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Permaculture. Sustainable Food Production. Natural Building. Education. Community.

Guest Blog: Marty’s Internship Experience

(image: Hasi Eldib)

(image: Hasi Eldib)

By Marty Hermanek

My 8-week natural and community building internship at OUR Ecovillage changed my life in a way I never expected. I decided to take the internship because I was looking for inspiration in natural home building and I really wanted to know how I could build a custom home out of natural, non toxic materials, using relatively cheap methods. Also, I was curious as to who out there had similar ideas and if they had implemented them to any degree. I wanted to be part of the growing natural building network in hopes that I may one day help inspire someone else to become interested in natural building.

The intern’s project was to be a home, with a timber frame and walls made of cob, which seemed simple enough, and I was surprised during my orientation of the Village (which lasted a few days given the size of the property and all its goings on) to learn that most of the many buildings on site were made of natural resources. Straw bale,wood chip slip, cob, straw slip, living roofs, lime plaster, clay paints, and lots and lots of salvaged, reused, and recycled stuff. Visiting these buildings really brought home how many usable materials are already out there without having to waste energy creating new ones. One person’s smashed up sidewalk is another person’s house foundation. Bottles become beautiful windows. Reusing Styrofoam tree seedling trays, although not natural, make perfect floor insulation, saving them from the landfill. The list goes on. I knew I was going to find the inspiration I was looking for but what about the people I was going to share the next two months of my life with? What kind of kinship would develop?

OUR Ecovillage runs on the fundamentals of permaculture, which basically means ‘closed loops’ or systems that work in full cycle. Water comes from the well, is used in the shower, then feeds our gardens then is returned to the aquifer. Food and resources are ecologically harvested and there is little to no waste. Its actually a beautiful system when it is in full motion and if felt good to be a part of it. The community worked together to create sustainability and fluid function within it. Once a week everyone in the community was encouraged to attend council to discuss whatever subject felt right for the time. It was a very effective way to level with all the inevitable differences a diversity of people living in community create. Also once a week there was a community meeting held at lunch for all present and upcoming agendas, so that everyone was aware and on the same page. Every week it was up to each individual to designate themselves a chore from the list of chores and be accountable for it.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Village has a huge garden which helped feed 40 people every day. It was always fun to connect with those doing the gardening internship during meal time to see what they were working on in the garden that day and to see if there were any new animals on the farm. Sometimes a shipment of live hens would come in and those interested could learn the hands-on processes between live hen and frozen chicken. Mmmm.

As we, the interns, built what was known as the Turtle House, we began to open ourselves up to each other and connect in very human ways. The general feeling of the work site was mellow. During our check ins in the morning, we would go over what was done the day before and what was on the agenda for today. There was plenty of room and time for teamwork as well as individual projects within the building, and since most of us had little to no experience building with cob, or any other medium for that matter, the wonderful facilitators were always willing to help organize whatever to meet the interns needs. Every day was met with new challenges and copious amounts of learning; learning about building with natural materials but also learning how to be a part of a community that relies on participation and presence. It didn’t take long for me to appreciate everyone’s integral role and the importance of community. It was so different from a world where people have no connection to the basics of life, their food, their water, the materials that form the reality around them, and where their waste/garbage goes. I learned that some of Vancouver Island’s garbage is shipped via barge to get buried in a hole in another country! Hmm, let’s rethink that.

Building with cob became second nature and it wasn’t long before we were facilitating volunteers in helping us build using all the valuable skills passed on to us. Ya hoo! More learning! Turns out the best way to learn is by teaching someone else that skill and in that we all became proficient.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOUR facilitators also had us participate in something called an ‘each one, teach one’. Basically we were to decide on a skill we thought we had a good understanding of and were encouraged to share it with everyone else. So throughout the internship, usually in the evenings, we had the opportunity to learn a new skill taught by someone new every time. The skills varied from healing touch energy work to a guided informational walk about all the native tree species in our area to rock climbing to tanning a deer hide.

With the internship and with it summer coming to an end, my head was spinning with the possibilities and endless opportunities surrounding me. My inspiration rekindled and my hopes for a deeper connection to the natural building and Permaculture network realized, I now felt ready to begin practicing my new found skills in the wider realm. I will never forget my summer at OUR Ecovillage and recommend a visit or an internship to anyone interested in learning how to live and share a simple and natural lifestyle.

“Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.”
-Thomas A. Edison

Permaculture. Sustainable Food Production. Natural Building. Education. Community.