Yestermorrow Design/Build School in Waitsfield, Vermont offers over 80 hands-on courses per year in design, construction, woodworking, and architectural craft and offers a variety of courses concentrating in sustainable design. Now in its 35th year, Yestermorrow is one of the only design/build schools in the country, teaching both design and construction skills. Our hands-on 1-day to 3-week workshops, certificate programs and semester programs are taught by top architects, builders, and craftspeople from across the country. For people of all ages and experience levels, from novice to professional.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Keeping Our Heads Warm

One of the pleasures of working at a non-profit organization is that every so once in a while someone makes a gesture of thanks that touches you deeply. And while our general tendency is to ask that those appreciative actions take the form of donations to support our non-profit mission, the occasional cookie and note are greatly treasured too. So imagine our surprise and glee when early this week a package arrived with not only two plates of delicious cookies, but also a plethora or hand-sewn fleece caps to keep us all warm for the winter and beyond. So thank you Yestermorrow Alumnus Susan Houle for your generosity and creativity. Here is a picture of all of us in our blissful beanies. Happy Holidays Susan and Thanks,

Bob Ferris

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Musings of a disgruntled graduate student

In my “real life,” as Dan, our Outreach Director refers to it, I am a graduate student at the University of Vermont. In my “other" life (which I also consider to be real), I am part-time office staff at Yestermorrow. My graduate research at UVM involves studying rare plant populations in the Green Mountain National Forest in Vermont. Particularly, I am studying the ecology and population biology of rare plant Eastern Jacob’s ladder (see pretty picture to the right). At Yestermorrow, I am the person on the other end of the phone line, and the one who processes course registrations.

Throughout my 4-year-long pursuit of a Ph.D. in Ecology and Evolution, I’ve learned a great deal about science, conservation, and academia. My problem (or great attribute, depending on how you look at it!) is my inability to focus singly on one single thing for 4+ years (a.k.a. the Dissertation). Mostly because I believe that ecology isn’t just about studying the interaction between plants and pollinators or plants and herbivores, but rather about the entire natural system of interconnections, especially those between humans and living organisms. We humans are so instrumentally involved in altering the natural systems that have evolved over many thousands of years. It would be ludicrous for me, as an ecologist, to disregard our species’ enormous ecological impact over recent years.

This belief was part of what brought me to Yestermorrow, a place of radical ecology, unconventional thought and a strong sense of community. What we do here is exciting and extremely relevant. Yestermorrow is a place to stretch out, open your mind, and throw out any preconceived notions. My formal education as an ecologist is ultimately complimented by the courses at Yestermorrow which touch on not only the world of design/build, but also about human ecology and living in accordance with nature.

Paradigm shifts only happen when enthusiastic people join together to educate and create change – Yestermorrow is burgeoning great thinkers! To paraphrase a quote from an incredible book Edible Forest Gardens by Dave Jacke and Eric Toensmeier... don’t give me academic ponderings, give me practical action!

Friday, December 08, 2006

Concrete Countertops Completes a Pour

Last weekend's Concrete Countertops class with Sandy Lawton and Buzz Ferver completed a pour for a set of kitchen countertops for a client in South Woodbury VT. Here Sandy and Buzz demonstrate how to screed the form.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Ringel Unveils 10 Commandments of Yestermorrow

On Saturday, December 2nd Board President John Ringel spoke to the assembled masses of and unveiled the 10 Commandments of Yestermorrow:

1) Thou Shall Grow And Increase Thy Flock
2) Thou Shall Teach More Classes and Diversify The Curriculum
3) Thou Shall Create More Space And Improve Thy Temple
4) Thou Shall Build A Better, More Sustainable Future, One Building And Mind At A Time
5) Thou Shall Teach Longer and Deeper, Giving Credit And Certfication To The Most Deserving
6) Thou Shall Better The Lives Of Thy Disciples And Enrich Their Experience
7) Thou Shall Raise More Money And Fill Thy Coffers With Bounty
8) Thou Shall Have A Balanced Budget
9) Thou Shall Be A Lamp Unto The World And Preach The Word of Design/Build To The Masses And Beyond
10) Thou Shall Stick To The Plan, Stan.

John is pictured here on the Mount of Yestermorrow (otherwise known as the Grassy Knoll) with Board Members Mac Rood, Kathy Meyer and Bill Bialosky. Many thanks to Dave Kaplan for inscribing the tablets.

December 4th: A Day in the Life of Bob

At the last staff meeting before Thanksgiving all present were urged to do a post on Yestermorrow’s blog and when the rotation came around to me I looked at the floor and then the ceiling hoping that they would just ignore me and move on. They didn’t. So, Bob what are you going to do? Uh, uh…. Why don’t you do a day in the life of an executive director? So bowing to peer and other forms of pressure, here goes:

December 4, 2006—A Day in the Life of Bob


Snow. A new dusting—perhaps the base for snows to come and a white holiday season. Cold, in the 20’s. A brisk walk to work.

Kate is at the printers putting the summer catalogue to bed. A big task completed and our largest catalogue of classes ever. Way to go Kate!

Helped Steven clean up the South Studio in preparation for the Low Cost Renewable Energy Systems class. (Yes, concrete sacks are just as heavy as I remembered.)

Scooted home quickly to gather some pipe wrenches and other plumbing supplies needed for the class.

Students start to arrive for class.

Checked e-mails and skimmed the NY Times e-version for tidbits to jump start my brain. Bolton resigns. Worked with Dan to get the last of the 3000 or so annual fundraising letters signed and ready to go to the mail house and then into the postal system. (Coming to a mailbox near you.)

Reviewed planning documents for Yestermorrow site. What can we do on site and which set of plans are we all looking at.

What is that pounding? Big hammers crushing bricks on the South Studio floor with the brick fragments and dust being used to create a homemade refractory lining for a mini-kiln.

Contacted Will Raap, founder of Gardener’s Supply Company, and checked in regarding joint marketing and administration of our two classes in Costa Rica. Great interest generated via Yestermorrow e-newsletter and documents sent out by Will Raap.

Talked on the phone with instructor Keith Giamportone. He met with socially and environmentally responsible builder John Knott Jr. and they talked briefly about the potential of starting a Yestermorrow program in Charleston, SC to teach design/build to folks who have had a collision with the legal system. Contacted John via e-mail and we caught up on news and worked towards setting up time for a conference call.

Walked home to lunch with Carlene who is taking renewable energy class. Peanut butter, Vermont bread, and local honey sandwiches and an apple. Brisk walk back to work.


Met with Steven re: intern chores, site projects and future visions. How do we do spectacular improvements on a shoestring? To add the commercial kitchen or not to add the kitchen, that is the question.

Signed checks to pay our bills. Hung out with Carol for a while making sure the interns got paid and paid correctly.

Spoke on the phone with Jon Zuber—film producer, actor and old friend. Got an update on an environmental film project I’ve been advising on for the last three years and found out that Jon had just signed up for our natural building course in Costa Rica. We shared a few Jacques Cousteau stories and then signed off.

Out in the cold to see if the recently manufactured ram-pump worked. It didn’t. Back to the drawing board and we will get a 1” feed pipe rather than ½” for tomorrow. True design/build in action!

Raided the Christmas package left by the Round Barn Bed and Breakfast for a couple of cookies to fend off the chill. (I think it worked.)

Carried on e-mail dialogue with Steve Badanes about how to get Eric Lloyd Wright (grandson of Frank) and Don Aitken (founder of the environmental studies program at San Jose State University) to visit Yestermorrow.

Walked the Main Studio Art Show set up with instructor Lisa Williams so she could show me what had sold and how to turn the various lights on and off. Lisa and various volunteers, work traders, and interns did a masterful job on getting this ready!

Last sweep through the office and then flick on the flashlight for a dark, snowy walk home with Carlene.


Warmed up the truck for drive to the General Wait House and a meeting set up by former Yestermorrow board member Linda Lloyd to help revive a local affordable housing coalition. Stopped at the Waitsfield Mobil for gas and a friendly interchange with the clerk. We talked about the weather. It is snowing again, big flakes in the headlights and getting colder.

Home to a snack and them off to bed.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

New Yestermorrow T-Shirt Design is here!

Hi Folks! Check out our new T'Shirt graphic in Men's and Women's sizes..Special thanks to Kristen Zeiber Anne-Marie Flusche for their hard work on the design. (They make great gifts!)

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Natural Paints spruce up South Studio

The Natural Paints and Finishes class gave new life to the South Studio this fall. Mineral pigments were added to bases made with either clay or milk curds. The Rasta theme just sort-of happened as a result of trying to mix rich colors. Jah mon!

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Exhibition and Sale: Opening Reception this Saturday!

We are busy getting ready for the 2nd Annual Exhibition and Sale featuring art from the Yestermorrow community! The Main Studio Gallery is spruced up, and new pieces are arriving for the show every day- including ceramics, photography, watercolors, collage, fine furniture, wooden boxes, oils, and a variety of mixed media pieces.

The vases shown here are by Michael Sullivan, a Yestermorrow 2005 intern. You can now see more of the work from the show online at:!

Join us Saturday evening from 6-9 for the opening reception, and the exhibition will continue through Sunday, December 10th from 9am-5pm daily.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Chalet bathroom gets a makeover.

The old leaky chalet shower is now a thing of the past. This beautiful new watertight shower was completed last week. All of the interns got to participate in the various aspects of this project from the plumbing, to the tiling, to the plastering. It was a long process, but our hard work paid off as the bathroom is now the best room in the chalet.

West Wall Project is Complete

After months of work on the west wall of the shop, the project has come to a point of completion. Thanks to the natural paints and finishes class the doors were painted with an auburn casein (milk based) paint and a salmon alis (clay based) paint; and look great. Rough cut pine was used around the windows and doors to give add a little wabi-sabi. And to top it off Zack dressed up a couple sections with birch bark strips, found in the back forty. With the doors complete, the shop is now ready for really big projects to move in and out through the west wall.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006


Our latest Biofuels course successfully converted two diesel trucks to run on straight vegetable oil (SVO). The class split into two teams and spent the weekend installing heated SVO tanks, fuel and coolant lines, and electrical solenoids and switches. By Sunday evening the trucks rolled out our new shop doors and hit the road running petroleum-free!

Stump to Sticker

Our first Stump to Sticker class taught by instructor Nick Zandstra of Topsham was a huge success! Over 2 days they walked the woods, talked about sustainable and low-impact forest management techniques, learned how to fell trees and haul them out of the woods by hand (using a hand arch), and mill the wood using a portable WoodMizer sawmill. The two trees which were harvested (a hemlock and a yellow birch) will be used in upcoming Yestermorrow class projects, and a few of the hemlock pieces have already found their way into the timberframe which we raised last weekend as rafters. In this photo one of the students tries to lift the log using the leverage of the arch.

Electricity: Safe and Secure

Despite the title of our recent class, Electricity: Safe and Secure, our student Susan demonstrates her special technique for wire stripping...

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Super-insulation Guru Visits Yestermorrow

Yestermorrow Instructor Bill Hulstrunk came by last week to help us re-insulate the wall by our new Executive Director's office with cellulose. We are now buttoned up for winter and toasty warm. Thanks Bill!

Monday, November 13, 2006

Yearly Yestermorrow Art Show & Sale

Opening Reception:
December 2, 2006
The Yestermorrow Design/Build School is gearing up for its 2nd Annual Art Show & Sale with artworks in all mediums from staff, instructors & interns. If you are in the neighborhood please stop by any time December 2-10, 2006!

Artwork is arriving -- Look forward to photography, pastel, ceramics, fine woodworking, water-color, collage and lots more!

If you would like to submit artwork to the show please contact:
Lisa Williams:
Nils Shenholm:

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Stained Glass

Last weekend's Stained Glass Primer class shows off their final product...

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

North Branch School Project Takes Shape

Our October Home Design/Build class is in full swing. For their building project they are working on a shed for the North Branch School , a small independent school for grades 7-9 in Ripton, VT. The shed is being built at Yestermorrow and will be transported to the site tomorrow, where NBS parents and volunteers will help complete some of the finishing touches.

Campus Improvements

Many thanks go out to Bob Shaffer, member of the Board, for his efforts with his tractor mowing the Yestermorrow meadows. It looks great!

West Wall Shop Doors Go In

We are nearing completion on one of our summer 2006 projects- the rebuilding of the woodshop west wall and installation of custom fabricated doors. The purpose of this project has been to improve the insulation in our building envelope (we added cellulose insulation and triple pane Accurate Dorwin windows above), as well as to allow access in and out of the shop. The new doors will allow us to build small structures inside during the winter, and then move them out for transport. This week the doors went in, and the windows within the doors will go in later today. Here are Martin and Travis, two fall interns, hard at work installing the doors.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Permaculture Takes a Yoga Break

Our two-week Permaculture Design Certification class took a break this morning for some yoga out on the front lawn...

Tile Your World Takes Over the Arches

Last weekend's Tile Your World class took over the Yestermorrow arches with their mosaics- what an improvement of the view out the office window!

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Yestermorrow Projects are Supporting Players in Walk Against Global Warming

With his frustration at government inaction bubbling over, noted writer, environmentalist, and activist Bill McKibben, took to the streets in an effort to make the voice of the people heard. He organized a five-day March Against Global Warming over Labor Day weekend, beginning at the old summer cabin of Robert Frost in Ripton, Vermont, and winding it's way to Burlington for a culminating rally. Village green meetings were held each evening at stops along the way. Several Yestermorrow staffers participated in sections of the walk.

Yestermorrow was also thrilled to provide technical and structural support to event. Our Mobile Solar Power Generating Unit, built in our 2005 Installing an Independent Solar Power System workshop, travelled the entire route, collecting energy by day, and providing it each evening as the power source for the PA system that allowed the voice of the people to be heard as they exhorted our leaders to take action.

A recent class project, the Mobile Writer's Cabin, designed and constructed by our 2006 Community Design/Build class housed McKibben on the fourth night of the walk, during his stop at Shelburne Farms. McKibben is quoted as saying,
The mobile writing cabin--henceforth to be known as either the WordShip or the Sentence Structure--is a thing of great beauty and utility, and I slept like a baby within its comforting confines. I'm thinking of ordering one for myself and giving up my home.
Yestermorrow is pleased to have participated in this important event.

Ex-Wolfman takes over Yestermorrow

Bob Ferris—a member of the team that went north to capture the last set of wolves reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park—joined Yestermorrow as executive director in September. Ferris, who has worked in the wildlife conservation, environmental protection, and sustainability arenas for a quarter of a century, looks forward to a long and productive stint at Yestermorrow. “Our lifestyles have put an already ailing planet at additional risk. We must change the way we build our homes, design our communities and live our lives. The courses at Yestermorrow help us do just that and do so in a way that makes sustainability and living small on the planet not only a practical necessity but a pleasing and desirable option,” said Ferris. Bob can be reached at

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Innovative Homes of the Mad River Valley Tour

For the fourth year, Yestermorrow organized the Innovative Homes of the Mad River Valley tour as part of the Festival of the Arts this past Saturday. With 40 participants and a big yellow school bus, we toured the Valley and visited five different homes, each with unique architectural features. At each house, the homeowner and architect told the history and story of how it was designed, built and changed over the years. Organized as a special fundraiser for Yestermorrow's scholarship fund, the event raised over $1,000!

Earth Structures class

This year's Earth Structures class (August 6-11) worked on a variety of projects including an earthbag root cellar at Rootswork, lime plastering of the cob garden wall built in our June Cob class, and building a living roof on top of the cob wall (pictured here).

The cabin is on the move...

After a few days of finishing touches and trim work, the cabin hits the road courtesy of Hap's Garage to head over the mountain to Shelburne Farms.

Cabin gets underway...

The roof trusses go up and the roof takes shape...

Community Design/Build Gets Underway

This summer's Community Design/Build class started off with three intensive days of group design and model-building for a mobile writer's cabin for Shelburne Farms. Here a group of students put the finishing touches on the model before presenting to the client.

Monday, July 24, 2006

home design/build gets an A+

two fabulous weeks have culminated in the creation of the basis of an attendent booth destined for the barre, vt recycling center. staying true to the theme, we used salvaged wood, leftover paint, empty aluminum cans, and metal roofing turned siding to build a structure that will one day help enable others to properly dispose of their accumulated trash to treasure goodies. for the home design portion of the class, we had a broad range of projects and issues: an addition in alaska, a renovation for the dominican republic, new construction in chile, and a strawbale in the hills of kentucky~ a microcosm of diversity congealing in one, small design studio in the mountains of vermont. who'da thunk it?!? where else in the world can you get such a plethora of people and projects besides yestermorrow? nowhere, that's where. and the only way to experience this amazing conjunction of fabulosity is to come here and try it for yourself!

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Cabinets Unlimited

Ken Burton's Cabinets Unlimited course finished upat the end of June, having built a beautiful red oak gun cabinet.

Architectural Woodcarving

Last week's Architectural Woodcarving class was led by instructor William Schnute. Each student completed a carved panel of their own design based on natural scenes.

Plaster Extravaganza Class Gets Plastered

Here instructor Buzz Ferver and student Chris Grifo mix lime plaster as part of the 10-day Plaster Extravaganza course in June.

Treehouse Railing Nears Completion

After many hours of hard work on the part of spring and summer interns, the railing to our treehouse's handicapped-accessible ramp is nearly done! Here Jason installs metal fencing recycled from the old Alpen Inn tennis courts on our property.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

interns caught clowning around

after witnessing the high flying acrobatics at circus smirkus this past thursday evening, a group of local interns returned to their yester-chalet and proceeded to perform (badly) their own aerial show utilizing the rafters, rope, and hammock located therein. lucky for them, no one managed to land themself in the hospital, but bruises are sure to hang around for at least a few days. the shenanigans carried over into the next day when the seven rolled out of their mini clown car for morning meeting, with red noses appropriately adorned amusing their (non-paying) audience of three.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

saving the world one step to the mouldering toilet at a time!

these sustainable stairs are of solely salvaged stuff. we sawed and sanded simultaneously for simple strength. surely these stompin' steps sit securely should you [s]need to shit. show up and see their sassy stringers and sexy slats sometime soon.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Little Cabin, Big Plans!

Progress is slowly being made on the sheathing of the timberframe cabin. We hope to be the group of interns to snag the "completing cabin 3" distinction. Interior and exterior siding and a set of stairs to replace the ramp are the main requirements, but given the site's tricky topography, the project might prove somewhat more time-consuming than expected -- just check out the setup on that scaffolding...

Other (completed!) projects include the local foods bulletin board, an orderly marriage of wood scraps (amongst them rosewood and ipe) scavenged from the pit and of flyers keeping yesterstudents posted on the various foods produced around the Valley.

The mouldering toilet has also gotten a mighty solid damn goodlooking spankin' new set of stairs; grand opening ceremony is yet to be scheduled -- we'll keep you posted.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Looking to ward off the chilling effects of weeks of diluvian Vermont rains, Orion takes a break from the Ark design/build project (tailored to accomodate a crew of 7 interns and one kitten) and warms up his audience with some fire-dancing action, drawing out dragons with his cotton-kevlar wicks.

When not planning biblical escapes on the Mad River, the interns also find time to do some work, once in a while... when they aren't in class, that is.

They picked up the basics of the Yestermorrow shop during their one-sheet-of-plywood training, rippin' through european birch ply and firing nailguns to bring their very own furniture designs to fruition.
Instructors Andy and Eyrich kicked ass as they stayed up later then their students to work through our knotty design problems...

And popcorn from Bisbee's provided nutritious sustenance throughout the week.

With new Yester-skills under their toolbelts, they were ready to demolish the strawbale cube (lovingly built by the strawbale class in the Quonset hut) when the sun came out last week...