Week-Long Workshops Planned Next Week For G4G Revival Tour: Outdoor Compost Toilets, Rainwater Showers, And Green Building Galore June 27-July 3

The amenities station that will be installed next to the Art Barn at Better Farm.

The amenities station that will be installed next to the Art Barn at Better Farm.

Better Farm welcomes Grateful 4 Grace from June 27-July 3 for a week of green-building projects, team-building and workshops.

Grateful 4 Grace is a non-profit group traveling all over the country to offer helping hands on projects that further a sustainable mission. From their website:

Combining our love for humanity and the love we have for our planet, we have set out to help others help others become more consciously sustainable. With the universe as our guide we plan to gather in effort to grow our sustainable-minded collective consciousness that will produce what we consider to be a balanced environment that all species can live harmoniously with. To accomplish this we are traveling across the world helping intentional communities and organizations that are currently helping with similar causes become self-sustainable. 

Twenty people from Grateful 4 Grace will be staying at Better Farm to help us construct an amenities station next to the Art Barn with compost toilets and solar showers fed by rainwater.  We will additionally be constructing a smaller version of the amenities station next to our new solar-powered tiny home, greywater filtration units, and working on other farm-related projects throughout the week.

The public is invited to help us on this project and gain valuable hands-on experience in construction, green building, sustainability, and alt-energy concepts. To sign up, just email info@betterfarm.org. Lunch and refreshments will be provided!

Volunteers are welcome to join us from Tuesday, June 28, through Saturday, July 2, at Better Farm between the hours of 11 a.m. and 5 p.m.

Tiny Home Construction Workshop Part I: Aug. 8-9

Tiny Home Construction Workshop Part I: Aug. 8-9

Have you been daydreaming about having your very own tiny home, but aren't sure where to start? Learn all about materials, construction, different alt-energy systems and much more at Better Farm's Tiny Home Construction Workshop Part I during two days, Aug. 8 and 9.

Read More

Sauna Update

Better Farm's sauna gets a roof and floor.
We back in July broke ground on a sauna constructed entirely out of local and reused materials. In this instance, "green building" refers to the long list of items we're upcycling for the project, and our commitment to purchase everything else hyper-local (like locally sourced lumber from our next-door neighbor).

Here's our list of building materials so far:
  • Rigid insulation gleaned from a construction project that had pulled it out of an old house
  • A cast-iron wood stove pulled off a job site as garbage
  • A stump fro a fallen tree that's being incorporated as seating inside the sauna
  • Wood beams from a house demolition
  • Pallet boards from packing crates and shipping materials
  • Rough-cut lumber from Redwood Lumber Company
Of course, we had to buy our nails and screws new (except for a few we gleaned from Better Farm's tool shed). Since breaking ground last month, we've added most of the roof (will have to pick up more lumber and cover with metal) and floor (we need only two more pallets to get that job done). Next up are the walls, wood stove, and lining the interior walls, floor, and benches in cedar. Lastly, we'll pack the wood stove with rocks from the Adirondacks to allow for radiant heat (and steam potential)! Here are some more photos from the project's progress:

Many special thanks go out to Bob Laisdell for spearheading this project! Want to get involved on this project, or another one like it? Email us at info@betterfarm.org.

Nicole Caldwell

Nicole Caldwell is a self-taught environmentalist, green-living savant and sustainability educator with more than a decade of professional writing experience. She is also the co-founder of Better Farm and president of betterArts. Nicole’s work has been featured in Mother Earth News, Reader’s Digest, Time Out New York, and many other publications. Her first book, Better: The Everyday Art of Sustainable Living, is due out this July through New Society Publishers.

DIY Sauna: Day One

The beginnings of Better Farm's new sauna!
We started building a sauna last weekend that utilizes recycled and new lumber, upcycled insulation, as well as incorporating an old tree stump into the design as one of the corner posts.

Our workshop instructor, Bob Laisdell, started out with a basic design that utilizes a tree stump left over after a wind storm two years ago knocked over a tree on Better Farm's property:
 The stump in this drawing is being re-imagined as a corner bench seat. Here's the rough materials list:
To start, we began clearing the ground where the sauna will be: mostly getting rid of large clumps of weeds and roots.
The chickens love to be around when we're shoveling: It's like a worm/grub/bug buffet!
Then we cruised over to Redwood Lumber Co. (next door at our neighbor John Grisanti's place) to pick up the wood we'd need:

Next, we determined where each of the corners would be, using the stump as a starting point, and dug holes for cinder blocks where the other corner posts would be. While that was getting done, Katie and AmberLee notched 4x4's that would be pieced together to create the shape of the sauna.

After that, we placed floor joists and a center beam, and nailed small pieces of boards from a wood pallet onto the sides of the floor joists to hold the insulation. Simultaneously, another group was putting up the wooden beams for the side walls and temporarily nailing them in place with a crossways board.

Insulation going in:

After measuring the distance across the base of the sauna, we began cutting boards from the wood pallets into our different sizes in order to create an alternating flooring pattern and nailing down the boards as they were being cut.

 Here's our progress after Day One:

For a full listing of upcoming workshops, click here. Care to join us as we finish constructing the sauna? Email us at info@betterfarm.org.

New Gates Allow for Easy Access to the Garden

The interns (with the help of instructors) last week put in two new garden gates to make accessibility a lot simpler for unloading compost, hay, and cardboard; irrigation, and simply moving in and out. This brings our number of garden gates up to three; allowing for pedestrian access (the main, existing entrance), easy access to and from the greenhouse (a four-foot wide gate, pictured above), and truck access (a double-hinged gate eight feet wide in the garden's back corner closest to Cottage Hill Road).

Day One entailed table-sawing two-by-fours into equal pieces, drilling plywood triangles in the corners to hold them together, cutting a longer flank of wood to run diagonally, and stapling on chicken wire.

On day two, we dug up holes for the gateposts and filled them with cement we mixed in the wheelbarrow. Sweaty and tired, we called it a day and waited for the cement to dry.

The following day, we finalized the gates by attaching the gates to the posts via hinges and putting on stoppers to hold the gates shut. By then we were feeling pretty confident with the drill and Greg and Adam went off for coffee while us interns put on the final touches.

Build a 14x14 Cabin for < $2k

photo credit simplesolarhomesteading.com

From The Homestead Survival

Below is a nice video showing how the folks over at Simple Solar Homesteading built a 14′ x14′ cabin for less than $2,000 (for the full schematics, click here). Following that video is one discussing solar and wind installation. The last link is to all the builder's videos. If you are thinking of going off grid, looking to build a cabin or just interested in that lifestyle, his videos are really interesting and informative to watch.

 See all Simple Solar Homesteading's videos by clicking here.


Nicole Caldwell

Nicole Caldwell is a self-taught environmentalist, green-living savant and sustainability educator with more than a decade of professional writing experience. She is also the co-founder of Better Farm and president of betterArts. Nicole’s work has been featured in Mother Earth News, Reader’s Digest, Time Out New York, and many other publications. Her first book, Better: The Everyday Art of Sustainable Living, is due out this July through New Society Publishers.

Spotlight On: Insect Hotels

insect habitat
From Inspiration Green:

Tidy gardens, chemically fertilized lawns, and a lack of dead wood in suburban/urban areas mean less and less habitat for wild bees, spiders, and ladybugs. You can combat this issue by creating an "insect hotel" to attract beneficial insects
(read: pollinators and pest controllers) to your yard and garden. Read on for some beautiful ideas!

Honey bees represent only a small fraction of the approximately 20,000 known species of bees. No honey bees existed in the Americas before their introduction by Europeans. An insect hotel will attract these and many other kinds of bees, as well as hundreds of other beneficial insects.

Insect hotels are also known as:
Bug condos, bug hotels, insect habitats, wildlife stacks, insect boxes, insect houses, insect walls, wild bee walls, insect accommodation, wild bee houses, solitary bee walls or wild bienenhaus.

Who lives in Insect Hotels:
Wasps (cuckoo wasps, parasitic wasps, and many other kinds), dragonflies, beetles, lacewings, ladybirds. moths, spiders, frogs, newts, hedgehogs, and bees (leafcutter bees, masked bees, mason bees, digger bees, bumblebees, and hundreds more).

Another thing about bees:
Bumblebees nest in hollow trees and in rodent burrows. They are among the first bees to emerge in the spring and the last to disappear in fall. They are superb pollinators of tomatoes, blueberries, cranberries, clover, and more. Bumblebees can “buzz pollinate” by hanging on a flower and vibrating with their flight muscles to release pollen. Mason and Leafcutter Bees select existing hollow stems and bored holes in which to build their multiple nest chambers. They carry pollen underneath their bodies rather than on their legs like most bees. Mason bees are first-class pollinators of many fruit crops, toiling long hours and in inclement weather. Squash and Gourd Bees help pollinate up to eighty percent of squash, pumpkins, and melons. They are ground nesters, so it is important to leave some open dirt for the these very important bees as well.

The Photos
Here are some photos of particularly amazing insect hotel designs. The basic execution of the idea can be facilitated using scraps and things you have lying around your garden shed, garage, or yard. Check these out:
insect hotel

A wildlife stack can harbor numerous beneficial insects and amphibians. www.metrofieldguide.com

insect hotel

Wildlife stack. Some creatures like it damp, others (like bees) dry. Ladybugs hibernate during winter in piles of dry twigs and leaves, which you can provide in your insect hotel. Might be better to think of it as habitat or a condo, as you really want long term residents. Photo by Sarah Barker at the Shrewsbury flower show.

insect hotel

Bug hotel in Oakham, UK. Although often called a hotel, some bees will live in a nest for up to nine months as they develop from egg, through the larval stage, into adulthood. Photo by Anne Crasey. www.flickr.com
insect habitat

Solitary bees like sun. The ideal location for an insect hotel is in full sun and protected from the weather. This will ensure that the heat required for the brood is present, and wind or rain will not destroy their nest. Provide that, and the flowers, and they will come. www.sav-überlingen.de

insect habitat

Insect hotel in Hamburg, Germany. Wild bee houses have been popular in Europe for many years. insektenhotel24.de

insect habitat

Insect hotel at the Heimanshof, North Holland.
Many solitary bees are very small and you may not have realised they are bees. More species of bees live alone, than in hives. Wild bees are considered to be as important to the food chain as bumblebees and honeybees. Honey bees are not native to the Americas (see below). Photo by Bob Daamen www.flickr.com.

insect habitat

Insect home or bug bank, on the grounds of Oxburgh Hall in North Norfolk. Because solitary bees have no hive to defend, they are not aggressive, they rarely, if ever, sting. Photo by Mabvith flickr.com.

insect hotel

Insect hotel in Helmsley, UK. Hotels should be relatively close to flowering herbs, wild flowers and native shrubs and trees to cover the food needs of the insects. Photo by Munki Munki, www.flickr.com.
solitary bee cells

Solitary bees are different from social bees (such as honey bees) in that every female is fertile and makes individual nest cells for her offspring. Some native bees are ground nesters but more than 30% are wood nesters. The female wood nester will look for pre-existing cavities such as hollow stems or holes in wood that are just the right size to use as a nest.

The female typically creates a series of compartments (cells) and within each cell she will lay an egg on top of its future food source. The female bee will make numerous foraging trips to flowers collecting pollen and nectar that she will pack into each cell. It is on these trips that the female wild bee acts as a pollinator for plants and food crops. It can take anywhere from 20 to 30 trips to fill each cell with food. When she is satisfied with the amount of food, she lays an egg, compartmentalizes the cell, and moves on to creating the next cell. When she feels the chamber is complete, she seals off the end, and moves on to filling a new chamber. The last cells (those closer to the opening) contain eggs that will become males, as males hatch before females. Although each species is different, mason bee females live for about a month, and can build a cell nest for about two eggs every day. The larva hatches from the egg after a week or more and begins to eat the provided pollen and nectar. After the food has been eaten, the larva spins a cocoon and pupates within the cell. By the end of summer or early fall, the bee transforms but remains in the cocoon as an adult throughout the winter. In spring, the males begin to emerge by chewing their way out. The females, which are almost always in the deeper cells of the tunnel, emerge a week or two later.

While solitary females each make individual nests, some species prefer to make nests near others of the same species, giving the appearance to the casual observer that they are social. Nest photo by Mike N. of Vancouver, BC.

insect habitat

Insect hotel in Hoofddorf, Holland. Drilled 4 x 4s, logs, twigs and sticks. There are many different species of solitary bee, all are excellent pollinators. Photo by Bob Daamen, www.flickr.com

insect hotel

Insect hotel in St. Poelten Landesmuseum, Austria. That shutter will keep the birds out. Photo by Klasse im Garten, flickr.com.

insect habitat

Bug stack. Keep an eye on activity as some ants will eat bee larvae.

insect hotel

Insect Hotel.

bug hotel

Bug Mansion.
Ladybugs are always looking for places to hide and escape from the weather. By the Harrogate District Biodiversity Action Group.

insect habitat

Wildlife stack by Dawn Isaacs. How-to: www.guardian.co.uk

insect hotel

Insect Condo in Scotland.
Photo by Sheila, flickr.com

insect habitat

Wild Bee Hotel in Austria.

insect hotel

Bee Condo.
Photo by Sissi de Kroon, flickr.com

insect hotel

Insect Hotel in a private garden in Austria.

insect hotel

Insect Hotel, Ebersberger Forest, Bavaria
Photo by Terry Cooke, flickr.com.

insect hotel

Insect Hotel (Zen-like)

bug hotel

Place cut bamboo in metal pipes.
Photo by Bob Daamen. www.flickr.com

bug hotel

Wire screening keeps the small stuff in place and protects against birds.
Photo by Joeke Pieters, flickr.com

bug habitat

Wild bee house in the Black Forest, Germany. Photo by Michael Bohnert. www.flickr.com

insect hotel

A fun learning project for kids.

insect habitat

Insect hotel in the Netherlands, close-up.

insect hotel

An 'Insect hotel' at the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust in Jersey ©RLLord,

bug habitat

Insect Habitat assembled from foraged organic materials and reclaimed scrap, a habitat-in-waiting for bees and other native creatures. By Kevin Smith and Lisa Lee Benjamin. floragrubb.com

bug hotel

Insect Habitat at The Garden Tulln, Austria.

insect hotel

Insect Hotel in Germany.

bug hotel

Bug hotel by Lisa and Andrew Roberts (Living Willow Wales) at Ysgol Pontrhydfendigaid. andrewroberts.net

insect habitat

Bug hotel created by kids at the RHS Flower Show, Tatton Park. flickr.com

How To:

(A Must Read: Our Polinators Need a Home!)
For a simple hotel, drill holes 1/4" to 3/8" in the ends of logs, or cut some bamboo sticks of equal length, and stuff in a wooden box. Layer old pallets. Logs, drift wood, cut bamboo, straw, dry reeds, roofing tiles, cob. Do not use softwood for bees, as the drilled holes might fill with resin and suffocate the bees! Make sure all wood is free of chemical preservatives.

Further Reading:
insect hotel

Lots more inspiration here: flickr.com/groups/insecthotels
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Nicole Caldwell

Nicole Caldwell is a self-taught environmentalist, green-living savant and sustainability educator with more than a decade of professional writing experience. She is also the co-founder of Better Farm and president of betterArts. Nicole’s work has been featured in Mother Earth News, Reader’s Digest, Time Out New York, and many other publications. Her first book, Better: The Everyday Art of Sustainable Living, is due out this July through New Society Publishers.

Cheap (or Free!) Sustainable Housing Options

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Cheap (potentially free) to build & free to run houses 

Mark Boyle takes us through some of the most cost-effective, environmentally sound options for housing

Mark Boyle
Originally published by Permaculture Magazine

Theoretically, you could build any house for free, especially in a model such as the resource-based economy that participants in the Zeitgeist Movement propose. But realistically, a dwelling may only be built for free to the degree that it was made from local materials. Therefore any design that involves imported materials will very likely have some level of financial (and ecological) cost attached to it in most instances, though as we will see this is not necessarily so, as we can often use the detritus of industrialized society to produce the sustainable homes of the future.

For the purposes of this article, I will look at houses that could be built for free but are likely to cost something, even if it is a fraction of what you would spend on a modern brick-and-mortar house. To keep costs to the absolute minimum, use your imagination and try to use what you have at hand, as much as you possibly can, in the construction process. In all cases, once they are up they can easily be free to run on an ongoing basis. For inspiration, Lloyd Kahn's books Shelter, Home Work and Tiny Homes are excellent sources.


Passive solar designs

If you want to eliminate heating bills, and your corresponding ecological footprint into the bargain, then one of the best things you can do is build using a passive solar design, ideally using a locally sourced material such as cob, which has high thermal mass, as a means of storing the energy created. Designing in a greenhouse, where you propagate and grow whateverplants you want to eat or use, onto the south facing side of your house is one of the best methods of doing so.

The sun shines in through these windows throughout the day, heating up the dwelling behind the greenhouse. If you want a house that heats up quickly in the morning, but are happy for it to cool down in the late evening, then fitting your interiors with wood may be a good option within such a design. However, if you would prefer to have a house that takes a little longer to warm up in the morning (for example, if you are out of the house until evening) but which then stays warm throughout the evening until the following morning, then cob may be a much better alternative, as it slowly radiates the sun's warmth that it stored throughout the day.



This is one version of a passive solar house, developed in the US by pioneering architect Michael Reynolds, for parts of the country that can get as cold as -20ºC. Passive solar homes can be made using a variety of materials, and usually are. Earthships are a specific variety that are made out of recycled and natural local materials. Rainwater harvesting methods, used car tyres rammed with earth, glass panes (which you can pick up for free from your local double glazer, who often are burdened with glass that they've cut wrong or that a customer no longer wants), wind turbines, solar water heating systems, photovoltaic panels, even beer cans and glass bottles (used to create wonderful lighting effects inside), all constructed using methods that very much chime with permaculture principles.

The result is that you have a model of home that will enable you to be self-sufficient for energy and water, and with a little bit of elbow grease, food also. Given that 40 million tyres are disposed of every year in the UK, the Earthship is a solution that simultaneously solves two problems: what to do with all these tyres, and the ecological impact of importing all the building materials that we currently use to build our homes, materials these otherwise useless tyres could come to replace. The fact that this untapped resource would provide high levels of thermal mass just adds to the notion that the Earthship design, adapted to use less complex equipment than they currently are designed with, really could be the model of a sustainable, moneyless future.


Earth bag construction

As an alternative to the rammed earth tyres of the Earthship model above, which pay great long-term dividends but which require a massive amount of time and human energy to begin with (each tyre can take approximately 40 minutes to an hour to fill, though numerous friends and acquaintances have told me that the weeks they spent ramming the tyres had a powerful bonding effect on their group), there is the option of using earth bags instead, which only take a few minutes to tamp depending on how strong and energetic you are feeling.

For this purpose you could reuse the rice and grain sacks that your local wholefoods and organic retailers and/or wholesalers may have. Depending on how simply you want to build these, they could be done without money, but it is more likely that they will be low cost in their construction. In the wake of the earthquake, the Haiti Christian Development Project built around a dozen such dwellings at the cost of £1,400 each, which included wage costs.

To bring that figure as close as you can to zero, and as a transitional strategy, you could instead employ a bunch of volunteers to help, whom you'll find are often enthusiastic about getting involved, whether to learn some new building technique or apply those skills they already have to help others build the sustainable homes of the future. With such a model of working, the volunteers get to learn all the skills which they can then pass onto others or use to build their own dwelling, whilst you get some much needed labour and morale boosting support, without any financial cost.


Straw bale homes and guest houses

For a localised (and hopefully moneyless) straw bale house, the type of straw you would use is country specific. In the UK that would be rye, oats or wheat. For more information on how to do this, I recommend Barbara Jones' book Building with Straw Bales: A Practical Guide for the UK and Ireland. A very useful take on the straw bale house is a mini-model which I stayed in whilst visiting a well-known self-sufficiency project in the UK.

The owners built a little straw bale guest house for visitors and volunteers,which was effectively a pimped up tent, but much warmer and cosier. It consisted of old wooden pallets on a base which they levelled out, covered in sheep's fleece (though any insulating material you can get your hands on for free could be used), with a recycled mattress on top, surrounded on three sides by load-bearing (and small) straw bales, with a south-facing wall of windows (constructed using waste glass and free reclaimed wood), with a green roof to help it blend into its landscape. Alternatively you could use the roof for water collection, depending on other factors in your unique situation.


Subterranean houses

This underground model was popularised by Mike Oehler in his book The $50 and Up Underground House Book, which shows you the basics you need to know in order to build one. The benefits of these include:
• Due to their subterranean nature, they do not impose on the landscape they exist within, a point that is especially advantageous if you do not have planning permission.
• They require no foundations and only half the building materials.They are energy efficient due to the fact they benefit from geothermal mass and heat exchange by their very nature; with good design they can stay warm in winter and cool in summer.
• Subterranean homes can also make best use of space if you are trying to be completely moneyless and your land is under an acre.
• The materials you gain from the excavation can be used in the building process.
• They are resistant to everything from earthquakes to the much more common threat of wind. The folk down at the building regulations department may have a few thoughts on it; that is, if you tell them about it!


Circular houses

Whenever a child draws a picture of a house, it always involves straight lines, such is the ubiquity of the rectangular or square house. Such dwellings haven't always dominated, however, and some circular models are still used as low impact and moneyless homes today. If round structure appeal to you, I'd recommend looking at Circle Houses: Yurts, Tipis and Benders by David Pearson or Simple Shelters: Tents, Tipis, Yurts, Domes and Other Ancient Homes by Jonathan Horning for more information and inspiration. Four main types of round dwellings spring to mind:



These are regularly made from a number of locally sourced materials, including cob and cordwood, wooden posts, wattle and daub panels, all finished with either a thatched or reciprocal frame green roof.

A great example of one of these exists in Tinkers Bubble, an ecological community based in Somerset. Tony Wrench, who has built a well-known roundhouse, has written a very good book on the subject.



A standard yurt is usually made up of a circular, wooden lattice frame covered in canvas. The roof is composed of a transparent crown, which allows light and heat in, held up by poles. You can add to their ability to retain heat by stuffing old rugs and duvets, or other insulating materials, in between the frame and the canvas. If this design appeals to you, I would recommend investigating geodesic domes first as a similar option, but one which you are more likely to be able to construct using zero money.



These dwellings, traditionally used by Native American Indians and adopted by hippies worldwide, consist of wooden poles covered by some waterproofing material. Animal skins were traditionally used, though these days many people use canvas. The main difference between a tipi and other circular dwellings is its conical shape and opening at the top end, enabling the dweller to cook and heat themselves with an open fire. If you decide to use animal skins then tipis can be made 100% out of locally sourced materials and can easily be done without money. If you use canvas, they can still be made for free but you will need to mine the vast amounts of waste at our disposal.

If you live in the UK, all of these round structures will require planning permission; again that is if you inform the authorities. Due to their fairly mobile nature, many people just erect them and hope for the best, safe in the knowledge that they are easily moved if they get caught. In other countries such as Greece, which I spoke about earlier, many of these temporary structures do not require any permission, and given their climate and land prices, it can be a tempting place to go for anyone who wants to live outside of the absurd story of money and credit and debt without having to attempt to navigate the minefield of bureaucracy that exists in the UK.

The ideal home is one which makes the most of the best elements of all the above designs. As long as you have a sound understanding of the materials you are working with, and the landscape and climatic conditions you are working within, you can do a pick-and-mix with all the materials and designs above. A large part of your decision may simply come down to what materials grow locally to you and what you already have at hand.

For more information on building on non-development land see 'How To Get Planning Permission on Non-Development Land'
The Moneyless Manifesto by Mark Boyle is available at the special price of £11.20 (click here for e-book edition) from www.green-shopping.co.uk or call us on 01730 823 311.
Photo creditshttp://strawworks.co.uk

Further Reading:

Better Farm Builds an Igloo!

Better Farm's Igloo. Photo/Zoya Kaufmann
By Zoya Kaufmann
An igloo (from the Inuktitut iglu ᐃᒡᓗ [iɣ.'lu], "house") [1] is a temporary winter shelter built by Inuit peoples from the Mackenzie Delta in Canada's Northwest Territories [2] to northwestern Greenland.

Inuit means "the people". Inuktitut words for English speakers and French Canadians are Qallunaat (from qallu, "eyebrow"), and Uiuinaat or Guiguinaat (from the French oui), respectively. [1]

To build an Inuit igloo, blocks of compacted snow measuring approximately 24" by 48" by 8" are cut with a snowknife, traditionally made of bone[2] (see image below!).

Fun fact: The sharpest cutlery used by Inuits living in northwestern Greenland is made of iron -- space iron. Meteorite masses known as Ahnighito ("the Tent" (31 tons), "the Woman" (2½ tons), and "the Dog" (½ ton) (as well as several others rediscovered later) provided Inuit populations with metal, long before Robert Perry extracted the meteorite's location in 1894 from a local in exchange for a gun. Greenland's first railway was built to aid in transporting the meteorite family to New York, where the American Museum of National History purchased them for $40,000[4]. The meteorite masses are currently on public display. Ahnighito is held in place by supports extending down to the bedrock of the museum[5].

The first row of igloo blocks is then sloped, so that the following rows can be added in spirally. The arc of an igloo is more akin in shape to a catenoid (think of the parabola created by holding both ends of a chain, like the St. Louis Arch) than a hemisphere, reducing the structure's tendency to cave or bulge[6].

Better Farm's igloo (photo by Zoya Kaufmann)

Over the course of several days, the team at Better Farm constructed their own version of the igloo (thanks to Adam McBath for the idea!), right behind the farm's more permanent housing structure. A comparison between the Inuit and the Better Farm igloo follows:
Igloo construction tools:
Inuit snowknife


Better Farm's cooking pan (with Greg Baz, left), snow shovel, and gloved hands (with Zoya Kaufmann, right)


Inuit: One 10 ft. passageway, covered from the inside by a sealskin flap

Better Farm: Two 2 ft. passageways, sometimes covered by the legs of igloo inhabitants and guarded by dogs


Inuit: Opening at the apex

Better Farm: Accidental skylight facing north


Inuit: Seal blubber

Better Farm: Flashlight


Inuit: Willow twigs covered by caribou furs

Better Farm: Bare snow, sometimes covered by Hans Solo


Inuit: One family

Better Farm: Seven humans and one dog

Inside the 'gloo - Zoya Kaufmann, Aaron Youngs, Nicole Caldwell, and Greg Baz (photo by Adam McBath)

[1] Asuilaak. (n.d.). (Nortext, Producer) Retrieved January 6, 2013, from Inuktitut Living Dictionary: http://www.livingdictionary.com
[2] igloo. (2013). In Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved from http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/282275/igloo
[3] Pastore, R. T. (1998). The Thule. (Memorial University of Newfoundland) Retrieved from Aboriginal Peoples: http://www.heritage.nf.ca/aboriginal/thule.html
[4]Cape York Meteorite. (n.d.). Retrieved from The Encyclopedia of Science: ://www.daviddarling.info/encyclopedia/C/Cape_York_meteorite.html
[5] Hall of Meteorites. (n.d.). Retrieved from American Museum of Natural History: http://www.amnh.org/exhibitions/permanent-exhibitions/earth-and-planetary-sciences-halls/arthur-ross-hall-of-meteorites
[6] Handy, Richard L. . The Igloo and the Natural Bridge as Ultimate Structures. Arctic , Vol. 26, No. 4 (Dec., 1973), pp. 276-281. Published by: Arctic Institute of North America. Article Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/40509169.

Campy Bath Goes Glam (and Green!)

We were passed-due for a big overhaul and update on Better Farm's downstairs bathroom; but with the space being structurally sound, it was low on the priorities list. Three years since our start, and with a renovation project bearing down to create a master suite on the first floor, the opportunity arrived to shrink the downstairs bathroom, make a more sensible laundry area closer to the clothesline, and update some outdone interior design. More blogs to come about those other projects—for today, we'll focus on that downstairs bathroom and how we set about getting it glammed up in a functional way that's ready for all the high-traffic Better Farm brings.

What we did:
  • Removed the laundry area entirely to create a master bath off the bedroom downstairs, thereby shrinking the existing bathroom to a more manageable, realistic size
  • Moved the entrance door from the kitchen to the bath, spurring a refrigerator move and island addition
  • Took a standing three-part shutter system that hid an open shelving area in the bathroom, shrunk it to two panels, and used hinges to affix the shutters to the wall
  • Updated old lighting fixtures, made them more energy-efficient
  • Used discarded tongue-and-groove pine flooring to outdo the old linoleum floor (also helped with heating efficiency)
  • Added color to the old, campy walls
  • Brought in bright, insulated curtains
  • Removed clutter
The bathroom in 2009:

...and the bathroom in 2010...

...and the bathroom's metamorphosis in the last few weeks...

...and the final results!

Donated chalkboard, gold frame, vase. Upcycled baking dish used as soap holder. Magazine rack taken off back of church pews in kitchen. Painting is of old Grandma Caldwell!
Found sign, reused hooks

Lovable hand-me-downs: shower curtain, window drape, and floor rugs were all passed down to us.

Got a great design idea you'd like to share? E-mail us at info@betterfarm.org.

Many thanks to the following people for their time, energy, donations, and work on this project:

Adam McBath
Jackson Pittman
Greg Basralian
Jaci Collins
Joel Zimmer
Nicole Caldwell
David Garlock
Kristen Caldwell

Nicole Caldwell

Nicole Caldwell is a self-taught environmentalist, green-living savant and sustainability educator with more than a decade of professional writing experience. She is also the co-founder of Better Farm and president of betterArts. Nicole’s work has been featured in Mother Earth News, Reader’s Digest, Time Out New York, and many other publications. Her first book, Better: The Everyday Art of Sustainable Living, is due out this July through New Society Publishers.