Saturday, January 8, 2011

Muddy carhartts, straw in my hair

There is something so wonderful about natural building...working with your hands, using non-toxic materials, and getting messy in the process! Today marks the halfway point of the Natural Design/Build class at Yestermorrow, and I am having the time of my life. There is too much information that I have written in my notes to post on here, so instead I am choosing to highlight some of my thoughts thus far:

In my travels across the country I have met many people in the natural building world, each with their own methods, each with their own level of experience, and each with their own definition of natural building. There are the extremists who compromise on nothing and incorporate no manufactured/industrial product, and there are the builders who are apt to use caulk or other methods of air sealing because they are more concerned with the overall performance of the building--both health and energy-wise. At the same time that there are these extremes, there are also things that most natural builders I have met have in common: they care deeply about what they do, they put a lot of thought into their work, and they are the artists of the building world.

Unfortunately, in comparison to the west it seems as though there are very few natural builders in the northeast. It comes as no surprise given the rough extremes of northeast winters and summers which make natural building such a challenge. That is perhaps the number one reason why I find the people doing natural building in extreme climactic places like Vermont so inspiring. They battle moisture infiltration, air infiltration, high humidity, a short building name it, they work with it. They do not follow the tide of conventional building techniques, rather, they are the masters of rolling with the punches and following the tide toward healthier, happier living spaces.

Ace and Deva from New Frameworks are among the northeast builders, and coincidentally are the instructors for the Natural Design/Build class I am taking at YM. Couldn't have gotten better teachers...these guys know their stuff, are wonderfully patient, and display their intense curiosity and love for learning more about their field in everything they do. If I take nothing else from this class and from the instructors (which isn't possible since I have already learned SO much), it is that a large part of living a full life means finding what you are passionate about and pursuing what you love to do. I already knew that, but to see that same love for building and love for teaching that I have discovered in myself reflected in others really just reiterates and reconfirms that I need to continue to pursue it in some way, shape, or form.

As for the class...we are kickin' booty, putting up bales, carving shapes with chainsaws, mixin' mud, and gettin' it done! In my time here at Yestermorrow I have found this week to be by far the most intense, the most fulfilling, and the most productive. We've learned everything from basic bale sizing/reshaping to techniques for avoiding air infiltration to roof framing strategies for increased insulation. We've gone late into the night talking about moisture problems and thermal properties of buildings, and we've delved into drafting details for flashing, bale to roof connection, etc. Everyday is exhausting, but everyday I confirm that this is my calling. Natural building, building in general. Working with people to create a community that supports each other, working with people to provide healthy, rejuvenating, and inspiring places to live in...

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