Despite the fact that starting any new business often comes with overcoming financial hurdles, working up the courage to start can often be the hardest part in and of itself. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by all the work that goes into running a business. The thought of hiring employees, managing the day-to-day operations, and trying to turn a profit can be a lot to juggle. However, I have discovered a local entrepreneur that dispels many of the myths centered on running a successful, and environmentally sustainable, business.
My relationship with natural building started in 1996 when I took a 3-week course from the Cob Cottage Company on the West coast. It was a life-shaping experience in living and building with others, filled with the use of natural materials harvested from the land, food from the garden, bread from the earth oven, evening music, and camping. I came back to Michigan with the advice of my teacher, Ianto, to build with strawbales in this cold climate. I met up with Fran Lee who lived on rural land outside Oxford with her brother and sister-in-law, and together we set out to create a structure that feels like a hug. Inspired by the books Places for the Soul by Christopher Day and Pattern Language by Christopher Alexander, we set out on a journey that came to include Carolyn Koch, Gregie Mathews, volunteers, and experts as we practiced the ways of stone, wood, reed, straw bale, and earth. Strawbale Studio became the work of many hands and a labor of love created with much time and perseverance. A small building is a good place to start!
Many people today are attracted to the world’s indigenous cultures, sensing these ancient ways touch the enigma of the soul which is so fundamentally lacking in mainstream society. Yet there might be a blind spot in this approach to ancestral spirituality, one that became apparent to me while living alongside indigenous elders for many years. Helping to unite this gap between worlds has since become my life’s work.
Recently in the United States, the recycling movement is under attack. The federal government is dismantling one major environmental policy after another, and new quality-based restrictions by Chinese scrap buyers have sent the value of many recyclables into a free fall. This is hurting all recyclers, but especially those in Michigan, where landfill overcapacity had already put recycling at a disadvantage.
One of the many reasons people enjoy living in Michigan is our four seasons: spring, summer, fall, and winter. The seasons can also be described as birth, growth, maturity, and death, or child, teen, adult, and elder. Four seasons gives a year rhythm, and yet we are better at some beats then others. Culturally, we praise awakening and increasing—spring and summer, childhood and teen—far more than we appreciate maturity and death, fall and winter, adulthood and elderhood.
ShuNahSii Rose is the creator of In Sacred Balance. Now in its 27th year, In Sacred Balance offers a model of a “sustained inter-generational feminist spiritual community” with deep Ann Arbor roots. The magic ShuNahSii creates is palpable and necessary, a healing balm for the soul of the world. I met her for coffee and to chat about her passion for restoring relations between humanity and other inhabitants of our world.
On a bitter cold and rainy day in late April, my husband and I were inspired to do our annual trek to HillTop Greenhouse and Farms to plot this year’s garden and bask in the warmth and stunning visuals contained within the expansive space.
An equinoctial night in 2016. It’s raining. The injured raptor birds, often used in educational programs, sleep in little wooden houses on the hillside. Community gardens and orchards await spring, leaves poised to unfurl and earth to be turned. It is the night of the salamander survey at Black Pond Woods.
It's 5 a.m. and there is a slight chill in the air. In the distance there is the faint sound of a helicopter. As it gets closer, with great frustration, I say out loud, "Really?!? Again?" As it gets even closer, I can hear the moaning and fidgeting of other sleepless souls. The helicopter hovers over the campsite for a moment and then lands, it sounds like, right outside our tent.
It was 2008, and the economy was crashing. I was scared about peak oil, climate change, and economic instability, and grasping for answers. A group of women in Ann Arbor were starting a new organization, and had heard about some of the community work I had done around sustainability. Through Transition Ann Arbor, I first hear the word “permaculture.”