building restrictions and hype that concrete is the answer to everything. When you think about it, it’s madness. Villagers are sitting on tons of free earth. Instead of digging it out and mixing it with straw, they waste petrol and money importing concrete onto their land (which still has to be mixed in pretty much the same way).
Earthplaster doesn't have to be so much more effort than concrete. You can use a mechanical mixer to turn it, just as with Portland cement. The main difference is that earth plaster needs to percolate for a week or so before applying. This gives the straw time to start decomposing and thus bind the plaster.
How to make it? The amount of clay you add depends on your earth. The earth we used had a reasonable amount of clay in it already therefore we didn't need to add much.
This was our recipe.
5 parts earth
2.5 parts straw
1 part clay
Plus sand and lime (depending on your climatic conditions)
1. Mix the earth, clay, water and straw together on a sheet of plastic. Stomp it or churn it well.
2.Leave the mixture to percolate for at least a week.
3.Now take 5 parts of this mud/straw mix, add 2 parts lime and 4 parts sand.
4.Shovel ingredients onto an old sheet of plastic and stomp stomp stomp.
5.Now stomp some more. The more it’s mixed the better it is.
6.Now slap your mortar in between layers of stones.
Mud mortar isn't as water resistant as Portland Cement, and needs a roof over it to protect if from heavy rain. It may also need touching up every now and again.