The Rustic Home

The Rustic Home by Ralph Kylloe

The Rustic Home by Ralph Kylloe

“The Rustic Home explores the mythical and romantic West through the architecture and artistry of its residents. It reveals how the romance, lore, passion, and history of rugged old cabins, settler shelters, and mountain shacks have influenced and shaped modern Western architecture.
Ralph Kylloe is the foremost authority on rustic furniture and owner of the Ralph Kylloe Gallery at Lake George, in New York’s Adirondack Mountains. He is the author of fourteen previous books, including Adirondack Home, Hickory Furniture, Cabins and Camps, Rustic Artistry for the Home, The Rustic Cabin, Rustic Traditions, Rustic Furniture Makers, and Fly Fishing the Great Western Rivers. Explore the mythic West through its elegant and rustic architecture and décor.”

Gibbs Smith publishers

The Rustic Home is a post from: Natural Building Blog

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Stilt Houses

Stilt houses reduce risk of flooding and also capture cooling breezes

Stilt houses reduce risk of flooding and also capture cooling breezes

“Stilt houses or pile dwellings are houses raised on piles over the surface of the soil or a body of water. Stilt houses are built primarily as a protection against flooding, but also serve to keep out vermin. The shady space under the house can be used for work or storage. Today, stilt houses are still common in parts of the Mosquito Coast in northeastern Nicaragua, northern Brazil, South East Asia, Papua New Guinea and West Africa. They are especially widespread along the banks of the tropical river valleys of South America (Palafito), notably the Amazon and Orinoco river systems. As the costs of hurricane damage increase more and more houses along the Gulf Coast are being built as or converted to stilt houses.”


Stilt Houses is a post from: Natural Building Blog

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Interview with Maggi of Chiang Dao B&B on Rice Hull Houses

Dome roof on roundhouse made with bags of rice hulls

Dome roof on roundhouse made with bags of rice hulls

Richard, a long time reader, is really excited about building with rice hulls. He’s especially interested in using this method after learning from Maggi of Chiang Dao B&B in Thailand that rice hulls are more durable than previously thought. So, not only do rice hulls save lots of time and hard labor, and create a highly insulating walls, they should also last a long time with proper precautions. Richard sent Maggi a list of questions to learn more details.

“The following interview is a conducted by Richard Grinchis with Maggi McKerron at her place in beautiful Chiang Dao, Thailand. Maggi is experimenting with the use of rice hulls (husks) as a building material in the construction of her accommodations for guests and workshop attendees. The use of these natural materials which have many interesting properties has always intrigued me, so I considered it a great opportunity meet up with Maggi and discuss this method.

RG: Maggi, you are one of the pioneers in building with rice hulls, can you share some of your knowledge gained working with this method. Why did you choose to build with rice hulls?

MM: Being British, I call them rice husks! I went on a workshop to learn how to build an earthbag dome given by Paulina Wojciechowska ( Paulina was the person who brought earthbag building to Europe, having studied with Nader Khalili. She wrote the first book on building with earthbags.

But I was worried that having such a thick wall of earth it would be damp inside during the monsoon. And I was right, as I have an earthbag dome here, and although it is wonderfully cool in the dry season, it is definitely damp inside during the monsoon months.

I thought about strawbale buildings which I think would be ideal here. However, we don’t have the machines in Thailand to make the bales! So I decided on rice husks in bags, giving much of the same properties as strawbales, and adding to that the factor that rice draws out moisture this makes this an ideal building material for monsoon areas. Nobody wants rice husks, apart from a very few farmers that use them for mulch, and you can see them piled up beside rice mills, where they try to burn them but they are very difficult to burn (another plus for using them as walls). They are very cheap indeed, or even free.

Another wonderful factor is that they are light. You can carry a few bags at a time. Any one that has built using earthbags will appreciate this!

RG: Are the rice husk bags able to bear structural loads?

MM: But of course they are not load bearing. In order to use them you need to make a framework that will hold up your roof, doors, windows, etc. I used mostly bamboo and some reinforced steel bars all tied together with wire for my frame. You can see photos of this and in fact the whole process on my Blog.

Once the foundation is laid (concrete because of termites – but reinforced with bamboo) and the framework in place, it takes about two days to place and tie all the rice husks bags to make the walls of a five metre dome, two metres 20 centimetres high.

Making a dome takes a bit longer as the bags need to be smaller and longer, and tied on the outside of the frame, and on top of that I put a cap of woven bamboo and cover that with cement, then waterproofing, then another layer or two of cement – because of the monsoon again.

RG: Any considerations when mounting a roof structure?

MM: I have roofs of thatch and domes of rice husks with cement caps and it is stunning how much cooler the dome roof is, and how much warmer in winter (it gets cold in Chiang Dao!).

RG: How about hanging things on walls (mounting fixtures, shelves, etc.)?

MM: Shelves are easy to add. Just pierce the bags with a row of bamboo sticks and then weave bamboo between the sticks, add your mud mix. This works very well. They are very strong – I have lots of books on my shelves.

To make something to hang things on, just use one bamboo stick and cover with mud mix.

RG: Are there any special considerations for rendering the walls (mixing render, cracking around door / window frames)?

MM: Everyone has their own recipes for mud mixes (renders). It depends on the earth you have available, the kind of sand, the kind of lime. We add rice husks to all mixes except for the final render. It’s very much a matter of trial and error. We are very proud of the outcome of our experiments. The finished walls are very smooth, look wonderful and there are very few cracks. One point we have noted that if the render is covering wood (as it sometimes does if you make a frame) the contracting and expanding wood will lead to cracking at that point if the wood is near to the surface. We now make sure there is a lot of mud mix on top of wood.

RG: I know that you are hosting certain workshops in this method. Can you discuss some of the details?

MM: We will be holding a workshop from 10 – 20 March 2015, here at Chiang Dao Roundhouses to make a Roundhouse with a Dome roof.

Dorm accommodation in roundhouses will be available for 10 participants, plus meals.

The cost of the workshop will be 10,000 Baht, and for accommodation and food 3000 Baht. To book a place a non refundable deposit of 2000 Baht is required with the balance due 2 weeks before the beginning of the workshop.

Accommodation is available in the village if participants prefer.

Contact me on to book your place or to ask any questions about the workshop.

RG: What will people learn during the workshops?

MM: Participants will learn the whole process of building a roundhouse with a dome roof, with some theory but mostly hands-on participation in the process.

The foundations will be complete before the workshop begins. Participants will build the frame, with windows and doors, and attach rice husk bags to the walls and the roof. We will make a cap of woven bamboo over the dome roof. We will mix mud with sand and rice husks and apply to the walls and inner dome.

RG: Any last thoughts?

MM: No one has made a building using rice husks that has stood for any length of time. The only other structure I know of, besides my own, is just down the road! This was made in 2009 and is still fine. We don’t know what will happen after, for example, 10 or 20 years. I’ll let you know!

I would like to help anyone in any country to make this kind of building, especially local people wanting to learn a viable, cheap alternative to concrete blocks or those wanting to build a habitation quickly after a natural disaster. Anyone is welcome to contact me for any information or help that they might need.

Note: wrap wood frames with tarpaper and chicken mesh to reduce cracking of plaster. Search our blog for more articles about building with rice hulls.

Interview with Maggi of Chiang Dao B&B on Rice Hull Houses is a post from: Natural Building Blog

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Inside the People’s Climate March

by Gisela Ruckert and Cheryl Kabloona
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Cheryl Kabloona, Gisela Ruckert and Carl Gagnier in New York

Two of BCSEA’s Kamloops members were in New York recently for the People's Climate March on September 21. They decided they would write about their experience in a two-person format so readers can hear from both of them.

How did you decide to go to New York for the March?

Gisela: Our trip was a combination of destination (NY March), cycling holiday (Vermont) and family visit (Ontario). We scheduled the trip around being in New York for the day of the March. Why not be a part of history? I’d love to look back and say “I was there!” Working for action on climate change at the community level can be discouraging at times, so I wanted to boost my own motivation by feeling the power of a large crowd unified in the call for change.

Cheryl: Gisela had mentioned several times through the year that she hoped to go. I hadn't considered going until I realized that I was already planning to be in Montreal to see my daughter there just a few days after the March, and the two cities are not far apart. So for me, New York was an add-on to the Montreal trip, and of course I was delighted at the thought of being there.

What was it like?

Cheryl: The March assembly area stretched for 27 blocks along Central Park and had sections for different themes. Organizers had advised everyone to arrive well before start time of 11:30. We arrived at our assembly place in front of the American Museum of Natural History just after 10:00, carrying water, snacks and signs. It was a beautiful warm day. We chatted with the people around us, mostly from the 350 Toronto and Canadian Greens organizations, did songs and chants, admired each other’s signs and took pictures…..for four hours! The long wait told us that the March was HUGE.

If you were watching the news from home in BC, you would have seen a lot more of the big picture than we did. We were basically in a microcosm of just what we could see around us, and cell service was so overloaded that we couldn’t get any news. But the mood was very positive and eventually we got moving. The last few hours went quickly as we walked through the streets of New York.

Gisela: My favourite part of the March was the signs that people carried. Such variety and so many clever slogans! There was a lot of really cool artwork and creative performances as well. I was amazed that everyone was so relaxed and good-humoured after literally hours of standing around. There was such a good energy all around.

Are there any special memories you'd like to share?

Gisela: Feeling the power of the crowd made me quite emotional at times. The moment of silence to honour those already impacted by climate change, followed by crazy, loud noisemaking sent shivers up my spine. The fact that this march was so well-attended by people who we don’t normally consider environmentalists leads me to believe that we truly are at a tipping point. Seeing faith groups, indigenous people, unions, students, teachers, doctors, veterans, business people, scientists, political activists and thousands of just plain “folks” was incredibly powerful.

Cheryl: My best memories happened at the assembly location: having my picture taken with Elizabeth May, connecting with two friends from Victoria, getting a picture with my two Kamloops companions Gisela and Carl, sharing the moment of silence and doing my one and only tweet despite the overloaded cell service.

Do you think it made a difference?

Cheryl: There was a tremendous feeling of energy and togetherness among the marchers, and I think we all felt that we were there to change the course of history. The numbers involved were bigger than anyone anticipated, in New York and globally, so I’m sure we caught the attention of world leaders. Of the many stories about the March, this is my favourite:

What organizers said, and I believe, is that the climate movement doesn't have the money of the fossil fuel industry but we are starting to show that we have the hearts and minds of people all over the world. That gives me hope.

Gisela: I believe that every successful movement is made up of a series of smaller actions whose impacts may or may not be immediately evident. While the March was a powerful demonstration that climate change can no longer be dismissed as an environmental issue, it was not intended to be an end in itself. The fight continues to get our political leaders to take serious action on the biggest challenge that humans have ever faced. I’m hoping that the visible commitment of the hundreds of thousands who took to the streets will inspire our leaders to make their own bold commitments. But all of us need to keep up the pressure.

Cheryl: I'd like to leave our readers with two quotes. On the evening before the March, we attended an event called "A Global Climate Treaty: Why the U.S. Must Lead" hosted by 350 NYC and the New York Society for Ethical Culture. It was exciting to listen to Bill McKibben. Among other things, he's a founder of, the organization that organized the March, and he suggested that the number of people marching the next day might be in the hundreds of thousands (he was right). These two women also spoke that night, and I found them to be the most inspiring of the evening:

Mary Robinson, who was the first woman President of Ireland and is now the UN Special Envoy for Climate Change, said "We can't have business as usual with a bit of green attached - that will not do...... It is us and it is now and it is so urgent for our children and our grandchildren."

Ambassador Marlene Moses, Nauru's Permanent Representative to the UN and Chair of the Alliance of Small Island States, said "By making YOUR voice heard, you make it easier for your government to find the political courage to lead."

On the Road: Live from Vanuatu

Earthbag water tank in Vanuatu, South Pacific

Earthbag water tank in Vanuatu, South Pacific

For decades it’s been my dream to visit developing countries and help build affordable housing projects. Now, here I am on the beach in beautiful Vanuatu to assist the Women’s Centre (and others) on various sustainable building projects.

Current earthbag projects in the works here on the island: C-shaped lockable storage room attached to the roundhouse, water tank and disaster resistant earthbag house. The earthbag house features two small bedrooms that serve as safe rooms during earthquakes and hurricanes, and a future larger open room for socializing and cooking built primarily of lightweight materials on an earthbag foundation. We’re also trying to build a new roof on the Women’s Centre as well as finish the plaster, doors, windows and painting so it can be opened to the public. Plus, we’re making a toilet for a nearby family. Please stop by if you’re in the area!

I plan to be working on various overseas projects in the coming months. Being directly involved in projects really stimulates the creative process for me, and helps insure more reliable results. Contact me if you have a project in mind in Southeast Asia.

Contact Liz if you’d like to contribute in some way: Search our blog for previous stories about earthbag building in Vanuatu.

On the Road: Live from Vanuatu is a post from: Natural Building Blog

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