Friday, May 29, 2009


I worked by myself for most of the day today. It's not as fun as working with others, and I missed the chicken coop greatly, but it was nice to have a little alone time where I wasn't extremely tired, listen to music and dance a little as I was being productive.

I finished prepping all of the beds in the garden. They went from this:

To this:

It might not look like much, but it was. Some of those beds were in terrible condition - rocks, wet straw clumps, tons of weeds... The bed photographed was the last bed of the garden, and not the hardest at all, although biggest.

Our garden has some good soil though. Check out those worms. (Might not be the clearest picture. Look hard. It's about a foot long.)

Gardens took up my morning. After lunch, I organized books for the library - there had been several donations, so I had to look up call numbers, create filing cards, enter the books into the database, put pockets and numbers on the books, stamp and shelve them. It took far longer than I thought it would, but now I feel more at ease in the library. There's a ton of information available.

The chicken coop will probably be finished this weekend, even though nobody is technically scheduled to work (except Carrie in the office.) I may head down and help. I like the wood-shop a lot. (There's also a pile of things that need to be fixed on a bench in "the pit" - a room off of the shop that holds tools, primarily. I'm not sure if I'm a good fixer, but I might be up for the challenge.) At our next intern meeting (which happens every morning. I'll offer more details on that in a future post) I will bring up the fact that a lot of the plastering around campus needs re-done. This might become a project.

It's still rainy. I had a puddle in my tent this morning. I think I have solved the problem now, but, just in case, I know where the tarps are kept and have permission to borrow them if needed. It is getting warmer though - I wore short sleeves for a while today. Hopefully it will be sunny tomorrow so I can borrow a bike and ride into town.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Another Rainy Day

No pictures for you all today.

I spent the beginning and end of my day in the wood-shop working on the chicken coop. I learned how to use a planer, which can make boards thinner by shaving off small amounts at a time. Tim 1 and I were planing one side of each board for the siding - smooth on inside, rough on outside. We made a significant start on the roof.

I spent my early afternoon in the gardens preparing beds. It's odd - Vermont is definitely behind Kentucky as far as seasons go. I was taking straw off the beds so that they could warm up some - right now it's far too cold in the dirt and the straw is just insulating it. There were some tough beds today; they weren't as cared for as some of the others, full of weeds and rocks.

After dinner (sauteed chickpeas, kale, onion, garlic, potatoes and braggs. Yum) I sat in on the 3-week core class's evening lecture. David Sellers, who worked on many of the buildings on Prickly Mountain as well as structures around Warren, including the Pitcher Inn (see this entry if you don't know what I'm talking about.) He was hilarious, had random slides and spoke very quickly. It wasn't the best lecture in the world - very disconnected- but it was a good way to spend an evening. His ultimate point was one of design: build something so beautiful, nobody will ever want to take it down. Don't build for trends, no matter how excellent they may be. (At one point, he seemed to be implying that aesthetics took precidence over efficiency, which is not an idea I subscribe to. He did say, however, that the best option would be to combine the aesthetics and efficiency - I agree.)

I experienced my first "beer-thirty."

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Cooped Up on a Rainy Day

Today was a rain-filled day, so instead of going back out to the gardens, I got to help the design/build interns with one of their projects: the chicken coop. Someone is going to donate 10 chickens to the school, so the interns are building a coop to accommodate them. Tim 1 was leading this project. (I think I will call him Tim 1 and the other Tim 2. This is the order that I met them. Tim 1 is married to Stephanie.)

An old version of the plan, but gives the complete picture. The butt of the chicken is where a human-sized door is (with windows.) The front of the chicken is where the nesting boxes will go. On the sides, there will be doors (not shown in this drawing) that open into tractors (run-ways) where the chickens can run. The entire thing will be mobile, and the tractors will be removable when not in use.

The head will be 2-dimensional, painted on something like plywood. It will only look like a chicken in profile.

This is the floor. There are pieces that fit over the screen to keep the chickens warm in the winter-time, but can be removed during the summer for more ventilation, letting the chicken waste fall to the ground.

The siding will be board and batten. (The picture above was us trying to figure out what size batten to use.) I spent a significant portion of my day preparing for this step. Tim 1 and I went out to the boneyard and picked up lumber and ripped it to size. Tim planed some of it - I will learn that step tomorrow, possibly. We are planing the side that faces inwards so that there is a smooth, easily cleanable surface, and we're leaving the outside rough, for aesthetics and ease.

The boards change size. They are 7 inches at the front of the chicken, are 6 inches for the majority of the side, and switches to 5 and 4 inches right at the end, which will give the illusion of curving. Awesome.

I did get to use a table saw for the first time in my life. After a couple minutes of practice, I was pretty good at it. The hardest part is keeping the wood level/not accidentally lifting the wood above the blade. I loved ripping the wood though - I've never used stationary power-tools, with the exception of a chop saw.

I also waxed a lot of the tools. The wood we were using was fairly green, so sap was collecting and needed to be cleaned off. And waxing just keeps the wood running smoothly.

I like that everything I do here is for a reason.

A Brief Update

Lessons learned today:
  • How to french braid my own hair. I had no idea that I was capable of that skill. New favorite hair-do, for sure.
  • How to use a table saw.
  • What Yestermorrowians are talking about when they say "The Boneyard." It's where we store lumber, primarily. 2-foot wide pieces of lumber that were cut from a tree that fell on campus.
  • Not to try to walk to my tent without a light source. (That was actually learned last night.)
  • Sap does not come off hands.
  • Eggs taste different if the chicken eats reptiles.
  • There's a lot to do on a rainy day.
Pictures will come after dinner.

To Answer an Increasingly Common Question:

The mailing address of the school is:

189 VT Route 100
Warren, VT 05674

If you want to send me goodies, feel free. This is how you win my love.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Today, I learned:
  • how to garden the no-til way, using a broadfork to aerate without totally disturbing the micro-bioregion below the surface.
  • how to mix and fill the weed-whacker's fuel.
  • the importance of ear protection.
  • how to acquire raw milk.
  • a lot about my surroundings and the people who started some interesting movements.

Warren, Vermont

After lunch today, Dan, a employee at Yestermorrow, took me, Carrie and Tim on a tour of the area. (Carrie and Tim are fairly new interns - they just got here last week, I believe.) As a result of this tour, I have completely fallen in love with this area.

My photo-tour for you readers is in a different order and nowhere near as detailed as the tour Dan gave us, but it will impress you nonetheless.

To start, on our photo-tour, we will first take a look at some of the structures that Yestermorrow students have built on the Warren side of the valley (which is all we saw today - Carrie and Tim had seen the other side on a previous tour.)

This is a fairly new piece, constructed at a trailhead. Soon, it will have posters and information for people about to hike the trail. It looked really flat until you approached it more. It was very hard to tell how wide it was unless you actually stood where you could see all the way through.

This shed was built for the local community gardens. (More info on that in a moment.)This strawbale building is used for aging cheese. The door that Carrie and Tim are looking at leads to a cellar for the community gardeners to store vegetables.

This is a transfer point for students in the county. The high-schoolers ride up until this point, and then another bus comes and picks them up. A pretty cool place to wait, I'd imagine.

Now, Prickly Mountain. In the 60's, when land was cheap and building codes were non-existent in the area, a bunch of architects moved onto Prickly Mountain and built insane houses. Some were awesome, some failed. It was a place to experiment.

This house, the Dimetrodon, was designed as it was being built. It was originally intended to be built with 12 (I think) individual living units, but only got up to 6 (I believe.) So, now there are 6 families living there. The living units are all fully equipped with bathrooms and kitchens, etc, but each one is entirely different. Some have five very small stories, and they cross over and intertwine with each other. SO cool.
Carrie and another view of the Dimetrodon.
Another veiw of the Dimetrodon.

This is Steve Badane's "summer home" for when he comes to teach at Yestermorrow. We all peeked in the windows and it was amazingly inviting on the inside. You'll notice that it's a modified trailor.

And this is the most famous outhouse that I know of. Also Steve's. The glass makes it sneak up on you.

Me, in the reflection of the outhouse.An odd A-frame on Prickly. Apparently, at night, the top glows like crazy.

The "Mailbox House."

A cool triangular house. Lots of geometric shapes on Prickly.

We're leaving Prickly Mountain now. This is the airport, designed by some of the same architects.

We got to see a floater plane taking off. (Floater? Is that what they're called? I need to check on this. I don't really remember.) EDIT! One of my wonderful readers informed me that it's called a glider. Duh. It has no engine, so it has to be pulled up by a small engined plane, but then it finds air currents and can fly for hundreds of miles, assuming that it continues to find air currents.

We visited the old schoolhouse, which is now the headquarters for Rootswork, a non-profit organization that organizes community gardens, and training sessions, primarily.

The info table on Rootswork.

They even hosted a very small (100 Watt, whatever that means) radio station. The particular show that was happening as we were touring was called "Sprawl Talk" which is based on the idea that community is dying in modern America. In order to keep the nearby community alive, the host invites community members into the studio with him for an interview. I find that awesome.

The community garden behind the schoolhouse.

A quarter plot (like the darker fertilized area) costs $13 for a season. A half is $25 and a full plot is $40, I believe. Not bad at all.

This garden is near the community gardens, but is a little more special. The food that comes from this garden is sold to the local elementary school, where it is a very large portion of the food served. The high school also buys from these gardeners occasionally. Dan was telling us that the high school recently revamped their food services, changing all the dinnerware to *actual* dinnerware (not just plastic or disposable) and serving fresh, noble food. Awesome, Warren!

This is the Elementary school that serves the local food. There are several Yestermorrow projects around the school (which weren't photographed,) as well as several fields for community sports, like the adult soccer and ultimate frisbee that the interns and I were invited to play.

The last stop on our photo-tour is The Pitcher Inn in downtown Warren. (Downtown Warren consists of the inn, a shop, and a few houses.) Each bedroom was designed by a different architect, but the main design was done by one of the guys who headed the Prickly Mountain extravaganza. The point of this stop was to show that, while he could do amazing, funky, geometric designs, he could also do very traditional, detailed work. I chose this picture of the inn to show because I am so amazed by the hardwood floors.

And that concludes the picture-tour. Keep in mind, this was only one part of the valley, and I am not showing near as much as I saw. I hope you are all insanely jealous.

The Mini-Picture Tour

Oh, goodness. So much has happened in the last two days, I will be writing for ages and never cover everything. It's wonderful though. I absolutely adore it here. Before I go into too much specific detail, let me give you that promised picture tour.

This is the main building at Yestermorrow. All other buildings on campus are cabins or sheds. This building, while it looks small, houses classrooms, an impressive wood studio, two kitchens, many bathrooms, dorm rooms, laundry facilities, offices, and a library. The layout takes a little while to get used to, but works wonderfully.

This may be the least impressive photo of the impressive wood studio. It's small, but effective. As you can see, there is a walkway above it (as well as a kitchen.) The doors on the right open making the entire studio a happy, awesome place to be. I have not worked in the studio yet, but I'm sure I will.

Outside the building. The woodworking area extends out here pretty often. I think it's just cool looking.

The cob oven built by one of the classes.

This is the garden shed. It's kinda awesome. The part on the right circles in so it provides protected, weather-proof space for storing tools.

The gardens. I took this picture yesterday morning and have worked in the gardens quite a bit since then. It's amazing for me to see the change that has happened in the last 48 hours.

This is a strawbale hut that a class built. It's going to be taken down at some point this week. Not my favorite teaching technique- it seems like if they could finish it and give it to someone, it would be much more fun.

This is the "chalet." If I remember correctly, the main building used to be an inn/resort and the chalet was the innkeeper's house. I could be making that up though. Now, the interns live there.

This is the treehouse, which I don't live in. Now that I've visited, I'm pretty okay with that. Someone strung a hammock in the treehouse and I layed in it for a moment. Then the wind blew and the treehouse creaked (a lot,) so I felt the need to get out of the hammock. Wood scraping together isn't pleasant.

This is one of the three student cabins on campus. I think students pay a little more to stay in the cabins. They are cute.

This is the pine student cabin.

The strawbale cabin.

This is where the students who don't want to spend on lodging sleep.

This is where I live. For now. I'm going to move onto a platform near the chalet once I gain the motivation to do so.

The outdoor composting toilet. Some of the walls are screen, so you can definitely see people walking by. A little strange.

The outdoor shower! Solar heated and stream fed, of course. The weather here is really strange. It was freezing (literally) last night, but today, it was warm enough to just wear a tanktop. And now it's getting chilly again. While it was warm, I decided to take a shower, but once I got in there and naked, I realized that the pipes had frozen last night and decided not to work. So I had to shower indoors.

The archway from the camping/cabin area to the school. You can climb up the tree ladder and sit on the top. It's nice up there.

The compost area, and interns Carrie, Tim and Stephanie (left to right.) (For the record, the other Tim is married to Stephanie.)

That's about it as far as the campus goes. The pictures don't reflect how absolutely gorgeous the place is. There are a few other sheds, an herb garden and a forest garden, but none are very photogenic. The school is nestled in the bottom of a valley. There is a little stream that runs by the camping area and a river across the road (as well as a nude beach.) Everything is shockingly green.

Monday, May 25, 2009

First Full Day

It's been a very long, busy day. Again, I am exhausted, but happy.

Since it's Memorial Day, nobody actually had to work (except the teachers in charge of the three week class that just came in.) However, interns did, but not rigorously. So it was a nice, relaxed day of work and orientation. Tomorrow will be a normal work day.

I was assigned a morning job. For now, I'm on trash/recycling/reclaimable/compost/energy monitoring duty. Nothing too unfamiliar (except this is the first time I've ever been in a state that pays back for bottles.) Morning duties change every week.

I spent most of my work-time today in the garden with Stephanie, and intern. I planted chamomile, onions, kale and weed-whacked. (And learned to change the string on a weed-whacker.)

I spent a good portion of the morning getting oriented. Tim gave me a tour of the building (which has the weirdest layout ever, but fits an amazing number of rooms in it), showed me my morning routine and introduced me to all the other interns. (Both male interns are named Tim, so I'll distinguish between the two if necessary. In this case, it is not entirely necessary.) Stephanie gave me the tour of the gardens. I walked around the campus by myself and took pictures.

All the other interns are really nice. Apparently, there are only five at the moment, although I'm still the "mystic seventh." Another intern is coming later this month, I believe. After lunch, all six of us hacky-sacked. (I stink at hacky-sacking, but enjoyed the company thoroughly.) Kendall, Carrie and I went into town today to get an appropriate alarm clock, as well as kill some time and get to know the neighborhood a little better.

I'm pretty sure I like it here. The place is beautiful. The weather is weird though. It's warm, but there's a breeze coming from the north, so it's cold. I have no idea what to wear. I'm dressing in layers, for sure. I had energy all day, but am now ridiculously tired. Even though there was nothing particularly strenuous, I've been on the move all day. I think this summer will be a summer of intense sleep.

The internet here is insanely slow, and picture loading is taking forever, and I am tired. This means, you will see pictures later. I'm taking lots though!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

The Beginning of the Mystic Seventh

After the longest Greyhound ride ever, I managed to land in Warren, Vermont. This is where I will be spending the majority of my summer - in a tent on the campus of Yestermorrow Design/Build School. Here, I will play the role of the "Mystic Seventh."

There are six Yestermorrow interns who all have very impressive resumes. They were hand-picked from a competitive bunch of some of the coolest grad-student-aged people in the nation. And I, a to-be Junior at Berea College in Kentucky, am their "mystic seventh." I have just enough knowledge of natural building and friends who know important people to be the unofficial seventh intern.

I will be doing all the jobs that the interns here do. Which is a lot. From morning chores cleaning up the classrooms and bathrooms to making repairs to managing the food gardens to preparing for workships, I will be doing it all. Over the summer, I will be taking four classes: Green Development Best Practices, Constructed Wetlands, Invisible Structures: Strategies Beyond "Going Green" and Community Design/Build.

There are a lot of interesting people here. A three-week building intensive course is starting today, so there are a lot of people who are just getting to campus. I met several teachers and students, many of whom are working to get their certificate in Natural Building. There are many interesting backgrounds - a lot have their own environmental businesses/non-profits... Ages vary greatly. Currently, I'm sitting in on their first class - sounds great! I'm sure I'll be around these people a lot in the next three weeks.

I'll let you guys know more when I know it. Tomorrow is my first official day of work. I have to meet up with the group at 8:30, which is not a problem, except that there is no cell phone signal out here and my cell phone is my alarm... I'm going have to find a form of alarm.

Looking forward to this summer!

Waiting on the Greyhound. 8am, yesterday.