Finding Beauty at Earthship Pavo Natura

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Nestled between mountains and river in the beautiful Kootenays, I met Patricia at the local Safeway. Though I was confident of my navigational abilities, I’m sure glad she offered. Apparently a common act of graciousness that she provides for any interested in seeing Earthship Pavo Natura. I followed her closely along a dirt road that snaked through the raw mountain beauty the the Kootenay’s are known for. It was hot, close to 30 degrees and I was on a mission, a search, for beauty and authenticity.

We pulled into the 11.33 acre property that Patricia and Kurt call home, along with their two dogs, Kasha, an 8 year old rescue from Alberta and a spry little rascal named Layla. Two cats, Heath and L.C help out at the property too, keeping everyone in line.

The first thing that greeted me was a massive pile of foam blocks, approximately 3000 pieces. They are recycled seed flats donated and delivered by a local tree nursery, Patricia explains. The foam blocks are being cut into strips and used to form out any concrete being poured as well as serving as a layer of floor insulation. Stacks upon stacks of used tires that are the essence of the earthship comprise the walls and layout of the structure and provide the thermal mass. Coloured glass bottles, cut and inlaid with mortar, used to both strengthen and beautify the structure. Timber is used to frame the home, making it the only fully timer framed earthship to date. Used pallets decorated the property and any and all other materials that could be salvaged, saved and repurposed.

At Earthship Pavo Natura 75% of the materials they have used are recycled, donated by local companies and the surrounding community. Somebody else’s dump run saved from our already overflowing landfills.

Glass bottles are donated and turned into beautiful decorative walls and frames.
Glass bottles are donated and turned into beautiful decorative walls and frames.

An earthship is defined as a passive solar building which utilizes readily available recycled materials, creating a fully sustainable, ethical and self sufficient home. It is the creation of American architect Michael E. Reynolds, a veritable force and champion of ethical, sustainable architecture around the world. Check out his epic quote….

“As a citizen of the earth,

I fully have the right..

to harvest water from the sky

To grow my own food in my own home

To harvest energy from the sun and the wind

To contain and reuse my own waste on my own land

To make my shelter comfortable without the use of fossil fuels

And to harvest what others throw away to construct my own home

I am willing to die to defend these rights and to spread the knowledge of how to achieve

them to others.

If six billion other people said this as well…

We would transcend the corporations, the governments and the federal reserve bank.

We, the people, would always survive.”

As Kurt points out, “There is no more room for bullshit.” Patricia was living the city life in Red Deer, Alberta, following her passion in floral design and presenting workshops and lessons, dreaming of a simple cob home someday. Kurt is a self taught timber framer. He began building timer framed houses at a young age while striving to live a lifestyle true to himself.

After viewing The Garbage Warrior, a documentary about the struggles of Michael Reynold’s dedication and perseverance in changing building laws and creating sustainable housing, legally, in the state of New Mexico. He knew, given the chance, he would build an earths. With this in mind, they redefined some mutual goals and renovated Patricia’s house in the city. After the sale, armed only with a plan and a dream Kurt and Patricia returned to the earth in the beautiful Kootenays.

Three years since and their dreams are forming into fruition. The work is hard. Extremely hard. Kurt explains that for each finished tire there is 30-45 minutes of effort put into it. Dig the sand, move the sand, fill the tire with sand, then pound the hell out of it with a sledgehammer.

Repeat hundreds of more times.

This is the base, the structure, the walls of the home. It is a process. A long one, but with with love, effort, sweat and tears. Kurt laments, “It’s not one day at a time, it’s one tire at a time.”

This is what sets apart the sustainable housing community from others. The ability to see beyond the regular path. To have the fortitude to put your boots on and get dirty, dusty and sweaty to make a different life. A better life. A healthier, loving life, attuned to nature and all that sustains it.

The average cookie cutter suburban home is a toxic and expensive toll on our environment and our wallets. Our need of instant gratification fuels our over consumption of goods and products and the desire for bigger, better and more and more.

An earthship is one of the most economical structures around, enabling a lifetime of self sufficiency and self reliance, free from utility bills, mortgages and “the man.”

An earthship is the very definition of autonomy.

Reclaiming materials, upcycling them into useful, structurally secure and aesthetically pleasing homes. Homes that utilize everything tossed aside.

A home to love in, made with love and intent.

The tour that Patricia and Kurt provided was awe inspiring. Every nook, every cranny filled with some material made anew, made beautiful again. From the live willow fence encasing their trailer and addition that is their home until the Earthship is complete, to the pallets festooning the property. Everything is alive, everything is useful, everything is used.

A huge part of Kurt and Patricia’s earthship progress is due to volunteers. Advertising on Workaway they have connected with people from all over the world, as far away as the UK, Belgium and France. Most are young, in their 20’s, but all come with a purpose. To work hard and learn. Learn the craft of the earthship, tired of the same old ways, eager to enhance their life and be sustainable. Some with goals of building their own ship in the future. They come to gain experience, knowledge and share their own with others.

Earlier this spring saw an impromptu cob workshop and a glass bottle decorated window built. Kurt and Patricia cherish these times, the outside lounge area, with couches and a fire pit and all the pretty things that have been made is filled with magic, music, hoola hoops and camaraderie. Kurt emphasizes that when someone comes and sweats with them, they are a part of their tribe, the Pavo tribe, and are always welcomed back. And they do, some of their volunteers have returned three years in a row, eager to help and finish the project they have worked so hard on.

2018 is filled with many plans for Earthship Pavo Natura. Intent on creating a greater, more sustainable community, Patricia and Kurt plan on holding workshops encompassing all aspects of offgrid, sustainable living. Workshops will highlight the earthship’s unique construction and operation as well as timber framing and other forms of alternative building. Weaving, rag rug making, foraging and other creative naturalisms will also be featured on their facebook page Unique Works.

They hope to share the tangible and attainable knowledge of sustainability that they have spent their lifetime researching and practising. These practices remind ourselves that our Earth and its resources are not renewable and we have to do everything we can to make a difference. That corporations feeding our own need for instant pleasure needs to be stopped. That we have to wake up. That everything has to go somewhere and we have to step up to the plate in order to save ourselves by saving whatever we can. Reclaiming our earth by reclaiming our mess and thereby reclaiming our lives…our selves. An earthship is an endeavour of labour and love and Patricia and Kurt have filled their land, their lives and many others with this hope, this statement of their own reclamation and will continue to foster and share this knowledge with the community and those near and far.

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