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A couple of weeks ago while searching about online I learned about Ashevillage, a sustainable living demonstration site, which turns out to be less than a 1/2 mile from our little urban wanna-be sustainable living demonstration (a.k.a. our condo home). I was thrilled to learn they offer tours and we were able to tag along on a tour scheduled the next day.
The place is an oasis. The moment I arrived I wished I never had to leave. It is alive with edible and medicinal plants, arbors and trellises waiting for their viney cover, multiple levels of interconnected ponds thriving with water loving plants and animals, and a green house/chicken coop combo all arranged against a backdrop of mature trees as a three-dimensional feast for the eyes. We were lucky there were only 4 of us on the tour so we had the chance to ask our many questions.
If all that weren’t enough, it turns out Ashevillage is also the headquarters for Kleiwerks International, a not-for-profit organization for that uses natural building as a means to promote ecological and social resilience internationally. They had recently hosted a natural building workshop onsite so there were several examples of structures built (not necessarily completed) using earthbricks, strawdobe and other natural building techniques. THAT was a bonus as we’ve long considered using some of these methods in our own home design and here we were walking around with a world expert in the field!
As part of my not-so-secret agenda to be allowed more time at Ashevillage, I offered unskilled volunteer labor when needed. I was invited to be part of an onsite work party yesterday to build out one of the walls of a partially built “casita”. So in what can best be described as a six-year-old’s dream come true, I learned how to mix piles of sand, clay and straw into the right consistency by throwing on loads and jumping around on them until they were well mixed. Next we learned how to apply a coat of mudslip followed by layers of our mixture in a way that would bind them all together and to the base of earthbricks and strawdobe wall forms.
I’m certain I’ve never been dirtier than when I left there after a great days work. My hands and feet still have a tint of orange from the clay, the tops of my fingers are raw and bloodied in places (from what I do not know), and every muscle in my body hurts today. In other words, I’m ecstatic. And inspired! 🙂
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