The Elephant on the Blog
So there's this awesome thing that I started. I mean, I didn't start this whole thing, but I went full-tilt with it here in Halifax. It became a passion of mine, and I started to become a bit of a local expert in this field, and I felt confident and inspired and I felt like I was making a statement for change. This project got lots of attention, and folks got excited, and we got hands-on help from friends and acquaintances who also felt inspired, and we got news coverage, and keeners started emailing to ask "how can I?" and "how did you?" and "thank you" and "build one for me!", and at first I responded whole-heartedly to these emails with in-depth responses and excitement for the prospect of future collaborations, and mostly, excitement for this quiet revolution of healthier living for our planet and our families and our communities. And it felt so good.
And then it just all stopped.
I mean, the project continued. But I was no longer a part of it. And I still got (and still get) enthusiastic inquiries and friends on the street still sometimes asked about this project, or future projects, and I just deflected all these questions and ignored all these emails, and dissociated myself from this passion because I was no longer a part of the original project that got the ball rolling. And it was a sore spot.
You see, I started said project with my [now, ex] partner, and in the turmoil of our separation the lines of unity and division, and the desperate attempts to salvage a partnership became the priority - not the giant passion project in the backyard. And as emotional pain and difficult conversations gave way to arguments and irreparable damage there was less space available to even discuss the project as ours. It became a matter of ownership and property-rights, and it became his.
And that's OK. Now. I guess. You know...
But that blog post is still on this website, and I don't want to take it down, because it was a really meaningful thing to work on and be a part of, and I fucking loved that project! So, now, a little over a year later, I'm addressing the elephant on my blog, AND want to thank everyone who was interested and supportive. And I guess I want to give it a resting place in my life: consider this its living-funeral - I hope it's well. I don't know what the hempcrete house looks like now or how the finishing went, but I did learn a lot while I was a part of the designing and building. I learned a lot from the process of finding materials and getting permits to build with a "new" material. I learned a lot from working with my partner every day, and having to just keep at it every single day, and having tiny, awkward angles to tamp hempcrete into, and having a sore body, and having a giant, often stressful project in my life that was too cool to complain about. Thank you, hempcrete house for being the platform for those lessons, and for (hopefully) continuing to be a living, breathing structure where someone gets to live in a little more harmony with the Earth.
And if you're interested, you can read / watch about this project here and here.
Rest in Peace, Halifax Hemp-house. May your life be long and full of living, without me.
Open, sweet child, let yourself be whole.
As you came into this world, again come home, into your Self.
Without your weights.
Within your divine being.
Whole and constant. Of essence.
Deep as an ocean. Steady as the drum.
Fill your lungs with clarity and abundance.
Accept the warmest embrace.
See the loves that are meant to last,
And know the truths, those parts of you which can never be broken, stripped, or lost.
Momentarily forgotten, never gone.
Now and forever within.
Teach and be taught.
Crack open the fear of not knowing.
For none of us knows.
And it can’t be known.
And we all are seeking.
And we all are found.
And remember, your feet are on the ground.
This poem was written in Rishikesh, Uttarakhand, India, in the foothills of the Himalaya, on the banks of Ma Ganga.
Halifax Hemp House
I can't believe it's taken me this long to write about the hemp house. Unbelievable, really. It often takes an instigator to get me writing, but honestly, we broke ground on this project at the end of August. Nearly FIVE months ago! It was clearly impossible getting myself to write about hempcrete while it was my day in - day out. Routine was certainly a part of my life: Wake up, coffee, definitely coffee. Stretch sore neck, get outside, haul some hemp bails out, uncover the 6 x 8 x 5 foot high stack of hydrated lime, 50 kg a bag, mind you. Get the mixer going: hoist the bails and bags up, mix a batch, fill the buckets, pass the buckets, tamp the walls. And so the story repeated itself, on and on, with the oft building lessons, life lessons, funny framing angles, splintered forearms, days of psychedelic rock blasting from the speakers (we love you, Jeremy). Hair caked so heavily with lime dust it stuck straight up, good laughs, subdued excitement, overt excitement, downright pissiness, lots of love, supportive words...alright hempcrete days weren't so bad at all. But five weeks straight of hand building a house, side by side with your sweetheart and one dear, sweet friend (again, we love you, Jeremy) will make you a little nutty, at least. The process was so very experimental; almost completely new to us.
Noel has been building houses for nearly twenty years, but the hempcrete taught even him some lessons. He says it opened his mind completely to all kinds of building possibilities; ideas for material experiments like mixing natural building materials (cob or light straw clay for example), with lime, with hemp, or with hempcrete. There were also practical lessons in ideal framing for hempcrete application, process efficiency insights, a breadth of materials, which we now see could be replaced with hempcrete, on and on. This was a big learning experience! And the learning isn't even close to done; in a few weeks time we'll start interior finishes on the hemp house. Our plan is to do a mix of tile and rock mosaics, a cord wood wall, hempcrete benches, mud plastering, clay painting, creating an earthen floor, and using tadelakt.
This is the first hempcrete house built in Halifax, the second hempcrete structure built in Nova Scotia, entirely designed by Noel Taussig and I, built by hand, by ourselves, for ourselves. The house, approximately 700 square feet, was designed with passive solar gain in mind, and was built to comfortably house four people. We've also just received approval from the city to apply a lime plaster as the exterior finish this spring, a big win for us!
We've had a lot of friends put in hours helping us get the project to where it is; and we are so grateful to everyone who helped tamp walls, drive nails, put up walls, film milestones, lay the roof, and to everyone who gave us encouragement along the way and shared a in our excitement.
Flip to a few weeks ago, house-building-writer's-block persisting, I'm lucky that my sweet soul sister, Mara Panacci, creator of Yoga Renegade, put a gentle fire under my feet, and asked to interview me about the hempcrete house. Phew, saved! Mara is a fan of shifting consciousness, living outside the box, and treading lightly on this good, green earth. Hempcrete is a great fit for her Yoga, Food, Travel, and Lifestyle Blog, and I wouldn't be surprised to see her, her bearded man, and her babies living in a hemp house somewhere, someday. Bring on the hemp revolution!!!
Click here to link to my interview on Yoga Renegade.
Click here to watch the CTV News clip on our hempcrete house.
Stay tuned for updates on the building process and pictures of our progress!
Well, the weather today makes me feel that Summer very well may be behind us now, but I welcome the Fall! I love this time of year. The air may be a little cooler, but the days are still long, the sun still hot when it's shining, and the ocean is at its warmest. Routine also seems more attainable this time of year, and I actually appreciate it after a playful summer.
I also finally have myself organized enough to have chosen dates to host a Birth Education Course in November, and am really looking forward to it! This time around I decided to make it a two-part course, instead of cramming everything into one day. This also opens up some options, allowing women who are not yet pregnant, birth workers, etc. who desire truthful information about pregnancy, to take part in the first session. And will give birth workers and pregnant parents wishing to attend both sessions a chance to absorb information, develop questions, and build more of a community with their fellow attendees before getting into the nitty grittys of the physiology of birth, comfort measures, baby proofing their relationships, etc. The days will be broken down more or less like this:
The course can be taken in full, or you are welcome to register for the first session only.
The cost is $125 for the full course, you are welcome to bring a support person and/or your other children, or $75 for the first session only.
This course is about getting truthful, birth positive information out to hopeful or expectant parents to dispel the culture of fear that surrounds pregnancy and birth. I hope that the information you gain will fill you with confidence in yourself and your body, empower you to take charge of decision making in your pregnancy and birth experience, and invite you to explore your own feelings attached to birth...and hopefully you'll learn something new!
Having a small community to journey through this short course with is a blessing, so spread the word to folks you think may be interested. It's so powerful to learn alongside other like-minded people, and your active participation and inquisitive minds will make the course even greater.
Get in touch with me via email, facebook, or by calling (902) 452-4890 to register or ask questions.
Birth & Sexuality in Media
There was this moment last winter when I saw that my friend, fellow Birth Worker, and all around wise-woman, Yolande Clark, had shared a beautiful photo on Facebook:
tThe photo wasn't of her, so I read the caption and was appalled to read that this photo had been flagged on Facebook and the woman in the photo, Maryn Green of Indie Birth , had her account shut down for 24 hours as a result. As a result of her sharing this gorgeous photo of the moment after her empowering, family-attended homebirth. Apparently someone found it offensive, flagged it, and the hint of a nipple was enough for Facebook to shut 'er down.. I think this picture is just about the most beautiful thing that could go around social media. We need more images of strong, healthy, empowered mothers feeling strong and proud right after giving birth. I shared this image in equal parts protest and sisterhood.
An old friend from my undergrad days, who is now an editor for Huff Post, saw this and asked me to write an article on the topic of birth being censored in the media. Follow the link below to read the article.
The comments are pretty scathing at times, but hey, not everyone is ready to hear that they've been brain washed and manipulated into participating in and supporting a system that would hate them, objectify them, lie to them, and abuse them; and not everyone is ready to see that they contribute to perpetuating the patriarchy that tries to bind us.
Kate Varsava is a Halifax, NS based lover of wit, whimsy, and word-play. Late-nights, mid-morning coffee, quiet meditations, and the elements of nature inspire her sentiments and observations.