Date: 11 Apr 1999 06:36:43 -0500
From: Mark Piepkorn <duckchow@...>
Subject: You are hereby volunteered for TLS duty
In the words of Bernabe Montoya in the movie of the book (which is not
very much like the book at all) The Milagro Beanfield War by John Nichols:
"I hereby deputize this crowd for crowd-control duty." I was going nuts
because this issue of The Last Straw was taking so long for me to
organize... I couldn't figure out why. Then I started this post by way of
doing a blockout, and kept working on it, and kept working on it, and the
difficulty became self-evident. :)
I'm going to detail what we've got for the next issue, and mention some of
the things we don't. Europeans and non-Europeans alike, I invite (beg) you
to look this over, see if there's any gaping holes, make any suggestions
about what *not* to use. It's a hard call to make sometimes--I've done it.
Meanwhile, time is streaking by.
Perhaps even more important than that, in the long run--even if you're not
inclined to dive into this challenge--is to brainstorm ways to turn TLS
into a self-sustaining, 108-page (or more) magazine. We've got enough
material for it, we've got the huevos to pull it off, but the dinero to get
going is a difficulty. The dinero just to do what we're doing now is a
difficulty. Judy pitched a sponsorship idea that just may work to some
degree; and going for a grant or two (anybody want to write them?) to pull
it off for a couple issues could help the "curb appeal" immensely to beef
up the subscriber pool. If we had three times, four, a dozen! times the
number of subscribers we've got now, it would work big-league.
I understand that there's a glossy full-color newsstand "natural building"
magazine out there now. I haven't seen it, I've only heard. Well, I already
know that I don't want TLS to be what I'm sure that one is. For us, I
envision a cross between Environmental Building News, The Owner-Builder (an
Australian magazine), and any number of sustainability magazines: truly
useful, practical, functional, inspirational on every page for the hands
and the heart and the planet... not a Better Homes And Gardens fluff
publication that exists almost exclusively for the sole benefit of its
Which is not to say that I'm against advertising in TLS. If it makes
fiscal sense to do it, I'm in favor of it. Right now, at our size, it makes
no sense, sadly. The income would be marginal at best, and would come at
the cost of space we ain't got. I'll always want TLS to be
subscriber-supported... to be able to publish without *having* to take
ads... but if we have numbers enough to carry the clout to charge ad rates
that bring in decent money, then hey!--there's the path to the research and
testing fund natural building so desperately needs to break through the
restrictions of building codes written and revised almost entirely by
proprietary-product manufacturers and the insurance industry. Make sense to
you? Makes sense to me. Why not take money from DuPont (do they make
anything that a natural-building magazine would accept advertising for?),
from Andersen, from stucco manufacturers, and put it into testing earthen
plasters and thatch and straw-clay?
Anyway. Here's a description of the issue-in-potential; I'll be very eager
for anyone's thoughts on any of the preceding, or the following. (I'm
really tired. Only pushing 5 a.m.? I must be getting old.)
John Glassford and his crew recap the cross-country Tucson-to-California
tour, telling tales and naming names, stopping short of the Marin Headlands
gathering. Not a bad way to start the European issue - with a gang of
Australians, saving the Europeans from having to introduce themselves.
And to follow to a logical conclusion, we have a short piece from a US
person about the International Gathering itself. Normally, I wouldn't be
into the idea of kicking off with a piece about an event that so relative
few attended (the tour and the Conference), but in this case it makes
sense: the coming-together of people from all over the world... very good.
Photos, certainly. I see this all beginning on the cover, essentially - but
as a photo cover with little in the way of text. Like a "normal" magazine
cover. That may or may not happen - it's something I'm thinking about for
this one and haven't even discussed yet with Catherine. (Surprise, Catherine!)
So that would be page one, and the text itself principally (if not
totally) on pages three through five. A long piece, hopefully about as much
photo-space as word-space. We'll see, layout hasn't begun yet, and these
things have to remain somewhat fluid for the time being.
Page two is typically where the Editor's and Managing Editor's Notes go;
this time it's a Contributing Editor's Notes, from Michael Smith. I'm not
totally comfortable, I have to admit, in starting an article on the cover
and then interrupting it right away on page two. This is one of the reasons
why a photo cover appeals to me, so that it's not really an interruption.
As it happens, Michael's Notes are an acceptable introduction to the spirit
of the issue, as well as to himself (he is the author of the book The
Cobber's Companion, and is a well-versed natural builder).
Bouncing off Michael's Notes, I'm thinking about a Bailey Pulpit with
Rene's essay on Fundis and Realos - I like this one quite a lot - on the
tops of pages six and seven.
Then, on the bottom of pages six and seven, begin Martin's comprehensive
piece about SB in Europe, which fuses philosophy and fact very well, a nice
transition. (Martin, we need a couple lines of autobiography from you and
contact information. This goes for anybody else who hasn't yet supplied
that sort of information; it goes at the end of your article.) This article
would finish on page eight.
From here, several "scrapbook" pages of buildings and descriptions of
buildings all over the European theater. If somebody with some sort of
geographic knowledge (I have none whatsoever) wants to order the following
into some sense, please have at it. I'd like to finish with the Ouwerkerk
house (if somebody provides its full story) since it will make a fine segue
into the more-technical part of the issue. Interspersed among these
rumblings and snippets, I'd like to put resources for the given
country/bioregion/area. What I have for this section with regard to
physical projects includes the following, quite possibly not all of which
will end up in the issue, and quite possibly which will include last-minute
material that I don't yet have in hand:
Yevgeny Shirokov tells us what's up in Belarus. This one has photos and
A brief from Barbara about a women's center going up. No photos.
A rumbling about Strawdance in Britain (I think). Photos and drawings.
A rumbling from the Redfield Community about the straw/hemp house. Photos.
Barbara Jones' response to the moisture survey. Not sure if there's
anything to be used in there, but quite possibly so. She was thorough, a
trait of hers that I appreciate. This might instead be coupled with her
lime article in the plasters section to follow. No photos (anymore).
I have a note, unsigned, though I think it's from Matts, that says there's
a house in Wales built with jumbo bales - and that "we (meaning whoever
wrote it) have info." Matts? Judy?
I never did receive the promised story and photos from the guy I met at the
Steen's some time ago about the circa-1940s SB place in Devon. Alas.
Pascal's short response to the moisture survey a few issues back. Too
short. Somebody sic Rijven on that guy, we need his voice. :)
It would be absolutely marvelous to get an update on the Thierry Dronet
workshop, since so many people love that picture in The Straw Bale House
book. How are the underground parts doing? Is the living roof holding up?
That kind of stuff.
Rumblings in Portugal (Martin Pietsch) and Italy (Silvie Hogerzeil and
Peter van Vliet). (Anybody know Captain Beefheart? His real name is Don van
Vliet. Never mind.) No photos, though Martin may scan and send some.
I have a Dutch article about a Finnish house near Helsinki (forwarded from
Matts via Lars), xeroxed so I can't lift the photos. I also can't read
Dutch. Anybody with news on this? (Remember, we'd really like to have
European contributions in every issue. If something doesn't happen in time
for this one, please consider it for the next one.)
A rumbling about the Waldorf school in Belgium, with drawing.
Rumbling about the first SB workshop in Austria, upcoming; also a contact
for the Ministery for Agriculture and Forestry, which has released a
brochure on SB.
A rumbling (with photos and drawings!) from Cor Perrier.
What about the Swedish house, the one that was torn down after standing
solid for many years because the government said that "you can't build
houses out of straw?" Does anybody have anything on this?
A rumbling/taproot about the house in Heeze. When was it built? Sometime
before 1954. Harald may get a photo. Martin sent one from a book that could
be made marginally printable with some wizardry.
Speaking of Harald, I think he (you) sent a story that begins "we all are
shocked by the humanitarian catastrophe, we see happening in the Kosovo,
Albania, Macedonia and Serbia." It got stuck halfway through the TLS email
server, and I haven't been able to reach Harald to send it again. I hope he
still has it. If anybody else received a copy, please forward it! Thanks.
It may or may not have photos attached.
A rumbling about the Beet Pit House from Lars, which also discusses a
three-part program on Danish TV about SB. No photos, unless there's one or
more from his slide show that I can grab off the videotape.
A bit from Lars about The First Fullscale Residential House in Denmark.
Photo, drawing? Maybe something from the Folkecenter website, if there's
Very brief (sometimes virtually nonexistent) descriptions of projects from
Martin Oehlmann, including Swalmen, Ouwerkerk, Hierden, Hoenderloo, Koudum,
Pommitz, and more. No illustrations or anything.
The Koudom project is kaput, as is the crazy Dutch women's garden shed. An
especial sadness in my heart about that last one. The fact will be duly
noted where and if appropriate. Hopefully Cai will be sending something
along still, perhaps with the input of Leontine as well? Photos can be
grabbed from the video.
Please note with regard to Ouwerkerk, I'd *really* like somebody to detail
that story a bit: what went wrong, how could it have been avoided, what's
being done to fix it. As a sidebar, Paul Lacinski is going to excerpt some
stuff about rainscreens from the book he & Michel Bergeron are writing.
This will be the transition piece into the more technical portion of the
issue. Is there a photo of Ouwerkerk from anyone's slide show that I can
get off the video?
I mentioned above the sprinkling of resources I'd like to see interjected
appropriately among the preceding project descriptions and short articles.
These include, so far:
Basic info about The Centre for Alternative Technology (C.A.T.) swiped from
their website at http://www.cat.org.uk
Notice of the Danish gathering in June.
Notice of Expo2000 in Hannover from June to end of October 2000.
"Raw earth architecture" photo competition announcement from Centro di
Documentazione Permanente sulle Case di Terra in Italy.
Letters courtesy John Glassford from the person who alerted him to the SB
houses in "Polish Siberia," far northeast Poland near Russia. Anybody else
been there? The village is called Soltmany.
The Netherlands' Ministry of Water and Traffic has released a report on the
potential of renewable resources to replace minerals.
Contact info for the French SB association. Can we get something from them
on what they're about, what's going on in France?
A note about the upcoming VIBA meeting. Need contact info!
A notice of the Ecotopia conference.
Hopefully Lars will write something brief about the Folkecenter and its
work, giving the website address. I've emailed him (you, if you're reading
this, Lars) about this. I forgot to ask you (him) for an autobiography and
preferred contact information.
A mention of the Danish Ecological Action Plan. Need contact info.
Anybody know about Conny Bakker and the Sustainability Programme of the
Netherland Design Institute? http://www.o2.org
Need contact info for all European (except France) SB organizations! as
well as any appropriate publications, peripherally-appropriate
greenbuilding/sustainability associations, human resources for people to
On the long-article front, more technical and hands-on, there is:
Paul's rainscreen briefing. (Could address the air-open principle from Gaia
Architects in Norway here too.) I have a photo of Paul, and will use it. I
Barbara Jones' long and wonderful lime article, sensible to follow the
rainscreens article. No illustrations, but that might be OK - read on a
couple entries. I have a photo or two of Barbara, and there's probably
something appropriate in the stuff I scanned in Tucson, or on the videotape.
A comment culled from the CREST list by Bill Steen about their experience
with lime-over-earth. I probably have a shot of him wearing mud.
An article swiped from an Australian website about lime render for SB.
http://barney.webace.com.au/~agstraw/ess07.htm ... I'll need to get
permission if we're going to run it. Ed Taylor's website - you Huff-n-Puff
or Imagine people know him? No photo, no illustration.
There's a Tom Brown lime article (with good illustrations) that ran in the
spring '98 CobWeb that we can pull from (with credit) in case it covers
something that nobody else did.
Designer/Builder has also run a couple plaster articles, on lime and earth.
Probably won't go that far, but if we were 108 pages or more, I would for
We also have an article about lime from Bob Almond of Tucson. Geez. No
Ye cats, there's also something here called "Rich Dead Lime For
Construction Purposes." I have no idea where it came from, but I suspect
Pascal supplied it a couple years or more ago, because it's clipped to spec
sheets for "Expanded Clay ARGI-16 by TBF" that has "from Pascal Thepaut"
written on it. The literature is dated July '82. No graphics for the lime
A brief from CASBA's December '98 newsletter called "Lime Plaster Hints"
could be reprinted. Like there's any room. Anybody want to do an internship
down here to put together a book? No graphics for the article.
I'll be attending the lime workshop in Bisbee this coming weekend, and will
write up something short from that. Photos will happen.
I also have a brochure from Limekiln State Park in Big Sur, south of San
Francisco on the Pacific Coast Highway. Did anyone see it when you drove by
heading north? I stopped in after the Conference and picked up the paltry
literature they had. Seems they quarried (starting in 1888) and burned
(using the redwoods until they were all cut down two years later) lime
there... worth a mention perhaps if only to show that there *used* to be
something of a lime tradition here in the States, possibly making it seem
like not so much of a "foreigner's" technique to xenophobes and rednecks.
:) The very short two years' operation until they'd cut down all the
trees is also telling of something stupid. I'll probably leave out the part
that admits that the lime was used principally as an ingredient for cement.
A guy at a US university has been studying the antiseptic properties of
limewash. Apparently it kills flu and strep and herpes and all sorts of
stuff. I've been trying to reach him, hopefully I'll get through.
(Interestingly, before I heard about this, Ianto Evans was telling me not
long ago about his hunch that earthen materials are antiseptic.) (Hmm, I
just came across a mysterious little scrap of paper on my desk that says,
"Mark: the paint guy is going to send you copies of the paint articles for
your review." No date or anything. Maybe he got my message after all. I
can't think of what else that could possibly be about.)
A long article about earthen plasters from Keely Meagan, an American. Quite
a good article. I have a photo of Keely. She said she'd send a couple as well.
On the same subject, Cedar Rose is contributing. No photos.
Found an article by Kat Morrow prepared for Women Build Houses called
"Natural Mud Plasters." Kat never let me take her picture.
Snippets from a series of posts to the CREST list about mold on earthen
plaster. Glassford started it. John, how did it eventually finish? I never
heard. Got a couple shots of the Wolf.
Another article from Michael Smith, this one titled "Earth Buildings and
Moisture." It seems like it might be appropriate in the section about
plasters since everyone's worry about them is moisture. No graphics.
Brad Davis posted findings to CREST back in April '98 of his field-test
search for an earthen-material sealer that would allow him to make earthen
sculptures that wouldn't erode. This could be followed-up and briefly
presented. Some interesting stuff. No graphics.
Still yet an article from Michael Smith, this one about cob. If there's any
Europeans who'd like to look at this with a critical eye, please let me
know. I think it's alright, but I really wouldn't know if it wasn't. No
graphics, though I'm sure we could use something from The Cobber's
Companion or Catherine's photos.
A short rammed earth article from Jean D'Aragon of CRATerre. No graphics.
Another American, Ed Raduozo submitted a piece a while back about building
wattle-and-daub birdhouses to help the local feathered population while
testing earthen plaster mixes and finishes in the weather. Furthermore,
he's involved kids in the project. A goodie. There's photos somewhere -
Barbara Jones sent a piece on thatch. I've copied it to Lars to see if
there's anything to add from his pool of knowledge. Barbara's beautiful
round thatched place is a natural.
There's also a thatch article we could draw from in the Spring '97 CobWeb.
Gosh golly, here's some material from master thatcher Cecil White, sent to
TLS back in July '97. I *really* need to get through these file cabinets.
Anybody want to intern down here for that job? Lotsa laughs, and obviously
a gold mine of info. He sent freeze-thaw test results, wind-resistance test
results, an excerpt from the Honolulu building code about thatch, an
R-value study of a *plywood-sheathed* thatched roof... holy cow. Barbara's
got the article, for sure, but this stuff looks like some good sidebars. No
A short report from Kim Thompson in Nova Scotia about her straw-clay
miracle came ages ago, almost before I joined up here. Maybe actually
before. Anyway, this could be followed up on. No photos.
Basic article on cordwood from Michael Smith. Same as above - if anybody
wants to look this over, shout. This is mostly based on Rob Roy's books. If
Pascal finds time with Tom R to put something quick together on the
subject, so much the better. They can run side-by-side. Or perhaps not in
this one at all. No photos, though I've probably got something that I took
at Rob Roy's place. There's also a cordwood one from Tom R that I scanned
Hmm, things are appearing on my desk. Just came across an envelope with
notes and quite good sketches from an interview somebody did with a guy in
Colorado who spent time in Europe and became fascinated with traditional
building techniques. These are pretty random, looks like they might be good
filler. I'll need to study them sometime when I'm awake.
There's an article on "loam" building by Frank Andresen from the Spring '92
Harald had mentioned the possibility of writing something on straw-clay...
What hasn't come in that was going to?
Cai was going to talk about retrofitting, maybe something about the garden
shed project. Sheddus Interruptus
Lars was going to talk about the Folkecenter, and the European network
Pascal was on tap for bad-cement/good lime, and the 1921 house
Martin had something about the fire resistance of earth plasters... but
looking at my notes, it seems he pawned that off on Rene
Tom Rijven agreed to hit cob (but that's covered by Michael Smith now), his
dipping and four-ways-of-compression system, straw-clay
Leftovers, some of which will be used, much of which won't:
We have some test results from an unusual wall system. Wholly American,
higher-tech than necessary, out-of-place for this issue. Probably won't use
it this time.
There's also an article about thermal properties of SB from Nehemiah Stone.
Not as much fun as his address at the thing in San Francisco. Probably
won't run in this one.
A rumbling about what Darren Port's been up to over in the northeast US.
A notice from a Frenchman in America looking for an internship.
Reviews of natural/green building Journals by Michael Smith - a busy guy!
Rene reviewed the Green Building Digest from Belfast.
Martin reviewed Gezond Bouwen & Wonen and Duurzaam Bouwen.
We have two or three items about cement stucco that I'm not inclined to
Believe it or not, there's some items not given here, which include small
American updates and rumblings, calendar events, roles in the hay, short
From an aging email, perhaps inspiration will strike:
Possible authors are (you might add some more):
a.. France: Pascal Thepaut/Fabien Baker
b.. The Netherlands: Rene Daalmeijer, Jolien v.d. Maden, Cor Perrier,
Jan Steenks, Annette Coomans, Harald Wedig, Martin Oehlmann
c.. Germany: Harald Wedig, maybe Frank Jakob, Christoph ..., Alberth
Warmuth, Martin Oehlmann
d.. Italy: Peter v.Vlieth/Sylvie Hogerzeil, Barbara ...
e.. Portugal: Martin Pietsch
f.. Ireland: Tom Wooley, Barbara Jones
g.. Wales, England, Scotland (sb-Association)
h.. Denmark: Lars Keller and friends
i.. Norway: Rolf Kristianson and friends
j.. Sweden: Stefan Wallner and friends
k.. Finland: you might have an address (Matts does)
l.. Belarus: Evgeny Shirokov, Andrei Konechenkov
m.. Austria: Martin
n.. Belgium: Martin
Thanks all, thank you thank you thank you. Yer beautiful, we love ya.
Ciao. Please write back. :)
Freewheeling autonomous speculation - Think!
I'm off the clock and on my own time, dig?
Mark Piepkorn (f.k.a. M J Epko)
Kingston, New Mexico
Whatever you do will be insignificant, but it is
very important that you do it. - Mahatma Gandhi
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