Years ago, when I first penning pieces about Adobe for a magazine devoted to earthen construction (www.adobebuilder.com), a friend warned that I’d soon run out of material to write about. “After all, its just dirt” said he, adding that “once you teach people how to make the blocks and stack them for a wall, there’s not much more to say.” That was in 1973 when I’d already been drafting for adobe since 1965. Now, after 47 years, revelations about adobe and its cousins just keep on coming, even if I only consider our local traditions here in New Mexico. As a Basque friend pointed out, “Adobe by itself is nothing; it’s what it does for people that counts.” Of course, many adoberos or adoberas* (adobe makers and builders) would disagree with that nothing word, for there is so much lore, tradition and even new technology wrapped up in an adobe block. It can just be earth and water in the making, but which earth and what if you need to stabilize it against water damage? Suddenly, the world of geology become valuable as we start considering clays and kinds of clays, sands and kinds of sands, aggregates and kinds of aggregates. Stabilizers also open a Pandora’s box ranging from old folk recipes as yet unproven to code-approved standards that may be mandatory in your area. Then we can talk about sizes of adobes (there are many), chopped yucca fiber (SW U.S. and Mexico), pine needles (Honduras), or no fiber al all, just mineral soil. We can also talk about holes or grooves made in the blocks and their varied shapes, such as for domes, vaults and hornos, which are often trapezoidal in shape.
My idea for this blog is to pass on some of the interesting stories and pieces of info about Adobe and its cousins that are often purposely omitted in our finished pieces for the magazine due to space and time constraints. There, we must follow a kind of guideline more related to instructional writing and technical illustration. Here, I can loosen up and add some color and spice about just how Adobe does work for people, adding a lot of value to everyday living experiences.
Stay tuned for my next post; I can’t think of a better place to start than with the horno or adobe oven.