skillbuilders celebrating the reciprocal roof

It was an exciting day today for the Natural Builders at O.U.R. Ecovillage: we laid the reciprocal roof frame on the root cellar.

I had participated in a roof structure like this once during the Natural Building Colloquium in the Czech Republic where Tony Wrench taught us how to do it. I took notes that day and was very grateful I did when we started planning for this one.

I solicited the help of the building team and found that everybody wanted to try it and a couple of guys had a bit of experience. Thankfully the root cellar is a small room, so rather low risk for trying something.

We had prepared the poles by peeling the bark off. The walls were ready and the placement of the poles marked.

The biggest question was where to place the Charlie and when we started laying poles on we found that it needed to move a little. Once the process was started it all happened very fast and without further problems. Have a look:



root cellar gargoyles

Cob week for the Natural Building Skillbuilders and we’ve been building a Root cellar for O.U.R.Ecovillage.
Cob is still my favorite way of building: I simply feel happy as soon as my hands get into it.
This time around we have high production energy on the site. The goal was to get these walls up by the end of Friday and it was done by lunchtime.
The cob was made up by a bobcat and the group is packing it onto the walls in tall lifts- following a technique that Gord Baird from eco-sense shared with us. This technique allowed us to finish the walls of the first room in 4 days- and that included our learning curve!
Now new terms like “Baird Cob” and “power lifts” are floating and once again we see how there’s always more to learn and try out.
We’re playing with some sculptural detail as well: gargoyles surround vent pipes, buttresses and more.

rammed earth tires

Located on a North Slope, we started with a rammed tire foundation and retaining wall against the slope. This building will be earth sheltered on the South Side, is shaded from the east and west and we’ll give it good overhangs on the exposed sides.
Once the walls are finished we plan to lay a reciprocal roof structure and build up a living roof for more protection from sun exposure.
Doors are big enough to bring a wheelbarrow in: we imagine sacks of potatoes, crates of Apples and plenty of other delicious produce from the garden to be kept here in the winter.

Summertime for a builder is high season at work. For many of us, however, summertime means time to travel, have a holiday, spend time at the beach with kids and so on. It is festival season, too, and around here one could make attending festivals a full-time occupation at this time of year.
I’m experiencing the cross-over of all these here at the village, and especially over the past couple of weeks.
We’ve had some fun times with our “Taste of Cob” running at the same time as a kids camp. Children as young as four learned to mix up clay, sand and straw into the material for sculpture, wall or bench.
Led by natural building interns, participants young and old happily danced in the mud, flipped tarps, spread clay slip onto dry cob and pushed it all together with their newly discovered thumb power.

At the same time Robert Laporte from Econest guided the Skillbuilders, continuing Natural Building Interns and visiting econest interns in a tour de force effort on erecting the second floor of Taj 2. We applaud everyone in that workshop for their determination and hard work.

And then a few days later its all done- the Skillbuilder program that is- 9 weeks of learning and living together, struggling with the challenges of group dynamics, feeling the highs and lows of community life, of creating a new self perhaps or a new vision for one-self. And the question arises: what now? How do we take the learning and integrate the experience.
And for me the question is up: How will we create next year’s program- what do we keep and what do we change? Every group is different and amazing. Our learning is ongoing as well as O.U.R.Ecovillage takes on this role of demonstration and education site more fully every year.

But as much as something is finished- we’re only in mid summer and so much more is coming up. So this weekend at the Duncan Folk Festival marks a welcome break for me with music and community connections.
And tomorrow is Monday and we’ll start with a check-in at 8 am in the Chillage.

Every year, sometime in spring, the day comes when the interns of the season arrive. We anticipate this day with curiosity, excitement and a bit of anxiety: how will the new members of the community fit with each other, with those of us who have been here a while and with the place and our organization and its peculiar ways.
Over the years we have created a process that we call “permaculturalization” – a way of bringing us all together as learning community. We spend between 3 and 5 days with activities focused on getting to know each other, connecting with place, building trust, playing games, and downloading information about O.U.R. Ecovillage. We create a vision for the season, talk about personal goals and make team agreements. Guest facilitators bring in pieces about conflict resolution, team building games, personality profiles or body awareness.
This past week was this year’s spring staff retreat. 25 of us spent many hours in the yurt, learning about the ecovillage structures both visible and invisible. We had workshops on successful meeting facilitation with Dawn Smith, Village elements with John Andreas, strategic planning with Rick Juliussen and conflict resolution with Brandon Tallman. Our teams (kitchen, office, building and food production) took turns cooking meals – an opportunity to find out how we work together.
Explaining to others how things work here I really bring to my own awareness all the small bits that have become pattern: how to use the composting toilet, where to put the recycling, who to ask for what, how the greenhouse shower works and so on. There are so many details and there’s a story that goes which each one. And so we all become story tellers- the longer we live here the more stories we hold.
Our team agreements are tools: each team lays out their intention on how we want to work together, communicate with each other, hold responsibility, give respect, deal with conflict and get our work done. Through the season we will revisit our agreement regularly and have a look at how we’re doing: are we following what we set out to do? Do we need to re-negotiate?
In summary I believe that as a result of this initial time together we will be safer and more open with each other, which enables us to better learning and working performance.
And when I look at my team this year I am stoked : anticipating fun and lots of action.

Change of topics: Yesterday was World Labyrinth Day and I will post here a few images of the recently finished labyrinth at O.U.R. Ecovillage

It’s just too tempting to pick up the weather topic again today. A big storm kept people a bit on edge for a few days now, causing widespread power outages all over Vancouver Island on Friday, and bringing rain and hail and heavy, gusty winds.
Not enough to scare the Easter bunny away though- this morning the children went on a scavenger hunt on the land and found baskets of treats.
And we’ve been eating little chocolate eggs all week in anticipation…do we really need an excuse to eat chocolate?

Talking about eggs: This morning I noticed a chicken squawking loudly in the storage shed right next to the Art Studio: sounded like it just laid an egg.
In the afternoon I investigated and sure enough: a dozen or so eggs were laid there behind some buckets.

While one program is finishing up (the permaculture landscaping that’s been happening all winter) it’s been high time for summer program applications this week: The Natural Building Skillbuilder attracts people from many backgrounds who want to get a broad basic training in our community setting. Now we’ll conduct interviews and meet people so everyone can be well prepared for the May start.

Those who have been working on the winter program are hoping for a “spring break” , a couple of weeks away perhaps, to recharge and turn towards summer.