Making Mud

Apologies for the lack of in-process photos – it was just me and I declined to cover my phone in mud. (Though I DO have a waterproof pouch for it…)

half the insulated base down

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No more putting it off. It was time to make mud. Like I mentioned last time, it’s dirt plus water plus sand in unspecified proportions. As you may have noticed, unspecified things stress me out.

On my little back patio, I assembled:

  • Two buckets, one 5 gallon and one 2 gallon
  • box of dirt from when I planted roses over the last few weeks
  • bag of paver sand from the store
  • water can full of water
  • paint stirrer stick
  • trowel
  • disposable latex gloves (the same ones I use to dye my hair)

All I needed was the gloves, 5 gallon bucket, dirt, sand, and water. I ended up stirring it all with my hands. Despite my skepticism, I THINK I got the consistency feeling right away? Memories of playing with clay or playdoh and knowing exactly how much it should squish so I could work with it. Much more recent memories of making pie crust and biscuits – trying to get the liquid level just so, and get the flour all worked in. Somehow there was a very exactly consistency that felt RIGHT to me, and I definitely couldn’t explain it either. I could even grab a handful and decide if I wanted to add more dirt or more sand. Maybe I am totally wrong and it will all wash away or something, but it felt satisfyingly right, and that’s a worthwhile experience.

I ended up mixing 7 or 8 small batches in my five gallon bucket. Then I was tired and the sun was leaving me, so I called it a day. It was about an hour of solid work. 5 batches (and the first ones were smaller as I gained confidence) created a thin layer over the crushed rock. Then I placed several wine bottles, and some lava rock to act as insulation – it’s like the air pockets created by the feathers in a down jacket. A few more batches of mud got bottles settled into place, but I didn’t get them all before running out of steam.

I found and discarded several rocks, bits of grass, and at least one dead earthworm. I was VERY SURPRISED when suddenly there was a squiggling earthworm in the mud I was mixing! I threw it out into the lawn and was very glad I was wearing gloves. Remember, this dirt had been sitting in my garage in a box for at least a few weeks.

As I realized I was putting off this step, I finally figured out that I have a visceral distaste for making mud. I have learned too well that I don’t want to get dirty, I don’t want to make a mess. Gloves helped a LOT in getting past this, even though mud definitely got into them, and all over the rest of me.

Next: acquire some firebricks. Finish covering the bottles and make a mud surface nearly to the top of my cinder block base. I’m worried that I’m going to run out of dirt. Good thing I need to plant more roses and some tomatoes soon!


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