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Teen Build

Page history last edited by PBworks 12 years, 5 months ago

Teen Build Journal


We usually meet each Wednesday for 4 1/2 hours.  Some of our gatherings and plans are written up, below!


2/26/08 Letter to the Teens and adult sponsors. 


Hey there Friends,


We will catch up with you again when health and weather permits.


Joan has gone on to her next adventure, and Amber and I are continuing to cut reed.  With all of us cutting, we have gotten a total of 250 bundles ! and need 150 more. So that is 15 days yet of Amber and I each getting 5 bundles. That is doable, weather and health permitting.


Amber and I ave been making preliminary natural building designs for a day care center that may get built on a reservation in Minnesota called White Earth.  Friday we will give the sketches to Mike Neumann who will take them to the reservation board. 


I will be meeting with the Kensington Metropark Farm staff on Friday to design some educational signs describing the natural building process for Kids Cottage that was built at the Farm over the last 2 years.  It has a thatched roof, strawbale and compressed earth block walls covered with earthen plaster, and a wonderful two step sitting bench that wraps around 3 sides of the interior.  It was built by many volunteers and will be a classroom for programing, and a destination for visitors, with lots of natural, interesting things to explore around the building: grape arbor, climbing fences, petting animals, a pump and tracker to play with/on. The Kids Cottage was built by many volunteers in 2006-7. See the pictures at



Would one or more of you Teens be interested in making a website about the spiral chamber, and the projects you are working on, so others can learn and be inspired?  Cutting trees, de-barking, collecting reed, putting in posts, lashing, thatching....other? 


Today I am looking at the deer skin and researching how to restring my Jimbe (sp?) drum and put on a new drum head. 


We made yogurt yesterday and flat bread (chapti, wrap) out of whole wheat. The sauer kraut I made is awesome, we both agree. 


Teva the dog is here, and the squirrels are running up the birdfeeder and chasing each other around the roof. 


Spring is getting closer. Can you feel it?


I hope you got to see the eclipse of the full moon last Wednesday.  That was the first time for me.  It was covered with a deep orange/brown from the shadow of the earth.


Amber and I have been discussing a number of possibilities of things that you all might want to be involved with: 

  • Doing a video of reed collecting and putting it up on YouTube. 
  • Making a website ( with a journal, poetry, music ?) about our projects (and YouTubes on different activities?)
  • Do you want to collect more reed? Since you have collected the reed needed for the Sprial Chamber, we can let further reed collection be an "option" for those individuals who want to, or as an occasional activity for the whole group. We appreciate help getting the reed needed for the Kids Cottage, but only if you want to.
  • Put together something for the April 19 Earth Day Expo: Some ideas below . . .
  • Earth Day Expo: Slides that could be showing with some narration and maybe music in the background, showing what we are doing with natural building.  Maybe a video of things we are doing, the Strawbale Studio, etc.  We could make our own screen for showing pics (see below)
  • Earth Day Expo: Make a display stand about 5 feet by 5 feet, that would give us a chance to practice "round pole framing". It could have a white sheet stretched for a screen AND in the future, I could take it to exhibits as a backdrop to display pictures and educational material.
  • Earth Day Expo: A skit, or readers theater (you read the parts instead of memorizing)  like Nancy mentioned?  You could use an existing script, or write the skit about what you are learning here...or?

    Add music and poetry?

  • There will be a hands-on activity...to give folks a chance to "play with the clay", make things out of the cob mix.  We could use some responsible folks to help with supervising the activity for several hours !  This would be really useful.
  • In the spring we will do thatching on the Spiral Chamber, and finish the wattle and daub, and get it going!  (Get it so we can "go" there. ha.ha.)                                                      
  • In the warm weather we could create a cool special space in the woods using stone and wood, maybe making a low tree house or platform between some trees. 
  • Watch more videos about sustainability. Global Ecovillages, underground homes, and more. 
  • "Map" sustainability. What is it?  Why is it important?  How do we do it?
  • Begin to develop a board game about sustainability that can be used at the Kensington Kids Cottage?
  • Plan for how the group can meet and do other things if the weather is bad around here. (sled at a place that is close to were you live.  find places to meet as a group if you can't get here...a library, coffee house, or?)
  • Field trip to the Kensington Metropark Farm to see the Kids Cottage, farm animals, etc.  This could be done with or without us. 


Amber will be around until the end of March, then will go on an adventure, camping in the woods up north on family land. She is looking forward to fishing and swimming and learning about nature.  Then she hopes to go to the reservation in Minnesota and help build the day care center.  She is thinking about coming back here to the Strawbale Studio in the summer or winter of 2008.  Exciting, and we will miss her! 


Other interns are scheduled to arrive in April, so we will get to know some new people who are traveling and learning about sustainability! 


Take care,




April 2, after our Teen Build Wednesday:



I really enjoyed the day! 


Set up our own wiki website?


I have a wiki website: www.strawbale.pbwiki.com

At the very, very bottom of my main page there is a live link to "create your own educational wiki"

This is the link. http://pbwiki.com/education.wiki

How about we create our own wiki?  You could go to this link, and learn more about it. It is very easy.  I would be glad to set it up, but it might be cool if one of you would like to set it up.


We would make it so everyone could post on it (responsibly).  Check it out and see if it "calls to you" to set it up for all of us.

Then we can put things up on it...like a log/journal of what we do each week, poetry, photos, etc. 

It is free but doesn't have a lot of photo space.  So on mine, I put the photos on Flickr, then connect them to the website.

The wiki is very easy to use.  Believe me, I am no rocket scientist. 


Write up today's activities?


Would anyone enjoy, or be willing to  write up a little summary of what we did today, as our second entry into our "Journal"?

If more than one person did it, that would be great, too, since we would see the different perspectives on the same day!


Got the reed tipi standing up


After ya'll left, Jared and I set up our reed tipi by the Spiral Chamber.  I pulled on the attached long rope (I had it wraped !/2 way around a tree about 10 feet away, and Jared would lift the bundle about a foot at a time, and I would tighten, pull the rope, until it was standing.!

I think it will hold until next week.  It was pretty wet underneath from the snow and rain, so this will let it dry out, and we can do something more stable next week. 


Next week!


How about more of the greenhouse set up? It went really well today, and we essentially got the first 1/2 done. 

Plant a few seeds, so we can watch them grow during the season in our greenhouse!

Earth Day Expo.screen with poles and lashing.  We could probably make it  that back in the woods at our current "favorite spot".

   If it is a good day, that would be fun.  If rainy, we can make the screen in the house. 

Expo video & slide show. Ivan, maybe you, and possibly someone else could do the video. 

        I haven't heard any sound from the footage yet. Does it have sound. 

Does anyone have digital pictures so we could put together a slideshow?  We could do the same slideshow in both Flikr and also in

        powerpoint that way we could post them on YouTube if we want, and I could also show them in a presentation if I wanted. 




Hey there, Teens,

It is supposed to be warmer & sunny tomorrow. Yahoo! 


Jared will be coming in the afternoon.  He is a student at Oakland University, learning about sustainability and natural things. I'd like you to meet each other, and I have been trying for several weeks to get you'all together. One of our plans for tomorrow is to put up the 12 x 18 foot greenhouse in the garden area to the side of the house between the Spiral Chamber and the future Kid's Cottage.   


We can see what we need to do for standing up and drying our reed bundles.  Our little reed tipi by the Spiral Chamber came down in a wind storm this winter.  We really enjoyed taking  walk last week, and maybe we can do that again, going back to the bog and the far woods, Let's clear a special area back there and make a stone circle! 


The Earth Day Expo is coming on Saturday, April 19, to Oakland University.

Can you be part of the Strawbale Studio Natural Building presentation? 

The Expo will be awesome. 

The Strawbale Studio has an exhibit table and will have a cob-making activity so that people can get their hands in the clay a bit!   I imagine having a little schedule where we can trade off helping with the cob mixing activity. If we take turns, then everyone will also be able to roam around the expo and check things out!  

April 19, 2008 Saturday     Earth Day Expo  at Oakland U, Auburn Hills, MI.  We will have an exhibt & NB activity there.


The ways I see ya teens involved in the Expo:


  • Earth Activity ~ help teach people how to mix cob & sculpt.
  • Our Reed Collecting done so we can show it on my computer at the exhibit table!
  • A slide show of things we have done!  Do you have any digital photos we can use?  Bring them or send via email.


  • Pole & Lashing Frame...to display things on at the Expo. 


Things we can do Wednesday:


  • Put up the Greenhouse,
  • Spiral Chamber reed....dry it out in the pole barn? 
  • See about the Teen Reed Video and Teen Natural Building Slideshow
  • Take a walk back to the woods and wetland and  while we are back there....


  • Make a stone circle.  Look for some poles for the Exhibit Screen.  


  • Practice lashing & each team make one section of the screen.  I have some ways to remember the two main lashing techniques we are using.  I've been practicing:  here is my "remembering poem"  
clove hitch, a figure 8, how do we do it?

use the loose end on a pole, and here is all that's to it...

over, under, over under, then we go up through it.  yeah.


See you tomorrow at noon, unless I hear otherwise.





(Could someone write a description of the Expo and last week here? Send it to me by email, and I will put it in this journal.)


4/30/08 Teen Build ~ entry written by Deanne Bednar:


A great day!  It started out with frost on the ground, but it was sunny and warmed up nicely.  David is making Challah Bread that day, and we get in on the process. 


Challah Bread 

David has mixed sour dough starter (which he made from flour, water, and yeast from the air using the book Wild Fermenting.

He mixed that with flour and water and let it set overnight the day before.  This morning he kneaded the bread and made it into a smooth ball and let it rise.  We watched as he took this dough which had increased in size, divided it into three long rolls, and braided it together into a long loaf on the cookie sheet.  He covered this and let it rise while we went outside for the rest of the activities. We figured is could rise, then be baked, then be ready for us to eat before the teens left for the day. 


After bread-watching, we all went outside to go over our plans for the day. We chose to work on an Earthen Oven, then go back to the bog, do some Haiku writing, plan our future Tree House and finish up with some fresh bread to eat!


Making an Earthen Oven!

Then we went out to the red shed, and brought out the Earthen Oven that David Smith, intern, and I were making.  It is a small scale oven made to be an exhibit for natural building presentations ~ light enough to transport.  This earthen oven is traditional in many cultures, and a really basic form for baking things.  To get the oven hot, a wood fire is lit in the oven, and that heats up the interior of the oven.  When the fire is finished, the ashes are pulled out and food (such as cookies, pizza, potatoes or bread) is put inside the oven, and  a door is closed, keeping in the heat.  The heat radiates inward, cooking the food. 


David and I had done the first part: creating a damp sand mold (to create the shape of the inside of the overn) in the shape of an upside down bowl, about 12 inches in diameter and about seven inches tall.  Over this form we had put damp newspaper, so the next layer ~ an earthen mix of mostly sand with enough clay for it to hold together ~ would not stick to the sand mold.  This earthen sand-dense layer was about 2 inches thick, and had set up for 2 days.  We carved out the door ( 63% of the interior height of the sand mold, and about 1/2 the width of the sand mold).  Then we dug out the sand and pulled away the wet newspaper, leaving the earthen mold standing with a door opening.  Yesterday we had mixed up a batch of insulating material composed of mostly straw saturated with a watery clay mix (slip).  It was sticky enough to hold together, with as much straw as possible to create insulation to hold in the heat. 


We decided that it would be great to make the oven into a "Turtle" shape, so we added feet to the four corners and plan to make the head of the turtle be the "door" of the oven. 


The Tree House!

The swamp is getting grown over with a bit of duck weed now, and things are greening up.  We looked over the Tree House books that Brooke brought from the library, and ones that I had here at the house.  Basically we want something that is big enough for us all, but a house that doesn't drill into the tree itself.  We discussed many options.  Then Jim, a parent, noticed that the huge old oak tree that Vlady was climbing had 2 lower limbs that were dead, but still really strong.  It wouldn't matter if we bolt into them, and they came out almost horizontal to the ground and were about the same height.  Perfect.  The group agreed this was a wonderful idea, that the view of the swamp was terrifiic.  We really like this tree.  It is the oldest, biggest and easiest to climb in the area. 


We figured that if we cut about 2/3rds of the length of these big dead limbs off, it would reduce the weight that the limbs would have to hold.  And then we will put support posts down to the ground, further supporting these horizontal limbs, helping them to bear the weight of the platform and people.  I am wondering if we might want to put them down into the ground and tamp rocks around them, or perhaps set them up on top of some flat rocks to prevent them from rotting with exposure to the dampness of the ground. 


Thatching Needle:

Jordon made a thatching needle out of a 15 inch long strong flexible stick.  He whittled it with his pocket knife into a pointed end, and took it home after the day to finish by making a flatened section with a hole drilled into it,  on the oposite end of the point.  We will attach the bundles of reed to the roof of the Spiral Chamber with this needle and some stainless steel wire to create a thatched roof. 


Haiku Poetry Writing:

While Jordon was whittling and Vlady tree-climbing the rest of the gang (except one) did some writing lead by Brooke.  First we did some "free writing", two minutes of just wrting any words or ideas, to "clear our head".  Cool.  We shared them with each other. 

Then we tried some Haiku writing with a pattern of 5-7-5.  

Our poems could go here: 


Back to the Bread !

Now it is getting a bit cold, and we have been sitting, which makes us even colder.  We head back to the house with our tools and "measurement pole" to show us how long the tree house support poles need to be.  Back at the house David has baked the bread, brings it out of the oven and we sample this yummy treat with butter.  Oh yeah! 


It is time to leave. Hugs, goodbye, see you next week!


Brooke & Jim write:


Here is the list of things we wanted to bring for tomorrow.
-Wire cutters
-Saws (Big and also small hand ones)
-Drawing paper (for designs)
-Measuring tape
-Container (or basket) for carrying barbed wire
-Lever (bar)
If anyone has any to add that I missed, just send it out! I can bring paper and pens if we still need/want them.

----- Original Message -----
Sent: Tuesday, May 06, 2008 2:19 AM
Subject: Natural Building

> Hi all:


> Jordan and I are planning on being at Natural Building this 

> Wednesday.  We're available noon to 4:30.


> Wassup with the rest of you?


> Deanne (and everyone, I guess):  what kind of things might we tackle 

> this week?

> What kind of shape is the Kids Cottage trench in?  Should we plan on 

> any shoveling?

> Is there any ongoing work to do on the Spiral Chamber?

> Thoughts about treehouses:  are we going to try to build it 

> completely (or nearly so) of "found" materials?


> More thoughts or questions from anybody?


> If we are going to work on the Kids Cottage trench, we should make 

> plans to get the foundation done, so that the redug trench doesn't 

> fall victim to erosion like it did the first time.


> Jim


5/5/08 Deanne writes:

Hey, ya'll!

Thanks for the up front thinking, Brooke and Jim. 

I like how we all have our contributions and are creating with a sense of harmony!  

Organizers, motivators, mediators, hands-on'ers, supporters - just to name a few! 

Like music, the players each do their best to make the agreed-upon song beautiful, working together.

I really, really, really  would like some help with the trench this week for an hour!!!!

I am in it (the trench) today, taking the moosh from the bottom and shaping it on the sides to rebuild the walls.  It is working, and I actually do like doing it.  You might consider bringing a bathing suit and then you can rinse down and change back into clothes if you like. 

If any of you want to consider staying over and helping with the trench on Thursday or possibly Friday, I would pay for help.  I would pay $30 for 5 hours of help, plus gas for transportation.  I could afford a total of $60 toward the excavation/rebuilding of the trench. 

If you can't do it, that's ok, too.  It will work out.  I have another intern coming Friday. 

Amber is back on the land, and is being a "woods-woman" this week, taking time out to think about life, after the death of her uncle and family gathers and all.  I don't know if she will be joining us on Wednesday or not as she is taking the days necessary to reflect on life (a very good thing to do now and again).  Jared said he would get in touch with us when he gets back on the middle of the month, so it will be just "us" this week. 

It would be great to have some wire cutters that will snap the old barbed wire.  Big wire cutters. Strong. There is barbed wire throughout the property here and there.  I wonder if a metal saw would do....  (I am looking for wooden pallets to build a new section for the compost bin if you see any in your travels. )

I will gather us the tools that Brooke listed, and if it seems like we could use more, any of you could bring some as well. 

The Spiral Chamber!  The next step is thatching the roof. 1) Cut and attach the horizontal pieces that go across the roof poles every  12 inches.  2) Thatch! Attach the bundles of reed to the roof.  I think we can do this another week, and focus on the trench and moving ahead with the tree house. 

Tree house.  You'all can play around with some design ideas in your head or on paper. We are basically working with a platform on the 2 lower branches that face the wetland.  I have an idea for attaching the vertical support posts by nailing or screwing on a "metal strap" that goes from the post, over the top of the branch, and attaches down to the other side of the post.

See ya's soon,



5/7/08 Teen Build.

Jim and Jordon, Brooke, Ivan and Adrian come, and we are joined by Rachel, a young adult who loves nature and lives locally.

Amber is back, and we all work on rebuilding the sides of the trench, while excavating the earth from the bottom of the trench.

Also a deeper chanel is cut out to allow water to drain to the drywell. I rains off and on, but we are doing fine in the trench under the tarps!  Got some good photos and video of our subteranian selves! 


Since it was off and on raining, and we were already totally muddy, the teens decided to just focus on the trench, which suits me!


Then the next day Brooke and Ivan stayed on and I paid them for 5 hours of work.  Awesome progress on that trench! 










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