Here are some photos from as far back as April, when there was still snow on the ground! Yikes. It's a random collection of various happenings here on the Ridge. Most notably - the connection of our hand pump to our dug well (water on the land.. so exciting!!), graphting 50 apple trees (where a few actually bloomed), building a new tool shed (lot of stuff overflowing from our existing shed), and (I think my favourite this year) an outdoor shower!!
We will no longer be posting photos of progress on the roundhouse for various reasons. However, you are welcome to visit us and have a look if you wish. In fact, we will be hosting another friends and volunteers (who are/will likely become friends) building event this labour day weekend! Please go to the contact page here and contact me for more info.
Suddenly everything is green and lush and winter is a distant memory. We had our very first volunteers of the season, (back in April actually) a very kind fellow and his little energetic daughter. An array of jobs were tackled while they were here, mainly building a new tool shed at the roundhouse site, bush clearing, and some planting.
In the meantime, Andres and I have been trying to tackle as much as we can, however it is incredibly difficult to tick things off the to-do list while he works full-time and I am constantly chasing our intensely active one-year old daughter. We often discuss how we can progress further and quicker in our homesteading project. This seems to be our biggest challenge so far - dealing with the lack of time to do so many things. And I know we are not the only ones. Everyone, everywhere in urban and rural areas alike have little time to accomplish the things we need and want to do. How can we get over this obstacle?! The more I think about it, the more I am in favour of a reduced-hour work week. I think it is important for folks to have decent downtime for themselves in addition to some work time at home and/or in the community. For us, we are building our whole infrastructure - from scratch, with very limited utilities and with the aim to become as close to entirely self-sufficient as possible. This is not easy and it makes me feel in awe of all the people we visited on our volunteering/wwoofing travels in the UK who have children and who managed to do all this and continue to do it! Thinking of them sometimes is what really keeps me going.
This is a general list of the jobs we are working on at the moment.
Gardening tasks include: maintaining the annual garden, organizing and caring for our growing collection of perennials into a forest garden, caring for our newly grafted apple trees, building a greenhouse.
Building tasks include: completing a small scale roundhouse structure which will be our temporary home until the main house (an Earthship) is ready, finish building 2 outhouses, a root cellar, and a tool shed.
Landscaping tasks include: transplanting trees to make natural fences/barriers/hedges, carving out trails, paths and driveways through the property for hiking, skiing, snowshoeing, and general access.
Other homesteading tasks include: preserving our harvest, harvesting firewood, and maintaining tools, equipment and structures which includes cleaning, sanding, grinding, painting, and oiling.
Other creative tasks include: making signs for our property and other decorative features, basketry and ornamental weaving from our own harvested wild materials (we are not experts at this yet but would love to learn from someone or learn together!), and other wild crafting such as harvesting plentiful wildflowers for medicinal and cosmetic uses.
Told ya we're busy :-)
On that note.... I posted some ads on a couple volunteer networks. Links are below if you want to have a look or pass on to anyone. I am also setting up a host profile on WWOOF Canda and there should be a posting on the Earthship Ottawa Meetup group soon.
That's it for now. Will try to post some photos next time.
I got a good whiff of that fresh spring air today and it was heavenly. That means the gardening and building season is almost upon us. We decided to rent a house in town for winter but we are eager to get back to the landstead and carry on with all the projects we have on the go. Various tasks from our extensive 'to do' list include; planting the annual garden, starting to establish the forest garden, carving out more paths and trails, building two compost toilets and a root cellar and finishing the sandbag roundhouse build.
We would like to make this year our first official year as hosts for work-stay volunteers from May to October. In addition to the (hopefully) steady stream of visiting helpers, we also plan to host a few larger group gatherings to advance quicker on certain tasks. I will post info regarding dates as soon as they are confirmed. In the mean time if anyone is interested in volunteering please send me a message at email@example.com.
For now, I leave you with a photo of the well we dug out last fall. If you look close you can see my reflection waving to the water down below. It is a strange feeling to have so much excitement for a substance that has always seemed so plentiful with the turn of a tap.
We're still cracking on with our building! Yes, the days are getting shorter and the nights are getting cooler (well freezing actually) but we are still motivated to get ahead on our roundhouse. As you can see from the photo the roof has not yet been erected. That's not because our incredible helpers did not work their super generous butts off on Thanksgiving weekend. Turned out there were some other details to work out first before proceeding to the much anticipated reciprocal roof raising.
Energy was spent on digging a couple trenches by the front entrance to insert the cedar posts that will eventually retain the earth that will be buried behind them. One team dug, another team collected the posts, and another team filled a few more sandbags. While the logs for the roof were peeled and cleaned, tough, burly friends heaved, carefully set and secured the posts into place.
It was work that came at us last minute as we realised this cedar retention wall would be great idea for the entrance and it logically made sense to put this up before proceeding with the roof. It is certainly necessary to have a plan in place before engaging in such a project however I'm finding more and more that what you 'plan' may not exactly turn out to be what you actually do - or least what you plan to do will happen much (much) later then when you think you're gonna do it!
In fact, we had an unfortunate set-back as Andrés injured his back at work a few days before the weekend. He was out of work for over week. He was unable to move much and to prepare as much as he would've liked to previous to the build. Luckily he is a lot better now but still has to be careful. And obviously this isn't stopping him from plowing on with the build.
Besides that Thanksgiving was a lovely success for us and as usual we are eternally grateful to the wonderful folks that came out again and for the first time. Thanks Abby, Alice, Dan, JF, Julia, Martin, Megan, and Tim. You guys rock! And thanks to Patricia, our amazing neighbour who came around with fresh baked, still warm from the oven chocolate chip cookies at just the right time.
And in the spirit of Thanksgiving, which feels ages away already, Andrés and I have to say how incredibly happy and blessed we are, especially at this time in our lives. It was exactly a year ago at this time that we announced to our close family and friends that I was pregnant with our first baby. She arrived this May and has kept us very busy ever since but has also brought much joy to us. In the midst of caring for our newborn and dealing with normal day to day stuff, somehow we felt we could build a home at the same time - off-grid with no running water nonetheless. Sometimes I think we're a little coo-coo. However, it is because we know and can feel there are wonderful souls wandering this beautiful planet that would somehow find their way to us and lend a hand when we really need it. We believe in karmic connections, paying it forward, love and respect. We need you like you need us, we all need each other. Sometimes it is hard for us (me especially) to ask for help but I don't think it's a bad thing. It seems people really do want to help others, the only problem normally is time. Nevertheless, whether you are or have been with us physically or simply in spirit, we have benefited from your positivity and support, and for that we give thanks.
Oh and I did manage to cook a turkey for the first time in my life, which turned out alright. Made the cranberry sauce too for the first time - the easiest thing to make in the world, and why not avoid the canned stuff when all you need are cranberries (which are so plentiful and cheap at that time), some sugar (maple syrup would probably be better) and a bit of water. I also roasted a squash that self-seeded from our compost pile this year. No watering, fertilizing or even seed sowing required - talk about permaculture! Along with Patricia's homegrown purple potatoes (not kidding, they're proper purple and super yummy), it was a super feast. And for the finale a choice between three pies - apple, pumpkin and my naughty banoffee, nothing homegrown about that one but oh so irresistable!
Well if you're up for an adventure like this, then come on over and join us. With the nightly freezing temperatures we can recommend a couple cute BnBs in the area. Just assume we're working every weekend, we can always use an extra hand and you'll always at least be served a meal in gratitude.
We weren't sure whether we were actually going to organize another group build this weekend but turns out we are! Andrés and I made a quick decision the other day about tapping into a great network on www.meetup.com - the Ottawa Earthship group - to see if other Earthshippers wanted to join in our experience, even in the cool weather. We got a couple of 'yeses' plus it seems some others might be returning yet again to help, so we may get another good long weekend turn out.
Various tasks will be tackled during this weekend. Mostly trying to get the roof up which means many hands to move, debark and lift logs. There may be some framing to do, backfilling, maybe even some hugelkultur work (for permie enthusiasts). We'll have to see how the weekend goes and what we can achieve. Should be a fun one and I plan to cook up some kind of bird on Sunday. We definitely have lots to be thankful for.
Here are the logistical details for the weekend:
TIME: Saturday Oct 10 - Sunday Oct 11 (These are the official building days but you are welcome to come set up camp earlier and/or stay later if you wish - enjoy the fall colours and the crisp weather)
WHERE: Bancroft, Ontario (Contact me for directions - we don't have an official numbered address yet)
FOOD: All meals will be provided and some snacks. If you have dietary restrictions/preferences then please let me know in advance.
RSVP: Let me know when and for how long you plan to come and how may people are coming with you - this is so I know how much food to prepare.
ACCOMMODATION: All we can offer is camping here on-site. We know it's getting quite cold already so you may prefer to stay at a local B&B or motel. Contact me for suggestions.
- tent, sleeping bag, extra warm stuff if camping
- work clothing, shoes and jacket
- gloves for working if you have them
- bottle for drinking water
DAILY SCHEDULE 'PLAN':
8am - breakfast
9am - build
1pm - lunch
2pm - build
5pm - break
6pm - dinner, campfire, fun
• We are completely off-grid. We have a small solar system and collect water from town. There will be enough water here for drinking, cooking and washing up but no shower unfortunately. There is the local campground which offers shower facilities for about $2.
• Depending on the size of group we get I will likely ask for a couple extra hands for meal prep and washing up (not exciting building stuff but part of the reality of communal living
My email is firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks for having a look and hope to see you soon!
Oh and here's a photo of me shoving bales into place. Finally got a break from baby-minding and got a chance to pitch in on the building today!
Well, it's clearly not finished but you can see that progress has been made. It's likely the sandbag walls would be finished if the rain didn't wash out the crew on Saturday. Buckets of rain poured down as our enthusiastic little crew sat huddled under the tarp shelter across from the structure, waiting for a break in the downpour. They gave up by 4pm and came back to eventually huddle around the campfire under a clear star filled sky.
The rain may have set us back slightly but our determination has not wavered. Building is planned to continue weekends until.... it's done. Anyone is welcome to come by, pitch in or just have a look.
Big thank you to the new folks who came up to help out and to those brave souls who returned for round two - Alice, Dan, Mark, Megan, Tim and Wes - you all rock!!
And an extra thank you to Wes who came around on the previous Saturday plus a weeknight shift!
Something incredible happened this weekend. A group of the most determined, enthusiastic and wonderfully kind people came together to help turn a dream into reality. Family members, old friends, new friends and strangers who quickly became friends persevered through what was possibly the hottest weekend of the summer and put the meaning of 'labour' back in labour day weekend.
I am overwhelmed with joy, awe and gratitude to every single person who showed up to shovel, pack and lay the sandbags that quickly came up to form the walls of our roundhouse cabin. Due to kitchen and baby duties, I was unable to be at the building site for much of the time but whenever I did pop my head over, this fascinating work ethic was immediately visible. It seemed like people set up their own goals and precision was beautifully respected. People fought with finicky barbed wire, pounded sledgehammers, got a cruel lesson in the difference between top soil and subsoil, tampered the day away AND started to make a plan for a repeat visit for Thanksgiving weekend!? How did we ever get so lucky?
Thank you to Alice, Andrea, Dad, Dave, Jeff, Kat, Kris, Kristine, Laura, Megan, Mom, Phillipe, Sean, Steph, Tim, and Vicky. You are all amazing!
Plans for Thanksgiving will get underway soon however in order to secure a pre-winter move in date we are thinking to organize a couple more weekend events prior to then to move things along. We're looking at next weekend (Sept 19). I know the sunburns and achy muscles will have barely faded by then for this group but if anyone else is interested or up for it we would love to have you.
Here are some links to blogs/websites from other local projects by people that were with us this weekend, including a great little post by Kat about the build here:
If anyone else has a blog or website that I don't know about and you'd like me to pass along then please let me know. Thanks again and hope to see you all again soon!
We have been busy gathering materials, getting the building site prepped and finalizing the design of the building. We cannot wait to see this structure go up and it's only two weeks until the big weekend! So I thought I'd post some details for everyone who is planning to come.
FOOD - We will provide all meals from the evening of Fri. Sept 4th til breakfast on Mon. Sept 7th. Let me know if you have any dietary restrictions.
RSVP - This is required for food preparation - let me know if you plan to come for the whole weekend or just a partial time.
BRING - Tent. Sleeping bag. Clothes and shoes that you don't mind getting dirty. Bathing suit. Towel. Flashlight. Bottle for drinking water.
DIRECTIONS - Google directions to Bancroft, contact me for the rest at email@example.com.
We're expecting Saturday and Sunday to be quite intense working days followed by a refreshing dip in the lake, a nourishing meal and campfire banter. We're grateful to anyone who can join us and we can't wait!
LABOUR DAY WEEKEND - SEPT 4-7, 2015
Anyone welcome! No skills required!
All meals and some booze will be offered in exchange for your helping hands.
Camping available on-site at our 61 acre oasis.
Enjoy swimming, fishing and canoeing at a selection of lakes in the area.
Learn some alternative building techniques using local materials and traditional methods.
Contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org for further info, directions and so I know how much food to make! Thank you for checking this out.
What exactly will be happening this weekend?
I hate to say this but winter will be here again at some point and this year Andy and I would like to experience living through the cold winter days in a warm and cozy little rustic structure rather then our uninsulated caravan. So we have this crazy idea to build an underground roundhouse cabin (similar to what people call a Hobbit house) in one weekend!
Don't worry - we are still going to build our actual main home (the earthship) but time is flying for this year and there are still details to iron out on the design so we have decided to build a small temporary structure in the mean time.
This is the type of building we have in mind.
Well, summer is in full swing here but unfortunately my garden is not. Due to personal circumstances, we did not have the opportunity to plant the same bounty as last year except for a whole load of garlic. This is because garlic is meant to be planted in the fall, which we managed to do last year but didn't get to sow any other seeds this spring. I'm attempting to get some lettuce, beans and possibly some root veggies in for a late fall crop. Hopefully I'll manage that! Andrés is busy with a full-time job these days so various tasks on our 'To do list' are taking longer then usual to complete.
With that in mind we're hoping to host some volunteers this summer. So if anyone is interested or knows anyone that would like to lend a hand then please let us know. Go the to Connect page for more details.
Here are some snap shots of the lovely trails that Andy hacked through so we can comfortably enjoy the ferns, the tall grass and the wildflowers.