Adobe houses grow in wet air and shrink in dry air.

Adobe houses spot the landscape of the American Southwest. Made of the hygroscopic (moisture absorbing) materials mud and straw, these houses work well in desert climates. The amount of moisture in the atmosphere correlates with the strength of an adobe house -- the wetter the atmosphere, the weaker the house. In addition to providing shelter in dry environments, adobe insulates well, protecting inhabitants from extreme cold and heat.

Making Bricks

Cut straw into small pieces, no more than 1 inch long.

Mix two parts mud and one part straw in a bucket until the texture is that of clay. If the mix hardens too much, add water. If it softens too much, add dry dirt.

Lay newspaper in a dry, sunny area. If you want to set your adobe outside to bake, protect the bricks from rain and dew by placing a tarp over them at night. Although some modern adobe houses use kiln-dried bricks, traditional bricks dried in the sun.

Scoop mud and straw mixture out of the bucket and form into approximately 2-by-1-by-1-inch bricks. Form at least 150 bricks. Wait several days for bricks to dry (when they are hard to the touch). Place a lid on the bucket holding the mud and straw mix and set aside.

Pull dried bricks off of the newspaper and set aside.

Building The House

Lay down newspaper in a sunny area. Place a line of five bricks to create the base of a 10-inch long, 1-inch thick back wall. Use three bricks, lined up in the same way, for the side walls. Only use four bricks on the front wall, leaving a gap in the center for the doorway.

Scoop small amounts of wet mud and straw mix (from the bucket you set aside) onto the surface of the base of your wall. This acts as mortar for your next layer of bricks.

Lay another layer of bricks to build up your walls, alternating them so that the connection point between two bricks falls on top of the center of the brick below it. Continue building up bricks with a layer of mortar in between each layer of bricks until you create eight layers of bricks. When alternating the meeting points for the bricks, the even-numbered layers close off the doorway. For these layers, cut bricks in half to set on the front wall around the entrance.

Lay a layer of mud and straw mix on top of your eighth layer of bricks. Set your wooden skewers into the mix from the front wall to the back wall. Make sure that neither side of the skewer extends past the outside edge of the walls. Covering the roof structure with wooden skewers imitates the typical Southwestern roof structures of the 17th to 19th centuries, where house builders created flat roofs out of mesquite or cedar poles, according to the National Park Service.

Spread mud over the top of the mesh, and a thin layer over the outside of the house. Allow to dry.