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!
When my business partners and I bought the property that Stone Coop Farm lives on in November of 2011, I knew we had to save it as farmland for future generations. Our farm is on 30 acres, but it is zoned residential. 1000 new homes in four new subdivisions are being built on both sides of us. I can hear the excavation equipment every day. A wastewater treatment plant is being built and the high-pressure sewer line will be connecting these subdivisions along our property line. Developers are approaching us to sell the farm, so that more homes can be built. The value of our land is increasing as residential lots, not as farmland. I know my mission is to save the farm, but that often feels like an insurmountable task, given what’s going on around me.
I love seeing the flash of dark color against white snow when the chickadees come to eat at my birdfeeder. Chickadees are one of a handful of birds that stay in Michigan when the snow comes calling and their songs are sure to lift your spirits when the day is gray. This little chickadee pin looks deceitfully hard to make, but is really rather simple. It will make a great gift for a friend who needs a bit of a mid-winter cheer.
As the warm breezes shift to cool caresses on our cheeks and we pull out the warm handmade quilts from grandma and sweaters from mom, many of us turn our thoughts to gift giving. The Julbok is a pre-Christian Swedish tradition that lives on today. Some say he pulled the Tomten’s cart full of presents during the winter solstice. Some say he was the one giving out the presents. Still others claim
that he is a prankster that makes sure whomever is receiving the present is worthy of it! Traditionally, the Julbok was made of the last harvest of straw and thought to be good luck. However you celebrate as we move into winter, this sweet little Julbok is sure to be a great addition to your seasonal decorations, a Yule tree, or even as a gift topper.