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.

Four months have gone by- here its been a time focused on the “Protect O.U.R.Ecovillage forever” campaign, while I was on the other side of the planet working with villagers and volunteers in Tanzania.
And as the days are getting longer and sunny afternoons beckon us to go out and rake the front yard we are making plans to host one of our favorite events: the Natural Building Colloquium; mark your Calendar for May 19-22, 2011 .
If you’ve been around the natural building movement you will have heard of these gatherings: people come together as community- to re-kindle their spirits, spend time catching up with each other and to integrate new members into the movement.
It’s fairly informal, warm, exciting, inspiring. We listen to each others stories of successes and experimentation, see images of work, try out a new technique and go for walks with old and new friends.
Many of us still remember the last time we hosted the colloquium here: we had so much fun dancing to the music of Marimba Muzuva that the next day all of us walked around a little stiffer. So here’s our promise: we’ll have another dance – will you come and join?

“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: