Monday, September 15, 2008

Research trip

We headed off in the middle of June, with our (new to us) PT Cruiser and our trusty 20 year old Combi-Camp, on a driving adventure of grand proportions. Our first stop was Deanne Bednar's, near Oxford, Michigan. Deanne is a cobber, thatcher, illustrator, singer, and all-round delightful human being. She gave us the tour of her amazing space: gardens, natural buildings of various sorts, foundation and posts for a children's playhouse, and the famous strawbale cottage. Its beauty took Alan's breath away. And we sang and played together; bliss.

On our way through the outskirts of Detroit, we stopped at the Strawbale Children's Playhouse that Deanne had been involved in the creation of. It's built on park land with the full support and backing of the Detroit parks department. It is an apparently well-loved addition to an already popular green space.

Next we drove a couple of days south and west, crossing the swollen Mississippi after a few detours, and made our way to Red Earth Farms. Friends Mark and Allyson are homesteading on some property in north east Missouri, a stone's throw away from Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage, and Sandhill Farm, two other intentional communities. Mark and Allyson welcomed us into their space, and showed us some of the amazing work they've done so far: composting toilet (Sophia had the honour of inaugurating the structure), wind turbine, barn foundation, permaculture garden. Another night of singing and playing, this time by the fire.

The next day, it was off to town for freshly made doughnuts, and then a tour of both DR and Sandhill. I've been receiving DR newsletters for a couple of years, so to give that information some context was enlightening indeed.

A couple more days driving took us to Custer, Wisconsin, where we attended the Mid-West Renewable Energy Fair, and met up with my friend Pete Fust, of Black Range Lodge in Kingston, New Mexico. He was at the fair with his book-selling operation, so we spent some time chatting, and playing music around the fire, of course. The fair was interesting, the food was great, but the best was the incredible diversity of lefty bumper stickers.

We arrived in Saskatchewan tired, sore, and more than a little fed up with hotdogs and chips. While there, I had the good fortune to be able to check out a local house that had been built with passive solar in mind, about twenty years ago. In the pictures, you can see that the reflective curtain is no longer functional, hanging at an odd angle and partially obscuring the sun. I never got the chance to chat with the owners to see what they like/don't like about the house, and whether they can feel the difference in winter warmth, having a home that faces the sun.

After a three-week stay in the geometric province, we hit the road again, this time stopping in Winnipeg to meet with Kris, Tim and Stephanie at the University of Manitoba. Kris' engineering firm has been involved with the permitting of cob buildings in British Columbia, and were interested to hear about the earthen work we have done in Toronto.

Then it was off to home, where I stopped only briefly before heading off to New York state (description below). Ah, the life.

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