Wednesday, March 11, 2009

BUILDING THE VARDO: Living with the curve

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Several years ago we met a lovely woman at a workshop Pete and I were attending. The workshop was in Yachats, Oregon one of my favorite coastal towns and I am told one of the favorite watery gathering places for the whales. I am partial to the whales, loving them for their being, their longevity in spite of all odds and their incredible voices. We were in Yachats as a preliminary sort of scouting expedition just before our journey would finally take us from Kuli`ou`ou Valley and my family home of origin. We didn't know where we'd move to, and sought the workshop with Arnie and Amy Mindell as a place where answers might be found. It was a cold late winter as I recall, maybe February. The cabin I usually rented in Summer's heat was drafty and cold. The tiny wall heater never got me warm and as a result I got a doozey of a chest cold. Pete stayed to enjoy the company of very dear-hearted people and among them was this lovely woman and creator of cob cottages, Linda Smiley. I had met Linda once before, Pete had never met Linda until that workshop. Linda and her life partner Yanto Evans and their cob building partner Michael Smith had just written the practical and philosophical guide to building a cob cottage. It is called The Hand-Sculpted House. That book has changed my worldview as a home dweller since that winter in Yachats.

Pete and I fell in love with the idea of a solid dirt home scultpted by hand and situated on the earth to live with the curve of Earth's position to the universe. Today, I have rekindled my love affair with this book and the philosophy

"To feel more human and less mechanized, you can choose to live in a home that refects cosmic cycles. Your house can reveal and display the procession of Sun and Moon across the sky and the movements of the planets." - page 57 of The Hand-Sculpted House.

Our choice to build a vardo comes from that desire to live with the cosmic cycles. The challenges of learning to live with environmental exposures led us away from cob and toward the wee home on wheels. The Romani (the Gypsy) traveled and with their sense of their place on Earth. As we get to the point where the floor, walls and door complete the structure of VARDOFORTWO, and we get ready to position the wee home, I am reminded that we will begin with a placement of door in the northeast, windows open to the east and west. It will be time and observation that will put us in sync with the cycles. We will need to notice the sky, the direction of the wind, and the movement of the sun.

Part of the flexibility of the vardo is its relative portability. We can start in one position, and with some effort, it is possible to turn the position of the door and the windows after we have been with the place for a cycle. If you are considering building your own home there are shelves filled with books for ideas. Since recent sensitivities have limited my comfort with new books, I am so appreciative of the time with this old favorite. Here is one more quotation that fell open at my feet as I sat in my 'reading place' (on the toilet of course). From the section on DOORS came this:


...They have some real advantages, thermally and socially. The half-door offers the benefits of a door and a window. Working by an open window is a joy...With a standard door wide open in cool wether, warm air leaves through the top ... and of course must be replaced by cold air ... Result? Cold feet, warm head, a good recipe for a bad mood. The half-door breaks that flow, leaving floor-level air largely undisturbed, but offering refreshing coolness at head level." - from page 225, 226 from The Hand Sculpted House

My dream includes building a cob wall near VARDOFORTWO, expanding the inside to include the outside. We'll see~ Linda wrote this note in our book when we were together in Yachats:

"For Mokihana and Pete, May you find your dream land and may this book be useful in Hand Sculpting your dream homES. I would love to help you in ways that I can."

The Cob Cottage
PO BOX 123
Cottage Grove Or 97424

And, so the dream lives.

What do you think about cob homes and living with the curve?

P.S. Here's a new link to the love of cob. I LOVE COB!

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