It has been some time since the latest blog post about Sacred Groves. This does not mean that nothing is happening, on the contrary. Many things are developing on various levels. This posting is a general update about the current status of Sacred Groves.
The core of what is going on are the prototype houses. Apart from our volunteers and interns we have currently about fifteen hired workers working on the construction. The main cobbing work is finished. At the moment the roof tiles are being placed on the couple house and the single house. The interior walls of the single house are ready and all the walls are ready to be plastered. Also the floor is levelled and prepared to receive the finishing work. The couple house is now closed, the next stage are the realization of the interior walls, getting all the conduits in the walls, levelling the walls when needed. After that plastering work can start. The family house still needs to get its upper floor. The upper floor will be constructed different, we have chosen for a more light weight structure, this gives the possibility to create more window spaces, and the work can be done faster. The walls its self will not be load bearing. They are mainly going to be build from adobe.
This brings us to another achievement. We have started experimenting with adobe bricks. Adobe bricks are in principle mud bricks shaped in moulds and dried in the sun. After that they can be used as building block. The main difference with cob is that they will be used in the construction after drying, cob is placed wet on the walls. Since bricklaying with mortar is required, we cannot achieve the monolithic structure of cob. However after extensive testing to work out the best recipe, we are now producing adobe blocks, they can be used for various purposes and go very well together with cob.
Soon we will be able to start the production of lime mortar. Our lime chakki is almost ready. The wheel is in place, some adjustments in the mechanism are still required, and then the bullocks can be brought in to make the first badges of lime mortar. This lime is needed for the outdoor plaster. There are a series of experiments we want to do to use lime in various applications, in order to replace cement.
In our attempts to be self sustaining in energy there where some setbacks but also achievements. During a recent thunderstorm, our windmill broke down. The wings and the generator fell down, the rest of the structure is still standing. Due to the increase of power consumption, and the decrease of the battery capacity of the solar installation, we have been experiencing frequent power cuts. First only at night, which makes sleeping difficult when staying on site without the help of a fan during the hot summer nights. Since we do not have the funds of investing in additional solar and batteries, and the fact that we want a reliable power backup during periods of less sun, we started looking for alternatives. At the moment we have bought a diesel generator, which we are converting to run on waste cooking oil. Several restaurants in and around Auroville are currently saving their waste cooking oil for us. Some adjustments on the generator are presently being made. Although such a machine is rather noisy, we might be able to have a power back-up system running on free renewable energy. We are also working on building an over-unity generator, we actually have generated some power with this. But it is still a long way to go before we can supply enough energy, although I believe that one day this will be the energy source for the future.
After having been unattended for a long time, our perma-culture garden is flourishing again. We now have a volunteer who dedicates most of his time in this place, and has turned it into a lush garden. In the mean time others have been feeling the benefit and more volunteers started, fertilizing soil, planting trees and other plants in various areas of Sacred Groves. This will make the base camp a lot more attractive to live in.
Also the Vaastu energy remembrance forest is doing very well. After the planting of trees beginning of this year and the care they have been receiving, it is wonderful to see how the trees are growing. This place has certainly a very special energy.
Design work is ongoing towards the future expansion of Sacred Groves. A landscaping plan is being made, and a more detailed development plan for the first phase, consisting of twenty houses, is being worked out. There are several families and individuals who are interesting in living in Sacred Groves. Our approach towards creating a community is done according the co-housing philosophy. Sharing and giving are essential for our individual and general well-being. Sacred Groves does not only look at sustainable building materials and methods, but wants to find a ways of living together where personal growth and the care for the earth go together.
We want to look at the true impact (and costs) of construction. Conventional construction does not consider the fact that every building becomes waste one day, what to do with this waste and the costs of responsible recycling are not taken into account. Leaving these issues for our grandchildren is not our way of working, even if the most of the world is doing so. Although we do want to produce waste, we are working on solutions to reuse the waste others produce. And in this way giving our grandchildren a possible solution for the problems they are going to be confronted with. In conventional construction little or no thought has been given how our living environment can influence our physical and mental health. Although this is difficult to express in terms of money, a healthy indoor climate will not only reduce the amount of medical bills, it will certainly increase the quality of life.
Despite of all the beautiful energy and initiatives which are going on at Sacred Groves, the forces of the opposition have been able to cut our funding of public money again. This means another difficult financial time ahead. Again we need to cut back in expenses, which might result in further delay of the project. However it can also be seen as an opportunity to become more independent, generating our own income, instead of relying too much on funding. Nevertheless Sacred Groves is still moving on. Despite the setbacks, we still believe that what we are doing are important steps in creating an example of a city the earth needs. And that is why we are here in Auroville.