A few weeks ago, some of the MOTHER EARTH NEWS staff members were discussing gingerbread houses and how much fun it would be to decorate one some time. Being editors who work for a magazine that features alternative building styles, we thought it might be even more fun to create the kind of eco-friendly and sustainable homes we write about.
Our plan was to do four houses – log cabin, strawbale, SIPS and timberframe. We spent weeks discussing the kinds of food products we could use on the houses, such as mini-wheats for strawbales, pretzel logs for logs, halves of black licorice as gutters, etc. Four of us ended up doing only two houses – they were much more time consuming than we had counted on. You can see the SIPS (structural insulated panels) house, as well as the photos for the log cabin that Alison Rogers and I created.
Alison started out making the log fence that would go around two sides of the house. It only required frosting and stick pretzels. It was the royal frosting that caused us the most trouble with this whole project. None of us had used it before and weren’t sure what consistency to aim for. Eventually we settled on something that looked right and just dove into the construction process.
I started on the walls of our strawbale house, using the royal frosting and frosted mini-wheats. While the fence was setting up, Ali began work on the adobe mud to cover the strawbales: She crunched up the mini-wheats, creating “straw” to add to the frosting “mud” for a very authentic look. In reality we had bowls of adobe in all stages of wetness and color trying for just the right look – it really was a mess to clean up!
We used pretzel logs for the cross timbers to set the graham-cracker roof on. It turned out that the royal frosting was really amazing — it held everything in place so well! Then we “shingled” the roof with cinnamon crunch squares and dusted it with powdered sugar snow. The excess frosting really looked like snow! In addition to the fence, Alison built a tree using Triscuits. In the finished scene the only non-edible element is the sheltie dog.
This was a great staff bonding experience, and we had a lot of fun. I think next year we may try for cordwood, log cabin and maybe earth-sheltered houses! Be sure to check back in 2010. Happy New Year!
Photos by Megan Phelps and Alison Rogers