mudding: santa fe style


imagine my confusion and surprise when our campus director (also one of my professors) excitedly announced to the student body the following:

“you all have the amazing opportunity to go mudding this friday or saturday! sign up in the office. you do NOT want to miss this.”

y’all know why i was confused.

y’all know what “mudding” means back home.

i looked around the room and couldn’t imagine a single one of these folks “going mudding”.

i spent the next day completely confused, hoping someone would put it into context for me…. and they did.  you see, around these parts, “mudding” means working with adobe!

we went downtown to work on repair and restoration of the oldest church in santa fe, the san miguel mission.  in my southwest lit and film class, we are learning all about the architectural and anthropological history of santa fe. in my other class we read a historical fiction book about the first bishop of santa fe who was directly involved in this church. the church was built in the 1600s, burned, and was rebuilt in 1710.

santa fe went through an interesting period of colonization when european style came into fashion over the natural adobe style.  in 1912, the local government established an official “santa fe style” and retrofitted many of the buildings that had been columned and bricked.

the repair and restoration of this church is a multi-year project. they are using original building materials. some of my peers actually slung adobe on walls and trowled it smooth. mine and a few other’s task was to crush the salvaged adobe from the walls, make mud and form bricks.  i spent the first couple of hours breaking up clay while the offical workers on the project mixed the clay with straw and water to make the adobe:

then we moved out to the front of the church to make bricks.  the first step is to wet the forms and brush off any mud from the last set of bricks:

next we scooped the adobe into the forms and packed them in nice and good:

then you lift the forms away and are left with a brick.  or (…if you were me when i was a kid playing outside) a delicious chocolate cake. really, it was just like being a kid again making mud pies. except it was very hard work in the hot sun.  in five hours we made about 80 bricks:

they will dry in the sun for 24-48 hours and will be rotated so all sides can dry evenly. then they will move to a covered area where they will continue to cure or harden for a few weeks before they are used as bricks on the side wall of the church.

i enjoyed the work immensely. working with our hands to recreate building material from the earth was pretty amazing. the most interesting pheonomenon of this day was the fact we were a tourist attraction.

while we made the bricks in the front of the church, dozens and dozens and dozens of tourists stopped in to talk to us. i’ve never been in that position before. i imagine i felt a little bit like a zebra at the zoo or a fish in an aquarium or a native pueblo indian sitting in her village making pottery.  people were generally polite and inquisitive, but being photographed all day and being asked to be photographed and being watched as craftswomen of antiquity… was strange.

i enjoyed educating people and really had fun when i started turning the questions on them. like when parents would shove their kids up and say, “excuse me, miss?  little suzie here wants to know what’s in the adobe. can you tell her?”

my response:  “well susie, what do you think is in the adobe?”

when you get a bunch of teachers and teacher wanna bes out there… it can get sassy and fun real quick.

a teenager asked me the following: “are you a hippie?”

my response:  “well, what do you mean by “hippie”?  gimme some adjectives and i’ll tell you if i am.”

his (very serious) response:  “what’s an adjective?”

game on. pandora’s box was officially open for buisness. three english majors on one poor teenager turned into an all out noun-verb-adjective lesson.  he came up with hippies are “chill” and “smoke pot”.  i told him in that case, i’m only partial hippie.  he also asked me how old i was and swore i couldn’t be older than 21, and was positively floored when i told him i was the big 3-0. then he rapped for us.  bless his heart.

two really gussied up ladies came and just “HAD to make bricks!!!” we suggested they come back tomorrow in proper attire to really get the experience, alas they were only in santa fe today, so in their high heels, floppy hats and very low cut dresses, they made some bricks with us. bless their hearts too.

all in all i am probably in about fifty (not kidding) different family vacation albums. keep an eye out and you might spot me in your second cousin’s “my awesome summer vacay in santa fe!” facebook album.

a great day of kinesthetic and immersion learning on oh so many levels.








2 Responses to “mudding: santa fe style”

  1. Alex said

    Whoops, when you said on fb you were going mudding, of course I had a mental picture of you and Ruby out in the mud. lol

  2. Jake said

    Y’all know I saw this title and thought the same thing you did at first.

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