When we first began work on our eco-retreat dream, there was some skepticism, but we thought “that’s fine, we can do this all by ourselves and we’ll show everyone!”.  Oh, how wrong we were.  Without the ongoing help and support of our family, friends, and the amazing people we met along the way, we would never have been able to accomplish our dream.  Many, many times throughout our grueling building project we reflected on just how much thanks we owed and looked forward to the day when we would finally be finished and able to commemorate our thanks via this webpage.  So, to all of you who made this possible for us, we want you to know that what you have done has not gone unnoticed and we are tremendously grateful…


In the beginning…

There are a few people who deserve to be mentioned first since this project would not have made it past the planning stage without them.  Because you believed in us, we were able to turn our dreams into reality (and spend a year covered in mud!).  We owe you more than we can express…

  • Byron Gaber, Leon’s father.  You placed your faith in us and our crazy dreams and offered us support, both financial and mental, when we needed it most.  Without your commitment at the very beginning, and all along, none of this would have been possible.
  • Dave Guthrie and Stephen Anderson, Tonya’s bosses.  You trusted her and gave her a job at a crucial point when employment was one of the last hurdles in bringing together the initial financial stage of this project.
  • The former owners of Stoltz Bluff.  You believed in us, despite having just met us and hearing our far-fetched dreams.  This wouldn’t have happened without your openness and willingness to take a risk, so that we could purchase your unique and beautiful property.

Our inspiration…

  • Gord & Ann Baird, eco-sense.  If you hadn’t inspired us with your beautiful home and accomplishments, it is highly unlikely that we would have dared to dream ours.  We came to you during the planning stage of our project to tour yours, glean as much wisdom as possible, and ask “if we do this, will you be there for us? (cause we have no idea what we’re doing)”.  Good thing you said “yes”!
  • Brandy Gallagher and Elke Cole, O.U.R. Ecovillage.  Before visiting O.U.R. we had never set foot in a cob house, only read about them, and you provided us with a very positive first experience.  Hearing the amazing O.U.R. story, how many obstacles you overcame, and how you set the precedent for cob houses (and much more) in the area made us believe that anything was possible.
  • Mahatma Gandhi.  Sounds a little pretentious, we know, but we all need our mantras.  In life, and especially during this ambitious and often stressful project, ours has been “Be the change that you wish to see in the world“.

Incredible family support…

  • Byron Gaber, Leon’s father.  Not only did your support get this project off the ground, but you also took 4 weeks away from your business and partner in Winnipeg to give us some much-needed free labour!
  • Gela Stach, Leon’s mother.  For the weeks of “vacation” you spent with us in the hot sun making mud-balls.  You were one of the very few who actually believed from day 1 that we could do this, and offered us your steadfast faith and support the whole way through.
  • Felix Gaber, Leon’s brother.  For not hesitating even for a second when it came to offering your labour, despite the 2 weeks away from your family in Winnipeg, and the much more relaxing vacation you could have taken.  We took full advantage of your hardworking nature and comfort in your company.
  • Devron Gaber & Frank Runnells, Leon’s uncle and his partner.  For not only giving us a place to live while we worked our day jobs in Victoria, but also giving us a huge amount of your labour throughout the entire project… despite Devron’s deep abhorrence towards mud!
  • Todd Gaber.  For coming out to swing a hammer, advise on our website and marketing strategies, and prove that the Gaber’s have that prairie-style, everyone-pitches-in mentally.
  • Ben & Mary Shymkiw, Tonya’s father and mother.  For raising her well and instilling that she is capable of accomplishing anything she sets her mind to.  Her mother has been very interested in the project, and her father has been there in spirit the whole way, helping her keep the faith during the hardest times.
  • And all of our amazing, interested, and supportive family including siblings, nephews, nieces, aunts, uncles, cousins, and of course – Oma!

The professionals who made this possible…

  • Maria Kyle, Dominion Lending Centres.  For not laughing us out of her office when we said we wanted a mortgage for a small cob house on (a full-valued) 40 acres of land.  You worked tirelessly and exhausted every option for us… and we would have been in big trouble if you hadn’t!
  • Thor Tandy, Unisol Engineering.  For turning our labour of love into yours, and for signing your name to our plans, though others would have rolled their eyes and turned their backs.
  • Brian Duncan and Ian McDonald, CVRD Building Inspection.  For being on-board from the beginning (thank goodness!), and being supportive and interested in alternative solutions.
  • Michael Soronow, Velletta & Company.  For your excellent service, patient assistance, and continued interest in our project
  • Barbara Biss, Gary Morley, and Doug Berry, Ministry of FLNRO.  For talking us through some complicated legalities in purchase and re-mortgage of our unique property, and supporting us with information and assistance at a crucial time.
  • David Van Veen, Cunningham and Rivard Appraisals.  For being the last crucial piece of the mortgage puzzle and assigning a fair value to our unconventional house, as well as your genuine interest and praise of our efforts.
  • Coast Capital Insurance.  For your fair rates and not shying away from insuring something that others often didn’t even attempt to understand.
  • Island Savings Credit Union.  For being the flagship financial institution in support of truly “green” projects and local people.  We can’t thank you enough for believing in us and being the final component which took us from stressful-project-mode to sigh-of-relief.

Our dedicated project team…

  • Gord Baird, eco-sense. For being there for us, just like you promised.  For maintaining a calm and positive attitude throughout, and inspiring us with your strength of character and endurance of body!
  • Keith Lamont, K.J.L. Contracting.  For going above and beyond countless times, and being dependable, fair, honest, and interested.  Your advice and community connections were invaluable to us, and we always welcomed your arrival, whether on the job, or for a visit.
  • Lars Stuurop, Build Green Victoria.  For your skills in carpentry, as well as in improving Leon’s mood on a difficult day (many of them!).  You could always be counted on for quality work, enjoyable companionship, and to lend a hand, no matter the task.
  • Eric Bowden, Island Village Builders.  For being there from day one, and believing in the project and making it your own.  You regularly went the extra mile by researching and sourcing on your own time to help make the project a success.
  • Dawn Smith, Island Village Builders.  For your energy, and deep belief in and knowledge of natural building systems.  You were there for us when we desperately needed an extra set of hands to get us to the finish line.
  • Eric Anderson.  For your knowledge and experience with natural finishes and efficiency at a applying them.  You could always be counted on, and went out of your way to make time for our project and put in more hours than you were looking for!
  • Mike Geldreich, Power To the People.  For your dedication, and extensive knowledge of and experience with off-grid power systems.  You really cared about our project and regularly expressed your support and belief in what we were doing.
  • Kurt Kerns & staff, WetlandsPacific.  For persevering until you finally got the approval we needed to move ahead with your unique constructed wetlands system for water treatment.  You came through when we needed you and the result was just what we wanted.
  • Lauren Holman, L.C. Holman Plumbing.  For your knowledge and advice on our water system.  You made yourself available when we needed you, and were experienced and helpful.
  • Sharon McGeorge.  For your electrical knowledge, and willingness to spend many long days and nights in sub-par conditions to get the job done.  We were so lucky that you were available and interested at just the right time.
  • Tom Jensen, Earthen Homes.  For creating our beautiful rammed earth fireplace wall, allowing us to be part of that process, and teaching us a lot along the way.  Your flexibility, dedication, and long hours were greatly appreciated.
  • Christina Goodvin and Jason Weir, Weir Design & Engineering.  For your excitement and interest in our project, and all the extra time and effort you put into the engineering of our unique thermal sandbox design.
  • Bruce Murray.  For some excellent carpentry work, and making yourself available when we needed you.  You were able to devise creative solutions in a home without a single straight line or right angle!

Many helping hands, heads, and hearts…

  • Terry Nelson.  For getting us started as our most reliable and regular volunteer, and for being retired and nearby!
  • Dustin Olender.  For being unemployed when we needed you most, for giving us so much of your time and muscle, for your engineer’s problem-solving brain, and for being a believer and a good friend.
  • Trevor Sones.  For making the trip from Vancouver more than once, despite other more attractive plans, and for your brains as well as your brawn, we needed them both.
  • Jen Maxwell and Damon Gray, NZ Builders.  For your labour and your willingness to return, despite the less-than-glamorous work we assigned, and for the industry knowledge and advice.
  • Alex Mann & Lynn Sanderson.  For being the best neighbours we could ever ask for; offering support in every way possible whether that meant chimney building, tool lending, being an encyclopedia of knowledge, or providing a fresh-from-the-garden homemade meal.
  • …and the many other friends who made it out to lend a hand!  Luke Binger, Teresa Conner, Meg Gardner, Alyx Gilgunn Valdal, Tasha GoochLisa Levesque, Jesse McClintonAnita Narwani, Nicole ObeeBrett Prairie, James Rogers, Jessie Sinclair, Sol (O.U.R. Eco-village), Fern Stockman, Brian Valdal, Colin Wager, Steve (pop-n-lock) Popple.
  • Curtis & Kim Robinson & family.  For all your information sharing and advice, and the mutual commiseration/emotional support throughout!
  • Jake & Alina Fisher.  For the tent trailer which would become our on-site winter home (brrr, but sure beats a tent!), and for believing from the beginning.
  • Chris Leek.  For your insights and advice at the very beginning of our project.  We had many questions about how to work within the Building Code and you were willing to take the time answer them all.
  • Steve Satow.  For your support, research, and encouragement of our project and all natural buildings.  We turned to you many times when we had questions, and you were always happy to share information and give demonstrations.
  • Bill & Cindy McCaugherty and Peter & Linda George.  For giving us something to aspire to when we toured your beautiful homes, and for the ongoing information sharing and encouragement that makes unique projects possible.
  • Douwe Verboon.  For the donation of some great salvage finds, which we were able to put to good use, and your interest in and support of unique and sustainable architecture.
  • Angela Lynch & Greg Wu and Neville Grigg.  For happily sharing your extensive knowledge of how to run a successful vacation rental business.  We had a lot of questions, and you were all willing, patient, and interested mentors.
  • Billy the Bear.  For not eating Tonya when he/she had the chance.  (Not sure if he/she belongs in this section, but where else?)

People, products and services that brought it all together (and who we’d highly recommend)…

  • Cory Loewen, Accurate Dorwin.  For your amazing customer service, ongoing interest, excellent windows, great deal, and understanding why it was important to have different glazing types on different faces of the house (a rare thing!).
  • Paul Wood, ShelterWorks/Faswall.  For your excellent customer service, interest in our project, a product we absolutely loved, and problem-solving ability which allowed us to use your product in an unusual double-row curved-wall scenario (not for the faint of heart, but it worked!).
  • Peter Postma, J.P. Construction Supplies.  For always being there to offer advice on both products and techniques, or just chat about life and the world, and your genuine interest in and support of our project.
  • …and the many other businesses who gave us wonderful customer service and who we highly recommend: Andrew Sheret Plumbing, BioShield, C N Ryzuk, Dan’s Pre-Cast, Demxx Deconstruction, Dodds Lumber, Duncan Iron Works, GreenWorks Building Supply, Highway Rentals & Sales, Hillside Stone & Garden, J.S. Plumbing & Heating, P.J. White Hardwoods, Pontious Brothers Trucking, Riverbend Tack & Hay, RJM Gutters & Soffit, Rona, Silverfern Stainless, St. Clair Custom Stainless Steel & Copper, Steels, SureSpan, Vancouver Island Potters Supply, West Wind Hardwood, Windsor Plywood, Ye Olde Dogwood Lumber.

And finally… each other!  For sticking it out for better or for worse… through the many obstacles and mood swings, the long dusk ’til dawn days, the living in a hot tent all summer (and until November!), the living in a freezing tent trailer all winter, the year of no time off, and the constant stress that comes with taking a risk this big and not knowing whether we’d make it or lose everything…. THANK YOU.

We apologize greatly if we’ve missed anyone here.  It’s taken us a long time to finally get to this stage and it’s entirely possible we’ve missed some important people.  We will be sure to continue evolving this list as our memories refresh!