On Friday, I drove down (over?) to Fredericton to see Lynda, who kindly offered her couch to me for the weekend. I was in New Brunswick for a much-anticipated Strawbale Construction Workshop. That night, she and I drove to Quispamsis that night for an opening information session which was free and open to the public. There were a lot of people there, and Kim Thompson, the instructor (who teaches a sustainable building course at Dalhousie) had a slide show and Q&A.
(This is very similar to what the house I helped build looked like - timber frame with load-bearing strawbale walls. I'll post pictures from the weekend when they are available.)
The next morning, participants in the workshop gathered at 7:30 for breakfast. Most of the participants camped on-site, but I was driving back and forth to Fredericton, so I didn't get to breakfast until around 8:15am on Saturday and Sunday. (The homeowners provided the workers with three meals a day, which were fantastic. Salads, turkey, quiche, meatballs, chili, muffins, cookies and trailmix abounded. I thought it would be all nuts and berries, gluten-free vegan twigs, but it wasn't. More on this later.)
I thought the workshop was going to be classroom stuff in the mornings and then going to a site to build a shed or a greenhouse or something, but no. Lynda and I rocked up to the site of a soon-to-be two-bedroom strawbale house. There was no classroom time. We dove right in. We would circle bales to sit on while Kim lectured for short times, and then the rest was all practical and hands-on.
Who was there? There was Kim, her three assistants and an apprentice assistant, the two homeowners, and ten participants. What's that... 17 people? Yeah. In two days, we had raised all the exterior walls. At the end of the second day, we learned how to make the first (and fourth) layer of plaster, which was a very soothing experience. On the third day, we learned how to make the second (and third) type of plaster, which was anything but soothing. It was very very labour intensive.
Almost everything about building the strawbale house was labour instensive, but it was so satisfying. The waste materials were a stack of loose straw and some scraps from the timber frame. (When you build with toxic materials, you get toxic waste.) It was a great community effort, where lots of different people came together and within a day knew how to build a strawbale house.
I thought everyone would be granola crunchy, and there was a certain amount of that element, but mostly, everyone was like me. Normal, environmentally-conscious people. No BO. Meat-eaters. Educated. I was afraid that I wouldn't fit in, but I was just like everyone else.
I'd love to talk in more detail about my weekend, and if you have any questions, feel free to ask. Allergies, pests, fire, insulative properties, so on and so on. I'll do my best to answer anything. I learned so much and can't wait to share.