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2013 Blog

Page history last edited by Deanne Bednar 7 years, 8 months ago


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 Blog entry written by Mike Trites 3/8/2013


Coming into the strawbale studio as an intern, I had no idea what to expect.  After an hour’s drive through increasingly rural landscape, I pulled, a little late, down a dirt road which led me to a winding slope of an icy driveway and into a snow covered expanse of trees and dappled shadow cut through with brilliant beams of white sunlight. I parked cautiously beside a charming house built from blue grey wood which I guessed was a probable site for guests to arrive at, and knocked on the door. A sign greeted me with the words, “Knock, then come in. We may be out back.”

            Waiting a minute after my knock, I found inside a house that seemed to be a living sculpture; the walls were made of some earthen material shaped into vines and twisting tree branches and beckoning me to enter.


From 2013 Blog

 The house didn’t have reply so I supposed that Deanne must have been out back. There seemed to be fresh footprints leading out the door and I wondered if I could track her down. They led me further into the woods where I met the strawbale studio itself, a beautiful, thatched roof structure made from strawbales and timber and faced with the same earthen material which I had found inside. I guessed (and later learned that I had guessed correctly) that this was cob, a mixture of sand, clay, and straw which had been harvested and mixed right on site.

            Still no Deanne, though, so I checked out the other buildings, including a cabin, a composting toilet made from wattle and daub, and a well stocked tool shed. Finally I heard a human voice calling from a bodiless direction and turned to see Deanne crunching through the snow in my direction.


From 2013 Blog

 Introductions were made and my life quickly became a strange combination of slow paced and action packed. Never rushing but always moving. Deanne showed me to the kitchen and helped me to some eggs and pancakes and then we kicked off my internship with a wonderful presentation on tool sharpening by John Eisley. I learned more than I think it’s possible to actually know about grades of steel, sharpening implements, and every conceivable metal object that comes to a point, including but not limited to shovels, knives, axes, and some formidable looking machetes.
From 2013 Blog

After the presentation ended I met Greg, shown here in bearded glory;

 and we’ve so far made it through a week without our brains rebelling against the shrinking living space they now have to endure through taking so much information on to board with them in our skulls. 

From 2013 Blog
 In one week we’ve managed to harvest reeds to thatch our roofs, using a local invasive species called Phragmites, mix cob and use it to build bricks, learn about laying foundations, learn about heating through passive solar design and rocket stoves, attend a presentation on worm composting, and we even managed to get in some time to attend a yoga class and hear their kearton, a wonderful call and response musical chant accompanied by drums.
From 2013 Blog

 With one week down I already feel confident that I’d be able to march into the woods with nothing but the right tools and leave nothing behind me but a beautiful shelter, a home built with my own hands and from my own spirit, using nothing but the materials which are found right here in nature.

            And I have to think, how much more do I still have to learn?





Feb 22-24, 2013 Weekend Gathering included  6 folks from Ohio....from around Cleveland and Fort Wayne.  Some were new-comers, Stephanie and Michael who are helping to construct community gardens in Fort Wayne ...  while Chris McClelland, involved with natural building on a national level, and his daughter Sarah are like one of the family.  Christina Keegan is starting her own natural building business in the Cleveland area ! She was an intern at the Strawbale Studio last winter, and has been very active in natural building since then.  She brought a friend, Christine, who, with her husband, plan to create a community space for healing and all things natural.  Great interactions, learning & food ! 
From 2013 Blog

Feb  15, 2013  Stephen and a friend came for a tour of the structures and sustainability conversation.  He is starting a center up the road ! Having just bought land a few miles north, by 7 Ponds Nature Center, he has started a non-profit orgnaization dedicated to providing Inter-generational Education & Traditional Skills.  What a good fit between us. 
From 2013 Blog
February 8 - 10, 2013, during a Winter Gathering, came together for several days to gather reed, tour, and share their expertise: Fred McLaughlin, architect from Lansing, MI presented his very innovative strawbale house design.  Bryan Metts shared his involvement with Ecovillage & Permaculture ventures in Michigan, Kari Blouin, intern, expressed learning from her experiences of living on a naturalized dairy farm in MI. Donovan Wentworth, below, was part of the gang.  What a great weekend for us all.  
From 2013 Blog

Donovan Wentworth, Intern from Oakland University, who is receiving credit for assisting the Strawbale Studio publicity outreach this semester, is learning and helping out with natural building as well.  He is helping to create a Strawbale Studio Youtube channel, redo the Strawbale Studio website, and more.  He also loves nature and sustainability skills.  Thanks, Donovan, and Professor Dana Driscoll,  who connected us together ! 
From 2013 Blog






January 2013 "Winternship"

This one month internship program includes experiences with round poles, notching, lashing, earth plaster, cob and other sustainable living activities. 


Kari Blouin and Garrett Schosser arrived in early January for the internship, and have been participating in activities at the Strawbale Studio and in the region. 


So far, a tour of the buildings and sustainable living componets of the land was given ~ the Strawbale Studio, Spiral Chamber, Kids Cottage and Retreat Cabin.

Also toured was the Rocket Stove Heated Bench, Outdoor Rocket Stove Cooker, Winter Greenhouse, worm composting and more. Interns have taken an exploratory walk of the 50 acres of land at the Strawbale Studio.  


Learning activities have included lashing round poles on the sleeping loft using a drawknife and the Japanese Square Knot.  Round Pole framing was studied by the interns and we will be constructing a small pole structure to take to exhibits and fairs.  Cob, a mix of clay/sand subsoil was learned...how to harvest, mix and sculpt.  We made small models  of the Hobbit-like Strawbale Sauna which will be constructed full scale during a 2 week workshop July 13 - 26, 2013.  This workshop, lead by 4 natural building teachers, will include load-bearing strawbale walls, a stone foundation, cob, plasters, a living roof, with a side project to construct a timber-frame gazebo.  Kari learned how to make cording from local dogbane (milkweed family) and she is also making a matt from reed stalks and hemp cord.  Other activities are described below.  


We fed the home-made sour dough starter and Garret has made several loafs of wonderful sourdough bread. We are enjoying kombuch and keifer that is being made on site. The Greenhouse has provided us with wonderful assortment of green leafy vegetables. We watered the greenhouse, Jason & Maria created a storage bench created and we regularly harvest these greens such as kale and arugula ~ that can freeze and thaw.  No extra heat is required in this hoophouse. 


A field trip to the Hoyts, neighbors, included milking goats.  Dave and Dorinda, also neighbors, who are creating a permaculture farm were visited and we purchased and are enjoying their organic chicken eggs.  The Permaculture Meetup, Oakland County was attended and we saw a wonderful movie "The Overview Effect", then socialized and enjoyed some great food.  A visit to Lois Robbins home included a viewing of Microcosmos, a potluck supper and wonderful conversation, sharing our view of personal and environmental health.  


The composting toilet, following Joe Jenkins Humanure Handbook was set up, and is being used.  


Visitors have joined us during the day:  Jason & Maria toured and helped with the greenhouse, Dave & Dorinda brought over eggs, Tyler & Tara and Al and Ali learned reed.  collecting. 


Reed collecting has been a main event, harvesting local Phragmite for finishing the roof of the new Retreat Cabin this spring.  There will be a 2 week workshop May 11 - 24 which will focus on essentials of natural building including earth plasters, earthen floor, round pole framing and more.  


Tara and Tyler arrived from Minnesota on their way to Vermont, where they will be putting up a timber frame they made at the North House Folk School of Traditional Crafts in Wisconsin.  They will be making a thatched roof on their new structure, and have come to the Strawbale Studio several times to get skills and information to do this.  The interns and Deanne went reed collecting, and Tara & Tyler learned what was needed to harvest and store reed bundles. They are connecting with their local officials in VT for permission to harvest reed there.  Al Harris and Ali Misner from Flint also came and learned harvesting for a small outbuilding they will be doing with Al's father in the area. 


Interns have been enjoying the Strawbale Studio natural building library, and watching videos: Building Codes for a Small Planet, The Strawbale Solution, Mud - Hands - a House, and Youtube videos on permaculture and round pole structures.  


We fired up the Rocket Stove Heated Bench and studied the design and patterns for a Solar Food Dehydrator.  Here is intern Kari's Blog entry on the workings of the Rocket Stove


There is much more to come in the next 3 weeks of this internship.  Visit the blog and follow the activities.  


January 24, 2013 

I just got a link from Superhero "Serendipites".  Last August 2012 the Superheros descended by bicycle on the Strawbale Studio

for several days, doing amazing volunteer work!  Below is the gang, and the wonderful art work Serendipitees did for the Strawbale Studio.



I modeled the sun in the sign after Joyful Weaver's amazing sun-oven.

CJ's photo of us for his article in the Oxford Leader, in front of Strawbale Studio's mud house!.




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