beautiful big sur

•August 31, 2011 • 1 Comment

Sometime around the end of March we left the Santa Barbara area and headed north towards the Ananda Village. We weren’t in a big hurry, because the weather, unbelievably, was still pretty cold.  So we traveled along the coast and stopped to camp for a week in Big Sur, the strip of coast between San Luis Obispo and Monterey, CA.

Wow, I don’t think I have ever seen ocean as beautiful as this.   It was a magical place, like a strip of land lost in time.  For a place so gorgeous it was hardly developed; a library, a few resorts and restaurants, but still had a feeling of being largely untouched. I imagine the slow going, almost treacherous terrain is to thank for preserving Big Sur’s beauty.  On one side of Highway 1 is a steep, rocky coast, on the other are rough roads heading up into the Santa Lucia Mountains.  In fact, we had to leave Big Sur on one of these roads because the wet winter had caused part of Highway 1 to fall off the side of the cliff, leaving it impassable.

We will definitely come back to explore more.  The amazing coastline, the impressive redwoods, and the untouched wilderness are truely one of a kind. I would love to check out the Esalen Institute and soak in their hot springs on a seaside cliff, wow! Only, it looks like I either need a few hundred dollars, or be willing to soak in the middle of the night. Maybe instead I’ll close my eyes and visualize the big sur coast in my bathtub, oh darn, I don’t have a bathtub, oh well!

This was the view from our campsite.

What can I say, the kids weren’t in the mood to have their picture taken.




kid ranch

•August 17, 2011 • 2 Comments

About the end of February we started heading north, thinking we were on our way to the Ananda Village near Nevada City, CA. We made a brief stop to visit family in Los Angeles and pick up some old billboards to finish up a remodel of a 1978 Valley Forge Coleman pop-up camper. I can’t believe I don’t have pictures of it, but we bought it super cheap, without the canvas. Pablo built some walls for it from salvaged wood siding. With three propane burners, a sink, and a king size bed, we would be calling it home for awhile.

What it doesn’t have is heat, so when the forecast showed snow and ice storms in the Grass Valley/Nevada City area, we decided to rearrange our plans. We ended up spending some time with some dear friends we had made during the dojo building project. Our friend and her two kids live on a horse ranch that she grew up on. Green pastures, some beautiful horses, rolling hills, and a couple great playmates for the kids made for a wonderful stay. It was nice to spend time with another family, to be able to help each other with the children and the chores. It was also great to have a crafting buddy, my friend makes some really beautiful leather bags.

Here are some pictures of our stay together.

This has got to be one of my favorite pictures ever. Especially if you know the girl and her dress.

New cowboy boots!

Eventually the weather did clear up and we continued on our journey north.

sunny southern california

•August 14, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Once again, I have a short stay with technology and am attempting to get my blog more current. We have been so busy this summer building, tending to the garden, and immersing ourselves in yoga and meditation that I haven’t found a moment to spare to update my poor neglected blog. I’m tempted to skip ahead to the present, but decided it would make more sense when I look back on it if I just tell about our travels in order. I wrote this post months ago and for some silly reason never posted it. I think I’m pretty much caught up on my sleep finally (no longer falling asleep before Esme,) so hopefully I can continue to document our travels this past spring.

Currently we are living and working just outside of Nevada City, California at the Ananda College of Living Wisdom, but after we left the mountains of Santa Barbara, we headed down to the SoCal desert. A friend of ours lives and works at Flying Disc Ranch, a date and citrus farm south of Palm Springs. We had a wonderful visit. It was great to see our friend Christina again, who we met at a cob workshop last June. And as usual we met some wonderful people along the way. Here is a picture of the palapa we stayed in during out visit.

We left with all kinds of goodies, the most delicious dates and oranges we have ever tasted, a fabulous Liberty of London tote bag that I use all the time, some local olive oil, and some chia seeds to make chia frescas. So simple and so delicious, the kids love it, and it is really good for you. Just sprinkle some chia seeds in some water, add a splash of fresh lime juice, wait for the chia’s to soften in the water, and drink with a straw. Very refreshing, thanks for everything Christina and Robert!

After we left Flying Disc Ranch we had a short, but amazing visit at Joshua Tree. The scenery was breathtaking, too bad the campsites weren’t a little more spread out. Unfortunately, I didn’t really have time to take any pictures, but here is the postcard we picked up on our way out of town.

Then, on Christina’s suggestion, we stopped at the Desert Hot Springs Spa Hotel, for a nice hot soak in their mineral pools. What an amazing deal, only $3 per person on Tuesdays. I can’t think of a better way to spend the day than relaxing in the sun in a warm soaking pool.

I’m so glad we decided to spend the winter in Southern California. The SoCal desert would make a fabulous February tradition!

building with round wood

•March 23, 2011 • Leave a Comment

The project that brought us to Spirit Pine Sanctuary was the construction of a round wood timber framed dojo.  Pablo has been wanting to gain more experience with round wood, so this was the perfect project for him.  Our friend Micah helped with the design of the dojo and taught the crew about round wood joinery.  The wood was Eucalyptus, a very hard wood, and it brought many challenges to those working with it.  The project was supposed to take 3 months to complete, with roof, walls, and flooring.  But instead it took 3 months to complete just the footings, the trench foundation, and framing of the posts and the top plates.  The crew had many hands helping, including high school kids from an outdoor school, young adults from a near by eco-community, and lots of friends and family of the Spirit Pine Sanctuary.  Overall it was a long hard 3 months filled with many great experiences and new friends.  Thank you Spirit Pine, we learned so much


To get an idea of it’s scale, you can see little Esme walking toward the dojo.

Here are a couple other projects we worked on during our stay.  Pablo helped put a roof over the forage.

We helped put the finishing touches on this bench for a charter school in LA.  I helped with the plaster, Pablo helped with the roof.



cob mountain paradise

•March 8, 2011 • Leave a Comment

For the last few months we have been hard at work, learning and living in the mountains.  I hope these pictures can convey the beauty that can be created when many hands come together to create shelter for a family that strives to be stewards to their sanctuary.

The cook shack is the oldest building at Spirit Pine Sanctuary.  It was built before Betty had very much knowledge about natural building.  It doesn’t even have a foundation, but is standing strong, after enduring years of strong winds and storms.  To me it is a testament to the strength and durability of an earthen shelter.  Building with cob is amazingly forgiving, it seems to me harder to mess it up than to build it to last.  The cook shack was only meant to be a temporary structure, but year after year it provides a cozy place to share meals or to curl up to read a book.

This is where our family lived for the majority of our stay on the mountain.  It is a cozy two room cottage with a great covered porch and a courtyard.  We were very comfortable here.

Here is a beautiful duplex home.

This is a ferrocement water tank that was built to store water that comes from one of the springs.  It collects enough water for drinking, bathing, and irrigating the garden.  I learned some important water conservation habits spending time in the high dessert climate.

Cozy little bathhouse and hot tub that overlooks a frog pond.  They provided lovely music at night.

My favorite structure was grandma’s house.  Such a warm, inviting little home, complete with a little kitchen, Rumford fireplace, and a sleeping loft.

I really like the way the lime plaster meets the bare cob walls on this building.

Looking down on the grounds from above.

plastering at spirit pine

•March 4, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Our time in the mountains of Santa Barbara are coming to an end.  We have been busily finishing up various natural building projects, and putting the finishing touches on our new traveling home.  Limited electricity, internet connection, and time have caused me to badly neglect my blog.  At the moment we are staying with friends who have abundant energy, internet, and hot water (my favorite!) Good time for me to catch up on some posts.

I loved being a part of several plaster projects during our stay at Spirit Pine.  The kids are great helpers when it comes to plastering.  They like helping me shovel and sift sand and manure to make the plaster.  And they definitely love putting the plaster on the building.  That part is a little tricky and usually just makes more work for me, but it is great that they want to be a part of it, and for me a practice in patience.  Check them out hard at work.

One afternoon Esme was playing with a shovel in a sand pile, sporting her new thrift store bathing suit.  I left her to go grab my camera and came back to find her with her hands in a bucket of mud spreading it all over the newly plastered white barn, yikes!  She was having loads of fun and was not very happy with me when I wiped off her lovely plaster job.  I couldn’t resist snapping a few shots before I interrupted her hard work.

I think she was born to plaster!

thanksgiving at spirit pine sanctuary

•December 8, 2010 • 3 Comments

What a blessing to spend a day of thanksgiving with our inspirational new friends on a gorgeous sanctuary in the mountains of Santa Barbara County.  It feels like a refuge sent from heaven – a warm sunny place to live, work, learn, and let our children roam.  Betty and Tataucho moved here ten years ago, living in tents and harvesting water from a trickling spring.  Now they have running water, a snug little bathhouse, cozy cob cottages, and are surrounded by streams of friends and family.  We are learning so much about natural building and more importantly about how to live in partnership with the land.  Oliver and Esme are having a great time exploring the mountain, finding treasures like animal bones and rocks, and riding the horses.  Oliver loves to  practice shooting his bow and arrow.

What a gorgeous thanksgiving feast we had.

Being so accustomed to overcast weather, I am now constantly amazed by the beautiful sky, sunrises, sunsets, the clear starry nights, it’s all so breathtaking.

What a treat to enjoy a warm beach in November!

We love it here!