Sunday, April 11, 2010

Earthwise Valley -- The volunteer house

Summer is over! Instead of grieving over the dropping temperatures and lost hours of sunlight, I'm content to finally take a breath! I've been living for the last few months in Tuateawa at Earthwise Valley. I mentioned the valley and house in my Christmas blog post. Back then, Jon, Robin, Aron and I were setting the house up for the incoming volunteers. Well, now the volunteers have all left, after a 13 week program that was jam-packed with adventures and endeavors that I must now do my best to summarize.. I'll begin with the house.

Let's go back to January 15th. The beds are made and the bread is cooling on the counter top. The house is quiet. And then the van pulls up, Jon and Dave are back from Coromandel after picking up the volunteers and everything begins. From that point on, there are never less than 15 pairs of shoes by the door and the laundry line is always occupied. Welcome to group living!

Oh, but what a sweet group of folks made up the summer program! We had a few Americans, some English folk and a girl from Mexico. Every week a package would arrive with some sort of treat unavailable in New Zealand: s'mores ingredients from the States (graham crackers and marshmallows.. oh yes, they have "marshmallows" here, but they are nothing like the "real" thing), Valentina hot sauce and pulparindo candies from Mexico, matzohs at Passover, and everyone was happy to share!

For the first few days, I did the cooking with some help. Once the volunteers had gotten to know our kitchen, they were assigned to food teams. There were a lot of times when I wasn't around for a couple weeks, and I'd come back to stories of stumpy bread loaves as well as newly discovered kitchen talents. By the end of the three months, I believe that everyone could turn out a decent 1kg bread loaf, make a crumble with apples or blackberries or whatever fruit we could gather, and everyone had learned to love a kitchen full of basic ingredients like dried beans and grains. We ate our meals on the deck. Ah, the deck. It is my favorite feature of the house, with its view of bush and sea. There are pictures in my Christmas post, so have a look back at that to see the backdrop for our meals.

There were a lot of projects around the house during these months: composting toilets, building a spa bath, working on a greywater system, etc... I spent a lot of the time in the kitchen: making jams and jellies, pestos and sauces, breads (of course), vege burgers for the freezer, and pizzas in the earth oven (which deserves a blog post of its own!)

In the mornings or afternoons, I would try to get in some yoga time. I've had a lot of 7:30am sessions either alone or with a few others, and I've led longer sessions with the whole group. It was really great for me, as I love yoga and have spent so much time in classes with inspiring and life-changing teachers (namely Darcy Lyon and Stacey Rosenberg in San Francisco, but also including many others all around the world). Now, I am grateful to pass it on.

In the evenings, the group would often play a game, bake brownies and eat crumble, or watch a movie. We also had some bonfires, though most of the bonfires occurred during our camping trips. Sometimes I would retire to my bed or even go down to a tent in the valley to read and catch up on sleep.

Here's a link to the website for Earthwise Valley and some of the other volunteers' blogs. They were much better about posting than me =)

Earthwise Valley's website

Dave's blog

Laura's blog

Laura's Youtube videos

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