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.