After a wonderfully full season of building on Vancouver Island, I delightfully found myself heading south to California in October. My destination was the 2008 West Coast Natural Building Colloquium. This gathering of Natural Building peers was put on by the Natural Building Network, and hosted at beautiful Orella Ranch in Goleta, the northern edge of Santa Barbara. If the setting wasn't enough, overlooking the spectacular Gaviota coast and nestled in giant Live Oaks (above photo), the experiences had during the gathering were equally as beautiful. Below are some shots of the character-rich facilities where we passed many hours talking, lounging, and eating wonderful fresh foods.
Greatly inspiring was the amount of love and passion that everyone brought to this gathering, the work people are pouring themselves into, and the eagerness to share knowledge with one another.
From Shannon Dealy talking about the "what not to's", and Sukita busting out the earthen floors, ...with a hammer, to a full on 40-80 people working in harmony on a multi-system set of washrooms, we sure did cover a lot of dirt!
Of course, with this lovely array of exceptionally talented and creative Natural Builders, art was not a theme that ran shy. Below left, Erica Ann is seen figuring out just how to make a stained-glass window with cob. I was honoured to be a part of detailing this window, and watching the many transformations that it went through. The whole process was quite interesting and the results, shown in the two photos to the right, are just a peek at how expressively wonderful cob, colour, and form can be.
There was magic happening all over as friends, both old and new, and families, spanning many generations (the little one, Secoya, lending a helpful hand with the saws, is part of the 7th generation on the land!!) came together with a common dream.
We came from all around to share with each other our love and passion for Mother Earth and the tools and materials she gives us to live from. We have dedicated a large part of our lives to creating a livelihood from these gifts, and giving back in the many ways that we can. We are Natural Builders of many shapes, ways, and forms. We love to get our hands and feet dirty. We love to walk gently and slowly. We love to live and play outside. For many of us our work is our play is our home.
This was the first of these gatherings that I have attended. It was an experience I will remember for much time to come, some for the rest of my life I am sure. It was a time and place where I met more of my family and made connections and friendships that I will always carry with me. I am definitely already looking forward to the next reunion!
Even the cooks couldn't help themselves after a while...mmmm, edible homes!