A bit about our backgrounds for those who are interested…. We live in beautiful Victoria, BC, where we have been since fall 2004. We both grew up in Winnipeg, Manitoba and spent a lot of time on our family farms in the Roblin (4 hours north of Winnipeg) area as well. We met in Greece (very coincidentally) on an archeological dig in the summer of 2000. A year and a half later, we moved to the Cayman Islands in the British West Indies to work, enjoy good times, and save some tax free money. We spent almost a year traveling around the world, from Central America and Mexico, to China and Southeast Asia. We’ve shared many incredible experiences together, but completing this project has topped them all!
We both have busy professional lives, but somehow managed to keep working our full time jobs in Victoria while we researched, designed, and built this eco-retreat. We’re still not quite sure how we did that! Mainly, it involved sacrificing our social lives and free time to spend all our weekends, holidays, and many evenings working on this project. We went into it very “green”, as neither of us had ever built anything before and had never worked with cob either. Once again, we’re not quite sure how we pulled this off! (Please check out the Appreciation page to get a better idea)
In the summer of 2009, we were vacationing at our farms in the Roblin area and began devising a plan to build this eco-retreat. Tonya had just graduated with a diploma in Architectural Building Technology, which she took in order to make something like this possible, and because of her life-long love of architecture and design. She had just organized a tour of O.U.R. Ecovillage for the Cascadia Green Building Council’s Emerging Green Builders group and had been researching earthen building techniques. We knew we wanted to make our retreat environmentally sustainable, and cob building offered a way to make it financially sustainable (and possible!) as well. We spent the next year searching for the right property, researching natural building techniques and off-grid systems, designing the house and systems, writing a business case, arranging our financing, and much, much more! On May 1, 2010, we officially took over ownership of our beautiful property on Stoltz Bluff. We “broke ground” on our construction project the same day, which was also Leon’s birthday! We spent the whole day working and didn’t stop for dinner until 9pm. Unfortunately, in Duncan there are not many places where you can get dinner at that time, so we settled on Wendy’s take-out. We sat in our newly-purchased old work truck overlooking the valley and ate our Wendy’s dinner along with a surprise bottle of champagne to celebrate Leon’s birthday and the purchase of our land. By that time though, we were so exhausted that a few sips was all we could manage before heading to our tent to collapse for the night! And so began our lives for the year to come… a lot of long, dirty days, uninspiring meals, and uncomfortable accommodations…
Please take a look at the Our Project page to learn more about how the next year of our lives unfolded and see our construction picture album. Mud houses sure don’t look too pretty while they’re going up, but they do provide a unique and interesting set of photos and experiences!