Castlegar Workshop Host Builds Beautiful Home For The Dying

Written by Andrew Morrison

straw bale workshop cleared siteMary, the host for the July 7-13 Castlegar workshop in British Columbia is a woman on a radically needed mission: to help humanity transition from life to death with dignity and peace.  The building of her 3 bedroom straw bale home is the merger of a 15 year dream of building with bales and a 40 year career of caring for people and their health.  More recently she has moved from supporting people with developmental disabilities to focusing her passion for caring on people who are transitioning from life to death.

Mary was touched and changed after she watched a client of hers, an older man in the final stages of cancer, reluctantly move from the rural setting that he loved and had raised his family, to spend his last living days in hospital because support  was not available to allow him to die in the comfort of his home. For him, these new surroundings caused fear and stress and his final moments were spent alone  She’s quick to add that it’s not that people don’t receive good care in hospitals, but the reality is that the staff are busy and have many patients to tend to.

Our medical system just isn’t designed to give one on one care in a hospital setting.  Mary has a deep belief that no one should have to die alone so it is her heartfelt desire that “Swallowtail Ridge” will fill the gap in service to palliative care patients in her area. (Note: The butterfly is used as a symbol by many hospice societies worldwide. It represents the transition between life and death. The caterpillar forms its cocoon and prepares to leave life as he knows it, to become a lovely butterfly!)

Mary’s vision for her home hospice is beautiful.  She shares that the site itself is breathtaking and has a magnificent view.  She has designed a sunroom into her plans so that her clients can spend time overlooking the vista while basking in the warmth of the sun. Each bedroom will be a “room with a view” that will allow its occupants to experience serenity through the sights and sounds of nature.  She will build an organic vegetable garden and from those harvests create healthy, nutritionally rich foods for her guests.

Free range chickens will also occupy the land to provide fresh eggs. Mary enjoys grinding her own fresh cereal and flour from organic grains to make porridge, muffins and bread. She values food as medicine and loves to nurture people by providing healthy meals prepared with love.

Mary is not afraid to speak about death.  In fact, she shares that it is so important that we as a culture learn to be more comfortable with communicating about it.  She draws an analogy that when a new mother becomes pregnant, she usually starts to prepare herself by reading books, networking with others, eating well, learning breathing techniques, etc. in anticipation of the amazing beginning of life transition that is about to happen.  If we could take that same kind of focus and interest with the end of life transition, we would be so much better able to support others in their process as well as develop our own inner peace with regards to passing from this life.

Straw bale construction feels like a perfect fit for Mary because straw bale homes create soothing environments.  She appreciates how the walls, with their natural plaster finishes, “breathe” to enhance air quality.  Since there are no sharp corners, “chi” flows easily through the home, instilling positive energy and sense of peaceful harmony throughout. She plans on incorporating earthen floors, clay plaster wall finishes….and, of course, a large outdoor earthen clay oven!

woman standing near barrelsMary acts as her own General Contractor. She planned the home design and oversees every stage of the build; however, due to time constraints with the development of her home care business, she leaves most of the actual construction work to her two gifted carpenters, one of whom is her son-in-law.

Through it all though, Mary senses that her vision for this build is Divinely inspired and she feels incredibly blessed and guided.  The local community is also elated in hearing that this center is going to be opening up.  Mary will be filling a very important need in this community.  Being a part of this build will be so much more than just learning how to construct a straw bale home.  Being a part of this build will also mean making an incredibly important contribution to Mary’s dream for her local palliative care community.

If you’re interested in really learning how to build with bales and you want to have perhaps one of the best weeks of your life in the process, then come to one of our workshops. We ALWAYS have a good time and you will gain the confidence to build your own house too. CLICK HERE to see what workshop locations and dates we have available this year!

6 Responses

  1. Dear Blessed Mary;
    My name is Dawn and I want to say how grateful I am to be able to be learning about straw bale and for God sending us an Angel like you! Bless you for your love to these beautiful souls on their journeys.
    I love and appreciate what you are doing for humanity.
    with Love and reverence,
    Dawn Mangino

  2. To Mary,

    I am curious if you will allow ppl to stop by? I am hoping to have the time free, and would very much like to stop by for a look, pls reply if that would be acceptable?

    Tyvm in advance


  3. I too would love to stop by while this amazing job is underway.
    I live about an hour and a half away and would really appreciate seeing or participating in any way or level. Please let me know if that would be okay.

    Thank you,

  4. Hi Martha. The host has asked that only participants be on site during the workshop as there will already be a lot for her to keep track of. You are welcome to join the class as I have a bit more room (we have extended the registration to 5 more people), but otherwise, I will have to ask that you wait until after the class is done to visit. I would imagine that the host would be fine with visits some time after the workshop has completed, but that will be up to her.


  5. Mary Greeting ~

    Have just learned of your project and workshop on the 7th-13th in B.C. I live in southern Ca. and would be interested in attending if there is an opening. Can you please contact me at the above address? I will need to make arrangements promptly. Warmest Regards * Blessings ~

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