Green Homes

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5/14/2015

roofing

Green building isn’t a trend; it’s here to stay. Now, more than ever, homeowners are looking for ways to make their homes – and how they live inside them – greener. What started as simple recycling has grown into energy efficient appliances, new building techniques and materials that once would have seemed like props for science fiction movies.

When considering how to make your home greener, while also saving money and the environment, you may have missed out on one potential area of improvement: your roof.

Keep reading to learn more about why roofs are an excellent option for going green, questions to ask contractors and options for lessening the environmental impact of your home.

Why Start with the Roof?

Think about it. Roofs are the largest unused space of your home. While they serve an important function – protecting your home and its contents – they’re typically not areas that many people focus on for aesthetics or functionality. They’re largely just “there.” This makes them a blank canvas, a great starting point for improving your home’s green factor.

Green roofs, like those mentioned below, can help insulate your home, protecting against heat and cold in a way that standard shingles can’t. Additionally, over the lifetime of the roof, it can save the average homeowner about $200,000. Some options even give back to the environment and species living within it.

Questions to Ask Potential Contractors

Because going from a standard roof to a greener option is a large undertaking, you’ll likely work with a contractor to accomplish it. Here are a few questions to ask to get started:

• How experienced are you in installing green roofs?
• Do you have photos of completed projects, and may I contact those homeowners?
• How long will this project take from start to completion?
• How should I prepare for how it will impact my daily routine?
• Do I need to pull any permits?
• What – if any – industrial machinery will be used, and how long will it stay on my property?
• How firm is the estimate – or quote – for my project?

Being prepared is the best way to ensure you’re satisfied with your final product.

Green Roof Variations

A “green roof” can mean different things to different people. Sometimes green roofs are actually green; otherwise, they just have a lower environmental impact than traditional roofing options.

Green Roofing Materials

If you prefer the look and feel of standard shingles, or, are limited by local zoning or HOA community guidelines, you may be limited as far as making your roof green. This doesn’t mean you don’t have options. Ways to decrease your home’s environmental footprint include:

Recycled rubber roofing shingles. These are made of recycled materials, offer similar lifetimes as asphalt shingles and are more cost effective.
Thermal shingles. These reduce the sun’s heating impact on homes to save on cooling costs during the summer.
Steel shingles. Steel is one of the most recycled products in the world, and it holds up well under the elements, making it a reasonable alternative material.

Solar Paneled Roofing

Solar paneling has grown in popularity over the past few years. Chances are, you’ve seen a few solar roofs during your daily travels. Designs have changed to make solar paneling sleeker in appearance.

The benefits of solar paneled – or photovoltaic – roofing include:

Financial savings. Energy costs change on a daily basis. Because solar paneling derives energy from the sun, its cost doesn’t change.
Saving the Earth. The sun is a renewable resource – oil and other forms of heat are not. This means that by using the sun’s energy to heat your home and to run other processes, you’re saving non-renewable resources. Because solar roofing can utilize battery units, there’s a back up in place should the power go out.

Living Green Roofs

Some people prefer – and are able – to go all the way, creating green roofs that are actually green – filled with plants, foliage and gardens of all types.

While flat roofs are best for this type of endeavor, and the look is less than traditional, the environmental impact could be massive if the trend catches on. By turning roofs into actual gardens, living species can find new homes and food sources, essential elements – like oxygen – are released back into the atmosphere and homes can be just as insulated as they are with standard shingles.

The cost of installing green roofs along with maintenance may be more than standard roofing, but the benefits to the environment, along with the fun of having a green roof, may be worth it in the long run.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.



5/12/2015

earth shelter with sun tunnels

I remember the first email that I received from the homeowner; it had the word ‘earth shelter’ in it. At that point in my career, I had lead my company in building a number of LEED for Homes Platinum homes and other extremely energy efficient homes, but I had never heard of the term earth shelter and we had built all of our houses above ground.

I was intrigued once I started to search the Internet for information on earth shelters, apparently I had worked on earth shelters before, but not fully underground structures like what this homeowner wanted to build. My reputation was for taking on projects that other builders would not be comfortable taking and I had been burned on a few projects along the way, which ended up costing us a lot of time and money. I started to think about how taking on a project that I knew nothing about could be the straw that broke the camel’s back, so I turned the earth shelter project down…five times.

After I turned the project down three of the five times, the homeowner sent me a package of information that included a full set of plans for her project. She said it was a large project and when I looked over the thick roll of building plans, I could see that the project was going to be a challenge like none I had ever taken on before. I turned the project down two more times until one night I woke up and started thinking about how great it would be to learn how to build underground.

All of our conversations were by email at that point in the process. Anyone that knows me or works with me knows that we do most of our communicating by email because it is more efficient that way then trying to talk on the telephone. You can imagine the homeowner’s delight when I called her the morning after my sleepless night to tell her that I wanted to build her project, the largest underground and off-the-grid farm on the planet.

moo

Inside of the 72-foot-long underground barn with the resident milking cow.

I am historically the kind of person who goes ‘all in’ on an idea and/or project and this earth shelter project was no different. I had to slow myself down and really try to get a grasp of what I had gotten myself into. The big project had five underground domes with connector tunnels and multiple entrances; it would be like building a small city. As part of my accepting to build this challenging project, I had asked to see a project under construction so that I could understand how the domed building system worked. A few days later, I was told to pack a carry-on bag and that we were heading to Washington State, which just happened to by one of my favorite states!

washington state

Me on site of a domed earth-shelter project in Washington State

There was an earth shelter project that was under construction in Washington State and we had the opportunity to visit the job site and to see how all of the components of the domed earth shelter system were joined together. I was amazed when I first saw the domes with the burlap and rebar tied together. I instantly became very excited and could not wait to start the project in Michigan.

While on site in Washington State, I was able to talk in length with the builder of that project. He was great to talk to and told us all the things that we should avoid doing, which is information that I would rather have then an overload of information on everything that is great about a system. The biggest issue with underground homes, from what I researched, was water leaks in the structure after the domes are buried. I took notes on what that builder told me about his measures to water proof the Washington State domes and added those notes to my thick binder of notes that I had taken while researching earth shelter structures in general.

After a few days of meeting with the homeowner in Washington State, who remains a friend to my family to this day, our project team headed back to Michigan to continue the planning stage of this massive underground project that we were about to build.

excavated

The Michigan site was excavated and prepped for the concrete work months before the earth-shelter kit arrived.

A few months passed between the time that we went out to Washington State and when the earth shelter ‘dome kit’ arrived on site. During that time, we finished the above ground projects that we had been building and I informed all of our other homeowners that I was going to take a two year sabbatical from building above ground homes so that I could focus on leading the building team on this underground project in Northern Michigan. All of those jobs, fourteen in all, went to other builders, which helped to ‘spread the wealth’ during an extremely slow time in the building industry in Michigan. I had basically given up everything that I had worked hard for the past 10 years so that I could go ‘all in’ on this earth shelter project.

Can you imagine the surprise as a few months passed and our work started to ‘dry up’? I kept emailing and calling the homeowner trying to get an exact date when we could start her project and the only response is that she would call the earth shelter company and try to get them to tell us an exact delivery date of the dome earth shelter system. As Thanksgiving was approaching, I started to wonder if I had just sunk my own ship because we only had a few weeks of work left and there was nothing in our books to build because I had told all of our customers that I was not able to build their houses. I remember finally committing to going to a Thanksgiving dinner at my mom’s house and as I was packing my bag the Wednesday night before Thanksgiving to drive to my mom’s house, my phone rang and it was the homeowner of the earth shelter project. “Are you ready?” she said, “The semi-truck is parked out in the road ready to unload.”

frame

A look ahead at the next part of the series, this framework will become the largest underground and off-the-grid farm on the planet.

Stay tuned for the next part of this multi-part story. You can follow along with the online videos of this project located in the Earth Shelter Project Michigan Album.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page. 



5/11/2015

The poetry of the land is built on words that describe what we see and feel outside, in the matrix of our origins.

The editors of dictionaries are, according to the article below, voting to put the words up for extinction -- perhaps so that we lose the names of the things we love prior to losing the things themselves? Clearly, this is symptomatic of our times and challenges, but still, the article makes the case for cultivating our ability to speak beautifully, in gratitude for the gifts of life:

"A basic literacy of landscape is falling away up and down the ages. And what is lost along with this literacy is something precious: a kind of word magic, the power that certain terms possess to enchant our relations with nature and place. As the writer Henry Porter observed, the Oxford University Press deletions [from their "junior dictionary"] removed the “euphonious vocabulary of the natural world—words which do not simply label an object or action but in some mysterious and beautiful way become part of it.”

Consider ammil, a Devon term meaning “the sparkle of morning sunlight through hoar-frost,” a beautifully exact word for a fugitive phenomenon I have several times seen but never before been able to name. Shetlandic has a word, pirr, meaning “a light breath of wind, such as will make a cat’s paw on the water”; and another, klett, for “a low-lying earth-fast rock on the seashore.” On Exmoor, zwer is the onomatopoeic term for the sound made by a covey of partridges taking flight. Smeuse is a Sussex dialect noun for “the gap in the base of a hedge made by the regular passage of a small animal”; now that I know the word smeuse, I will notice these signs of creaturely movement more often."

Read more here. (Those interested in birds please note there are some wonderful bird references included...)

Blessings...

— Kiko



5/5/2015

Now that the warmer months are on their way, your outdoor space is about to be the center of attention. Entertaining family and friends on your patio is one of the season's greatest pleasures, and your eco-friendly lifestyle should be reflected in your outdoor spaces. Whether you're trying to find ways to update your outdated furniture or you're just looking to add color and texture, here are a few ways to stay Earth-friendly while giving your patio a makeover.

Outdoor 1

Embrace natural fibers in vibrant shades.

One of the easiest and most versatile ways to bring color to your outdoor garden furniture is by swapping out old cushions for new ones. Skip the synthetic fabrics and reach for organic cotton and durable hemp; both are naturally grown without the use of harsh chemicals and dyes. You can also find cushions that are filled with organically grown soy, corn, or cotton for a natural alternative to synthetic fiber-filled cushions. Try to keep your cushions out of the harsh sun and rainy weather to extend their life and to prevent colors from fading. Many outdoor furniture manufacturers offer eco-friendly cushions with natural dyes made from fruit and vegetable extracts to bring vibrant colors to your space.

Outdoor 2

Keep it clean.

Once you've added color to your outdoor spaces with accessories, don't forget to clean them regularly. There are many natural cleaning products on the market, but you can also use ingredients found in your home. For a simple solution, use one gallon of water with a quarter cup of mild dish detergent and a half cup of distilled white vinegar in a pail. With a bristle brush, scrub the surface of your cushions and then hose off dirt and grime and let air dry. This nontoxic technique can also be used on your patio furniture.

Outdoor 3

Bring color and texture to your patio with area rugs.

Is there anything more relaxing than kicking your shoes off and enjoying fresh fibers underfoot while enjoying nature? Choosing outdoor rugs made with natural fibers will ensure they stay mold- and mildew-resistant as well as looking fresh for seasons to come. Similar to garden furniture cushions, natural outdoor rugs will last longer if kept out of direct sun and under covered porch areas. If your porch is uncovered, consider storing the rug inside a garage or covered area when not entertaining. When deciding on materials, try jute, seagrass and bamboo if you'd like rich textural materials. For a softer material underfoot, look for all-weather yarns derived from cotton, corn, soy, and natural grasses.

Homeowners who enjoy the look of grass but want to skip the upkeep can look to recycled plastic outdoor rugs that are good for high-traffic patios or in decorative areas where greenery is desired. You can also find outdoor rugs made from recycled rubber, plastic, and even wood chips!

This spring, take advantage of the warmer air and the gorgeous blooms outside on your patio with these eco-friendly tips. Even if you decide to just spend the day relaxing in the spring sun by yourself, you can feel good about being kind to the Earth — and your backyard.

Photos by Getty Images

Ronique Gibson is a LEED AP certified architect and home design expert who writes on sustainability topics for Shutterfly.com, including eco-friendly treatment of outdoor pillows and cushions such as the ones found here.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page



5/5/2015

old boards

From a very young age, I was exposed to restoring old houses and taught how to make the old materials and designs live on through expression. The modern term for using old materials to build something new is repurposing. Although my reputation is in building ultra energy efficient homes above and below ground, not much press is ever given to me about one of my true passions, repurposing old growth woods.

My family lives in an old farm house, which is exactly opposite of what most people guess at where I live. Aside from the love hate relationship that goes with living in a 100+ year old house, I value that the old farm house that we live in has a rich history, incredible ‘flavor’, and old materials that we removed to bring to life some other day. Green building to me is more than just energy efficiency or low v.o.c. paint; it is also repurposing old materials as much as possible.

Recent Project

Before we started living in the old farm house, we went through the house and basically remodeled everything, all while saving as many old growth studs and boards as possible for use at a later date. We had to remodel the house, as the previous owner let the house get run down and over run by cats. Even though we remodeled most of the house, there were areas that still needed to be completed. The old formal foyer of the farm house needed a safe railing built along the stairway opening that we created by removing a portion of the existing wall.

 old foyer

new foyer

Like most builder’s houses, we have areas of the house that we live in that need to be finished. Thankfully, those areas are becoming fewer as I have been ‘picking away’ at our completion list. I had been eyeing that stairway for several months knowing exactly what I wanted to build there, just never having the time. Finally, I made time and got ready to set my plan of into motion of finishing that stairway.

I knew right where the boards were in the barn because I placed them there myself. The boards were removed from a room in the farm and were ship lapped old growth oak with paint on them. Most of those boards were used to make a floor in our new office, but I had also envisioned that I could build a mission style hand rail system using that old growth oak and that the finished product would not only compliment the room, but look like it had always been there. Some people (not Mother Earth News Readers) would say, ‘Why not just go to the store and buy spindles and railing parts?’ It’s a good point, I will give them that, but they didn’t understand that I didn’t want to build a clichéd farm railing; I wanted to create an expression using wood that was older than the house. I think people move too quickly in building these days and that most houses look generic or cookie cutter because of that. The true craftsmen of our industry existed many decades ago and are few and far between in our ‘time is money’ society.

The Process

Even though we pulled out all of the nails that were in the old oak boards as we removed them from the wall, I still inspected each board before I ran them through the planer to be sure that there were no nails in them that could destroy the blades on the planer. I ran the boards through the planer to remove the paint finish and to get all of the boards to a uniformed size. I wore a good dust mask because of any paint dust or old growth wood dust that would be generated by running the old boards through the planer.

planer

Once I was satisfied with the board thicknesses and the restored grain, I got ready to run the boards through the table saw to create the board widths that I needed for the spindles, handrail and newel posts. An important thing to remember when working with repurposed woods is that each board is going to be a little different in size and you will drive yourself mad if you try to make every board exactly the same size. You will have to tune into what you are doing, and go with your gut; you can’t screw up things too bad because the art is in the imperfections!

raw spindles

Once the boards are cut to size, they are glued, clamped, and set aside to dry. The spindles, as I call them, took time to sand and stain. I made extra spindles so that I could hand pick the spindles with the appropriate grain. I never cared much for oak boards because I think the big fat oak grain is just too ‘oaky’. I do, however, love the side grain and quarter sawn look of oak and that is what I searched for and found!

stained spindles

I went to Menards to get the stair railing parts that I could not create, including anchors to make sure the railing and newel posts would not fall down after a year. Once I had all of my parts inside of the house, I set out to assemble the parts into what my translation of 100-year-old mission style would look like. Piece by piece I assembled the repurposed old growth oak and got more excited with each piece that I installed. The labor of love was almost complete!

almost

Once everything was installed, I finished staining each component and left the stain on the wood without wiping the stain off. I did this because this technique makes the stain darker and richer looking, especially on oak. Once the stain dried, I put multiple coats of polyurethane on the wood (using steel wool between coats) to protect the wood forever.

chair

The stairway railing is now complete and when we placed my wife’s great, great Grandmother’s heirloom rocking chair next to the stairway, the two together looked like old friends reminiscing of the past and dreaming of the future!


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.  



4/24/2015

Off-Grid and Underground 

Most of our lives my wife and I worked to make money to pay the bills to keep us comfortable while we worked to make money — you get the picture! As we became empty nesters, with both our sons starting their own families, we decided to see if we could simplify our lives and retain comfort while requiring less money to maintain that lifestyle and fewer resources to sustain it. At the time, we were living in an urban environment and realized that to really simplify our lives, we would need to find a more rural situation.

We found a 10-acre piece of raw land in 2000 and started out by camping on weekends to begin to get a feel for the land and what was available around it. The next year, we built a small cabin that we could leave our camping stuff in — a 10-by-12-foot structure that didn’t require a permit. Up to that point, we had been hauling water by barrels to mix concrete for the small foundation.

As we got closer to selling our urban house, we took out an equity line of credit so we could begin to put some basic infrastructure in for when we decided to make our move. Our first consideration was to get a well in place. By the summer of 2002 we were ready to put an ag-barn in place, which only required a $60 permit. We even had a barn-raising campout week and invited some friends out to camp and help us with the basic framing of the barn. It was actually a lot of fun, even though the temperature that entire week was higher than 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

Home Underground 

By September of 2002, we had our barn closed in so we could store our household possessions when we sold our house in the city. We bought a fifth-wheel trailer to live in until we were able to build a home, and finally moved onto our country homestead in September of 2002.

We got electricity from a generator, and when we inquired with the power company about getting electricity out to the homestead, we were told it would be at least $20,000. We decided to take that money and put it into a solar system, which has evolved into a very reliable system with panels, batteries and back-up generator. Our well is even solar-powered now, though we didn’t have that at first.

We initially put in a small septic system for our trailer, but the next spring, we got a county permit and put in the largest system they allowed for single-family plots with the anticipation that we would expand our accommodations as time went on. We also built a freestanding kitchen, bathroom, and laundry building so we could get rid of the trailer and live in part of the barn.

We spent a lot of time and money developing the soils on our homestead so we could plant an orchard and large garden.

We have been interested in non-conventional building techniques for some time, and have explored many different options through the years. In the summer of 2007, we began a journey that would lead us to one of the most unconventional homes we have ever experienced. We were already living off-grid and were searching for ways of keeping our carbon footprint way below the national average. We were not completely altruistic in this quest, either, because we were also guided by the practical considerations of keeping our energy and operating costs as low as possible.

Having seen a few homes built by tunneling into the mountainsides of Napa and Sonoma valleys in California, as well as wine storage caves, we were very impressed by the constant temperature qualities of underground homes, but not so impressed with the costs of the same. So we began to research how we could build underground with as limited as possible cash outlay.

While reading a book called Dare to Prepare by Holly Deyo, we noted some plans for a makeshift bomb shelter constructed from a cargo container. There weren’t a lot of details, but the idea stuck with us and plans began to develop in our minds and then onto paper. Over the course of the following year, those plans grew into the reality of our home, built of two 40-foot-long cargo containers inserted into the southern slope of our property in Northern California.

Why would anyone in their right mind want to chuck conventional wisdom and building techniques in order to build a home out of recycled shipping containers? After all, only Hobbits live underground and they have big feet – right?

Actually, the reasons for using cargo containers to construct an underground home are not as strange as it might seem on passing glance. The cost of construction is one reason that makes them attractive. Our two-container dwelling, or 640 square feet of floor space, cost right at $30,000 fully finished. That is less than $50 per square foot, which is less than half of the conventional costs for construction at the time of this writing. A livable space could be done for even less and a lot could be saved using recycled materials.

We now have a wonderfully comfortable home that is solar-powered and uses very little energy, as well as land on which to grow our own food. We don’t need a lot of money to keep our homestead up and running. We don’t have city water or electric payments, and our taxes are quite low because we are rated agriculture. We have lots of room between ourselves and our neighbors, and we can see amazing star displays at night. We wouldn’t trade it for anything.

It takes a different way of looking at things, but it’s definitely worth a try!

We didn’t realize at first how much interest there would be in this unusual home. We were just very happy with how well the concept worked. With 100-plus degree temperatures outside, the inside of our home never rose above 82 degrees. If we were better about closing off the solar tubes and had heavy insulated curtains for the front windows and doors, it would be even more remarkable.  During the 20-degree nights of mid-winter, the inside temperature doesn’t go below 62 degrees, even without supplemental heat, and it is easy to bring that temperature up with a small RV catalytic heater. This means we have no air conditioning costs and very little heating costs throughout the year. Even though there is a substantial savings of cost per square foot in building with this technique, the real cost savings are ongoing through this energy savings on a monthly basis, and it will get even more notable as energy costs continue to rise.

As we shared the idea with friends and people would visit us and remark on the unique qualities of our home, we began to understand that maybe we had ahold of a concept that needed to be shared. Finally at the prompting of our older son, we decided to write a book and share the process we engaged in building this unique home. Our book is called Off Grid and Underground, and in it we go into detail about the decisions we made and what we would do differently.

Stone Home Underground 

We hope you will be stimulated by this presentation and should you decide to go ahead with constructing your own masterpiece, we would be glad to try and answer any questions you might have. You can find my contact information on my blog, Offgrid and Underground. Enjoy the journey.



4/23/2015

Timber Frame 

Squinting against the bright September sky, project foreman Rick Collins surveyed the scene before him. Something extraordinary was about to happen in a small town in Michigan — a gathering of people from around the world to construct a timber frame pavilion. “I would go so far as to say that it’s probably been well over 100 years since anyone has built a structure this way,” Collins declared.

The 120-by-46-by-24-foot post-and-beam construction would take 70 timber framers and 29,000 board feet to build — plus about 3,500 recyclable paper plates. More specifically: carpenters and apprentices from 20 U.S. states, Canada, France, England and Poland; white ash, oak, black locust, poplar, and cherry donated from local landowners; and paper plates full of homemade food prepared by 330 members of the local community. All that after two years of dreaming, planning, and the fundraising necessary for the vision to be realized: a pavilion where the farmers market, summer festivals, and special events of Vicksburg, Mich., would have their home for the next few centuries.

Timber Framer 

The pace of progress over ten early fall days required vast quantities of leadership, skill, efficiency and people. According to Collins, who owns Trillium Dell Timberworks out of Knoxville, Ill., “You need about 5,000 man hours to do a project like this. Based on the crew we’ve pulled together, that means every person has to be productive for ten hours a day on this site.” Incredibly, that’s just what happened. “It’s not all been perfect, but I guess we don’t want to anger the gods,” said Kristina Powers Aubry, a host from the Vicksburg Historical Society. Co-host Bob Smith added good-naturedly, “Well, I’m more worried about angering the guys with the power tools.”

Made of Sturdy Stuff

This kind of work isn’t for the faint of heart. Every gritty, safety-goggled worker bent over a tool was putting his or her whole heart and soul into the endeavor. Richard Barnes, who owns a sawmill south of town, turned the logs to timbers, and then he joined dozens of volunteers from the Timber Framers Guild (TFG) and local community who put in long days on the construction. For many, it was their first timber framing experience. Some were getting a good dose of on-the-job training from TFG instructors. Others were the kind of woodworkers who just might be using some of their grandfather’s tools as well as an iPhone FingerCAD app. It’s that reverence for old world ways combined with new age technology that is the hallmark of timber framing today.

Cutting Timber 

Spence says, “Timber framing is about rediscovering this age-old wisdom of constructing things with the raw material of wood alone; to bring the language of the past into the codes of the present. It used to be, ‘OK, I’ve got a snow load on this beam, how much will it take before it’ll break?’ Today, we take the tree species, measure the wind volume, do a drawing in 3-D to apply stresses on a building, and then look at all the variables. The computer analysis figures it out. We can push the envelope of what’s possible.”

Free Room and Board

Community Building 

With so many workers coming from faraway places, the question of room and board had to be answered. A tent city was put up beside the community garden next to the worksite for anyone preferring a camping experience. Others were welcomed into homes around town. The Nazarene Church was available for showers. It was one of many churches that provided hot meals. So did organizations like the local garden club. Member Martha Stanley dubbed her peanut butter oatmeal chocolate chippers Lumberjack Cookies in honor of occasion. As the workers came through the line in the dining tent, she’d ask each one where they were from and visit with them. “They were so friendly and thankful for the food. That made me feel full,” Martha said.

Members of the community and local businesses volunteered countless hours to ensure that three squares a day were ready for the crew. The Rise-N-Dine, Subway, Main Street Grill, Apple Knockers Ice Cream Parlor, Erbelli’s, and Jaspare’s Pizza all donated meals, complementing the homemade fare from local churches, groups, clubs, even designated neighborhoods. Karen Hammond of the Vicksburg Historical Society managed the herculean task of coordinating meal donations and the business end of things in the dining tent. Not a day went by that someone who hadn’t even signed up for food duty would drop by with something to keep the snack table stocked. Hammond says she loved every minute of it.

 “The feeling you get from working together to pull something like this off is incredible. We could have just had it catered, or left cold cuts and bread on a table for sandwiches, but we wanted to put the extra effort in to show how much this means to us as a community,” she reflected. “The whole experience was something that might have been typical in my grandparent’s time, but for us it was really something exceptional. We made new friends, and got closer to the ones we already had.”

Beam Construction 

Connecting the Past and the Present

Before dawn, the smells of a morning campfire and freshly sawn wood from the cut-post tent hang in the air. There’s something time-capsuling about the scent—how it would have been the same for workers 500 years ago. It’s an olfactory trigger to timber framing’s visceral connection of the past and present. “You look at an old woodcut from the Renaissance period showing all the work stations and processes involved in putting up a cathedral maybe 900 years ago — every aspect of the trade; we’ve got that same thing happening here today,” Collins says. “Everything is happening right here. You could call me a ‘locavore.’ I like seeing local people and resources doing local construction. That’s sustainability. It’s the closest connection we have to our past. We lost that through industrialization — we need to regain it.”

When the TFG does projects like the Vicksburg Pavilion, it proves that people can harvest their own wood, use local labor, and make something that the whole community can be a part of, Collins says.

Sue Moore, the local Vicksburg maven who worked behind the scenes on every aspect of this project’s development and execution, agrees that it “brought the community together in a shared experience that emphasized giving toward a greater cause without hesitation, and the pride in having achieved something lasting.”

Carrying Wood 

Joinery

The real “joinery” of the Vicksburg Pavilion is about the community coming together. It’s a community that includes people who might have come from somewhere else in the world. Kristina Powers Aubry put it this way, “We’ve met artists, poets, philosophers, kings, white collars, blue collars, and no collars from all over the world here in our little corner of it.”

Alicia Spence, project manager of the TFG, agrees. It’s not just the wood work, but what happens when all those woodworkers meet in the dining tent at the end of the day. They’re all there to share the workload as well as the blueberry pie. “I would say the community service element is really what makes this a matter of the heart. There’s a lot of ways to build something. You could put a pole building up — it’s faster and cheaper. But with a project like this, there’s an old-fashioned barn-raising feel to it,” Spence says. “It joins us together in a way that’s so absent in American culture. It really brings out the best in people. We’re not just building buildings — we’re building community.”

Stacked Timber 









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