Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Clay from my garden

In a recent post, (here) I mentioned the clay I dug up from my garden and how I started to clean it up to make it ready for use. Here is the description of the process from start to finish. 

- Dig up some clay soil. 

Clay from my own backyard

- Put some chunks of clay soil in a container up to about half. Add water to fill the container.

Chunks of clay soil + water

- With your hands, break the chunks down until a homogeneous texture is obtained.

Homogeneous texture / mixture

- Let the mixture settle for a day or two. The heavy sand / rocks will fall to the bottom, the clay will sit over the debris and the water will be on top. In the case of the clay I gathered, there were so little debris that my mixture only seperated into 2 layers.

Settled clay-water mixture
- Get rid of as much of the clear water as possible by very gently pouring it out or scooping it up. When clay starts mixing with the water being removed, stop. The mix can be set to settle another day and the process of removing water can be repeated until no more water sits on top after the settling period. 

- When as much water as possible has been removed, pour the mixture through a sieve. I used a piece of bug net mounted on top of a clean bucket. This will insure that leftoever debris such as small pieces of roots or small stones are removed.

- The filtered liquid clay is ready for the last part of the process. Choose a surface that breathes well. I chose a metal grid shelf so air could also come from under. Cover the chosen area with many layers of newspaper, and finish with a piece of cotton. (an old pillow case, for instance).

- Pour the liquid clay onto the prepared surface. Let it rest for a few days, changing the newspaper daily. The clay will be ready when it can be picked up and shaped into a ball. This step can take several days, all depending on the amount of water in the mixture and how well ventilated the area is. 

Clay "drying" after having been cleaned of debris.
- When the clay has the desired texture, it can be picked up, shaped into a ball and stored in an air-tight plastic container or plastic bag. 


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