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By Lilibet Clarke and Caroline Edge
Planes, and boats, and trains,
are passing by,
they made my trip
Flying to London,
to a taxi and a train,
I look out the window,
Adventure is my aim.
This little poem is inspired by Dionne Warwick’s song “Trains and Boats and Planes.” The song’s message reminds me of summer and my youth, and now with various modes of transit on my adventures, I reminisce about this iconic song while jumping from plane to train to car to bus.
Haven’t the answers always been in front of us?
Whether from the middle ages or modern times, our societal problems, challenges, and opportunities often have simple solutions. Humanity’s Achilles heel, however, especially in our current fast-paced society, is our need to invent unnecessary complex strategies to solve simple issues, in order to have control over money and people.
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Do we really need to keep making things complicated? Don’t we want control over building our own healthy lifestyle? One instance of overlooking simple solutions is our modern, cheap, and fast construction practices.
I traveled to Belgium after seeing my family in London to meet with the Plaster Master of Europe, Wolf Jordan. Staying true to his unique name, Wolf was far from the average person. He had a quiet demeanor, a sparkle in his eye, and an unruly beard that matched his personality. I was so excited to meet such a kindred spirit; my curiosity and passion for hemp were enhanced tenfold.
Wolf was a generous host and offered this curious soul the opportunity to spend five nights in his gypsy caravan. Having been told I was a gypsy all my life, this seemed very fitting.
Wolf has devoted his life to building with hempcrete and creating natural pigments to finish the buildings. Current practices of nasty synthetic paints on top of petroleum-based plaster and other “more cost-efficient” harmful insulations and materials allow for moisture to be stuck in the walls, inviting mold and other unhealthy things into our homes. Yuck!
One of Wolf’s sayings is, “There are people who have vision and people who have television.” Let’s stop using harmful non-natural materials and create a new vision for our constructions!
While listening during his workshop, Wolf explained how he dug up a forgotten method of using natural pigments, such as sienna, and combining it with oxides to create a natural chemical reaction with walls that literally sucks the moisture out and protects from rain and other pests. He calls it the “Farmers Logic.” Simple solutions that use local materials to achieve practical, sturdy results.
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Over the decades, Wolf has studied ancient architecture and materials and has examined why they last so long. He found that because certain natural materials were used, such as lime, local sands, and pigments, the chemical bonding of these materials made them resilient against time. So Wolf, being the visionary he is, did the same process and applied it to modern hempcrete walls!
In the workshop, the wall he was demonstrating on was very textured and rough, to begin with. Hempcrete has such a unique texture! Wolf started to make what he called his “rendering layer.” This is similar to a plaster layer used in modern construction. It is called “rendering” in Europe.
The mixture can be of sand, water, lime, and Pozzolan volcanic ash. Using a trowel to mix it, Wolf then grabbed a special brush he had designed, specifically for rendering, to apply the mixture to the wall. I was initially surprised because, in modern plastering, one uses trowels to spread the mixture over the walls. But Wolf insisted this was a more efficient method because it allows the rendering to be evenly layered with less effort. My favorite saying of his was, “even humans back then were lazy; we always look for the fastest, cost-effective, easy way to do anything!”
It was important that the wall was damp while applying the rendering. The mixture filled in the holes and texture in the wall, creating a barrier for the paint to sit on, and the wetness allowed it to stick without flaking off.
As he continued, Wolf would wash his brush in a bucket of water. He deemed this as his “Golden Water” because the lime from the wall and rendering would collect on the water’s surface. When he started to paint the pigments over the rendering, he would use that water again because it helped create a robust external sealant and barrier– ergo, the “Golden Water Finish.”
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Wolf whimsically shared a secret, “I did not invent this, but remade this concept from the middle ages, the Egyptians, and beyond to harness the power and properties nature provides us. I learned to work with the energy of humans. The colors of the pigments fit the chakras perfectly, and these natural paints reflect “invisible colors,” ultraviolet and infrared, beyond the spectrum. We don’t see this deep beauty, but we can feel it.”
Wolf Jordan is a man of many skills, talents, and extensive knowledge about every aspect of life. I was so grateful to connect with another wanderlust soul like my own who has a passion for hemp and natural building materials to rival my own. His wisdom inspires me, and I hope you as well, that the dream of a high-quality, earth-friendly, healthy home is possible.
We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children.
We invite you to share this article with friends near and far, to help inspire and share these healthy living practices.
Wolf Jordan – https://wolfjordan.be/en/welcome
Earthwise – https://earthwise.us/
Written by Lilibet Clarke and Caroline Edge
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Originally published April 19, 2023 on Hemp Building Mag