Wednesday, March 23

plaster as salve

Are you familiar with the strange sensation that you have undeniably exciting news to share, that you're bursting with information of epic proportions, that your life rather suddenly seems changed or altered? But you have no gosh-dern idea how to relay that reality to other human beings? I'd say that's probably where I am right now.

Last week was a frustrating one for Luke and I. Even in the midst of some quite happy and positive changes in our lives we were overwhelmed by the feeling that our deepest goals and dreams for the future seem so very elusive. We harbor the hope that someday we'll cultivate a homestead and farm, practicing many of the new skills Luke is learning in his permaculture studies, providing for our basic food needs as much as possible, and spending glorious amounts of time outside. But dreams like these, though so simple at first glance, are much more complicated (and costly) than they seem. I think every person I've ever met has had a vision like this- that seems so close at hand, but whose realization is still so distant. And at times (like last week) that reality is frustratingly clear.
But then, like salve for our souls, a group of good friends organized a trip to the mountains of West Virginia to practice some natural building techniques at an intentional community just off the Appalachian Trail. There we were warmly welcomed by a group of men and women who've spent their adult lives living in community and are now creating a spiritual retreat center in the mountains. They were funny, they were hospitable, they were knowledgeable, and they served us abundant amounts of delicious food. Needless to say, we are smitten with these new friends. Quite literally, our weekend was spent massaging the walls of a cordwood, cob house with sand and clay plaster. Think finger-painting:

And you know how you mix cob with sand and water? With your feet! Here, Emma demonstrates:

In the morning we ate breakfast on some straw bales (notice the recycled glass bottles used as natural stained glass in the cordwood wall):

And by evening we'd crafted a cob bench for the dining room:

The weekend was a time of real learning and discovery for me. It was incredibly helpful to see some of our own ideas for building and community being practiced and turning out wonderfully in someone's home. From the incredibly efficient masonry stove to the odor-free composting toilet to the beautiful but practical cob walls, it was a feast for the eyes both aesthetically and environmentally-consciously (sorry about the grammar folks!).

We returned home Sunday night with rosy cheeks from the sun, clear minds from a hike in the woods, fatigue from the laughter and camaraderie, and perhaps most importantly: hope. For some reason our dreams and goals seem tangible again. And it's just glorious to have that hope.


  1. joyous, that looks like too much fun! both the gettin' muddy and the learning to create in this way. so glad you both got a renewal from the weekend!

  2. I really love the photos, and I'm happy that ya'll enjoyed yourselves so much. Sounds like such a holistically refreshing time. Oh, these are the kinds of things I wish I were around for! And by the way, you're looking GREAT!

  3. Wow! that place looks so fantastic! I would love to be involved with a project like that, and I'm definitely looking forward to incorporating some of those efficient/appropriate technologies into my home one day! It is so wonderful 'seeing' you two enjoy having a home/yard. so fun!