I am out of town, attending a week-long permaculture teacher training on Vancouver Island. My head is buzzing with ideas and inspiration and new information, and my understanding of permaculture in practice is deepening every day — not only through classes and conversations with new friends, but also by my daily environment here, which is really a living classroom. Our host venue, O.U.R. Ecovillage, is a permaculture-based sustainable living community on 25 acres of rural Vancouver Island. Observing the gardens, animal systems, social relations, buildings, and the handling of energy and waste here, it really feels like all the intriguing maps and graphs of permaculture books come to life in 3-D, giving a sense of what it might look like to actually try to apply all of that in practice.
Since I’m particularly fired up about natural building these days, I want to share some photos of the many gorgeous earthen houses here. The building in which our classes take place, for example, is a timber-frame cob and straw bale house finished with earthen plasters made with local clay, and a living roof. It is deservedly called a “Sanctuary”: it has such a peaceful vibe, and the way in which the sunlight moves through the space in the course of a day is really magical.
The place where I get to sleep — to the sounds of frogs croaking at night and wild turkeys clucking in the morning — is the upstairs studio of another hybrid natural building, built with cob and light clay techniques and also featuring a green roof:Wood-fired cob sauna by a little pond and a labyrinth: