Let's get this strait from the beginning - my journey with thePOOSH.org has been life changing. I feel that I have learned so much and met so many people full of life that it has shifted my understanding of the world to a whole different level. But in order to bring you to the same page with me, and to give you a glimpse on how fitting I find thePOOSH to be in solving some of the acute difficulties we face today in our world, let me start with my very own situation some years ago.
There I was, a 24 year old university student in Finland. I had awakened into an understanding that I needed to teach myself some real skills - skills that would help me to survive how ever badly the shit hit the fan. You know, gardening, hunting and gathering, basics on building etc. So I designed myself a learning pathway as holistic I could imagine. I would travel places to meet and study with people who knew stuff. Soon it dawned on me that traveling is quite expensive and to find the people who actually were doing stuff were not that easy to find. Also, I kinda had this notion that I was alone in this mission of mine (well then again, Finland isn't exactly at the leading edge of alternative culture).
Then, out of the blue as I was doing some WWOOFing in Portugal, I happened to meet up with these American folks who called themselves POOSHers. I got asked to go see their building project nearby. As I arrived, I heard this great music (bluegrass as I was soon to learn), saw these strange people thatching a water reed roof on top of a round building that looked like it just came from the ground underneath my feet. And there was joy in the air. I could hear laughter. Just walking into the building site I could tell that here there were people acting out from a place of love deep within.
To learn that there were projects like this (people building with natural materials and helping out to create beautiful and functional buildings), that there was a whole global network of similarly minded people and that I'd be welcomed to join - just blew my mind. I think I fell in love!
ThePOOSH network kinda solved all these problems I was facing at once;
- I could learn the skills and meet the people I was yearning to learn and meet,
- I could travel cheaper and in a more meaningful way since I could volunteer and in exchange get free accommodation and food (among so many other things),
- I also realized that I was far from being alone - actually I was part of a global movement for a better planet.
This really inspired me to venture deeper into a world
of being part of the solution, not the problem.
The deal thePOOSH kinda gives out is a real game changer. In addition to helping us to learn all these skills while having an amazing time and meeting the most inspiring people, thePOOSH is doing a great favor for humankind by connecting people and helping us reconnect with our surroundings in a way deeper level than you might expect.
So, ever since these experiences I have been building with natural materials and at the same time transforming my life bit by bit to be more aligned with the life I find worth living and most beneficial for this planet and Life itself. To me, being part of thePOOSH.org community has proven to be way more valuable than my studies at university or course I have taken on various topics.
Thanks to thePOOSH, I have now built my own house (and saved some hundreds
of thousands or Euros and a life-long mortgage), been part of many beautiful
projects around the world, and I can go to bed every night with a feeling that
I've already managed to spread that very same contagious inspiration that
comes from acting on behalf of all beautiful things.
I wish you all a great journey and trust that you will find POOSHing as inspiring as I have. Big thanks and Big Up to thePOOSH.org!
- Henri Lokki (POOSH member since 2013)
Thanks Henri for your great story - if you have one of your own send it to us via the contact page.
thePOOSH.org now has over 20,000 members around the world helping each other to build locally, learn natural building skills, and share these skills with each other. Together, we, thePOOSH community, represent the global movement toward self-built local/sustainable/regenerative building. Let’s take this to the next level!
ThePOOSH.org team has a plan to grow this site and match the growth of this movement. We are currently launching a fundraising campaign in order to raise $6,000 to assist these initial plans.
For the past four years, we have relied on the gift economy and donations to keep this project alive. This strategy has done just that - kept it alive. We got around $20 a week in donations on average, which kept the lights on but not much else. As volunteers managing this project, we feel restrained in our ability to respond to the changing environments surrounding this movement.
It is time for thePOOSH.org to no longer just survive, but to grow sustainably in order to empower and support you, the global network of resilient builders.
Our team will come together this Winter 2016/17 to work on many beneficial projects and additional services for thePOOSH community. This $6,000 fundraising campaign will empower us to do so. We will;
- Develop a financially sustainable model so we won’t have to ask for money again.
- Clean up our website code to ensure that crucial services (like the map) won't crash.
- Pay for our server fees for another year.
- Build relationships with our members and facilitate relationships between POOSHers.
- And listen to your suggestions on where this project should go next! - Stay posted for a survey.
Get excited! We sure are!
Build Local, Explore Global
Eric, Xoch, Kendra, Michael Beck, Yana, and Jim
As autumn settles in and the first frosts arrive, we have recently finished the building of our little natural bridge! Built with hand-hewn round wood, we selectively chose trees from our forest in overly-dense areas. Most of the trees are around 30 years old and the bridge is a combination of sycamore, one random cedar piece we found already fallen, maple and poplar, which we found to be the easiest to split by FAR (and, as a result, why the second half or left side in the photo, took half the time and is more neatly fit together!). We used friction and the convenient "Y's" in a fallen sycamore to wedge between two trees overhanging the creek as support and are very happy that the bridge is fully supported without nailing into a living tree!
This bridge gives us access to the beautiful land that we are lucky enough to call home. We envision weeping willow trees planted on the corners of the bridge that we can encourage to grow up alongside the bridge, down underneath the bridge for additional support and handrails, then crisscrossing back around over the bridge and to the other side; sort of a spiral willow tunnel.
We are looking forward to a winter full of intriguing conversation, lots of tea and stews and developing a group commitment to a design of the first bigger structure on our land!
Want to get involved with thePOOSH Community? We are openly searching for bloggers, graphic designers, page styling help and any other collaborative ideas people have -- don't hesitate to contact us!
Practically, we are in search of a reed (Phragmites spp.) bed in or near eastern Kentucky that we could manage for thatching purposes. Any leads would be helpful.
Finally, we are in the beginning design phases of a different type of "natural buildng" than we have attempted before -- a community food forest. We are actively searching for perennial seedlings/seeds/saplings/etc as well as advice, collaboration and exchanges....trades, offers or donations are very welcome.
Until next time, build something great (and share it with us)!
It has been a year and a half since I sat down to write a blog post -- I am VERY excited to announce that the States-side POOSH Team now has 62 acres of beautiful land to call home as of July 6, 2015!!!
After searching for nearly a year in Oregon, Washington state, California, Idaho, Michigan and Ohio, we have landed in Rockcastle County, Kentucky, 9 miles south of the progressive cultural hub of Berea, KY. The land has everything we were looking for and more, including springs, a mix of meadow and deciduous forest, caves, waterfalls, hills...it truly is a naturalist's playground.
Additionally, the surrounding several miles is full of people pioneering community projects, a VERY strong local food movement and a generous and bright community of beautiful humans that accepted us with open hearts and allowed us to feel immediately welcome. We look forward to collaborating with Ziggy and April from The Year of the Mud blog who just acquired land down the road, as well as people from all walks of life that are genuinely interested in living radically and exploring what it means to get back in touch with our roots in Nature.
We are currently in the vision process for what we want to practically do on the land. We plan to observe, clean and develop our relationship with the land through autumn of this year into the winter. In spring-time of 2016, we plan on beginning the construction of a community kitchen/small living spaces, as well as some annual gardening that will transition into a perennial food forest system. This is not a 3 or 5 year plan we are designing -- this is a 150 to 500 year plan that we would love to share with generations to come.
Feel free to contact us to visit. We want many people to help. It will be a POOSH project as soon as we start building next year, opening the door for hundreds of people to learn hands-on natural building for FREE!
I look forward to updating you, thePOOSH Community, in our activities on the land in the near future. In the mean time, build something great.
As the third consecutive week of wind and rain blows ashore here in Portugal, Eric and I have temporarily postponed thatching the roof on our current build project with hopes of a soon-to-come sunny day. We've retreated to a cozy office space with motivation to continue building creatively in a different manner.
In the last several weeks, we have had many new people arrive at the project, curious about the building and us as people, eager to learn and get involved in building a natural structure themselves. We have done our best to empower people to be creative, to create and contribute to a project that is not "ours" but rather an open collaboration of every person that has picked up a handful of cob or pulled a piece of cane for a wattle and daub wall. Through the experience of leading several build projects, I've had an epiphone that natural building is not only a tool for building physical structures, but rather an opportunity to build on intangible personal levels as well. This is certainly worth exploring more.
Stages of every bio-construction project are mentally, physically and emotionally challenging. One of the most difficult parts for me has the emotional realm -- the revolving door of new faces every week, accepting that my life is a bit more public than I would prefer or are immediately comfortable with, dealing with the monotony of building a cob wall for three weeks straight, and much more. In essence, the biggest challenges I have encountered in natural building are ultimately not even directly related to the building itself. The biggest challenges I've encountered have been mine own, within myself in relation to my environment!
I am more and more convinced that taking part in a natural build project will emphasize in yourself what you need to work on most. Ultimately, you will learn and develop practical techniques that you can use to build a natural structure. I can now look and feel a batch of cob and know it needs more sand or more clay, whereas two years ago I would have no clue. However, the intangible skills learned in the human relationships that take place in a natural build project are equally, if not more, important!
This philosophy has its roots in one of our biggest sources of inspiration in starting thePOOSH.org -- how can a natural build project be an open space, a space where anybody can randomly walk up and express their desire to help and in return feel empowered, feel useful and involved and able to express the creative potential that resides in every one of us? Before I got involved in natural building, I didn't know that I needed to work on myself and empower myself, instill confidence in myself, before I could feel comfortable empowering others. Granted, this is an ongoing journey but what a revelation that natural building can be a tool for self-edification as well...and that this can lead to self-improvement in those around you as well!!!
This blog post was seriously influenced by a section in The Hand-Sculpted House entitled "For Your Edification." Furthermore, this warm book is essential reading for natural builders, a celebration of personal growth through the practice of building with nature.
Hiya, POOSHers! I’m April and the newest member of thePOOSH team. I recently joined the team after helping these guys to build a yogaship— yoga studio earthship-style— in Portugal. (An earthship is a style of building that utilizes car tires rammed with earth and encompassed by cob to form the main structure of the walls). I became interested in natural and sustainable building after living for a summer on a farm with an earthship-type structure. Since then, I’ve seen over and over again how this way of living revolutionizes the way people see the world and how they can live in it. We don’t have to rely on ‘professionals’ for the things we need because we can learn how to do anything ourselves. We don’t have to be hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt and work for the rest of our lives in jobs we hate in order to have a home. We don’t have to live in isolated boxes with only our close family. We can build our own homes, grow our own food, and form communities of friends and family who we actually enjoy living with (at least most of the time)!
Let’s be real here though, aiming to live sustainably is a lot more work than the normal Western lifestyle. But I’ve found it easier than most of the things I did in my life before. I have to push my body further than I did before, but I never have to force my mind to ignore all the things I’m doing that don’t make sense or bring me any joy.
“How does one get here?,” I ask myself. I think it could go a little something like this: You were brought up in a culture that was incomprehensible to you as a human being, a culture where drugs and bibles were equally interchangeable as solutions for any of life’s problems—as soon as one stops working, switch back to the other— and you were too entrenched to know how or what to do different. But you knew that you had to do something different. So you tried ditching the small town for university in the ‘big city’ and a library of books on philosophy and history. Good job, this made you aware of the problems facing people in the 21st century but gave no clue what to do about any of them. And you escaped from one culture of terrible habits, only to enter another more socially-accepted culture that felt as equally destructive and unfulfilling as the one you crawled out of. This is the culture of working 40-hours-a-week at a desk typically, married to someone you don’t spend time with, in a house that you can’t afford and a car you can’t afford, with children that you mold to fit this lifestyle although you aren’t sure why because it sure as hell didn’t make you happy but it must be better than those people in poor countries who live in houses made of dirt. (And don’t get me wrong, in many ways it is but let’s not digress.)
So you decided that the best thing to do was leave all this insanity behind by becoming a self-dependent hermit in the woods, writing books for the rest of your life. Thankfully, before you were able to carry this plan out you met some of the most amazing humans on the planet living on a farm in the beautiful woodlands of Oregon. This is where everything suddenly made sense. You realized in one night that life is simple—just enjoy it. And the only way to help other people be happy is to be happy; humans need examples to believe that something so often sought after but not found is possible. But if it’s so simple, why did it take you so long to figure out? And how could you have ever thought that living alone would be as fun as listening and playing Bluegrass around the fire, picking blackberries for making jam and then eating it with your fingers, washing in the river by riding down the natural rapids, drinking hot toddies (whiskey + green tea), and being so excited to come home every single day that you run down the hill smiling so hard your cheeks hurt. It doesn’t matter what you thought before, only that you know how to create the life that makes you happy and now you can show others who want to live this way too.
Something a bit like that is how I came to be an advocate for people doing what makes them feel alive and free, and I’ve seen how much easier that is when people are empowered to build their own homes out of materials they can find in their natural environments. I have many ideas for developing thePOOSH website and community to be even bigger and better than it already is. My major focuses, shaped by my life experiences and interests, will be exposing this way of life to children and people living in poverty. (And I know very well that you can be poor with a lot of money and rich with a little money, so poverty isn’t dependent on the amount of dough in your pocket.) I also want to spend some time experimenting with building play-areas from natural and recycled materials, for children of all ages.
The best way to describe my life mission is to help both hope and fun grow, and this fits naturally (and sustainably, I might add) into the mission of thePOOSH. Natural/sustainable building isn’t just a fashionable way for educated people to prove their environmental and social consciousness. It’s a way for people to take more control in shaping their realities while also acknowledging that we are an integrated species living on a planet we depend upon, where we can love, learn from, and dance in cob with our bare feet with the other humans we share it with.So I can’t wait to meet more of you so we can POOSH/learn/grow/dance together!
On my walk down to the beach that I currently use as my temporary office (yes, I am lucky, I tell myself this every day!), I saw some pleasant looking travelers. We stopped and exchanged greetings; it turns out they were looking for the community I'm currently living at. What a coincidence! In past situations where strangers are spontaneously looking to visit where I'm currently living, my initial response has been somewhat fear-based: How long are they intending to stay? Will they contribute or is this just a "green" vacation? Are they nice, respectful people? I'd like to explore what it means to involve local and non-local community in a sustainable land-based project and (hopefully!) inspire project leaders to fully embrace involving as many people as can be properly managed -- the benefits are endless and full of unforeseen surprises!
In the last month of my life, I've had several epitomes on what involving community could mean to a project. On the one hand, you have local community. In many rural projects, this often means elderly people that congregate at cafes and bars. One of the many things that stuck with me in my recent Peramculture Design Course was the strong suggestion to spend time at these locations talking to locals, especially elderly locals. These people are wise, even if they are not working the land as you would. They know details on climate, geography, available human and physical resources and the history of the local region, a very important story to have told from several different sources in a sustainable land-based project. Embracing the idea of involving external community in your project oftentimes provides much more than the obvious benefit of having more helping hands. New people bring a fresh energy to a project, making day-to-day activities less monotonous. Each person has unique attributes and talents -- I've recently found myself a part of amazing campfire jam sessions with people I just met. I was recently a part of informal workshops on non-violent communication, body percussion, Ayurvedic massage and chi gong!
The possibilities are endless! When involving new people, it is very beneficial to expresss interest in these attributes and talents that every person has and open up space for people to share these in a group setting. Additionally, it is helpful to build a welcome area that has info on what you expect of visitors vs. temporary residents, as an example. Labeling social areas, kitchen, workshop, private spaces, etc. is also very helpful for external community to familiarize themselves with your project.
So. How do you go about involving external community in your project? On a larger scale, starting a simple blog and website will provide immediate exposure to your project. On a more local level, you might want to think about placing flyers or posters in cafes, bars and libraries. More creatively, organizing an event could be a fun way to involve external community. I recently attended an event by Tribodar Learning Center -- it was a festival for experimentation, the first time they had done an event of this scale. It was very, very inspiring to see 70-100 people paying a very small fee for a full day of workshops and spontaneous jam sessions put on by the people attending the event.
Finally, there is the chance meeting of people who are traveling through or spontaneously show up -- in the case of the travelers I met on the way to the beach, they seemed like nice people so I gave them directions and told them what I thought the community needed at the moment and to be open and straight-forward with how long they intend on staying, what they can contribute, etc. And I'm curious to see how they are getting on up there so I'm going to wrap this up and begin my walk home! Bye for now, m.
The time has come for an update on the lives of thePOOSH.org Team!
Jim and Maarja are currently in Estonia busy with a new non-profit they've founded called Eco-Nomics which focuses on decreasing costs as opposed to chasing after more money. They've recently put on some free workshops on building solar panels from reclaimed materials!
Eric, Loren and I have been "bombing" (to use a Portuguese-English term...it means something akin to working really hard) on the tirewall thatched-roof yoga studio for the last months. The project is being put on pause as a result of not having collected quite enough caniso (water reed) but will be resumed in the winter when we can collect more!
Eric recently traveled north with the Finnish goddess Satu, where he is visiting his family in the homeland of Finland. He plans to do some traditional Finnish natural building and will (hopefully!) send some photos of his adventures. Additionally, Eric will be focusing on making thePOOSh.org more interactive in its on and offline community.
Loren is considering options to learn the practical art of sailing which, in our opinion, is the one of the only conscious and sustainable ways to cross an ocean. Loren also has plans to focus a bit on thePOOSH.org development and, hopefully, we can get a groups function working so that thePOOSH community can discuss topics in a forum-type layout.
As for me? I will be heading down south along the coast of Sintra to Terra Alta, a beautiful piece of land where there will be three consecutive courses: a rocket-mass heater build, a permaculture design course and a Canyaviva dome build. I will be taking the permaculture course and immediately afterwards heading to Andancas festival to promote thePOOSH.org with April, who might be doing some community outreach for thePOOSH! Additionally, I hope to improve our social media as and try some new ideas out as soon as we get some graphic design help.
All things considered, we are a busy group! The last few months have been wonderful and it inspires and motivates me to continue to see thePOOSH.org community flower and grow with each passing day!
Keep in touch with us to see further developments, get some inspiration to join a natural building project or champion your own and don't hesitate to contact us -- we love to interact with this community!!
Until next time, Michael and thePOOSH Team.
Natural and sustainable building is a bit of a different process than most of the buildings you see around today. But how? I hope to shed a bit of light on this subject in this blog post.
I recently went to the hardware store to purchase some drill bits for our manual drills (if you haven't drilled a 7 inch hole manually, I highly recommend it), and I asked how much the man was selling turpentine for. I was curious because we are now making our own pine tar and I wanted to check the price of the most similar industrial product. He told me they had two prices; 4 euros for the inferior product and 9 euros for the “better” product. I kept asking him what does better mean to no avail.
We use these terms like “better” with so many hidden unsaid meanings behind them. In this specific case, does it last longer? Does it color the wood less? Does it protect against more bugs? Does it repel water? Without knowing the meaning behind the word better, I have no ability to make fully clear decisions. For example - do I really need the “better” option?
The “better” discussion comes up many times in natural building. Lime plaster is just “better” than natural plasters. Let's dissect this. What is the purpose of plastering a wall?
- to help seal the water out from penetrating and deteriorating the wall
- to provide a finished look to the wall
- and lastly, for asthetics
I think we can all agree that both natural plasters and lime plasters can achieve these objectives. So how is lime plaster “better”? Concrete will last a thousand years, lime will last 100 years, and natural plasters usually last tens of years. So if you do not need the plaster layer to last more than 20 - 30 years, why use the more industrial lime plaster or concrete option? Same goes if you do not mind re-plastering the wall after 20-30 years.
This is just an example, but I believe it is always important to understand the meaning behind the word “better”. Ask lots of questions, and then use your best judgement! Whatever you do though - Build something Great!
What does it take to be a natural builder?
I believe that anybody can learn natural building skills. I look at myself as an example. Two years ago, I couldn't tell you what an earthship was. Since then, I've been in full-power natural building mode, involved in many projects and thinking/talking/dreaming about natural and sustainable building.
I've learned that it takes more than physical skills to be a natural builder. This realization has been a tough one for me, because to be a successfull natural builder who sees projects through in a timely manner, it takes more than physical skills. It takes motivation, inspiration, attention to detail, organization, creativity, a positive attitude, resilience...
But most of all, it takes patience! Natural building takes longer than conventional building with power tools, cranes, tractors, etc. This is fact, an often-overlooked fact. In the last week or two, I've watched Loren carve a tree stump.
Yes, Loren did this for over a week. Last month, a group of 5-8 people picked water reed for two weeks for a thatched roof. Now, you might be saying to yourself...these people are insane! That thought is perfectly acceptable (and we are a bit crazy!) but my point is this. Being a natural builder is so much more than the acquisition of new skills. In my natural building journey, I've had some really tough times...not necessarily with the learning of new skills, but rather having to constantly step back and say to myself "Okay Michael, have patience. Have perseverance...when you look back at the finished project, you will feel ten times better than if you picked up that chainsaw and bought some gasoline."
When we thatch this roof and people for decades come to visit one of the few thatched roofs in Portugal, they will learn that each piece of water reed was hand-picked by a dedicated group of natural building enthusiasts. THIS is inspiration. THIS is the type of spirit that will inspire other people to try out natural building.
Through natural building, I am learning things about myself totally seperate from the building process itself. Perhaps it will become a new form of therapy? Hm...now there's a business idea....
I envision a Phantom Tollbooth-style workshop where it is encouraged that participants move sand grain-by-grain with tweezers to develop patience...maybe that's a bit too far but here we go! I'm off to hand-drill some holes!
Until next time,