It's been a while since I posted in Mud Mountain. But my thoughts often drift back there. Mud Mountain isn't simply a place, you see. It's a pocket of time. It's a certain mindset and lifestyle too. As I write the concluding chapter of my latest book Dirt Witch, Mud Mountain feels incredibly present. This story of what happened to me when I first moved onto that land in Turkey with a tent and not much else, has taken longer to complete than I anticipated. That is perhaps in part because I wasn't sure whether to let Mud Mountain's secrets go.
The Fugitives (Excerpt from Dirt Witch)
We were sitting in front of my neighbour’s house under a large shade she’d created out of a grapevine. The vine was expansive and abounding. Thick stems crisscrossed over a wire frame from which bundles and bundles of leaves pushed out.
Dudu pulled a plate onto her lap. It was filled with cracked wheat. Deftly, her experienced hands began to sort the bulgur. As usual I gaped in amazement, because there was nothing this woman couldn’t make. She was pretty much self-sufficient. She pressed her own olive oil and pomegranate molasses, she grew all her own fruit, vegetables and herbs. She made her own tomato puree and carob molasses. Her flat breads were piled up in her kitchen like a tower of enormous poppadoms, and there were endless pickles and olives and dried fruits too. She was nearly seventy, owned a hectare of land filled with trees and produce, and managed it almost single-handedly except for the summer tree watering when family would sometimes pop up for the weekend. Dudu thought this was all quite typical, but for me it was an incredible life. She was my survivalist heroine.
“Ahem.” It was Celal who coughed. His shoulders jerked upwards. The little man began to squirm on his stool, and the lines around his eyes started to twitch. It looked as though he had something of personal importance to expound. Finally he rested his tea glass on the plastic table, and made the subject of his twitching known.
“I’m gonna move into my hut next summer. I’ve decided,” he spat the sentence out onto the table, leaving it to glisten in front of us.
I blinked. Leaning back on my chair, I peered past Dudu’s house, and from there I could just about see Celal’s hut. The small wooden shack perched uncomfortably on the hillside, and depending on your point of view it was either a crime of engineering or a miracle of amateur carpentry. Celal had built it himself, much of it out of recycled materials. He’d gathered the timber and wooden cladding from another dismantled shed, the tiles were second hand, and the windows and doors were from scrap yards. It was actually rather funky in my opinion. But to live in it?
“Do you think it’s safe?” I said. “I mean, it won’t fall down on you, will it?” I glanced over at the wonky wooden stilts it was squatting upon. It resembled some sort of spindly-legged creature, and a drunk one at that.
“Bin fine for two winters,” Celal sniffed and downed his second glass of tea. Dudu remained tactfully diffident. She stood up, tucked her headscarf in once again, and poured Celal and I yet another glass of tea. Eventually, she broke the silence.
“Yes it will be just fine. You can keep all your food in my fridge, can’t you? And fill up your water here too if you need to.”
“Gonna get water from the borough,” Celal said.
“Yes, but until then…”
“But why?” I blurted. “You have a decent house in the village. Why do you want to live up here?”
“Me kids are in my house. You know, they’re a young couple. I mean we have two kitchens and the like, but I wanna sit in me own house, on me own land, with me own trees. Everyone needs their space.”
And ain’t that the truth?
Looking at Dudu and Celal in turn, I chuckled. We were a rum lot, hugging the outskirts of Yaprakli village like three self-sufficient fugitives. Celal in his hut with Apo the dog, Dudu in her house churning out a never ending stream of natural produce, and me, the crazy English woman in the tent. Lord knows why I was surprised at Celal’s decision when I was at least ten steps closer to lunacy than he was.
This need for a space of one’s own is so primal. It is such a basic yearning. A garden, a shelter, and sovereignty over your own territory. As a woman, I knew why I was going to the limits for it; In a world where the game plan has mostly been designed by men for men, I wanted a space to be free, a place where I could have room just to see who I really was, and what I was capable of. I wanted to dress how I felt like, be ugly or pretty and it not matter. But what I wanted most of all was to create my own world. One that adhered to my values.
And perhaps this was why I was surprised at Celal. I understood Dudu. I understood myself. Both Dudu and I were survivors from The Man’s World in our different ways. But I hadn’t considered that some men were in cages too. To be a sensitive, caring man, to be a man who hears the animals and plants, a man with a heart in a boarish, brutally systematic, and mostly moronic culture, is hard.
“Yes it’s great to be alone on your own land Celal. You can do exactly what you want!” I felt my grin stretching so wide it made my cheeks smart.
“Aye. I can see it is.” Celal chuckled. Apo raised his fluffy dog head and nuzzled the nobbled brown twig of his owner’s leg.
As I sat with my two neighbours, such a tenderness rose inside me. We differed from each other in so many ways, in age, gender and culture. Yet here was this bond. And it gleamed and shone like a golden thread, winding around our love of our gardens, our independence, and our space. This is the truth of being human. The powers that be can segregate us and label us as much as they want, but in essence all people, male and female, black, brown and white, Eastern or Western, right-wing or left-wing, come wired with the same underlying drives: To be free to express themselves, to love and be loved, and to grow.
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It is always in the absence of a thing that we comprehend its true value. Not that I ever undervalued my life up on Mud Mountain. But some of the things I miss, or the extent to which not having them affects me, surprise me. Eight months have passed since I left. And I am slowly comprehending. How privileged I was to have a space of my own. An uncorrupted square of Gaia to play in, to be wholly and unabashedly myself.
Now I am on the road you see, and I am on borrowed land. Every day and night. Other people’s spaces. Or no one’s. It’s very different.
How sensitive I have become to noise for one thing. And how wretchedly noisy the world seems to be! Cars, trucks, grass strimmers, washing machines, road works, cement mixers, televisions, slot machines. Wherever I go, I’m assailed by a never-ending chain of mechanical and electronic pollution that seems to bother no one but myself.
And then I stumble or rumble into a forest, or a field, or grove. Birds twitter, leaves whisper. The light drips from the grass like an alien emerald energy. And I remember what I left behind.
To co-create an Eden is probably the greatest blessing a human can have. To hold a space sacred, sense the power of the trees and the breath of the land, to forge relationships with the myriad of creatures that hop and crawl and amble over the skin of our planet, to hear the messages slipping out of the forest, to feel intrinsically a valuable part of something without compromising a speck of your truth, to have a space where you gain power when you feel disempowered, or nourishment when you feel hungry, or love when you feel bereft; these things are Earth’s gift to us.
It’s so obvious now, squashed as I am in the driver’s seat of my caravan, how lucky I have been. The last five years were the best of my life. Now, as I chug along my new road, I carry that gift inside me like a precious, rare egg.
Don’t misunderstand me. I don’t want to be back on Mud Mountain. Half a year down the line, I am more certain than ever that my choice was bang on. In fact, I’m often to be found slumped on the sofa of my van, hand clapped to forehead in relief, marvelling at how I escaped.
I still wonder how my land knew what was coming, because I heard the dirt and the branches speaking many times in the year before, as if the intentions of the collective consciousness had seeped into the earth, to be sensed, and smelt and heard.
Trees communicate via subterranean fungal pathways. They warn each other of danger, share nutrients and who knows what else? For the forest, the survival of the whole is survival. Is this what I tapped into? Or the soul of the planet itself? I don’t know.
Now, as I motor back through the British Isles, I realise for the first time in a long while I am free. To speak. To write. To think. And to imagine a garden stuffed with magic. A garden where everything is valued equally, from the smallest ant to the tallest tree. A garden of possibility and choice. A garden created using an amalgam of my power and that of the planet. Because the one thing Mud Mountain taught me which has changed my world is that we are all gods and goddesses. We are powerful. We are amazing. And we could change the direction of this sorry world in years, if enough of us only realised it and acted on it.
So here they are: Ten things I miss most about that Other life. My life on a 2500 m2 hill, all alone and off-grid in a mud home. I miss so many more things than this of course, but to list them would take forever.
The Ten Things I Miss Most About Mud Mountain
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I never thought I'd leave Mud Mountain. I felt a deep connection with the earth and the wildlife of my space. Building my earthbag home was the single best thing I did. Living in it was exquisite. I’d assumed I’d be buried there.
So why did I leave? Those who’ve followed this blog a while now will have pieced together much of the story. Even so, some of it has slipped through net, usually due to a lack of time to write, and because so often we can only see the relevance of certain points on the path much further down the road.
Yes, in hindsight it all started with an eerie conversation with a tree I called the Wisdom carob, which told me to let go of it all. Though I remember quite clearly shaking my finger at the tree and saying, “Well it can all change, but I’m not letting go of my land. No way! Forget it!”
Two months later in February 2016 my neighbour bulldozed the plot directly next to me ready to build a small cabin in it. Not too bad by most people’s standards. But I was used to being lost in the wilds, out of sight from everyone. Mud Mountain was my secret world, and it felt like an invasion.
So that was the trigger. The initial shove. Yet that wasn’t all in truth, for there had been other issues welling up. They had collected silently below the surface over the years, like suppressed tears waiting for catharsis.
Though I loved my land and my area, there were issues I began to tire of coping with; dodging bullets from hapless hunters (some would be literally ten metres from my house and fire into my land unaware I was even there), hearing ancient pines being chain-sawed to the ground, seeing rare birds being shot and dogs being poisoned, and watching toxic pesticides being spread over every field in the name of controlling weeds or bugs. I wasn’t the only person around me who felt the same way, but we were an outgunned minority.
Then, just after the bulldozing in February, a friend of mine who was travelling around the Iberian Peninsula sent me a few adverts for plots of land for sale in Spain and Portugal. Beautiful, rolling plots with stone huts or cave houses. As I perused the internet, I noticed something inside me had changed. The Mediterranean was leaving me cold. Suddenly, without ever having interested me before, the entire Atlantic coast from Lagos to Orkney began to whisper to me. The ruggedness of the rocks. The waves. The pewter skies with their fiery sunsets...The Earth was speaking. I knew it.
It’s easy to talk of change. Exacting it is a little trickier. My home seemed to be embedded within me. How could I let it go? So I clung to it, procrastinated, until a few extraordinary events ripped my fingers from its earthy walls; a forest fire, a sick dog, an attempted coup. It seemed the land itself was ejecting me, throwing me out into the big wide world.
And the rest is history. I sold my mud home, and returned to England with my dog in tow.
Next I bought a van, and began travelling the Atlantic coast in search of a new space, a space where nature’s magic is felt and nurtured. And where mud homes can bloom. That quest for my new Eden - an 18 month odyssey that took me from the northern most tip of Scotland to the southern most toe of Portugal - was recorded in the On The Road series.
The road was far from straight of course. There were many ups and downs, twists and turns. My beautiful dog died. I am alone once more.
Yet after 18 months of van life (which I freely admit, I began to loathe), I finally found a new mud and stone world. It is beautiful. It is powerful. And I love it. You can follow my latest adventures as I single-handedly build a new off-grid world for myself, at the Earth Whispering Blog.
It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings
Dawn can be much like dusk. Only colder. The darkness capitulates. A ridge of mountains pulls itself out of the night. Clouds distinguish themselves from the sky. And the world exists once more. It’s never the same world as yesterday. The night changes everything.
The ridges I spotted as day broke on the 7th of November, were the mighty caps of the Bey Mountains. Snow hadn’t reached them yet, their treeless heads were still brown. A road threaded through them. The road I was on. It plunged north westwards to the city of Izmir, slicing through bygone cities and ancient burial mounds.
Rotty’s furry head poked over the armrest. I stroked between her ears. Panting a little, she nuzzled the arm of our driver. Through the windscreen I watched bands of sky turn from lead to steel. The twine of the road grew clearer. This was my last dawn in Turkey. For a while at least. After almost twenty years, I was leaving the land of my heart. Because my heart had moved. Though where?
Twenty years is a long time. I was 26 when I moved to Turkey, a young woman very different from the mud-home building, wilderness-loving witch I am now. I married here, divorced here, moved homes, built and lost businesses. I had woven friendships, networks and communities over the years. I knew the ropes. Understood the rigging. Could make my way through the coded warrens of Turkey’s various systems.
It’s a lot to leave behind. More than just a mud home on a beautiful hill.
Yes. More than that.
It began with a carob tree whispering across the ravines of time, and a bulldozer growling at my fence. It began when I imagined building another home and felt a flurry inside my heart. It began when a friend of mine sent me photos of land the other side of Europe, when I cast my eye upon the Atlantic coast and sensed something inside me hungering. Yes, that’s where it began.
But it has been transmuted into something else. For the world has shifted into another shape. I’m not the only one moving. Turkey is on a road too, and like me it’s changed direction. One midsummer night there was this mysterious coup, and since then a good 70 000 people (at least) have been arrested. Opposition newspapers have been closed, opposition politicians arrested. It’s pretty much a fait accompli. They are discussing the reintroduction of the death penalty as I write.
I no longer enter much political debate. It’s too uninspiring. (And depending on where you live, too incriminating). The serious study of a tree or a bird offers far more light than the intellectualised bickering or emotional ranting of the political domain. Besides, it's not the focus of this blog, nor my area of expertise. But for what it’s worth (and it might not be worth much - though let's face it, few of the official pundits seem any more capable of prophecy) this is a snippet of my perspective from the inside.
Some say Turkey will become Iran. Others say Afghanistan. One or two are in complete denial and pretend nothing at all is happening. I seriously doubt Turkey will become Afghanistan or Iran. The leadership is far more ambitious (in case you hadn’t noticed). This isn’t the nineteen nineties, either. In the new world, Turkey is financially sturdy (currently 18th largest economy in the world, with a higher GDP than Saudi Arabia and Switzerland) and in possession of some business savvy. Lest we forget, it also holds the 10th most powerful military in the world, fourth largest in NATO. Socio-economically speaking, I’d start looking vaguely in the direction of the U.A.E, if you want to see where Turkey’s trajectory is headed. The U.A.E with a hefty army, a lust for importance, and a toe inside Europe.
Oh well (sigh). I expect international business will carry on as usual, regardless of human rights (Britain is already talking about trade deals with Turkey). And if you keep your head down and your mouth shut, you might just be able to pretend all is sort of alright, until they drag off your neighbour for questioning that is, or build a shopping mall in your back garden.
But for many citizens of the country, for those who can’t shoehorn themselves into the narrow social constraints of what is deemed acceptable by those in power; for women, for the ethnic minorities, for the secularists, for those who adore Turkey’s incredible nature, the artists, the LGBT community, child brides, anyone who wants to think outside the box and speak their mind, and for whom Tommy Hilfiger and a macchiatto simply aren't enough compensation...for them? Right now, the new Turkish dawn isn’t too rosy.
This has all been brewing for years of course. But like a slow-swelling boil that finally bursts, the explosion of pus is startling. I sense something I haven’t felt in Turkey since my very first visits back in the late eighties. An undercurrent of unease. And the hurried closing of mouths.
Staring through the windscreen on that early November morning, I imbibed Turkey's natural beauty one last time. The jagged upsurges of mountain rock were petering out, leaving the hills to deflate on the plains. Our jeep hummed up a gear. The sun peered over a summit, and in an instant the waves of the valley were gold-plated. The road spawned factories and conurbations. The temperature rose. Pulling off my jacket, I stretched, then reached for my bottle of water. I noted, despite this parting of ways, how inspirited I felt.
There is something inordinately therapeutic about the road. It is a continuum of reason in a mad world. A rolling sequence of reassurance. The landscape changes. Mountains disappear. Orchards flick in and out of view. Cities sprout. Flocks of birds fly overhead one minute. Fighter jets roar over the next. But the road is still there. Moving. From one place to the next. Holding your feet and guiding your soul.
The steel tube of Izmir airport pulled into view. I turned to stroke my dog still grinning on the back seat, wonderfully oblivious that she was about to fly across Europe. As we pulled up to the shiny rectangles of the departure doors, I realised something. The only other time I had set foot in Izmir airport was the first time I visited the country way back in 1988.
Smiling, I opened my passenger door. I was leaving Turkey by the same gateway I had entered almost three decades apart. Once again the lightning of coincidence was striking my path, and the scene was set for kismet. For a journey from East back to West. To new lands that whisper. New rocks with old memories. And a new Eden.
Looking for part 2 of this story? It's HERE.
So I left Mud Mountain one day, and fell into an earthbag workshop the next. Just like that. One day I was in my mud home, the next I was camping in a field, the dirt foundations of a roundhouse leering at me. And as usual I was nursing the hunch that I didn’t know what I was doing.
I’d been worrying about this workshop for months. Far more than I was worrying about moving off my land, or selling my house. Because attempting to build a house in seven days during an earthbag workshop is of course ridiculous.
“Baykal, I really don’t know if we can do this, you know.” I held the tip of a green hose and measured the circle of the roundhouse-to-be. We had just breached the month of September, but the sun didn’t seem to have caught on. It was a sky borne iron branding the top of my head.
Baykal pushed the brim of his straw hat up. “Ah come on Kerry, iss twelve people. We gonna do it. I got back up. No worries maan.” He patted my shoulder.
Back up. Those famous last words. I bit my lip and completed the circle. Baykal smiled peacefully, as is his way.
I’ve known Baykal and Feryal (the hosts of the workshop) for 15 years now. That’s a long time. That’s the only reason I agreed to such a preposterous project. I trust them both. They make things happen. But a 5 metre diameter round house (that ended up being 5.5 by the time we laid the bags) with a bathroom added? From foundations to roof? With a team of people who had never built before? Even for a maverick like me it looked fairly undoable. And there was so much that could go wrong. What if it rained? What if the windows buckled again? Would the participants be up to the task?
“What if they just run off to the beach and never come back?” Asked one friend.
So two weeks later, by the time the first earthbaggers began filtering in, with their tents and their camping mats and their absurdly incongruous dietary requirements, my nails had been bitten so far back, even the dirt couldn’t skulk under them. And it was hot. Far hotter than I had predicted. Too hot for September. I huddled on Feryal and Baykal’s terrace with the first three arrivals, squeezing myself into a rectangle of shade.
“I saw a youtube on building an earthbag earthship underground. Do you know how to do that?” Taylan sat sucking a cigarette around the breakfast table. Every now and again he’d remove it to gulp from a plastic bottle swirling with Cola and Nescafe. Taylan worked for a bank. God knows which one. But whichever it was, they obviously didn’t give him enough to do, because he’d devoured every video on earthbag building Youtube had ever published.
I allowed the question to scud breezily over my head, because A: I’m more of an ‘Erm...let’s see if this’ll work,’ kind of builder,’ and B: I had but the haziest of ideas how to make an underground earthship. I pushed some bread in Taylan’s direction.
“No no no...No carbs for me. No way. Just protein and fat,” he said smearing an egg with butter. He was tall, and I could tell from the way he sat, he’d spent far too long in an office. “Our intestines weren’t made for grains. They give you cancer,” he grinned broadly exhaling a dark miasma of smoke.
“I’m not sure I agree with that.” Emma, my vegan yogi friend tucked into her chia muesli. “I’m going to have an issue with the smoking too, aren’t I?” She said, her British accent leaping out at me in familiarity. I nodded. A lot of smoking goes on in Turkey. It’s par for the course.
“Try this Emma. It will change your world.” Taylan handed her his caffeine adulteration and grinned. It slurped ominously in the bottle. Emma shuddered slightly. She was elegant and slim. I wondered briefly if she’d know what to do with a spade.
It was then a third voice piped up from the other end of the table. Followed by a muscular arm stretching toward the cheese. “Hey, can I have some of that muesli? I’m going to need some different kinds of energy for this. I’m going to need a lot of energy. A lot of food.” Domi was from Hungary. And no I didn’t make that up. He stood and stretched. He didn’t look like he’d been sitting too long in an office. He looked like he’d just hiked down from Matterhorn.
I must admit, that first morning before the course began, every aversion I harbour of working with people was awakened; the aggravation of pulling a team of conflicting personalities together, the precarious juggling of individual needs. The sheer eccentricity of us all. We were like random pieces of a jigsaw puzzle made of razor blades. I inhaled slowly and exhaled slowly. Many times.
The day opened and closed like a camera lens. The sun marked its movement in fiery steps. Despite the suncream and the hats, I could see Domi, Emma and Taylan reddening before my eyes. It was hot. Far too hot for building.
By evening most of the group had assembled. Tents popped up all over the garden. By chance or design each was a different colour creating a rainbow hobbit’s ville of canvas. Just three participants were missing; one young woman was coming the next day. But we were still expecting two Turkish guys from a seaside town up the road.
I sat on the house terrace with Feryal. We waited. It grew colder. The stars plucked at the darkness forming irregular patterns, their angles sharp and brisk. We waited longer.
It was 11 pm when Baykal’s car pulled up to the house. The headlights flicked off, and I blinked as my retinas readjusted to the pitch. Doors creaked open, and two men staggered out. I noticed they were carrying disconcertingly small rucksacks.
“We have a problem,” Baykal threw his keys onto the table and grinned at me. They forgot their tent.” The men giggled sheepishly. “And their sleeping bags.”
“No no we found one. Someone gave us one!” said the taller of the two men. This was Kemal. He was foreboding in height and expression, and he lumbered up the terrace steps slowly. Bear-like. And flopped onto the hammock tied between the terrace supports.
Collapsing on my cushion, I guffawed. Well, what else could I do?
All too soon it was morning. The sky was a cool metal alloy. 11 glove-clad earthbaggers gathered in the foundation brandishing picks and spades. To me, used as I am to a maximum team size of four, it looked like a mud army. The dark mountain of Kemal shuffled about sniffing. His smaller friend blinked and yawned beside him. The pair had slept on the balcony and were now both sleep-deprived and cold.
“Right, we need to clear the foundation so that it’s a proper trench. The rocks come on the inside of the circle, the dirt on the outside. We’ll use it in the bags.” Eleven pairs of eyes scrutinised me. Each person would clear about a metre or so of foundation. This was the moment of truth. Would they be able to dig? I looked up to see Emma, spade over shoulder. Taylan, who was still smoking, leaned on a pick. Domi was limbering up.
And then it happened.
I don’t know what it is about building mud homes, but it does something to people. Something odd. Something beautiful. As soon as human hands touch the earth, miracles are unleashed. The dirt circle casts its spell.
Within minutes people shifted into teams. Of their own accord. Some dislodged rocks and hard earth with the picks, some pulled the rocks from the ring and others shovelled the dirt out. The foundations became a circle of colourful movement. I could see Domi’s muscles flexing in the dirt. Taylan turned, a whirlwind of energy and motivation. He ran around the circle sweating, smoking and making everyone laugh in equal measure.
“Eh, look at ‘er. Like an American soldier,” said my camera man. He was filming Emma, who clearly had held a spade before, because she was shovelling that dirt like a pro. She would shovel like that for days, striding over the earth in her Doc Martins, auburn hair pulled back. She was indefatigable.
The foundation was cleared in an hour that morning. And it was filled with rocks and rubble by mid-afternoon. I marvelled as I beheld this miscellaneous team of mud Gods and Goddesses. 5 men, 5 women, 5 international, 5 from Turkey, all finding their place. Their skills. Their strengths and their weaknesses.
By day’s end I began to see, each idiosyncrasy was a blessing, not a curse. Each individual was so valuable. I needed the muscle and the laughter, the precision and the vision, the sensitive and the tough, the emotional support, the spiritual connection, the DJ, the stamina. I even needed those damn youtube videos.
To anyone hoping to build out there, this is the key: Each team member is a dirt angel in disguise. And each has come for a reason. Mark my words, at some point in the build, no matter how unlikely it may seem, you will need each and every one. If you think you only can use a bunch of power houses, you are way off the mark. So far off the mark your walls are going to topple. Probably because you have no one to check if they’re straight. Your team will die of hunger. Or there’ll be no humour. No beauty. For magic, you need the alchemy of it all.
We had that alchemy. From day one. And it created an energy of will and manifestation that far surpassed the feasible.
“It won’t work.” Taylan sat on a cushion inhaling yet more from his bottle of brown horror. It was mid-afternoon and the group was assembled for a theory session on the terrace. “We can’t finish the house in a week.”
Murmurs rippled through the team. Everyone was squatting on cushions supping drinks and fanning themselves.
“Are you telling me it’s impossible?” I looked him in the eye raising a defiant eyebrow.
“Yes. It’s impossible. I mean, look at it logically Atulya. We have no experience. We just filled in the foundation.” He was shaking his head, brow furrowed.
It was that very moment I realised how much I need a rational sceptic. I love them. They are to me what liquid hydrogen is to a rocket engine. Feeling the power of the challenge surging into my upper body, I grinned at Taylan. I’d liked him since the moment he’d called to book for the course and told me he was going to make an earthbag animal shelter. Despite his strange paleo-caffeine diet and his lung-obliterating smoking habit, he was golden hearted and truly invested in the project.
“Ah nothing is impossible. So we’ll see, my friend. We’ll see.” I chortled, knowing from the depths of my soul that anything could happen. Anything. Because this was mud. And magic was afoot.
The first day closed with 10 earthbaggers slurping and stomping in a huge pit of earth plaster. We were preparing a batch a week ahead, so it could percolate. There was mud everywhere. In feet. In hair. All over faces. Taylan, cigarette firmly glued between his lips, chortled heartily as he opened the spigot to spray water into the mud pit. Emma helped me bolster the sides of the tarp with big rocks. It was one happy, dirty mess.
As darkness pushed us off the land, I noted happily that we were on schedule. The foundations and plaster were complete. The stem wall was Tuesday’s job, after which we would push on up on the earthbag wall. I dared believe it. Was it possible? A house in seven days?
But just as a shoot of hope began to flourish, something happened. As usual. It hovered over the seedling of optimism like a large, ill-placed foot.
“Kerry, we may be have a problem.” Baykal loitered next to me, one eye on the mud party, the other on his phone. He pushed the square of tech under my nose. It glowed in the fading light.
“Oh no,” I murmured, grabbing the phone and staring at it closer. The weather app showed a storm on the horizon followed by two days of rain. And the storm was arriving tomorrow. We had 10 people in tents – including myself – only two of which were waterproof.
“It can’t be. It’s so hot!” I blurted.
“Ah may be it doesn’t come. May be the app is wrong. Sometimes it’s raining. Sometimes nothing. No worries man. May be no rain.”
Baykal and I looked at each other and then giggled. It was the laughter of the desperate. Because if it rained we were foiled. And we had absolutely no control over it.
Of course Tuesday arrived. And so did the storm. And the rain. Tents were washed out. Some blew away. Not to mention the water being cut off.
But that is next week’s story.
STARS OF THIS EPISODE (in order of appearance).
Atulya K Bingham
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"Beautifully written and inspiring." The Owner Builder Magazine.
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If I can build a house, anyone can. Here's how I did it.
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