Building

Lucky Natural Buildings in South Africa

My name is Lucky Tukana and I run a project making natural buildings in South Africa, using traditional methods blended with modern sustainable techniques. For my buildings I use wattle tree posts for the structure. You can see in my first picture me peeling the bark off the trees, boiling it down and repainting the tree with it for protection. I follow the the moon cycle in my work so, for example, when it is full moon I cut the tree so that the centre is soft and the termites can eat the inside. When I dig the holes for the tree posts I then scorch them using fire and bend them so that it is sealed against the termites as well.

Afterward I cut the small wattle branches, so that I can weave the whole structure to make it solid. For the roof beams I use gum trees so the first step is to cut them and let them dry while I work. I use the mud soil which is the same as cob and then cover the walls with this in 3 or 4 layers. In between the first and third layer I use a sandy soil, and the last layer I use cow dung and mud and compress it to seal it off.

We use everything from the land which makes it more economical and easier to arrange. We use thatch for the roof, which grows in the forest, and install it so that it’s level and compact so the rain can’t penetrate, giving you a nice solid house. On top I put windows so that you can access both the winter and summer light at different times to heat and cool the house. The way this works is that in the winter the sun hits the walls to heat the house so that I don’t have to use resources such as wood for heating, and in the summer the thatched roof helps to cool the house.

On the sides I dig trenches so when there is heavy rain it doesn’t damage or erode the house but instead fills the swales which then water the gardens. Inside the house, before I make the floor, I dig down and remove the rocks, lay down plastic and compact earth on top to prevent earthworms and other pests from coming through the floor. The last thing is to make a cow dung and mud mix to make it solid and then layer it with linseed oil. To finish I add another type of soil, darker and lighter, mixed with water, to create a paint for any decorations. This process is nice and simple as long as you know what you’re doing, and creates beautiful, comfortable and sustainable housing for people in this region and anywhere that these materials are available.

Happy natural building!

23 Comments

  1. This is so beautiful! Thank you for sharing your work. I absolutely love this, using the wisdom of traditional knowledge and building materials from the land where you live.

  2. Thanks so much for taking photos to show us how to build with wattle – your style. It seems possible to build a beautiful natural house without a huge financal investment.

    We are working on creating a permaculture community her and the price of typical homes here in California is dauntimg.

    I will show your photos to our local county permitting office.

  3. Hey Lucky

    Your buildings look beautiful

    Does the cow dung stay on the walls when rain hits them, how often do you need to touch up?

    Where are you situated in South Africa?

    awesome

    Byron

  4. Saw This in Istanbul and now looking at the pics makes it more beautiful. Don’t forget your promise to come to Zim to help the people in Binga build beautiful homes!!

    Stay Blessed!! and continue to bring ‘sustainable’ homes to the people in Africa!!

  5. Awesome post, Lucky!
    I’d love to communicate a bit more with you, because I lived in SA for 6 years and would love to put you in touch with a few people who might be interesting for you.
    If you want, please send me an email: [email protected]
    sala kahle

  6. How sure are you that charring post bottoms prolongs their life in soil? I was interested in this commonly-heard technique but after looking it up as best I could on the internet I found no evidence that it worked, and some experiments showing it didn’t work.

  7. Molo Butte Lucky and molweni to the fellow permies,
    Kujani?
    It is interesting how British Imperialism has left its mark on S.A and Australia with a legacy of weeds.
    Cecil Rhodes needed timber for railways etc. in a predominantly “Veld” landscape.
    So from Austr. eucalyptus (gum trees) and acacias (wattles) were imported. In return the bitou bush arrived and was later used to stabilise sand dunes against erosion ( now declared a weed of national significance). I know your institutions are cutting down the gum trees all along the Garden Route. To protect the 7 plant Kingdoms S.A. has.

    Your use of the moon for cutting timber at Full Moon is of interest. I probably misunderstand.
    Is the procedure: cutting at F.M. so the termites eat out the centre first, then you treat the ends by soaking in bark liquid, then charcoal the ends?
    In Austr. the wise old men of the bush have taught me to cut timber after F.M. towards New Moon when there is less sap flow (less moisture and sugars / carbohydrates for fungus and termites). Later studying Biodynamics, that calendar expanded on this knowledge of old times.

    I cut timber when the moon is in Ag (Apogee = Moon farness) and DM (Descending Moon) before NM (New Moon). The least amount of sap for the best timber. Dry timber. Then charcoal ends to just above ground level.
    Doing it with Pg (Perigee = Moon nearness) and AM (Ascending Moon) before Full Moon means the sap is at maximum volume. Then fence posts only get a 4 year life, as the fungus consumes the timber on the East Coast of Austr. in this region rather than termites.
    Many fungi species are within the timber from birth (like any creature dyeing the life waiting within the intestine starts decomposition before the maggots start) this makes sure the dead tree “feeds” the forest; by recycling the nutrients. Also fungi spores of bracket fungi blow onto the fence posts and although on the surface they decompose / feed on the interior.

    Imagine the volume of trees that could be saved if timber was cut at the correct time.
    If I may digress: the Messerschmitt WW11 plane engines has problems with poor castings. Dr. Kolisco investigated and found the Moon Cycle affected the crystal formation upon cooling. Hence quality differences in metal according to the time of the month. Opposite to this is that the best time to go fishing and plant seeds is towards FM.
    Vegetable growing with BD calendar for another time.
    there is an interesting calendar in S.A. at: https://www.sojourney.co.za/planting-calendar/

    Your magnificent homes with thatch roofs remind me of the traditional country buildings in Holland. I think if you are leading the way for all people on Mother Earth to house themselves ecologically.
    Is urine used to waterproof the exterior plaster?
    Your working with the walls for heating and cooling is lost knowledge in most western countries and is being revived.
    The village is so part of the natural geometry of life, just looking at the photos brings well being and restful peace to me.
    Your workshops on building and plastering are hopefully advertised in S.A. and travellers would like a course as well. Ending the day around the fire with a braai and traditional beer.
    See you all then.

    Thank you = Enkosi

  8. Hey Lucky Man – good to hear. Great work and fantastic pics!!! hmm, let me know your progress and let’s catch up somewhere in the jungle.. ;)

    hugs,
    -n

  9. Hi there I would just like to ask where these photo’s were taken, if i’m not correct it is not mentioned in the notes
    regards robbie jones

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