The structure of the cowshed is made of red gum eucalyptus wood cut in year 2015 from the forest above the farmhouse. Most of the wood used is about 15-20 years old and has been seasoned for 6 months or more after cutting. All the wood being used was painted with Neem oil and diesel (in ratio 1:1) several times, with a final coat of only Neem oil. Neem oil will protect the wood from termites and also prevent absorption of water in the wood.
Varchee (also known as Bahareque in South America)
This method was suggested by our workers from Vilpatti. They recounted how their ancestral homes were built by putting together acacia tree branches and then plastered on both sides by mud.
The sheer simplicity of the method and the history of indigenous skill in the technique made it a natural choice for the walls.
Of course, we used eucalyptus wood instead of acacia. Sticks of uniform thickness were cut from the big logs and used to construct the framework of the varchee walls. Of the 2.20 metres of the wall, the lower 1 m is built out of stones joined together with mud and lime mortar. This was done for two reasons:
- To protect dampness from rising from the ground to the mud wall.
- To protect the mud wall from direct rain.
A roof overhang of 1 m was also given to protect direct rain falling onto the main facade wall.
The varchee frames were filled with stones and mud to give a solid thermal mass to the walls. These walls will act as thermal reservoirs, capturing heat during the day and releasing it during night, keeping the cowshed warm (The larger the thermal mass, the longer the walls would retain the heat for).