Next meeting:
May 14, 2006, at the Co-op

From: Sarah Machtey
Hi All,

The next Brattleboro Area Natural-building Group (BANG) meeting will be at 5pm on Sunday, May 14th (Mother's Day) in the community room at the co-op. Sorry about the short notice - I was investigating some interesting possibilities, none of which panned out for May.

Should we select a topic for the meeting? Please send me your vote if you are thinking of coming (even if - make that especially if - you are thinking of coming only if the topic is one you're particularly interested in). Here are five choices:

A) Surface Coatings - Suggested by Andrea, who's been wanting to get some first hand accounts of using milk paint, and offered to talk a little bit about her experience with Green penetrating masonry sealants on terrazzo. We might want to wait, since Jonah Vitale-Wolff is willing to come and talk about (and possibly do) alises (alis/aliz means clay paint) sometime in June of July, if schedules work out. On the other hand, if something hands-on happens it might not include time for discussing other surface coatings... it's a broad enough topic for more than one meeting. Jonah lives in Albany, NY. His website is:  There's a recent article about him at:

B) Intentional Communities, Land, Etc. - This is something I really want to discuss as soon as possible, but only if there are enough interested people there, which I doubt there will be with such short notice. Mark and I are considering making another offer on that large piece of land in town. Once it sells, we don't expect we'll have another chance like this, because there just aren't any other pieces of land anywhere near that big and that close to everything we need access to (unless you count the Austine School). But since it's too much for us to keep just for ourselves, I'd really like input from people who might be interested in sharing it with us.

C) Earth-Sheltered Homes - Though I, personally, want an earth-sheltered house, I don't have anything in mind to say about them at the moment, nor do I have my pictures of underground houses that I've visited out or organized. There's only one other BANG member that I know wants an underground house. But I had to mention it because I recently noticed on Malcolm Wells' website that May 14th, the very day of our next meeting, happens to be the day that he declared "Underground America Day" beginning in 1974! Malcolm Wells is the grandfather of the contemporary underground house movement. He's retired and does not normally attend natural building events, but Mark and I will finally get to meet him this August because he will be the special guest presenter at this year's "Building With Spirit" Natural Building Colloquium East. You can see his suggestions of ways to celebrate the holiday at:  Since we'll be at the co-op, it would be easy to follow his second and sixth suggestions simultaneously, eating radishes while thinking about moles. Mark and I could bring some books about underground houses if people don't think thinking about moles is exciting enough.

D) Other ___________________ (please specify).

E) No pre-planned topic - just wait and see what the people who show up feel like talking about.

Looking forward to seeing you there,

Here's a few photos from the recent bale-raising in New Hampshire, followed by a gaggle of announcements and opportunities.

From: Travis Miller
Subject: straw bale photos

Here are some photos from the weekend. I can see how people get addicted to straw. I had a great time.

Date: Tue, 25 Apr 2006
From: <mudhome [at] netzero [dot] net>
Subject: [BANG] Fwd: camp ghostwood. (labour exchange)

Forwarded post from cordwood list:
From: "danghostshrimp"

we are currently cutting, debarking, and stacking wood for a cordwood studio in southern new hampshire. we work tues, wed, thurs. if anybody is interested in helping out we could use it! email us at

From: Jonah Vitale-Wolff
Subject: upcoming natural building workshops
Hudson Valley Natural Building (HVNB) is offering a series of workshops over the coming months. For a full workshop listing, check out the website, and there will be more to come.

The two latest are on natural finishes:

Earthen Plasters for New Walls
June 24-25, 2006

Alis Painting, Fine Clay and Milk based Paints
July 15-16, 2006

The workshops are being offered independently of one another, but complement each other very well for those looking to gain a comprehensive perspective on natural finishes. If you are registering for both at once there is a 10% cost reduction.

Earthen Plaster for New Walls
Saturday, June 24 � Sunday, June 25, 2006
      Learn to make your building materials from scratch with inexpensive or even free materials. Stop depending on the fossil fuel driven building industry. Earthen plasters are practical for nearly all plastering or sheetrock applications, while being completely non-toxic and fun.
      This is a BEGINNER LEVEL hands-on workshop in a newly renovated brownstone in the historic Mansion Neighborhood of Albany, NY. We will plaster a brand new wall with locally harvested materials in place of hanging wallboard. When finished, the space will serve as the office for the Emmaus House. You will leave this workshop feeling confident about mixing your own earthen plasters with for a variety of projects and applications.

During this workshop you will:
  • Make plaster from scratch with locally harvested clay
  • Learn base and finish coat plasters
  • Use a variety of tools, from trowels to your hands
  • Space is limited to 7 people.
  • Pre-registration required ($25 non-refundable goes towards registration).
  • Cost for the workshop is $75-125 sliding scale. Includes lunch, tea, coffee, and snacks.
Alis Painting
Saturday, July 15 � Sunday, July 16, 2006
      HVNB is offering a workshop on fine clay and milk-based paints, known as alis (pronounced "a lease"), in the Mansion Neighborhood of Albany, NY.

This is a start to finish project where you will learn to:
  • prepare materials
  • mix alis from raw materials
  • apply the paint on a variety of surfaces
  • customize the mix meet the needs of your project
      We are yet to find surface that alis does not cover. Succesfull wall and ceiling applications include drywall, latex and oil paint, cinder blocks, and wall paper. I was actually just invovled in alising a room with fake wood pannelling. And it turned out beautifully!
      Alis paint is a beautiful traditional finish for adobe buildings, ranging from the southwest USA to north Africa that has lasted for centuries. Now, alis is far more than just a traditional wall covering. It is used on conventional and naturally built projects. Alis can be spiced up with the addition of natural pigments, different textures of sand, and mica to get a custom looking finish. In addition to being beautiful, alis is also completely non-toxic, incredibly cheap to make, and easy to do.
  • Space is limited to 7 people.
  • Pre-registration required ($25 non-refundable goes towards registration).
  • Cost for the workshop is $75-125 sliding scale. Includes lunch, tea, coffee, and snacks.
Hope to see you there.
Jonah Vitale-Wolff
Hudson Valley Natural Building
(518) 434-8010

Hudson Valley Natural Building
      Based in urban Albany, NY, Hudson Valley Natural Building (HVNB) is a community-based artisan company that focuses on the application of natural building in the urban setting, through custom renovation and landscaping, educational workshops, and community work. HVNB uses natural building practices and materials as a sustainable alternative to conventional methods.
      At HVNB we use local clay, sand, straw, recycled paper, salvaged wood, and other reclaimed construction materials to make our custom projects beautiful and sustainable. As a result, our projects are completely non-toxic, safe, and inclusive of anyone who wants to join in the fun.
      From earthen plasters to garden walls, all of the work of HVNB is customized to reflect the needs of each client, community and project.

Jonah Vitale-Wolff is an Albany-based natural builder and carpenter. He has recently been working with natural finishes in urban renovations. Hudson Valley Natural Building (HVNB) offers educational workshops as well as contracting. Projects include earthen plasters and paints for a variety of surfaces, cob, living roofs, and adobe.

From: "Sarah Machtey" <mudhome [at] netzero [dot] net>
Subject: [BANG] Fwd: Home Energy Conservation Workshop 5/6

Hi All,
There will be a "homeowners' energy conservation workshop" on May 6th from 10am - 3pm. Like some other things I have forwarded to the group recently, all the information I have is included in the forwarded message below. If you have any questions, please contact Paul Cameron at (802) 251-8135 or The Brattleboro Area Natural-building Group (BANG) is not involved in the organizing of this workshop, though I hope you agree that it is the kind of thing that falls within our mission. I am sometimes dismayed to find out that some people believe that BANG and/or "natural building" in general is only about building brand new structures from scratch. This was not what we intended when we founded the group (as we tried to make clear with the words "Retrofitting & Remodeling", "Salvaging & Scrounging, Recycling & Repurposing", etc. in the description). Of course, our overriding intention was for the group to be about whatever its members want it to be about. Any suggestions for future meetings would be most welcome!

Enough of my rambling,

April 13, 2006


Brattleboro Workshop Offers Help for Energy Costs

Are you looking for ways to beat rising energy bills? A Brattleboro workshop designed especially for homeowners will offer practical tips to reduce energy use and save you money. The workshop, entitled "Saving Energy and Money in Your Home", will feature Paul Scheckel of Efficiency Vermont, author of "The Home Energy Diet" (2005). Scheckel will discuss ways that homeowners can start cutting energy costs immediately, through measures such as heating system maintenance, energy conserving appliances, programmable thermostats, and efficient lighting.

Another featured speaker, Keith Abbott of Energy Images, Inc., is a professional home energy auditor and author of the weekly Energy Matters column. Keith will discuss the use of infra-red photography and sophisticated house depressurization to find big thermal energy leaks and assess the air quality of a home.

Earle Niles and Harold Schmidtke of Southeastern Vermont Community Action (SEVCA) will present information on SEVCA's home energy audit process, Best Energy Savings Technology (BEST), and low-income weatherization programs.

In addition to the above, ecological engineer Tad Montgomery will present an overview of state and national energy issues impacting our area, a discussion of local financing options for home energy improvements, and how to assess the cost effectiveness of any particular energy improvement.

Small group breakout sessions during lunch will allow participants to investigate particular topics of interest in more depth.

This Home Energy Conservation workshop is being organized by Brattleboro Climate Protection, and will be held on Saturday, May 6, from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., at the Vermont Agricultural Business Education Center on Old Guilford Rd. in Brattleboro. The cost is $25, which includes lunch (work scholarships are available, no one will be turned away).

The workshop is co-sponsored by Efficiency Vermont, SEVCA, Brattleboro Savings & Loan, Friends of the Sun, and Fleming Oil Co.

To register or for more information, contact Paul Cameron at (802) 251-8135 or email:

Paul Cameron
Brattleboro Climate Protection
230 Main Street, Suite 202
Brattleboro, VT 05301

At 03:24 PM 5/1/2006, Tad Montgomery wrote:
Subject: Volunteers Needed Sat. for Home Energy Workshop
...we are looking for a few folks to get in free to the home energy conservation workshop this Saturday in exchange for helping out with lunch, registration, clean-up, etc.

Interested people should call or email Paul Cameron of Brattleboro Climate Protection at:, 251-8135

It's shaping up to be a fantastic workshop, by the way!


Tad Montgomery & Associates
Ecological Engineering
Brattleboro, VT

From: "Sarah Machtey" <mudhome [at] netzero [dot] net>
Subject: [BANG] living roof on cob Sat - carpooling anyone? Fw: Spring Work Weekend

Hi All,

Saturday, May 6th (the same day as the Home Energy Conservation Workshop, unfortunately) the Center for Whole Communities up in Fayston, VT is having a work day that includes work on a living roof on a "very interesting" cob solar bathhouse. Ben Falk will be there and willing to answer questions about the building. His website is:

Please scroll down for two messages describing the event and the link to the Whole Communities website.

Since it's over a hundred miles from Brattleboro, carpooling is definitely in order for any BANG members interested in going. I will probably go if I'm offered a ride in something using a lot less gas per passenger than our truck (and be happy to pay for gas). Also, the organizers want to know how many people are coming so they know how much lunch to prepare. Please let me know if you plan to go, and whether you can offer or are looking for a ride.


"Cara Robechek" wrote:
I apologize for the oversight on the date. It is May 6th.

Ben Falk designed the roof and will be there that day. The work day will really just entail getting the soil onto the roof, though it is a very interesting cob building, and people will be welcome to ask questions about the construction (Ben was also one of the carpenters on the building).

Thanks for your interest.


From: "Cara Robechek"
Subject: Spring Work Weekend

Once again we are putting out the word to friends to come and join us for a day of shared labor on the land here at Knoll Farm. We ll be in the middle of lambing, and children are welcome. The main work of the day will be starting to put a living roof on our solar bathhouse. This will be grunt labor for the most part, so you can expect to work hard, but it will also be a great way to talk to the roof designer and learn about green roof technology. Please come if you can, even if only for a few hours! We expect to be working from 8-5 and will serve lunch. Please RSVP to this message if you are coming so that we will know how much lunch to prepare.

Center for Whole Communities
Knoll Farm
700 Bragg Hill Road
Fayston, VT 05673

From: "PeaceWeavers"
Subject: Natural Building Colloquium - Bath NY!

Don't miss this year's East Coast Natural Building event...

Building with Spirit 2006!
a regional Natural Building Colloquium

Wed. Aug. 2 - Sun. Aug. 6, 2006
Thunder Mountain Retreat Center, Bath NY

special guest presenter:
"godfather of underground architecture"

Building with Spirit is a hands-on event with an emphasis on natural building in the northeastern climate.

Join us as we gather with the foremost builders, designers and cutting edge presenters to explore new and traditional building systems through exciting workshops, demonstrations and seminars. Team up with others to get hands on experience on structures that were created during the 2004 & 2005 NBC-E. Yoga and Meditation are also included in this incredible community event.

Laura Bartels - Dan Chiras - Kiko Denzer - Sam Droege - David Eisenberg - Sigi Koko - Sarah Machtey - Chris Magwood - Darren Molnar-Port - Mark Piepkorn - Ed Raduazo - Rob & Jaki Roy - and more to come!

Get Hands on Experience with:
Plaster & Natural Finishes
Log Cabin Construction
Timber Framing
Megalithic Stone Raising

Workshops, Demos & Presentations:
Earth Sheltered Buildings
International Building Projects
Renewable Energy
Alternative Fuels
Building Codes
Straw Clay Infill
Building with Hemp
Passive Solar Design
Solar Energy
and more!

Registration*: 50% Deposit due at time of registration - Balance on July 15

Adults (18+):
by May 1 $320
by June 1 $340
by July 1 $375

College Students:
by May 1 $220
by June 1 $240
by July 1 $275

Youth (5-17 must be accompanied by an adult):
by May 1 $120
by June 1 $140
by July 1 $175

Visa/MC/Discover/AMEX accepted.

Deposit & Registration fees, less a $100 processing fee, may be refunded until July 15, 2006.
No refunds after this date.

*Registration includes: Participation in all workshops, seminars, presentations, all community activities and events associated with the Colloquium. Camping with basic facilities and vegan meals provided on site. (Hotels and motels available nearby.)

Contact the PeaceWeavers at 607-776-4060 or

Look for more information coming soon!

(Presenters, workshops & presentations are not final and subject to change.)

Here's a whole bunch of photos that BANGers Sarah and Mark took at the last couple of these Building With Spirit thingies.



Yestermorrow Design/Build School is offering three new courses taught by Robert Riversong, a long-time practitioner of super-efficient building techniques.

"The Sun-Tempered Super-Insulated Home" will be a hands-on week-long class held from June 4 through June 10, and will include both classroom presentation and discussion as well as on-site work building a super-insulated cottage.

This class will explore various super-insulation strategies � examining the pros and cons of each � but will focus on the one I have found to meet all the criteria for a sustainable and healthy building system. These criteria include: conventional construction, efficient use of forest resources and recycled material, minimal use of non-renewables, uninterrupted thermal blanket, breathable, fire/insect/rodent/mildew resistant, healthy indoor environment, and cost-effective. This system is the modified Larsen truss system using native lumber, cellulose insulation and passive solar design. A moderate-sized home can be heated with less than a cord of wood per year, with about half the heat load supplied by the sun. Such a house is uniformly comfortable and quiet in winter, naturally cool in summer, and well-ventilated without high-tech equipment.

This will be a hands-on class helping to build the thermal envelope of an off-grid cabin. In addition to the daily field work on the project, the class will explore the principles of heat loss and heat gain in building envelopes, the characteristics of insulation materials and insulation systems and their effects on the living environment. You will learn to perform a heat-loss analysis on a wall section and an entire house plan and calculate the solar and internal gains from passive strategies. We will consider the embodied energy of building materials as well as their contribution to future energy savings, health effects of materials and design, the importance of ventilation both inside and outside the thermal envelope, and the efficient use of forest products in building design and construction.

On the weekend of August 26-27, an abbreviated class-room only version will offer a broad orientation to "Energy and Resource Efficient Design and Building".

This class will introduce � with lecture, slides, and demonstrations � the principles of heat loss and heat gain in building envelopes, the characteristics of insulation materials and insulation systems, and explore a variety of energy-efficient design details and their effects on the living environment. You will learn to perform a heat-loss analysis on a wall section and an entire house plan and calculate the solar and internal gains from passive strategies. We will consider the embodied energy of building materials as well as their contribution to future energy savings, health effects of materials and design, the importance of ventilation both inside and outside the thermal envelope, and the efficient use of forest products in building design and construction.

And a one-day class, "The Zen of Building", held on June 3, will offer both old-time wisdom and new-age approaches to a happy and healthy worksite.

A house is only as good as its foundation, the old timers say, and a building project needs a foundation of safe and efficient practices in order to achieve that ineffable "Quality". Whether you're a novice or an experienced builder, you can benefit from tips, techniques, and methods for "working smart, not working hard". In many years of building with small crews, large volunteer groups, and alone, I have developed systems to optimize safety and to maximize efficiency of effort while maintaining a safe and pleasant worksite. You will learn ways of implementing the POS approach to building (planning, order, safety) and avoiding the NEG approach (neglect, entropy, gravity) so that you can do the most with the time and energy you bring to the building project and leave each day with all your body parts (and your sense of humor) intact.

Check out the Yestermorrow website: for more information or to register, or contact Robert Riversong at

From geodesic domes in the 1970s and a homestead project in rural Maine in 1981, Robert has worked as a project manager, trainer, and consultant for non-profit building programs from inner-city Boston to the hollers of Tennessee. Settling into a groove with passive solar and super-insulated buildings, and trying several different wall systems, Robert developed a native lumber, hybrid timber frame, modified Larsen Truss, healthy house system which can be heated for less than $200 per year. One of his design-build projects received a Citation for Excellence in a national energy-efficient design competition, and another included the first Massachusetts-approved indoor site-built composting toilet.

Robert has also worked as an outdoor experiential educator and wilderness guide, a ritual leader and rites-of-passage facilitator, and a spiritual midwife for people in transition.

From: "Sarah Machtey" <mudhome [at] netzero [dot] net>
Subject: [BANG] earthplaster RSVP needed ASAP [Fwd: Straw Bale weekend report]

Hi All,

If you are interested in doing/learning some earthplastering in a strawbale house about 15 minutes from Brattleboro on the weekend of May 27-28 (Memorial Day weekend) please let Helaine and me <mudhome [at] netzero [dot] net> both know as soon as possible.


At 07:59 PM 4/24/2006, "Helaine Iris" wrote:
Dear Straw Bale Experts!

It's with full hearts of gratitude that we greet you this evening. We wish to thank every one of you for an AMAZINGLY successful and wonderful straw bale weekend. It was a joy to meet you all and learn about the straw bale process and witness the special group of people that were building our home.

The whole weekend was such a tremendous success. Despite the rain, we were able to pull together as a community and make magic. There were so many generous contributions from all of you. Even to the bitter end - 7pm on Sunday, some of you were tirelessly fixing the tarps to the exterior to protect the straw. We also want to thank all those who brought food, supplies and smiles.

It's so exciting to watch it all come together and imagine living in this wonderful house. I'll forever see you in my living room, kitchen, hallway hoisting and shaping bales...You're all part of it - of us.

We'd like to invite anyone who needs reimbursement for supplies they purchased over the weekend to please contact us. Plastic, tarps, baling twine, food for lunch...

Finally, because many of you expressed interest in an earth plaster workshop (interior walls), we are considering doing this for the weekend of May 27-28 (Memorial Day weekend). We need to know if there is enough interest and commitment to that weekend in order to hire Sigi. Please email me back as soon as possible if you want to participate.

Thank you, Thank you, Thank you.

With much love and gratitude,

Helaine and Jeremy

At 02:50 PM 4/25/2006, Marc Bobrow wrote:

I already heard back from Helaine-- she is getting feedback from people that Memorial Day weekend is a tough time to schedule something, so she's thinking about other dates.


Marc Bobrow

photos by Mark Piepkorn
and Sarah Machtey