Germans from Russia Housing Construction
The following electronic message was received from Arthur E.
Park, California, sent to Sharon Leigh at the University of Indiana.
15 September 2005
Since lumber was apparently more plentiful along the Volga River, I am not aware that they used sod as a building material which was common along the Black Sea Area.
I clearly recall my mother describing their method of preparing mud mixed with straw to give it stability and letting it dry for a given period of time until it became very firm. It was then cut into approximately 6x10 blocks and stacked for drying. It when it had become nearly as hard as rocks, it was ready for use as building material. This process was called the making of "batzen" which is a German word for clumps of mud. After the structure was completed in house form, it would be white washed, giving it a very satisfactory appearance. Incidentally, the floors were also of very hardened clay soil which could be swept and was very commonly sprinkled with fine river sand on Saturdays.
It would require research to determine if this process originally came from Germany, or if it was learned from the idigenous Russians. It may have been the latter. However, there is also some evidence that sod was the material used for the indigent peasants' huts in Germany.
This same practise took place on the western praries of the USA where lumber was also very scarce and people were existing on very limited funds. Later, when they had established incomes and savings accounts, they quite naturally began to construct houses of wood.
Trust this may provide further insight on your question.
Arthur E. Flegel