It’s about that time of the year again. The weather is warming up and the mud is almost thawed. Fortunately in the high deserts of New Mexico there is plenty of good dirt around, especially in the mesa, where sometimes there’s too much mud! Plain old mesa dirt mixed with straw creates a delightful earthen plaster.
The mix I have been using has no sand in it. It’s all mesa dirt and lots of straw. The soil consists mainly of clay, silt and some organic matter. It’s sticky, but not too sticky. It holds on to your shoes when wet, but isn’t thick and sticky like some clay soils I’ve worked with.
I’ve been using an electric mixer to mix the plaster. Generally there is about 20 shovels of dirt and 6 gallons of water give or take. Then I mix in tons of straw. Usually ripping up a flake or two. Let mix for 10 minutes or however much patience you have and presto… A delightful earthen plaster for infill.
I’ve been using this mixture to cover straw bales. It’s a good sticky first scratch coat and infill coat. With enough straw there is minimal cracking. A good base to start with too. You can add sand, or more straw depending on the application. Best part it’s mostly free. When I can, I collect the straw from the floor of the feed store where they store the bales. It’s the best because it’s the stuff that falls off the straw bales. Finer, almost like chopped straw. And if you don’t take it they take it to the dump. As for the earth, there’s plenty of that.