The Scything Handbook: Learn How to Cut Grass, Mow Meadows and Harvest Grain by Hand

The Scything Handbook is one more on a string of beautiful, helpful (and once common) pearls that can help save us from a debilitating fate as mere “consumers,” and restore us to our birthrights as participants in creation. Full disclosure here, I know the author Ian. We’re teaching a class together in Oregon this August (info and registration here), and I also wrote the forward to his book, which is brief, clear, and as simple as a clean cut with a sharp blade — an ideal starting place if you’re interested in giving up your stinky, noisy mowing machine and replacing it with an old-world scythe.…

Cardboard dulcimers at summer Camp

Thanks to the folks at Farm and Wilderness camps, here’s a lovely video of one of the campers and his new “axe,” and more pix of music-making campers on FB, here.

To make your own, download a pdf of the book, Make a Ray Jacobs Rocky Mountain Dulcimer, here. The paper version is on sale through the HP bookstore.

My brother went to the Farm & Wilderness Camps in Vermont when he was a kid. Now his daughter is the camper, he helps out teaching woodwork. I sent him the dulcimer book, and he helped about a dozen musicians make their own instruments, not just campers, but counselors as well.…

beautiful kazoo

Doug Shafer was playing his guitar at the Portland airport this summer, on that rare day I got on a plane to goto CA (for a day! to build an oven for a writer at Sunset, but that’s another story). I stopped to listen and talk. He had these beautiful little kazoos for sale, hand made from a small piece of bamboo, some duct tape, and a piece of an old plastic bag — beautiful! He sold ’em for about $5. A deal not to pass up. Doug’s website: http://www.doug-shafer.com/…

Gift books for Christmas: Make a Rocky Mountain Dulcimer

“In the end, we shall have had enough of cynicism, scepticism and humbug, and will want to live – more musically.” This quote (Vincent Van Gogh to his brother Theo), came to me from a friend, just before Christmas, 2012, as I was finishing this gift book about how to make a gorgeous-sounding 3-stringed instrument from scrap wood and cardboard. Details and story in the book, so more people can make their own music with their own neighbors. There’s an onscreen (pdf) version below, and a youtube video of Ray and Shirley playing for you. A $10, (full color!) paper version is also available from the bookstore. For the free download, click here.…

Hug Hut at Muddy Creek School, Philomath

Muddy Creek charter school in Philomath commissioned this mud project as the initial step in creating an “outdoor classroom.” All 60 kids, K-5, participated in 2 days of playdough brainstorming and design, and six days of mud. Parents and neighbors contributed random prunings of willow, fruitwood, and forsythia that we wove into a rough hut; the mud came up out of a hole in the ground, and we ended up making a lovely cob bench and this “hug hut.”

The hut was designed to “last” for just one winter, and then get torn down so new students could make their own — instead of taking care of someone else’s work.…

Dig Your Hands in the Dirt — More!: a collection of stories

For a collection of stories to follow-up/add on to Dig Your Hands in the Dirt, take a look at this site, put together by Georgie Donais, which includes stories from:

Bill & Athena Steen Candy Vanderhoff Daniel Frenkel/Chelsea Sprauer Ed Raduazo Georgie Donais Janine Björnson jonah vitale-wolff Kat Sawyer Kiko Denzer Nobuho Nagasawa Rainer Warzecha Sasha Rabin PROJECT stories include: Albany Free School oven Always Becoming Bambo Dome Beauty and utility Dufferin Grove Park Earthworks Projects Introduction/afterword Makunaima Poetry Bench Portable cob White Crane Springs Community Garden Woodburn High School CONTRIBUTORS’ WEBSITES Always Becoming, Washington City Repair, Portland Cob in the park, Toronto Interglotz eARThworks, Berlin Nobuho Nagasawa’s Earthworks Rebuilding Together, San Francisco OTHER LINKS OF INTEREST Poetry bench Djenne: West Africa’s Eternal City Gran quivira oven Arrested Development: inspired the book’s title Hand Print Press…

Paper from Vegetable Fiber

This is one example of many projects found in the book The Best of Making Things – A Hand Book of Creative Discovery. Find out more about the book!

You wil need: 8 strips of wooden lath (or cut a wooden yardstick) – small nails – hammer – window screening – staple gun – dry vegetable fibers (such as corn husks, onion skins, celery strings, sawdust, weeds, or straw) – scissors -blender – paper towels, napkins, paper bags, newspaper or tissue – dishpan – newspaper – sponge – iron.

Make 2 wooden frames the same size (any size that fits in a dishpan).…

Terra Preta and “the Biochar Solution”

The Biochar Solution: Carbon Farming and Climate Change, by Albert Bates A review by Kiko Denzer

Living trees lock up carbon, and burning releases it. That’s the conflict-ridden equation of global warming. Albert Bates has been at the front lines of the warming conflict since his 1990 title, Climate in Crisis. In this book, he defines “biochar” as “charred (pyrolized) organic matter intended to be applied to soil in farming or gardening,” and argues that partial burning of waste wood and other carbonaceous matter can effectively “lock up” carbon and store it underground in a human-fired echo of what Gaia did when she converted ancient forests into coal and oil.…

Dig Your Hands in the Dirt: A Manual for Making Art out of Earth

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As you might suspect, a book with this title features many photos of barefoot kids happily stomping in the mud. Mud huts and mud pies conjure up pictures of primitive peoples and childish pleasures. But then you realize that the kids aren’t in Africa, but in Washington DC, Chicago, Portland (Oregon), and Berlin. And they aren’t all kids!

Looking past the pictures of giddy, muddy fun, here is substantial and serious inspiration and practical lessons for artists, teachers, students, and designers, as well as builders interested in natural materials like adobe (and, more recently, it’s British counterpart, “cob.”)

The book begins with a color section of stunning murals based on traditional south African pattern design, a monumental labyrinth and sundial, a whole earthen park (in Berlin), large-scale sculpted benches and structures, model villages and even tiny bird-houses of mud sculpted on woven frames.…