This gallery contains 4 photos.

  In our last 2 weeks we were treated to lessons with cool finishing techniques and experimenting with colors! We were introduced to the art of tadelakt, which is an ancient method of applying finish plaster so that it becomes … Continue reading



Over the last week, we’ve continued to practice finish plasters. Last Thursday, we took a field trip to northern Vermont to visit the property of one of our instructors. On the way, we stopped at Thea Alvin’s homestead. She is a local, famous stonemason and has completed many projects around the country. On her property, she has created a space for artists and gardeners to live and work together in community. She even has gallery space in a 200-year-old barn for the artists to display their work. Besides her productive gardens, she also keeps chickens, goats, and bees. It’s a lively and beautiful space.DSC02843 DSC02841 DSC02833


We’ve been practicing plastering with both earth (clay) plasters and lime plasters. It’s been really interesting learning the chemical processes involved with lime and the properties of a lime plaster. It makes an excellent exterior coat because of it’s ability to resist moisture. On our instructor’s property, we applied finish lime coats to a straw-bale chicken shed built last year. And the following days, we applied lime plaster to the walls of one of the intern bedrooms here at Yestermorrow. He was so grateful to get something other than ugly drywall with weird colors on it. Drywall over plaster? Is that possible, you ask? As a matter of fact, it is! Anyone interested in some plaster finishes at their house?

we applied this tinted finish lime wash

we applied this tinted finish lime wash

If you’re interested in looking at some pictures of our plastering experiences, check out the facebook page for our instructors’ business. He’s been posting photos there: https://www.facebook.com/artesanotadelakt

We haven’t been able to apply any finish coats to our trusty “Cube,” because the base coat we applied over a week ago still isn’t dry. Have I mentioned yet it rains a lot here??

In one of my next posts I will describe learning the process of tadelakt plaster, an ancient Moroccan plastering method.

As I write this post, I’m sitting in the kitchen here at Yestermorrow where many of us gather each night. Many of these nights include spontaneous jam sessions by incredibly gifted musicians. Some of the many instruments I’ve heard include saxophone, upright bass, clarinet, guitar, maracas, bones (which I’m trying to learn), mandolin, banjo, and the occasional other random instrument. What a great community this place creates!


Vermont Spring


Spring is finally in full swing here in Vermont. And that includes a lot of rain! We seem to get about 2 days of sun in a row each week before having several days of overcast with scattered rain. But, all the rain makes the rivers full and powerful and the vegetation lush and bright green. My weekends are always full of so many local sights and experiencing local life. This past weekend I was shown the Sugarbush ski resort (which is quite DSC02814beautiful covered in green), an industrial design museum (complete with an antique car owned by Dan Akroyd), a local sweet shop that had the best gluten free banana/ chocolate muffin, and a beautifully powerful emerald- green waterfall surrounded by the most majestic rock outcroppings. To say the least, my weekends here are quite lovely.

This week we begin work on natural plasters. We spent some time finishing up the details of the Cube and preparing it to receive plaster. Our instructor for plasters flew in from Colorado to spend the next 2 weeks with us. He is apparently one of the leading natural plaster experts in the country! Besides just The Cube, we have several other projects lined up for us around the Yestermorrow campus for plastering. I’m pretty excited to start learning and practicing this new skill!DSC02826

Yestermorrow publishes a monthly e-newsletter that just came out this week. For this month, they decided to highlight me for their student profile section! I’m excited that they have taken an interest in my desire to bring back what I learn to my community, and to highlight my connections with Habitat for Humanity, the Greensboro Builders Association, and Peacehaven Farms. Take a look at the newsletter here:http://us1.campaign-archive2.com/?u=1b7dd4d573b6ac6e9c737a685&id=a62c090e8a&e=cd3bf9d3ac


Think Like Air

Mixing up a cob mixture

Mixing up a cob mixture

Last week we continued work on the outhouse structure with the wattle-and-daub walls by creating and applying the cob mixture. It’s amazing to see how this activity of stomping in the mud really needs a community to make it work. It can be a lot of work, but many hands (or many feet) make the job much easier and much more fun. We didn’t quite finish the walls, but we got a good bit done and got the experience of just how to use our hands in applying this clay/ sand mixture to the wattle walls. DSC02657This makes a great exfoliant for your hands, by the way (no need for spa visits!). Next week, we’ll finish up the daub installation and coat the walls with a natural plaster.




Our class began studying building science principles and how they apply to the house built with natural materials. I thought I was somewhat used to the idea of sealing air leaks since we are so conscious of it with Habitat. But, with our Habitat houses, we are able to seal air leaks around the house using mostly caulk. But, caulk doesn’t stick to straw bales!

As we began work on The Cube at the end of last week, we all quickly figured out just how tricky it can be to figure out where the air will penetrate and where to install what they call an “air fin” to block this air movement.

Air fins and lath strips

Air fins and lath strips

And this location is different depending on what type of insulation, or what installation method you are using.Before installing any strawbales, we spent a good day and a half working on prep by installing these air fins and the diamond lath needed for plastering.

We also started working on our individual practicum projects. Our instructors gave us each good feedback about our ideas and how to start going forward. Everybody has some really interesting ideas to work on, including some that will actually include building a physical structure (like a portable Cob wood-fired oven on a small trailer). I’m exicted as I start working on something that I fully expect to construct when I get back to North Carolina. Who wants to come help and get their hands dirty (and their feet)?!


End of a week

Lunch break

Lunch break

We finished off our first week of Natural Building testing our skills with technical drafting. They have created a structure here they call “The Cube” where different natural building techniques can be practiced on the 3 differently constructed walls (so, with three sides, we all realize it’s not actually a cube. But, with Natural Building, it’s all about going with the flow). Our assignment with drafting was to take one of the walls, and draw a detailed cross-section of the wall as if it were finished with your material of choice. The challenge here for me was the different types of flashing and air barriers used with strawbale insulation.

My first weekend in Vermont was amazing! The weather was the warmest they’ve had yet this year. So, everywhere I visited I was met by crowded streets of happy pedestrians enjoying their first warm days of spring. Saturday was the first farmer’s market in Burlington. I’m impressed by the size of their market considering the size of the city is only about 42,000. There were many options for prepared food, cheeses, eggs, plant starts, and root vegetables. I witnessed a wedding on Lake Champlain, smiled at the line of eager children and adults waiting for their maple syrup cremees, and was awed by the amazing Adirondacks that seem to encircle the water.

I was invited by the head chef here to visit her church on Sunday. And I followed that with a visit to Montpelier to meet up with a former Habitat Americorps who has been living here in Vermont working on various farms. Our beautiful weekend ended with a visit to the Mad River, across the street from our Yestermorrow campus, and learning a Swedish lawn game called Kubb. Despite a slow start, my team of two won best out of three. Since this game features tossing objects accurately, you can imagine (with my incredible skill of accurate throwing) how delighted I was.

The great weather continues as we started our second week of study. This week we’re working on a site about 45 minutes away learning wattle-and-daub and laying out a foundation. I hope the weather stays as great as it has been the last few days!


We are two days in to the natural building certification course. I’m starting to settle in to my new home here and become comfortable with everyone around me. There are 9 students in our class with one more expected next week from Utah, and we will have rotating instructors as we move through different topics. But there are also about 5 interns, 6 staff, and a few others on campus to keep us company. To begin our 6 weeks, we started with classroom time covering general building knowledge and different types of natural building as well as discussions about what natural building means to us and to the world around us.

Today we took some time to tour the area and see some of the past projects completed by previous classes. I’ve included some pictures from some of these projects. Tomorrow we will work on drafting and drawing skills, and hopefully next week we will begin to find out what our class project will be. I’m looking forward to getting my hands dirty!

The area around here is beautiful, but my body is a little confused about going through spring twice! The sun finally came out today and I think we’re all looking forward to when it starts to warm up. Especially those who are tent-camping for the entire 6 weeks. Glad that’s not me!



First Steps

stepsI was excited to welcome in the new year of 2014 just 5 months ago. I knew then that this year would be full of changes for me. One of the things I have learned in my 35 years is that if you ever want to see any of your dreams come to life, you have to take the chance to step out and pursue them. Rarely do our dreams come knocking at our door. It takes risk and a gamble, or maybe it’s just faith that God will guide you and be with you. Either way you look at it, the transition of dream to reality requires action.

So, I decided to take action. I had been thinking about studying permaculture and natural building for years. But I always hesitated to move toward doing it b/c I felt I didn’t have all the answers. I didn’t know how I would use what I learn, or even how I would work out all the details that allow me to take these classes. What would I do about work? About the financial requirements? About my house and cats? Despite not having the answers to these questions, however, I felt a tug to really think about pursuing my interests. So, with encouragement from my mom and some good friends, I decided to just do it. It felt great to finally make that decision. I knew that all I needed to do was just start walking and God would fill in the missing details. And so far, He has.

Many have asked me what my plans are for the all the knowledge I am gaining. A legitimate question for sure. And my answer is: I don’t know. I have a few thoughts and ideas, but really I have no idea what I may wind up doing with this knowledge in the future. Sometimes it can be all about the connections you make during the journey. But that’s part of the fun! When you go exploring in the woods, it’s fun b/c you don’t know where every path leads and what could be just past that tree, or just around that bend until you get there. Why would anyone ever explore if we already knew what was there? So, I am beginning this journey with the expectation of finding new and exciting things that I could have never planned for. And I am hoping that I remain open to anything God brings my way. Here I go….!