Bajareque Cabin Build – Part 3

Bajareque Walls and Earthen Plasters

Ventura, a local expert in traditional natural building, mounds up sifted dirt for the earth mortar, excavated directly from where we’re building. The rocks in the background will also help fill the walls.

An end-section of the wall. From left to right we have the door-frame, well oiled, a wooden spacer to separate the door-frame from the corner post, and the corner post, to which the lengths of bamboo (note that this bamboo isn’t hollow in its middle) have been strapped using both a local vine and some sisal string.

The wall goes up – with this method we placed about 50cm of rock and then flung the earth mortar at it using a trowel. The mortar contains sifted earth, pine needles and pumice sand.

Hands are the best weapon for flinging mud, and it works best with an opponent:
The higher up you go, the less you can fling as it shakes the whole structure – instead it works better to lay the mortar, place a rock in the mortar and then push more mortar to cover the rock and the bamboo.

The window frames – oiled cypress boards, to be filled later:

A trowel helps for the details:

This stuff is magic – pads of prickly pear cactus (known locally as nixte’en – nish-teh-unh – also tuna, or nopal), sliced and diced into 1″ cubes then fermented in water for one week:

After a week, strain out the scum and floating debris, and you’re left with an extraordinary transparent gel that works as an excellent binder and waterproofing agent for natural plasters. The gel lasts for up to a month before losing its strength.

But be careful not to lose it all – if you happen to slop even a little of it over the edge of the container, it’ll start pulling the rest of it with it and in seconds a giant transparent snake of goop will slide itself out onto the floor. It reminded me of the special effects in the movie “The Abyss”.

Applying the 1st coat of plaster:

We used local clay (25%), sifted horse poop (20%), 1/4″ white pumice sand (55%) and prickly pear juice. It smelt pretty foul at first but the odor soon disappeared.


On the outside we put a lime and prickly-pear juice render to prevent rain-splash damage near the base of the wall. The earthen plaster above it comes from recycled adobe bricks, which provide a near-perfect earthen plaster ready mix! We just added a bit of sifted horse poop (for the fibre) and some prickly-pear juice (for adhesion).

A stick insect enjoying the earthen tones:

Thanks for visiting, see my next post for more.




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