Make Your Own Pressed-Earth Blocks

Pressed-earth blocks are simple to make, easy on the pocketbook, durable and enormously versatile. Learn how to make your own with this article!

| July/August 1978

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    The soil for your blocks is screened through 1/4-inch mesh.
    PHOTO: CHARLES PARK
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    Add the proper amount of water.
    CHARLES PARK
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    Dirt: the raw material for pressed-earth blocks.
    CHARLES PARK
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    Moist earth is packed into the press.
    CHARLES PARK
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    Properly made blocks lift out easily.
    CHARLES PARK
  • Block7
    The bricks — set with mortar — form a wall.
    CHARLES PARK
  • Block4
    Four hands speed up the blending.
    CHARLES PARK
  • Block8
    Then ocotillo is added.
    CHARLES PARK

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  • Block1
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Several seasons ago, my wife and I were looking for a place of our own where we could fill our lungs with clean, fresh air, keep ourselves in good physical shape and — in general — live the good life. We found what we were looking for when we bought a small ranch near Nogales, Ariz., right on the Mexican border.

Unfortunately, there was one small catch. "If you want to live here," the former owner advised us, "you'll have to get used to the idea of scores of animals — cows, burros, horses, coyotes, dogs and rabbits — going across your land every day en route from feed to water."

We certainly had no desire to harass any animals, but when we heard that the land we'd bought (including the site of our future garden) was situated in the middle of a veritable expressway for wildlife traffic, we knew immediately that something would have to be done to reroute the local critters.

A chain-link (or comparable) fence would have done the job, of course, but would have been too costly to erect and ugly once it was up. We also ruled out the idea of erecting a massive wall as too expensive and too confining: who wants to live in a prison?



Ultimately, we arrived at a compromise solution: We decided to put up a combination wall/fence made of alternating sections of pressed-earth blocks and ocotillo poles.

Why Use Pressed-Earth Blocks and Ocotillo?

We chose to go the pressed-earth blocks and transplanted ocotillo route for three reasons. First of all, with a half-plant/ half-brick barrier we could enjoy the security afforded by a solid wall, yet (thanks to the ocotillos' "see-through" sections) not feel "walled in." Second, the "raw materials" for the enclosure were close at hand and available in unlimited supply.






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