Using Feet as Mixing Utensils

As expected, we got very dirty in class. Being told we were going to be building mud bricks, I expected to get muddy, but not that muddy. The process of making mud bricks is relatively simple, explaining why it was and still is a common building method. Dirt is mixed with water until the mud retains a moist clay-like consistency while pieces of hay are added for additional strength (similar to how rebar is used in slabs of cement). Once the mud is thoroughly mixed and the material is not too dry or too wet, it is packed into a mold as if one were cooking muffins or cupcakes. Finally, these bricks are removed from the mold and dried by the sun while being rotated to ensure complete drying. Now, after over a week of drying in the LA sun, the bricks are stronger and lighter, explaining why these bricks were commonly used in walls of buildings, huts, and other structures. Although simple, this building method provides an elegant solution to manufacturing strong building pieces, because of the simple resources needed. All one needs to make a mud brick is dirt, water, and some material to serve as rebar (anything from straw, grass, and even hair can work to add to the bricks strength). Having built an adobe house in my backyard as a project with my brother, I was quite familiar with the process; however, I still learned about ‘printing’ or ‘signing’ the bricks. Often ancient peoples marked their bricks with symbols to notify who built these bricks. This reminded me of modern day advertising, and was a fun, surprising fact to learn while I mixed straw and mud together with me feet. Granted modern-day tools such as automatic cement mixers can create better building material in a matter of minutes, I was surprised to learn how effective feet are as mixing utensils.

-Martin Keyt


2 thoughts on “Using Feet as Mixing Utensils

  1. On September 4th, our class attempted to make fire the “human survival” way: using only a simple wooden stick and board. During the first 20 minutes or so of class, we watched an expert fire maker build a fire using only these resources. He built the fire rather easily and my first thought was: seems easy enough, let’s go. Once we started this process, however, it turned out to be a whole different story. And in the end, every one of us failed to get a fire going.

    As for the process, we first had to make a small place on the board for the stick to rotate and create friction in. Luckily, one of the members in our team had a pocket knife set, which we took advantage of in order to create that little hole for our dowel to rotate in. Then we sharpened the end of the dowel, also using the pocket knife, and started to rotate it with our hands as fast and consistently as possible in order to create the friction and start to build up some heat. As easy as rubbing your hands together sounds, it was really hard to go for long stretches of time. One reason is that we just didn’t have the stamina to keep doing this simple task. Another reason is that it hurt, and it hurt pretty badly. By the time class was over, many of the students had to get bandages for their hands because they were starting to blister from all the friction. In the end, our group got some smoke going, but that was pretty much it.

    In today’s world, making fire is such an easy task. All you need is a match or a lighter. Through this activity, I realized just how much we take these small things for granted. Building a fire from scratch is super hard. That man on YouTube has my respect.

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