2023 WINTERNSHIP Jan 5 – Feb 5

2023 WINTERNSHIP Jan 5 – Feb 5 2560 1920 Strawbale Studio

The Winternship is unfolding…see the full Photo Album here.
Winternship Outline.

Week 1 Blog Post Jan. 5- 8: by Claudia Revilla

On Thursday we arrived with a warm welcome from Deanne embraced by tenderness & care. There is so much enchantment felt within the house…gnomes hiding in the crevices, dried flowers & herbs bundled together, earth plaster molded in a way to create mountainous landscapes lined with trees & animals with unfurled vines creeping up the walls. We settled into our space & found comfort in each other.

Friday we started off with a tour- trailing through the ridges & edges carved along the structures…oooooing & aaaawwwwing, captivated by the creativity of the hands & minds collectively responsible for such earth casseroles…layers of rocks, fibers, clay, sand, water, & reed formulated into a recipe that nourishes the souls who witness its richness & form.

Saturday we embarked on our first workshop- learning the mechanisms & inner workings of earth plaster & cob. We gathered our materials- subsoil clay & sand, fiber, & water. We mixed it all up & packed our samples into pookies- a hybrid of cookie-puck earth matter. Afterwards we smeared a layer of plaster on a tester brick with a trowel & burnished/ polished it using a sponge/ plastic lid dependent on the desired finish. We each took a piece of drywall that we applied an adhesion coat to- 1 part rough sand & pebbles & 1 part cooked flour paste. This became the template on which we could fashion our design into.

Some examples include a fairy door made by Lori; a tree produced by Elise; Jacob stamped some geranium & oak leaves into his mixture; & Eric carved the view seen out of his friend’s window in their home nestled in the mountains of Taos, NM, full of sage brush. We also had the opportunity to try sculpting- I massaged mine into a sun; Sean constructed a hobbit home; jacob assembled an amanita muscaria mushroom fully adorned with an annulus; Elise, Deanne, & Breena shaped theirs into a face delighted to be born in the palms of their makers. It was a fun experience. I learned a lot & am grateful for everyone’s participation 💛.


Week 2 Blog Post Jan. 9- 15: by Elise Baker

The second week of the internship we did a couple of classes with Deanne. One on NVC, or non-violent communication, and intentionally reframing self limiting beliefs into constructive communication. We learned about the wheel of universal human needs, and reflected on needs and feelings we want in our lives. The other class was on continuum; cradle to cradle vs. cradle to death and the circular economy.

We spent a couple of the days prepping for the upcoming workshop, felling small trees in the woods and learning how to use a chainsaw. Sean led the charge with his expertise in pruning and arboriculture. We used a simple carry tool with branches and rope to haul our felled trees back to camp.

Twas a cold, wintry day when we set out upon our journey of learning and building
during the Round pole frame workshop. We were joined by three friends, Taylor, Cory and
Gretchen, who were very enthusiastic about the session. We started by getting to know each
other, touring, and then learning the skills and knowledge necessary to have a foundation to
start building, led by the wonderful Deanne. There was also a bit of chaos in the morning as
Leonita took it upon herself to catch a bird.

Before we got to work on wood, we tested our newly learned skills on a smaller medium;
carrots! This was a great idea as we got to see how different joints fit together without wasting
wood. The carrots were also easy to chisel and mold into whatever we wanted. Lap joints made
into rafters were a popular choice.

Next, we moseyed our way into the red barn, where we learned how to read a log. This is a
crucial step in making sure your cuts are even and along the same plane, especially with uneven
logs. We also spent time picking out wood and debarking it with a draw knife, which was oddly
satisfying. Our evening was spent getting warm inside while eating kitchari, or as Sean likes to
call it, kitchenry.

The next day was when we began working on our projects. Elise and Taylor made an A frame
with the braces held on with wooden pegs. Claudia and Cory made an A frame as well, and a
mallet. Gretchen, Jacob, and Sean worked on a mortise and tenon joint project. All of the
projects were lovely and turned out well.
Overall a great week and we are excited for more!

Blog Post Week 3, 1/16/23-1/22/23 by Elise Baker

We started the week with an off day, and then got some work trade hours in. Deanne led a class where we learned about building foundations and what types of materials are used, ways to drain water away from buildings, rat walls and so on. It was interesting to talk about the way orientations of a building can affect things like sunlight and temperature in the building, or the placement of a root cellar or a bedroom. At night we pulled medicine cards; Elise was the turtle, Sean the Eagle, Claudia the bat, Jacob the Raven, and Deanne the skunk!

The highlight of Wednesday was going to the potluck at Goldner Walsh and learning about herbalism techniques! We spent a couple hours in preparation, mashing potatoes and deviling eggs. While we were there we learned how to make tinctures, infusions, and a few different teas that were helpful for different ailments among other things. We feasted ravenously on the many foods that were brought. There was much chatter and laughter after the session, and a couple of us played with a cat that had a feather duster looking tail.

On Thursday morning we did some work trade, felling a couple logs and taking them back to camp in our four persons stick carrier. Later we were graced with the presence of a dear friend, Scott (not to be confused with Sean, who also has a nice moustache)! We learned how to light and use the earth oven, and celebrated the occasion with making homemade pizzas, led by Jacob. We ended the night with a large and moderately stinky dance party, enjoying disco and the sounds of Motown. Some of the highlights were Jacob shaking his booty vigorously, Claudia and Scott with their hula hoop tricks, and seeing Sean’s unearthly dancing skills.

Friday was marked by the arrival of our beloved Emma, who is joining us for the rest of the month as a wintern. We also had a few people from the workshop the following weekend join us for overnight, it was nice getting to know them and helping them get settled into the house. (Very nice to meet you, Caitlin, Kaelan, Stephanie, Rachel, and Jacob!) Once Saturday arrived the workshop was in full force; we first spent some time touring and learning the basics of thatching and tying up the reeds, and then spent the rest of the afternoon in the reed fields. We learned how to harvest reeds, the coloring of reeds that are best to harvest and the best timing to harvest, and got to practice tying up reed bundles of our own.

The time Sunday was spent working on our bigger thatching projects. We learned how to tie down the base layer of the reeds to the frame, and then how to put on subsequent layers. Nurse Ratched made an appearance. There was quite a bit of teamwork involved as we had to push a “needle” through the reeds to the person waiting on the other side in order to wire down a bundle. We each took turns doing each part of the thatching, tying down the wires and using the rope to secure the bundles. It was a great workshop and a great week!

Winternship Week 4: Jan 23 – 29, 2023 written by Deanne Bednar

Week 4 began with a “Day Off” after our intensive Thatching Weekend with Workshop & overnight guests! Claudia went to visit Jacob, returning on Tuesday morning with groceries…and joining the crew for our “ Mid Course Correction”. Together we shared what was going well and what could promote our “Needs Met” and the “flow” for all!

Classes & Hands-on

NVC Class #2. We looked at the Wheel of Needs, and shared some of the needs we have “met” in our lives, and what needs are “not met” as much as we’d like. Profound sharing. We also took a situation from one persons’ life and did the “Building Empathy” chart of “Observation + feelings & needs for self and others in the situation.

Video Class: 12 Ways to do Strawbale Construction. Together we watched a Learning Video by builder, author, Chris Magwood.

Mushroom Class with neighbor Cliff Scholtz We had a fabulous opportunity to learn about Mushroom growing when we visited Cliff & Mary at their cozy home with the fireplace aglow! He shared from the richness of his experiences in inoculation and propagation with a variety of ‘Shroom”!

The 2-day FIRE WORKSHOP January 28 & 29 was full of energy, with 6 folks joining us for the learning. Some stayed overnight.

On Saturday we explored “The Evolution of Fire” by experiencing the Fire Devices on the land ~ from the stone Camp Fire circle through Earth Oven, Rumford Fire Place, Metal Wood Stove, Outdoor Rocket Cooker and culminating in the Rocket Mass Heater in the Red Shed Pole Barn.

Earth Oven Models were constructed in 2 teams. Participants did hands-on learning to understand 1) how to design the oven, 2) lay the bricks in a bed of “screeded” sand by “kissing” them together, 3) how to dampen and shape the “sand form” that holds up the “Oven Mud”, 4) how to mix test and apply the “mud” to the outside of the sand mold (creating the main “mass” of the firing chamber that holds the heat and cooks food.. like PIZZA)!

Sunday was the Rocket Stove class and hands-on mock up of Combustion unit, learning dimensions and principles of Rocket Stoves/Mass heaters.. A hands-on lesson was taught on how to make cob and earth finish plaster often used to sculpt the bench of a Rocket Stove Mass Heater.

A HIGHLIGHT was the PIZZA lunch fired in the Smiling Sun Earth Oven !
YUM. There is nothing quite like it! Each person made up their own pizza from Jacobs’ dough, and learned how to monitor the baking of their individual pizzas!

Students also completed phase 2 of the Earth oven hands-on construction. The teams designed and made a door for their group earth oven model, added some sculptural details, carved out the door opening & removed the sand mold inside. Students saw examples of materials & test pieces of the insulation layer that could be added over the Oven Mud main firing unit.using slip and perlite/ or slip and wood ash, or slip and sawdust/wood chips. We closed with a sharing of the Team Projects!

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Worktrade during Week 4

As before, there was much Worktrade wood splitting by Jacob, and refilling our stove storage areas + compost out!!

Emma designed & helped color the Graphic Logo for the COB KIT. She also engaged others to color the print-outs! The result was some really beautiful images that will be the NEW outside graphic for this earth sculpting kit, sold by Strawbale Studio to share the skill & fund-raise! Yay.

Worktraders prepped for FIRE Earth Oven workshop. Jacob. & helpers got the pizza dough ready!

Gratitude to the grocery shopping done mostly by Claudia as Worktrade, with an occasional “fun run” to the store. Somewhere in the last week or so was the “Chocolate Experience” LOL.

Every day wintern helped out with meal creation and cleanup & the daily things around the house & grounds! Gratitude!


Students learned how to safely split wood and also use a tire technique for kindling. Thanks Jacob for the help on that! I can only find videos of Jake splitting wood!  Let’s see if it works to attach it!  2023-1 Winternship Jacob wood split ) (1)

Folks worked on finish their various personal natural building projects: Sean designed and made a model of a frame for anOutdoor Kitchen planned to be built by Scott at friends’ land. Whittling continued as individuals finished their projects as desired. Earth Art Sculptures, Claudia & Elise, and Emma did some drawing of a horse.

We made Kefir & Oatmilk...using the Kefir grains and Oatmilk recipe we received at the Permaculture Meetup! Both were successful, and are continuing to be made!

Guests David & Kealeen Ikes visited for a Learning Tour of the Strawbale Studio buildings & projects.

Wow, what a FULL (purposeful and playful ) WEEK!

See full Winternship ALBUM ! 

Winternship Week 5 – January 30 update by Deanne Bednar

Monday Eric came over to help finish the Earth Plaster & Sculpting Mural in the West Wing, while I and the interns joined in.  It was delightful to have his energy and enthusiasm toward the completion and we joined in to finish aspects of the evolving scene!  Matt McCoul was able to come by and talked Permaculture with Jacob, eager to learn!  A rich day.




Winternship Week 5: January 30- February 5 2023 written  by Claudia Revilla

Time is squishy. It’s like a clump of Jacob’s sourdough…can be stretched, compacted, balled up so you can manage & manipulate it in the palm of your hand or pull it apart till it loses its form & integrity. Somewhere along…through…all around this…is a state that transcends time- flow. A subtle awareness of change brought upon by active, thoughtful & protracted observation. Repetition & fluidity. Moving past the clunkiness & edginess of “anxcitement” (Deanne’s fusion of anxiety & excitement) & settling into a well acquainted structure with ease developed in the weeks prior. We became familiar with our patterns & practiced a balance between predictability & spontaneity. We found our flow.

Learning how to cohabitate with others & communicate compassionately are facets of this experience. At the core of this internship are the people. I can read all of the books, record every trick of the trade, consume every bit of information out there, but at the end of the day it is much sweeter to glean the knowledge of my neighbor that they have acquired from their personal life & connect with them on a deeper level. We are fickle, adaptable, & fecund beings. To make this world work it takes many kinds- different tastes, strengths, & minds. It doesn’t make sense to judge with our eyes nor generalize because we encompass a whole spectrum of emotions & rationalize them distinctly. We each carry our own discernments provoked & agitated by forces we focus on given the pasts we’ve endured, the future we envision, & the present we create together. Non-violent communication was woven into the curriculum which became the basis for how we wanted to treat one another. The collective gifted each other with enough grace to let individuals sit in reflection & soften tensions, finding acceptance & expansiveness. Round the clock light & love, riddled with deluded positivity, is not sustainable nor realistic. No one is one way all of the time, stress & insecurities will compound & applying the skills & sensitivity to empathize will bring levity & vaporize resentments.

Viewing our month-long winternship as a mass of sourdough, we spent weeks one through four experimenting with different stretch and fold techniques, taking note of what worked, what didn’t… figuring out how to use our structured time together, & dusting fresh flour on the dough if it’s stickiness became too troublesome & refused to glide off our hands. Flour is important for flow…our flour being a will to move forward in a constructive manner with optimism…in an attempt to avoid getting stuck & stagnant. Before a ball is considered complete, a segment of time allotted for & finalized, it is necessary to pinch & twist the loose ends at the top of the surface. Week five was like this- adding the finishing touches to our projects, concluding our intentions, pinching & twisting our way to the end. Eric came over on Monday & we mixed up a big batch of earth plaster. Throughout the week we decorated our landscape with one lil glob at a time. Elise shaped some pine trees along the stream & a fish swimming dangerously close to a bear, Emma sculpted a horse munching on some hay, Jacob made a tipi stationed along the river & mushrooms growing at the base of a tree supporting the loft, Deanne & Sean solidified support beams pressing the earth into a textured tree trunk & embellished them with branches. I transplanted dried flowers & seed heads into the ridge & fashioned twigs with earth to create a lil cabin sitting high on a cliff. Elise & I also sealed some “pookies” (sub soil test shaped into a “puckie/cookie”) with linseed oil & lots of whittling happened last week- Emma sharpened her sumac into a sword, Sean carved a bird, Elise chiseled her pinewood into a butter knife & I dwindled my chunks of wood down to chopsticks.

There was organization & planning that needed to be done before we could mold our sourdough into balls. Jacob prepared a sourdough starter (wild yeast & good bacteria), just as we primed ourselves (wild spirits & goodness) for this internship. Under hospitable conditions that promote growth, the passage of time catalyzes change & allows this to become something digestible. Soul food. Slow & steady gratification. There are so many different forms that we can mold this experience into…like our balls- we baked pizzas, birthday cornbread, pitas, & pancakes. Each sharing its intrinsic sourdough quality, but differing in its outcome. This internship has been transformational. We left Deanne’s home altered. With our own unique ponderings & sentiments we will go on & continue to flourish, collapse, question, shed, & morph into ourselves & with humility & receptiveness, make a difference in the lives of those around us.