2014 Report

2014 Report

2014 Report 150 150 Strawbale Studio

Pause a moment while the slideshow loads, then enjoy this REVIEW of 2014 ~ a collaboration of many hearts & hands.  Gratitude to all !

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“The future is the worlds’ biggest art project, that we are co-creating together, whether we know it or not. ” db

In 2014 Strawbale Studio Program joyfully provided
*  hands-on training & Internships          * a chance to experience enchanting, sustainable living
* community gatherings & networking    * educational outreach   * training in sustainable technologies

Below you will find a summary of

* NEW Structures built.
* Classes, Youth Programs. Off-site Presentations.
* Monthly Activities & Tours.
* Website & Outreach 
* Academic Credit. Internships & Worktrade. 
* 8 new Videos.
* Educational Field trips taken, Gardening. Pipeline.
* THANKS to Financial Contributors, Staff, Collaborators, Volunteers, Supporters, Coaches !

                                   Full Report, all activities  &  List of Intern 

In 2014 NEW STRUCTURES sprang up on Strawbale Studio land, co-created by interns & volunteers ! 


Ruthie Lane & the Cob Bench

Cob Bench


Round-Pole Hops Trellis.

The New Cob & Fieldstone Bench, attached to the Strawbale Studio and the The Round Pole Hops Trellis by the main house were created in May by Intern Ruthie, Chelsea & Justin.


Hops harvested in August by Dana Driscoll & her parents

Spiral Chamber -adjusting the cap 800x600)

Spiral Chamber new cap

The Enchanting Thatched Cap of the “Spiral Chamber” was championed by Ruthie Lane & friend Zack, with inspiration and advice from thatcher William Cahill. Yahoo!


Early Hobbiddition construction

“The Hobbiddition” (an addition to the Hobbit Sauna) was constructed during the Natural Cottage Project 2 week Building Course in July. Phase 1 of this project included a Rubble Trench, round-pole posts (charred at the bottom), field-stone knee wall, straw bale walls with slip coat, discovery coat, some infill coat earth plasters, framing & installation of windows & doors, earthen sub floor, plus a slab wood roof with a pond liner membrane for the living roof.  In September the roof was completed thanks to Micah (key guy on this) and other great volunteers: installing the skylight, chimney, soil & plants.


Beginning of Cob Wall, front & Hobbiddition, far right.

The Cob Garden Wall, part of the NCP course, included phase 1 of the Rumford Fireplace, arched door & bench !

DSCF5143The Compost Furnace was installed ~ a 20x15x7′ pile wood chips, sawdust, manure to heat water circulated within the pile & through pipes in SBS floor. This project included Fall Intern, LOTS of Volunteers. Plumbing gizmos were installed by the generosity of Lanny Lanzotti !  Compost Furnace goes on line.

In 2014 PROGRAMING was wide and varied ~ 

CLASSES were woven into the fabric of the year.  Never a dull moment: )  Thatching, Earth Plastering, Strawbale & Cob wall systems, Round Pole Framing, Natural Arts, Mushroom Growing, Foraging for food & building materials, Rocket Stove construction, Paper-making & Berry Inks, and a Natural Cottage Project 2 week Course: The Hobbit Sauna Addition  Calendar archives show all the classes.

PROGRAMING FOR YOUTH included a tour and hands-on program for 3rd graders from the Detroit Waldorf School, a field trip with a focus on soil for 80 1st graders from The University Preparatory Science & Math Elementary School in Detroit, MI., and a 2-Day Wisdom Camp for 15 wonderful 8-12 year-olds from the Super Hero Training Academy with the goal of exploring and expressing the wisdom of nature!  Very, very sweet. Students from Oakland University Permaculture Class & Student Organic Farm come each year to tour and do hands-on activities thanks to Fay Hanson & Jared Bogdonov-Hanna. Debbie Rowes’ Alternative Energy Class from Oakland Community College came to Strawbale Studio to tour and experience sustainable alternatives.

OFF-SITE PRESENTATIONS included an exhibit and demonstration area at the Green Living Festival, Rochester, MI., an exhibit table at the Detroit Bioneers Conference and a presentation on rocket stoves and compost furnaces for students at The Greening of Detroit Urban Farm.  

The Full Moon Potluck & Bonfire ~ happens monthly for neighbors, friends and anyone wishing to come.
“First Friday’s at the Strawbale Studio” started in 2014 includes a volunteer time, a tour & evening craft nite.
Tours of the Strawbale & grounds happen at the Potluck, First Fridays, and as scheduled for folks during the year.

THE WEBSITE, strawbalestudio.org reached 7,825 visitors in 2014, from 37 different counties. The calendar tracked all events, and the 67 blog posts and pages shared photos and descriptions of activities. Strawbale Studio is also featured on other websites such as naturalhomes.org  A new monthly newsletter was started this year, that is sent out to the listserve of 1500 people.

ACADEMIC CREDIT was received by Ruthie Lane, from Antioch College for her Internship in May/June & Jessica Tess earned credit from Oakland University for her work on organizational development & outreach.

INTERNSHIP & WORK EXCHANGE PROGRAMS provide skill training, construction on current projects, plus room & board  Interns contribute $750 a month, 1/2 pay Worktraders contribute $375 plus 10 hours a week toward infrastructure at Strawbale Studios. Some folks help 30 hours a week, coming as “wwoofers” from the WWOOF Program; Worldwide Workers on Organic Farms staying from several weeks to months, while helping 30 hrs a week.

     WINTER INTERNSHIP  5 wonderful intern came together for a month to create a learning and living community. Coming from New Jersey, Zack Ja arrived by bus after getting stuck in Cleveland during those snow days in early January ! The rest came from Michigan ~  Jimez Whitehead, Kirstin Pope, Scott Van Sice and Ben Suydam,  2014 Winternship Blog/pics

     MAY – OCT INTERNSHIPS  included these awesome folks ~ Ruthie Lane, MI  Chelsea Emery, MI  Justin Holmes, NY  Craig.Deitz,WI   Krystal Case, IL  Jessica Tess, MI   Dawn Holtz, MI  Shahaiya & Thomas – AK

This year there was a robust Permaculture Oakland Co. Meetup which we all attended regularly.

Strawbale Studio was featured on other websites such as naturalhomes.org below.

No.1 natural homes all over the world

No.2 natural homes all over the world

No.3 natural homes all over the world

Straw bale homes around the world

8 AWESOME VIDEOS were made about the Strawbale Studio Program in 2014. Thanks, Film-Makers ! Check ’em out…

Thatched Roof in the Rain by Dana Driscoll, with music!
Building Inspiration  Alternative Homes Interview by Ross Lukeman plus photos !
Sustainable Harvest Dinner by Ellen Waara, Earth Talks
Foraged Brunch by Justin Holmes
and the 4 videos below by Sue Lovelace, for the Onion ONTV Local Sustainability Series:
Earth Oven at the Strawbale Studio
Living Roof at the Strawbale Studio
The Rumford Fireplace at the Strawbale Studio
The Hobbit Sauna at the Strawbale Studio

Phragmite reed

Phragmite reed thatching

This is Phragmite reed, a large perennial grass found in wetlands throughout temperate and tropical regions of the world. (from naturalhomes.org)

EDUCATIONAL FIELD TRIPS ~ Deanne traveled with several other natural builders on several networking / learning missions !  In February, Chris McClellan, our adventurous leader set up a wonderfully connecting itinerary for me, Christina Keegan and Georgie from Cleveland.  Our main destination was a Natural Building Network Gathering at COB COTTAGE COMPANY in the temperate rainforest outside Coquille, Oregon. Fabulous. Along the way, in Eugene and Portland and in the countryside, we visited some awesome folks who are teaching and doing natural building ! In April Chris also organized a trip with the same crew, plus Micah Linquist from MI, to the North East Natural Builders Weekend Conference outside Ithaca, NY, held in an EARTHSHIP home. Lots of professionals shared information. Then Micah and I drove on to Rhode Island on to participate in a 7-day Strawbale Course with Andrew Morrison (strawbale.com), where we learned some new techniques as we attached chicken wire over strawbales as the basis for lime plaster, on a rather large 2000 sq ft structure.  View this amazing strawbale video about the event created by my friends Tara and Tyler of goingslowly.com,  who also attended this workshop and have since used these techniques to build the walls of their beautiful timber-framed home in the woods of VT.

DSCF1973GARDENING started energetically in the spring with clearing & planting the Mandalla Garden with donations of plants from Dana, Jared, Chris Tarr.  The Herb Spiral and Wild Foraging provided greens of all sorts, mushrooms, autumn olive berries, service berries and much more.

The Pipeline which came through (enbridge oil) in 2014 provided huge piles of tree trunks cut for the excavation. 7 truckloads were picked up by Nelsons’ Wood Products in barter for dimensional lumber to build projects here. The Oakland Co. Permaculture Meetup brainstormed Permaculture solutions to the cleared land, and Lois Robbins & I co-created visions for a Pollinator Pipeline (a grant is currently in process for that),

Consultation occurs on a regular basis as individuals ask questions about their potential or upcoming projects.

“In essence – and in reality – all Strawbale Studio projects are collaborations, co-created with our hearts & hands, together.” db

The Compost Volunteer Gang Saturday October 11, 2014.

The Compost Volunteer Gang Saturday October 11, 2014.

GRATITUDE  and thanks to CONTRIBUTORS, who have generously supported in so many ways: participants, funders, staff, volunteers, friends, co-teachers & connectors !  Thanks to all those listed and the many unlisted. Every bit contributes to the whole and you are appreciated!  We truly co-created the year at Strawbale Studio  together!

Thanks to FINANCIAL CONTRIBUTORS including Fay Hanson, Mary Alice Dooley, Kit Duffield, Harriet OliverRosalind & Steve.  Thanks to Scott Cameron whose $500 helped support the heating system. The Strawbale Studio Celebration Party provided lots of fun and fulfillment, through community, food, music, a nurturing setting. Greenfire Band donated their performance and $360 was donated that night.  Additionally, excitement was generated by the outside Compost Furnace pile registering 140 degrees!

Thanks to STAFF ! This year the Natural Cottage Project provided a 2-week course lead by Deanne & Chris McClellan and assisted by several intern/wortraders.  Dana Driscoll donated a very entertaining Paper Making & Berry Ink Class, Mark Angelini taught a leading edge Round Pole Class and a Wood Carving Class, and Paul Angelini lead us into the world of fungi with his Mushroom Class. Michael Mallon who lead the Super Hero “Wisdom Camp” for Detroit Youth, held at the Strawbale Studio. Jess Tess provided outstanding media outreach support over the whole year ! Dawn Holtz functioned as “un-paid staff ” for over a month helping with infrastructure and funding.  Alex Moore  organized and brought 80 1st graders and local folks assisted in teaching:  Sister T & Green,  Chris Tarr and Carol Simon. Micah Lindquist came in like a anchor, grounding and supporting the building process so many times.


The Cob Cottage Company connects folks from all over the country to Strawbale Studio & Natural Cottage Project Internships. This year the Natural Cottage Project – provided a 2-week courses lead by Deanne & Chris McClellan and assisted by several intern/wortraders.  Derek Kanwischer, Coordinator of Sustainability Projects at Western Michigan, for linking his programs with Strawbale Studio. Oakland University Professors Dana Driscoll, Jared Bogdonov-Hanna, Fay Hanson, who weave their students with the Strawbale Studio ! Jim Leidel of Oakland University who is connecting me with many concepts, and perhaps a Pellet Makers for turning Phragmites into a fuel source.  Mark Angelini and Deanne co-taught the Round Pole Workshop again. John Batdorf, thanks for years of support on many levels, and especially in providing an interface with the community through the Green Living Festival. Gloria & Paula of the Bioneers. Debbie Rowe of Oakland Community College. Wez Ligon of Almont donated 100 haybales, and connected SBS to the Greening of Detroit Farm where she presented on Hay Bale Gardening, and I on Rocket Stoves & Compost Furnace.

including the “regulars” who have come forward so many times:  Micah Linquist, Dawn Holtz, Angela Holmes, Steve & Rosalind, The Hoyts, Dave & Dorinda, Norma & Bill Abbott, Michael Estlermann, Doug Lovelace, Scott Cameron, Dana Driscoll, Lois Robbins, Chris & Jug Tarr, SEEDS non-profit & Sarna Saltzman, Colin & Kelly Goetz, Bea Baker, Michael Mallon, Emily Brezinski, Catherine Bristol, Sister T & GreenRobin & Greg of Three Roods Farm for all their support, collaboration and nourishment.  And all the others not listed, each and all, appreciated !

Special Thanks to Dawn Holtz who came on for April & May to help with infrastructure & fundraising and Jessica Tess, who gave organizational support weekly with publicity and outreach. Dana Driscoll who connects so many good things together, people, plants, opportunities, community.  And Claudia Zawacki who has been helping with taxes for several years !

Thanks to COACHES.   Chris McClellan, who has given so so much support to the Strawbale Studio Program, to me personally, friend, organizer, adviser, travel planner and leader. And Lois Robbins who stands with me in creative process and loves the Strawbale Studio. Actually, there are a lot of you out there, who listen, support, suggest & coach !

COMPOST FURNACE SUPPORTERS.  Thanks to Gaelan Brown, who coached us through the construction of the Compost Furnace to heat the Strawbale Studio.  Lanny Lanzotti for doing the plumbing installation of the mechanical parts of the system and ordering the parts! Nick Webster, Michael Estlermann, Ed Lipke for design & installation support.  Wez Ligon for donating 70 bales of hay for the Compost Furnace and connecting me with Greening of Detroit Farm and other sustainability folks in our region. Mark Allen for the deliveries of horse manure.  Jason Kendell for getting the wood chips over here ! Robert Nelson the 5th from Nelsons’ Wood Products for donating yards of sawdust. Dave & Dorinda Lefevre, for the use of their truck and Torpedo heater ! Lots and lots of volunteers and intern who drove, loaded, mixed, materials, specially Shihaiya Young & Thomas Wilkenson.

What are ACTIVITIES are PLANNED for 2015 ?

  • Complete the Hobbit Sauna, Garden Wall, Kids’ Cottage
  • Refresh the Strawbale Studio exterior plaster
  • Assess the Compost Heat Recovery System – what’s next with it.
  • Repair the Earth Oven and plan for a redo of the frame & oven in 2016.
  • Be part of a Natural Cottage Project 2 wk Building Course at some site.
  • Reach out to art, anthropology, permaculture students for Internships.
  • and many other goals.

Sincerely, Deanne Bednar Coordinator & Teacher,
Strawbale Studio Natural Building & Sustainable Skills Program
PO Box 733, Oxford, MI 48371
248 628 1887       ecoartdb@gmail.com     www.StrawbaleStudio.org