Wednesday, April 15, 2009
Dream into Reality – the “Wattle and Daub Hut”
A month before my graduation from the University of Bristol, (no 32 in the latest world league table of Universities) with an honors degree in Economics and Accounting, I celebrated my 21st birthday. The couple, who took me to dinner that day at a restaurant by the Downs wanted to know what my future aspirations were! Half jokingly I said I would like to live in a mud hut in Sri Lanka, free of all the troubles and stresses of western life.
Part of this prophecy is now coming true, and I hope to get some photos to straddle this entry to show the construction phase of the hut. I am not kidding but it is the coolest place on the planet! The sticks and wood used to make the frame have been cut from the area about the property, with no harm to the environment as thinning the branches will help the trees grow better. The mud used to fill the crevices is adjoining the hut, from an anthill, the traditional source for good quality mud for this type of work. The roof is covered completely in Iluk, as this will last for about 5 years, and is strong and plentiful.
The construction was done by the local people, with the young looking in awe at its construction, as I don’t think this type of hut has been constructed in these places for a long time, and is also a tradition that is fast dying as almost all homes are now made of brick and cement, with roofs either of sheets or with tiles. It is interesting how the mud balls made much like for a pottery class are blasted into the crevice by hand to stick, and then the mud has to dry before the outer layers are put both for the inside and the outside.
The hut comprises a room 13ft by 10ft and a verandah, 13ft by 5ft constructed under a large tree to give it additional shade and coolness. The pictures show the simple design, and I hope to have two single beds in the room with two chairs in the verandah and a book-shelf. A basic traditional door and two windows facing the verandah are included together with two 3ft by 2ft glass panels embedded into the mud at the sides of the room to allow for light.
I had a cousin and family visit me this Avurudhu season and gave their thumbs up to the style, and I just have to make sure all the crevices are properly covered when the final layer is put to deter the sometimes poisonous creepy crawlies who like to make this area their home if given half the chance in these cool climes out of the hot weather outside.
Of course the question every one is dying to ask is how much this would cost? I have been alluding to the high level of wages the people in the villages in Sri Lanka expect as compared with Colombo, as they don’t expect the work to be permanent. A daily wage of Rs700 for a male and Rs500 for a female, along with the cutting and transporting of the Iluk from an Iluk field means the whole thing till completion including the wood doors and windows will set me back about Rs75,000. In essence I am paying for people’s time, be it to cut the wood, to make the mud balls, to make the frames, and get the cow dung for the flooring and the grass for the roof. There is no purchase necessary from a Hardware store except for the door and window hinges and locks. In an economic sense sense this expense is more beneficial for the locality than a cement, brick, tile unit which in today’s context will be about Rs200,000 with the cost mainly for bought materials.