Workaway #3: Building An Earthship!

[Matilda]

You may have noticed a lack of updates lately. This is because we’ve spent a significant amount of time off grid. For the past two weeks we were at our third Workaway experience where we helped a lovely family build an Earthship! This was also in Blaeberry – only a 12 minute drive from the buffalo ranch. What is an Earthship? Well, I could try to take you through it, but you’d probably be better off reading about it HERE!

This Workaway was different to our previous ones for a few different reasons:

  1. More work. Wintertime at our previous locations meant work was a little slow. Here, we worked 5 hours a day!
  2. Our hosts were a family. It was definitely a change of pace to stay with a family with kids.
  3. We were already well established in the area and therefore didn’t spend as much time “in the house” after work was done.

Our main task was to help build/insulate walls in the Earthship’s living area. We did this with cob which is a mixture of clay, water, sand and straw. It takes a day or so to really get the hang of working with cob, but once you do it’s like clockwork. We started out building walls. The ones facing the outside were decorated with bottles to allow more light in and for decoration:

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Moa built the lower half of this bottle wall and I the upper!

 

In our last few days, we began to cover the tyre walls. The Earthship’s outer walls are tyres packed with dirt which are then covered with different materials depending on their location. Inside they are covered with cob. This took a bit of finesse as they should be made as even as possible. After the cob, they will eventually be covered with some other materials before being completely finished.

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The result of a day’s work covering tyres!

 

This type of work is very rewarding. It gets you focused and makes time pass really quickly. It gives you something to look at when the day is over and think “that’s what I made today”. And last but not least, it feels great to know that we’ve helped this wonderful family get one step closer to moving into their dream home.

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Photo by Jair

The family we stayed with was Jair and Mel and their two kids, Nova and Asher. Jair’s dad Tom also lives on the property and helps out in the Earthship. Though we were out and about quite often we really enjoyed the times we got to sit down and have a meal with the whole family. There was a great atmosphere and every person we met there was genuine and kind.

The family home, up until the completion of the Earthship, is a yurt. A yurt is essentially a big round tent. The yurt is completely solar powered so while we could happily charge our phones, we had to refrain from charging larger devices such as laptops. The water comes from a nearby creek! The family had a great name for going on a water collection mission: AQUA FORCE! We got to go with Tom, Nova and Asher on an Aqua Force mission when the family had a big bonfire.

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Left to right: Asher, me, Nova and Moa! Photographed by Tom.

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Our last day was yesterday and the family sent us off on our way with a big waffle breakfast. It was absolutely delicious. With our tour having two dates confirmed in Golden, I’m sure we’ll see them again soon! And if not, we’ll want to come back to see how work on the Earthship progresses. We definitely recommend you guys to follow these guys on Facebook! Check out Simply Not Square HERE.

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Sunset at “Inshallah”
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Blaeberry in Pictures

[Matilda]

Okay guys, here’s the deal… Moa was supposed to post a little something about her ski trip to Lake Louise but then she bailed to go on a climbing trip for 6 days! How rude. So here I am, left to my own devices in a camper van on the ranch. The light in the tunnel is that we got a car yesterday (thanks to our friend Matt, who couldn’t wait to get rid of it). We’re now officially able to explore the area and visit town without having to bug people (Matt) for rides!

It was also my birthday yesterday and the others surprised me with breakfast in bed and a little song to start the day. Moa and I spent the rest of the day getting the car into a somewhat better shape and in the evening we had drinks and good food around a campfire. Not too shabby!

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Posing with our WorkAway host Leo, the new stinky car, and Pippi the border collie.

Anyway, I figured I’d take this opportunity to share some of my favourite photos that I’ve taken around these parts. My love of photography is really coming back!

Let’s start with some buffalo:

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And now, maybe some winter action…

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Let’s move on to spring, shall we?

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I really shouldn’t forget the very photogenic Pippi:

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And I’m gonna round this off with another buffalo. This guy is called Jack and we kind of love him! He is the only one that will let you pet him for a little bit. Buffalo cuddles, anyone? (EDIT: The photo below was entered in National Geographic’s Travel Photographer of the Year contest. Click on the image to go over there and give it a like!)

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Watch out for an update from Moa at some point next week!

Rocky Mountain Buffalo Jams

Having some good music to listen to is a pretty vital part of life in general, but it is particularly important while travelling. We thought we’d share some of the songs we’ve enjoyed listening to so far during our time in the Rocky Mountains! All compiled into a handy little Spotify playlist. Click on the image below to listen!

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Please feel free to let us know what your favourite songs are and if you have any recommendations for us!

FULL LIST OF SONGS:

  1. Emily Faye – Open Road
  2. Jake Morrell – Englishman
  3. Fifth Floor – These Days
  4. Thomas Rhett & Rhett Akins – Drink A Little Beer
  5. Lady Gaga – Yoü And I
  6. Dustin Lynch – Love Me Or Leave Me Alone (feat. Karen Fairchild)
  7. Andrew McMahon In The Wilderness – Walking On A Dream
  8. Miranda Lambert – Runnin’ Just In Case
  9. Post Monroe – Better Place
  10. José González – Stay Alive
  11. Jillian Jacqueline – Hate Me (Acoustic)
  12. Two Ways Home – Push And Pull
  13. Leo Downey – Little Old Man
  14. Elliott Joseph – Dust And Memories
  15. Fifth Floor – Bought Me A Lie
  16. Jill Johnson & Dregen – Oxycontin Blues
  17. Maggie Rose – Preacher’s Daughter
  18. Morgan Wallen – Little Rain
  19. Iron & Wine – Thomas County Law
  20. Gitta de Ridder – The Wheel
  21. Demi Marriner – Cold Coffee
  22. William Michael Morgan – Missing
  23. Jarrod Dickenson – Take It From Me
  24. Fargo & Jack Jaselli – Long Way

A catch-up: We’re back in Canada!

[Moa]

Alright, time to get you guys up to speed – We’re back in Canada (and have been since the middle of February, oops)! 

I’d like to say we have a good reason for not updating this blog very well the last few weeks but truth is, life kinda just got in the way. And we’re great at procrastination. Jokes aside though, it’s been really nice to just kind of be and live in the moment and settle in. This blog post will be kind of a quick summary and catch-up of the last few weeks, with a bunch of pictures going with it! 

On February 11th we left the US and Chicago and flew to Calgary, Canada. We stayed there for three days before boarding a Greyhound bus west and set off into The Rockies. Since February 14th we have been staying at the Rocky Mountains Buffalo Ranch located in the middle of Columbia Valley about 20 minutes outside the small town of Golden. If we thought we were remote when we stayed in Kenmore outside of Ottawa, then this is a whole new level. It’s basically mountains, forest, and us. And it’s wonderful. 

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A very welcoming driveway!
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Mount Hedberg, as seen from the ranch. Pretty sure there’s been some Swedes here at one point…

At the ranch we are helping Leo, our host, with running his Airbnb business and daily chores in exchange for food and accommodation. We clean the house and the cabin that’s being rented out, chop wood, drive the snow mobile to and from the mailbox and shovel tons of snow. It’s awesome.

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Daily snowmobile run!
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Snowshoe adventure by the buffalo pastures
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Snowshore adventure by the Blaeberry River
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A snowy ranch!

The buffalos are all taken care of by Leo and is not something we help out with, mainly because we would most likely get charged by them if we entered their pastures. So no thanks. They are super cute though and are beautiful creatures. At the moment there are 18 animals here and the herd is lead by the alpha male Chester Jr – a massive bull who’s apparently only going to get bigger! 

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Leo and buffalos

A few weeks ago we attached my GoPro camera to the snowmobile and Leo tried to get the buffalos to chase him so we could get some good footage. However, one thing we’ve learnt here is that the buffalos won’t do anything you want them to do so they mostly just calmly walked around and were not up for running at all. I still managed to get some cool shots, which you can see below! 

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The only downside to being here is that we don’t have a car so leaving the ranch can’t really be done spontaneously to go to town. My mom asked me when we were talking on Skype if we couldn’t just “take the bus”. Nope, there are no buses here! If we want to get to town we either arrange to get a ride from a neighbour or friend or we hitchhike in. Luckily for us, we’ve already gotten to know some amazing people around here. Everyone is so friendly! 

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A casual walk in the neighbourhood
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And a snowier version…

So how does life look for us nowadays?
Well, it’s pretty quiet and relaxed. Since it’s the low season here on the ranch (in the summer Leo rents out some cabins that are not suitable for winter as well as running a daily buffalo tour) we have a lot of free time to spend as we want. Any chores we might have for the day are usually dealt with in the morning or noon and late afternoon and evenings are almost always free. Since Leo is also a musician we’ve ended up having several jam sessions in his cabin! We’ve also been to a local jam night a few times in town at a great place called The Wolf’s Den and are hoping to get to play there again in the near future.

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Jam session at a friend’s house in Golden!

To my personal joy there’s a climbing gym in town which I’ve signed up for, so a few times a week I go climbing which is so much fun. I always feel better when I can climb regularly and I’m really hoping that when the snow melts away I’ll get the chance to go on a few climbing adventures outdoors. 

What’s next? 
Well, the long-term plan is that we will be staying here at the ranch until the end of April. After that we don’t know yet, we’ll decide that when we get there. In regards for a plan for the next few days – I’M GOING SKIING! TODAY! 
Since I love skiing and have always loved skiing, it would have felt like a crime to go to Canada and not ski. This is however not something I share with Matilda, so I’ve booked a ski trip for myself starting today. I’m going to Lake Louise! I’ll be staying there until Friday for three full days of skiing and I couldn’t be more excited. 

So in terms of the blog, here’s what we’re gonna do. There’s gonna be a post about the time we spent in Calgary which I will try to get up in the next few days. When I get back from my skiing trip I am also making it my mission to make a vlog where we can show you the ranch and what we do with our time at the moment! It’s so hard to try to sum it all up in words sometimes and it’s a great way for us to show you the incredible scenery around here. There’s also going to be a post coming up soon about a spontaneous roadtrip we took this weekend to Yoho National Park and Emerald Lake with our friend Matt, a post about when we went dogsledding (which is also thanks to Matt) as well as a post where I tell you all about my ski adventures.

Life is good! 

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Our Travel Itinerary (so far)

[Moa]

Hi everyone, hope you’ve liked our recent updates about the so called farm life we’re currently trying! I thought I would get you all up to speed with not only what we have done, but what our plans are for the next month or so. Our time here at the farm is coming to an end which feels very bittersweet as we’ve had an amazing time. Hans has been a wonderful host and we’ve also gotten to know Harley from Australia and Nicki from Germany, two other helpers who’s been staying here with us. But every ending is the start of something new right? 

So, on Wednesday we are packing our bags and are taking the train to Montréal where we will be staying for just one night before we get on a train to… NEW YORK CITY!
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Yes, we are finally making our way over to the US and I am so, so excited – I’ve always wanted to go and over the next few weeks I’m gonna be able to tick off several things on my travel bucket list. The train from Montréal to New York takes approximately 10 hours and is supposedly one of the “Most Beautiful In North America“. 

We are staying in New York for a week, to give us as much time as possible to explore the city. So far we don’t have much planned except to try to go to a stand-up comedy show and catch some live music somewhere for a night! On Saturday we are also attempting to get tickets to one of mine and Matilda’s favorite shows – Saturday Night Live. More on that if we succeed… 

After New York we are getting a Greyhound bus to the capital of the United States of America – Washington D.C!
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We thought we’d give Trump a hand now that the government apparently has shut down… hehe. Again, Washington DC has for some reason always kind of fascinated me and I really can’t wait to explore it. Apparently all the museums there are free so we will be going to a lot of those, as they’re supposed to be very good. That is of course, if the government isn’t still shut down… C’mon guys! We’ve also applied to go on a guided tour at the Pentagon which would be AMAZING, but we won’t know for sure until a few days before as they have to do a background check – which I guess is pretty fair considering it’s the Pentagon after all. Hopefully it should be fine though, as I’d like to think we’re not too shady. 

After DC is where our journey gets a little weird. We had planned to go to Chicago to visit a good friend of mine for a long weekend, but we realised after we had booked accommodation in DC that;

  1. We have to leave DC on a Monday but are not going to be in Chicago until Thursday
  2. There’s no easy way to get from DC to Chicago
  3. It’s really far to Chicago!!! 

After some searching, comparing and staring at Google Maps we found a route that seemed easy and cheap – So that is why we are going to Cleveland, Ohio, for 3 days.
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All I’ve ever heard about Cleveland are jokes and one-liners in tv-shows and movies always saying that Cleveland is the most boring place in the US… After some research I have found out that in 2010 Cleveland was deemed the “most miserable city in the US” according to a poll – so let’s see if it lives up to the hype! Worst case I’m sure they have cinemas in Cleveland and you can’t go wrong with going to the cinema. 

After Cleveland we are taking another Greyhound bus to Chicago where we are staying with my awesome friend Jared.

We met in Paris a couple of years ago when we were both travelling there and he and his friend Kevin were exchange students in London. Jared is gonna show us the best of Chicago and is so nice that he lets us stay on his sofa for 3 whole nights – we promise to not be too annoying. 

After Chicago our little US trip is coming to an end as we will make our way back to Canada for the next big adventure, which somehow seems to be even more incredibly awesome. From Chicago we will fly to Calgary, Alberta where we then will make our way to a small city in The Rocky Mountains called Golden. In Golden we are getting picked up by our next WorkAway host called Leo who will drive us to his – wait for it – BUFFALO RANCH. Yes, we are going to be living and working on the Rocky Mountain Buffalo Ranch in the middle of The Rockies surrounded by some of the most beautiful nature and scenery in the world. Banff National Park for example will only be about an hour away, which is a place I’ve always dreamed of going to. 

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Our future host Leo and his buffalos – take a look at his website leodowney.com to read more about the ranch we’re going to be working at as well as check out his music!
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Banff National Park, just an hour’s drive away
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Rocky Mountain Buffalo Ranch

I can’t describe how excited I am for this next chapter. It’s always been a dream of mine to go to The Rocky Mountains and explore the nature there. It seems like one of those truly magical places that are still left untouched and I don’t think pictures can do it justice.  To then add buffalos to this mix is just too good to be true. What’s also going to be incredibly exciting is that Leo is a musician as well, so I’m sure we are going to all get along wonderfully and create some beautiful tunes together. So that’s it!

Ottawa ➞ Montréal ➞ New York City ➞ Washington D.C ➞ Cleveland ➞ Chicago ➞ Calgary ➞ Golden

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The travel route between January 24th – February 14th

8 cities, 3 Canadian provinces, 9 US states, 2 train rides, 4 bus rides, 2 flights, 22 days. 

What do you think? Any suggestions on what we should do in all of these places? We welcome any and all and hope that you will stick with us and keep on reading this blog throughout our journey!