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.

“Have you heard about us before? ” this was the opening line for many conversations over the course of the Organic Islands Festival on the weekend. Cassandra (in the picture) and many of our interns spent their weekend time networking and introducing O.U.R. Ecovillage to curious visitors of our booth.

We shared our ideas around natural building and food production, explained about zoning issues and ecovillage development, and made new connections in the community.

Our display showed ideas like “Lasagna gardening”, Seed balls, natural plaster samples and ingredients and offered a natural building “peep show” in a dome made to look like a cob oven.

While many were anxiously following the final game of the soccer world cup, Brandy facilitated a panel on Green building and sustainable development with Guests Doug Makaroff of Living Forest communities, John Gower, JC Scott, Gord Baird from Eco-sense and me, representing O.U.R. Ecovillage and my own design company “houses that love you back“.

The panel offered diverse approaches to reducing our carbon footprint from a building perspective. Alternative systems, woodland preservation, sustainable harvesting of lumber, natural building and the idea of the 100 Mile house were presented in short presentations by each of us and then questions from the crowd fielded. A juicy topic like this is hard to fit into a forum like this, so I invite you all to look for “Building as if People mattered” a one day conference in the Spring of 2011!
All in all we had a good time and feel in good company among the many businesses and producers of “organic everything” .
Join us this week for a “Taste of Cob” on Thursday or Friday : cobbing fun for the whole family.

Remember that tune: “It’s a cool , cool summer….” ? Ok…it’s not cool but cruel in the original version but everybody got the tune anyway, right?
Well it still comes up in my head when I think about last week’s “Cob in the Village” workshop.
A joyful bunch of people got together and learned to build with cob.
With Summer being hesitant to say the least (thus the tune) we spent the week creating the Bath house at the Art Studio: a two room building that will have a bucket compost toilet in one space and a shower and sink in the other. On the exterior is another sink serving the toilet and anyone needing a handwash.
All Waste water will be directed by underground piping to the berry bushes on the slope below the building. A solar water heater will provide hot water in summer and a propane heater serves in colder months.
During our time together we talked about tips and techniques around cob, foundations, roofs, finishing and design ideas.
I watched how everyone gained such confidence in working with the material in just a few days and feel reassured about the empowering quality of this way of building.
And then there was another altered disco tune: “It’s raining cob, haleluja, it’s raining cob…”
With that I invite you to have a look at the slideshow: