At the weekend I moved in with a new HelpX host in Sailors Falls. The name of the town was definitely an attraction. It sounds like the title of a Daphne du Maurier novel; the kind of place where you might fall in love with a rum smuggling pirate. Sailors Falls is in an area of Victoria that’s renowned for its New Age, alternative atmosphere – so says the Rough Guide!
My host, Ostii, is a part time yoga instructor, full time eco warrior. He runs early morning yoga classes from his living room but is taking a two week break at the moment. I’m a little disappointed. I like the idea of being awoken to the gentle sound of om-ing first thing in the morning.
On Sunday we went to Daylesford tip to help build the wall of an earthship. An earthship is a ‘radically sustainable home made from recycled materials’. The wall in Daylesford was started when earthship pioneer Michael Reynolds came to lead a workshop in their construction. Since then, a dedicated group of volunteers has been adding to it. It’s labour intensive work: the wall is made from discarded tyres packed with sand. Tyres are the material of choice because they can’t be recycled and there are ever growing mountains of them in tips around the world.
At first I wondered why the group at Daylesford tip even bothered; they’ve only got planning permission to build a wall and not a full house. They’re so determined to do it properly, packing the sand right into the tyres, filling up every gap, even though they know their wall will never have to support a roof. But as I listened to them talk about the importance of environmentally friendly building methods, I began to understand their motivation.
It is notoriously hard to get planning permission to build an earthship (although one of the Daylesford volunteers told me that Brad Pitt managed it when he was supporting the people of New Orleans after the devastating Hurricane Katrina) but nothing will ever change if nobody builds that first wall. One day, someone might see the wall in Daylesford tip and it might change their idea about what they think a house should be made of. It might inspire them to build an earthship themselves, or to build something, anything, out of reclaimed materials. It might just interest them enough to tell a friend. So the wall has to be well built and not sagging from incorrectly placed or packed tyres, otherwise who will bother to stop and stare and realise the potential?
That evening, a friend of Ostii’s told me that there was an earthship in Fife, which is where I’m from. I texted my mum to let her know because I thought she might be interested. I got a reply straight away to say, yes, it was in Craigencalt, an ecology centre a couple of miles from my house where my brother used to work. Apparently he knew all about it. How about that? I travelled half way around the world to find out about something that was practically in my own back yard.