Historic Adobe Preservation

 The Lower Farm. Ledoux, New Mexico 2012

Time off from work and vacations are best spent relaxing or pursuing recreational activities. They can also be an opportunity to take advantage of that time to accomplish tasks or attain goals. In early July I had time off from work and a definate goal. I had planned and prepared for one week of hard work and following that I would recuperate, relax and roam the mountains.  I’m pleased to say it went quite well.

Rain and snow will take a toll on brick or stone, a house of wood or adobe home. What I know for sure is that in 40 years of sun and cold, theres only been a patch or two, and mud packed in to fill some holes. There is  no one who can tell me or remembers when the walls were free of such erosion and the weathering.

The Lower Farm is about 150 years old. The walls two feet thick. Almost everything is original. It’s possible that it has not had a fresh coat of adobe plaster since it was built. Then again maybe it did 70 or 80 years ago when the old owner Mr. Romero was young and energetic. Whatever the case I was prepared to do the historic preservation.

The process involves digging up dirt from the backyard and sifting it of pebbles and stones. The screened dirt is then mixed in a tub with three shovels of sand and one of dirt. Some straw and an appropriate amount of water is then added and all mixed together to make a thick mud paste. The adobe plaster is then applied to the wall by hand and smoothed out with a wooden trowel.

It took the better part of four days to pack the holes and cracks and get two coats of adobe mud, each about 1/2″ to 3/4″ thick on this south facing gable end of the house. At some time ( in the not too distant future) I’ll do some work on the upper wood section, and replace the drafty old single pane window. Then I will dig up some more dirt, sift it really well, get some fine grain sand and apply a final smooth finish coat to the entire house. That should keep it in good shape for the next 40 or 50 years.

Total cost for this years preservation work: $0.00.

It may be out of style and an old fashioned method but it’s certainly sustainable.

About earthstonestation

promoting environmental education, protecting all species and preserving the wild places with art, music and storytelling.
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13 Responses to Historic Adobe Preservation

  1. Pingback: Bargaining | The Good, Bad and Ludicrous

  2. TamrahJo says:

    Hi Dohn –
    I’m doing rammed earth tire fences/garden beds and while some of them will be seeded with succulents to cover the exterior – I was thinking about adobe – especially now that you provided me with the recipe! If I wrap them with a wire mesh to hold the first layer of adobe, do you think the adobe would work for my tire walls? I’m in the Eastern Plains of Colorado, so not sure how much the different climate will make – –
    Thanks so much!

  3. McEff says:

    Hi Dohn. The work of a craftsman. You can sit back now and relax for another 70 or 80 years.

  4. I love this post. What a beautiful example of vernacular architecture you have there.

  5. As always an interesting story to tell. Thank you.

  6. Total cost $0.00. Amazing how many generations this building has stood, thanks to sweat and mud. Everything is so modern today, we’ve forgotten true sustainable living. Thank you for sharing your preservation project. Interesting post.

  7. It seems amazing that you can do such simple but long-lasting repairs with mud. Nice post.

    • I am amazed myself Richard. Location and weather have a lot to do with it. I was a carpenter and builder for many years and scraped and repainted many homes over and over. Taos Pueblo is over 400 years old and is still holding together quite well with just some periodic adobe plaster maintenance. I am learning to love mud.

  8. Very impressive! I’d like to know more about the building. Am I a latecomer who’s missed something?

    • Hi Valerie, The Lower Farm is my home and retreat in New Mexico. Lots of history including being a commune for awhile after Jack Nicholson/Peter Fonda/Dennis Hopper made the movie Easy Rider. I bought the place from Jack. I’m not there much now as I’m working in Hawaii but it is always on my mind. Aloha, Dohn

      • HI Dohn, thank you for your reply. How lucky you are to have such a home and retreat. I think it’s lovely that it’s always on your mind, and you love it so… I feel that all places and things have a spirit of their own, and they appreciate being loved! yours. valerie

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