Pausing for a moment in my flood of work-related blogs to share some personal going-ons in my life.
Lately I have been asking myself, "what is it that you really want out of life?" I have spent the past few years soul searching, learning who I am and what I stand for, and just figuring out my place in the world. The universe has been kind to me on this journey. I have met more true friends and beautiful souls than I ever thought possible. I found the love of my life, my partner Drew, who loves and supports me in every way imaginable, and we are working towards building our life together.
Since I moved to Richmond in 2011, I've been day-jobbing at a bookstore, and while not the most fulfilling job, it has certainly been a wholesome experience and most importantly, it has paid my bills. I took an extensive break from my photography when I relocated, cutting it down to bear bones operation, and focusing on other things. Did photography truly make me happy? Was I more suited to do something else? Where did I belong?
I've been renting my living space and learning how to be an adult and for the most part I have adjusted well and succeeded. At first it was exciting; moving every year--a new place to decorate and make my own--getting settled in just in time to realize that I was ready to move on. Rolling stones gather no moss.
This past winter, Drew and I began to discuss the idea of putting down roots, of having a place to make our own. We want to live sustainably, with minimal reliance on the Man. Our research pointed towards building a natural home, and we were immediately enchanted by the cob house.
Cob houses use local, low cost, and salvage materials to create a house that is not only affordable but eco-friendly. Cob is essentially a mixture of clay, sand, and straw; it has been used in building for centuries all over the world and in the 1990's had a resurgence of use here in the United States. The design possibilities are endless, unique, and calling my name. I won't sit and lecture you, reader, on cob houses, but if you're interested at all, I urge you to Google it. It's fascinating.
Neither Drew nor I have much experience in building anything, much less a house, so the initial idea of building our home felt a little absurd albeit absolutely thrilling. We've got a long road ahead of us in this adventure. The first thing we decided to do was take a workshop, and see what the building process was really like. Everything we had read said that anyone can build a cob house, but really? We were going to find out.
We were pleasantly surprised to find several workshops hosted not only in Kentucky, but right in our neck of the woods. Since the clay used in cob building comes from the soil (if you're lucky), Kentucky's clay-rich dirt is generally perfect for cob building. How lucky for us!! We settled on attending the Disputanta Cob workshop at the end of April.
Disputanta Cob is hosted by Diane Jennings on her land right outside of Berea KY. She's completed her Garden Cottage and is currently working on a bath house and dining hall addition. There were a dozen other attendees and while we weren't surprised that we were the ones who had to travel the least to get there, it was amazing to see how far some people had come to learn about cob. There were people from Alabama, Maine, Ohio, and even Colorado! It was a pleasure to meet these people and learn with them.
A few of the key words that radiate in my mind when I think about my time at the cob workshop are empowerment and girl power. It was surprising to see that the majority of the attendees of the workshop were women, and both the master builder and her apprentice were women. When I came to the building workshop, I had assumed that it would be full of men, doing all the hard work while the ladies were given easy tasks--that wasn't how it was in the least! While working with Diane Jennings and her apprentice, Diane Maldonado, (funny insert, whenever anyone needed help or had a question, the best option was just to yell "Diane!!" and wait for one of them to hear you! Haha!) I never once thought that there was something being done that I was unable to do. Seriously, anyone can build. Diane J. taught me to use a circular saw, which was one of the gutsiest things I have ever done (and I didn't lose a finger!). We learned to lay foundation, mix cob, put in lentils, build walls, make & apply different plasters, and put on a roof. It was amazing to watch different bits of the house come together and think, "wow, we did that!" I left the cob workshop not only with some of the skills I will need to build my own house, but also with a sense of empowerment that I can accomplish anything. I am full of gratitude to the Dianes and all of my fellow attendees for such a wonderful experience. Building with them, enjoying some fantastic potluck meals and enlightening conversation was as much a vacation as a learning experience and I couldn't have been happier with my decision to be a part of it.
I had intended to take a lot more photos of the building process, but when you're covered head to toe in dirt and plaster, it makes handling a camera rather tricky. However, I did get a few shots of the process and I got lots of fun captures from our nightly campfires, where we'd unwind after a long day of work.
To answer my question, "what do I really want out of life?"
I want to live simply. I want to live for my work, not work for my living. I am embracing the things that can give me this life: my photography, my dream of building a cob house. I am so blessed to be surrounded with support in both aspects. I am excited to grow and learn and achieve my dreams.