April 2024 ~ Worktrade & Activities

April 2024 ~ Worktrade & Activities 1115 836 Strawbale Studio

APRIL 2024 – Worktrade/ Sustainable Skills Program
For our April Photo Album click here.

April has come and gone and it has brought with it two new WWOOFers, Kate and Meredith. The three of us have bonded and laughed, enjoying the safety and open heartedness each one of us offers. The two are both seasoned worktraders with warm spirits and a wide span of knowledge afforded by their own experiences prior to coming to Strawbale.

The month has offered sweetness, support, and so many opportunities for learning. There has certainly been no shortage of divine feminine essence in the walls of the home this month.

WEEK 1 – April 3-6, 2024

In the first week we began where the space begins, the path to the house! We cleared sticks and fallen trees, and patched holes made deeper by the winter weather. In the world of cob, we dug, sifted, and mixed earth plaster to be used for patching up the Strawbale Studio. We also had a beautiful sculpting session in which Deanne offered a crash course on face sculpting. Meredith and Kate ooo-ed and ahhh-ed at the process. We tested soil from their home states of New York and Iowa as well. Finally, we worked out some epic wood splitting. This was all balanced out by good ol’ fashioned “desking” time, working on graphics to spread the word about SBS workshops. The nights were cozy, with plenty of heartfelt, nourishing evenings of good food and conversation over crafts with the kitties.

WEEK 2 – APRIL 7-13, 2024

Week two allowed us to work with some locals on beautifying the grounds for a summer                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     wedding! Meredith and Kate were shown the many techniques for application of earth plaster to the walls for the most effective, and smoothest finish. Deanne and Kate did some potato bed prep, while Meredith played hooky to see the solar eclipse in its path of totality. We also received a chainsaw lesson from local ally, Matt McCool, and did some patio re-soiling after digging up the grass. Wednesday required that we put our heads together in building a roof to extend the Earth Oven area’s coverage. We had certainly worked up an appetite that evening! Thursday, the rainy weather kept us inside, where we patched a chair cushion and did some much needed visitor data entry from past workshops, giving us a perspective on just how many people have passed through this beautiful space, interested in living in harmony with nature. Friday, still rainy, we headed out to split wood for the upcoming fire workshop. Meredith, with a mighty stroke of the axe, jammed her finger. The group rallied together to offer her comfort. She felt blanketed by love, care and support, and spent the rest of the wet day indoors :/ Capable Kate headed out with Deanne to keep splitting wood and do some preparation for the Fire Workshop.

The week finished with the Rocket Stove Workshop! More details in our Fire Workshop blog.

WEEK 3 – April 14- 20, 2024

Our third week began with the continued fire workshop; the focus of the second day was Earth Ovens.

Wow! After all that business and activity in the second week, the first thing we did to follow-up was take a slow morning. It was time to say goodbye to Meredith as her WWOOFing came to an end (for now) with lots of hugs and well wishes. Deanne and Kate continued with more wood splitting, which is an activity we quite enjoy! The fun didn’t stop there. Tuesday was a highly anticipated chance to process the worm compost. Part of the compost was spread in the garlic beds and the rest stored away. A less exciting but certainly necessary activity was grocery shopping. Our April group has been delighted by the ease and joy with which we share meals and manage kitchen inventory.

On Wednesday it was time for another class! Spoon carving was a wonderful day. Here’s our blog with all the details.

The week also included progressing the roof over the earth oven area, harvesting Jerusalem artichokes, clearing beds of stalks, and starting some indoor planters. Deanne also visited Detroit to lend her expertise to a natural flooring project. Another professional highlight was a Strawbale Studio feature on EarthX’s show ‘House of What?’. A clip of the episode is available here.

WEEK 4 – April 21- 30, 2024

The final “week” of the April work trade was about a week and a half.  We spent a few rainy days at the front of the week doing some spring cleaning and hosting the April Full Moon Potluck (blog here). A huge highlight was finishing the roofing extension – jeez, those final screws were really tough to drill in!

Deanne and Kate appreciated our Non-Violent Communication (NVC) discussions throughout the month, so much so that we incorporated readings from The Compassion Book into our daily routine and were inspired to host an NVC retreat for ourselves at Deanne’s Green Lake Cabin. What a treat! We also visited a project of Deanne’s, the kid’s cottage, at Kensington Metropark’s Farm Center.

We then finished up our April worktrade in a few days of perfect weather, spent doing plaster repairs on the Strawbale Studio. What an impactful month, full of learnings and love.

Fire Workshop – April 13-14th 

Feel the burn! Our workshop this month revolved around Rocket Stove and Earth Oven construction.

We had 7 participants to learn about Rocket Stoves. Upon arrival, we shared a bit about ourselves and what brought us here. Then we took a tour and examined different types of fireplaces and stoves around the area. Deanne instructed the group on starting fires and the benefits and functions of each type of fireplace and stove on the property. Later on we moved to the red shed and started up the heat! As the day continued, we warmed up along with the rocket stove. Deanne presented on the thermodynamic characteristics and design requirements for a rocket stove. The group practiced assembling a rocket stove with bricks.

The next day the focus for our 6 participants was the Earth Oven. And, of course, on pizza! We started with a lesson on design and then, after eating our delicious pizzas, we mixed up some cob and got to work on our model. It was a great success, complete with an open door and miniature fire inside!

Spoon Carving Workshop – April 17 

Although we were expecting more participants, we had just one attendee make an appearance for the Spoon Carving Workshop. But wow, that one participant brought amazing enthusiasm to the space!

After some introductions and tea, we ventured out to search for a tree to saw down! After evaluating some black cherry and sumac options, we decided on a sumac that was right in the middle of Carolyn’s garden space. We sawed it down together and then sawed off pieces the desired lengths of our knives and spoons. Next, we all piled into the cozy Strawbale Studio, warmed by the wood fire Deanne had started in the morning for demos and practice carving knives and spoons.


Week 1 April 2- 6, 2024

Cob lesson, digging, sifting, soil testing & shake test. Test mixing, finish plaster with burnished and sponge finish, sculpting, patching,
Cording a Bracelet with Day Lilly leaves.
NVC class during crafting (Non-Violent Communication)

Yoga @ Pine Meadow Sanctuary
Gaia Singing & Blue Heron walk
Nature walk to Bog & stone
Evening Crafting: Cross Stitch sewing, mending, cording. NVC talk.


Wood Stacking
Digging subsoil from Meadow for earth plaster & sculpting.
Grounds Beautification: pick up sticks to firewood. Moved poles, cut back paths, lane hole repair!
Posting Strawbale Studio Activities on various media.

Earthen Floor Project : Deanne Visits Alex Kwon re future Earthen Floor in a Learning Structure in Detroit.

Week 2 April 7 – 13, 2024

NVC practice & readings
Sourdough starter and wrap lesson
Fire Workshop – Rocket Stoves & Earth Oven class & Hands-on!
Make pizzas in the Earth Oven!

Grounds Beautification
Posting SBS workshops to various media
Strawbale Studio Exterior Plaster restoration & patching!
Potato bed prep
Earth Oven cleanup and roofing
Chair repair
Data entry

Week 3 April 14-20

Spoon Carving Workshop
EARTHxTV Premier Episode about the Strawbale Studio
Kombucha brewing with SCOBY from previous Intern, Christiana

Wood splitting
Jerusalem Artichoke harvest
Stalk removal / garden bed clearing
Worm Compost processing
Earth oven roof extension progress
Seed sorting/indoor planters

Week 4, April 21-28

Spoon carving on our own
Green Lake retreat, cleanup and non-violent communication practice
Visit the Kid’s Cottage at Kensington Metropark’s Farm Center
Full Moon Zoom & Potluck @ Strawbale Studio
Nature walk to the bog & back woods @ SBS

Spring cleaning ~ windows, & cleaning for Potluck.
Earth Oven roof extension finished!
Strawbale Studio ~ Exterior Earth Plaster restoration & patching!
Shiitake Mushroom~ soak & fruit the logs