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.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Post-Irene Update

Thank you to all our friends who have called or emailed over the past few days to check on us at Yestermorrow after Irene hit Vermont on Sunday. The Yestermorrow campus survived relatively unscathed (only some minor erosion around the stream and pond). We postponed classes for a day to allow students time to travel but resumed normal operations on Monday evening.

Unfortunately, much of the Mad River Valley was hit hard. Many of our friends and neighbors were flooded, including our partners right across the street, Small Step Farm and Kingsbury Market Garden. Both had complete losses of their crops and fields. Pretty much all farms in the heart of the Valley along Route 100 were devastated. (Photo: Small Step Farm 8/30/11. Courtesy Robin McDermott)

Our kitchen staff has been deeply affected as well. Lisa Barnes had 5' of water flood her brand new house in Moretown village, where floods took out the bridges on both the north and south side of Rte 100. Brandon Lanich is in Hancock where access has also been cut off since Sunday; although he was able to hike out enough to get cell phone signal and let us know he's OK. Heidi's church was completely flooded in both Moretown and Waterbury, and she's been working to help clean up there.

Many local businesses and homes in downtown Waitsfield, Warren and Moretown were destroyed or damaged. Volunteers are needed to help clean up and rebuild. If you'd like to help and want more information, one good resource is a Facebook page that has been set up to coordinate volunteer efforts: (Photo: Bridge Street in Waitsfield, 8/28/11. Courtesy Jeff Knight).

Road access to most of the Mad River Valley is now open, and volunteer crews will continue throughout the week and the holiday weekend. If you can come to help and need a place to stay, call us the office at 802-496-5545 and we can help you find a place. Bring tools, trucks, mud boots and lots of energy.

If you want to donate to flood relief funds, there are a couple of good local options:
• The MRV Community Fund has been reestablished to help Mad River Valley residents, businesses, and farmers recover. Donations are also accepted via Paypal.
• Text FOODNOW to 52000 to donate $10 to Vermont Foodbank. The Foodbank will turn each donation into $60 for families in need.
• You can also donate to the American Red Cross of Vermont and the New Hampshire Valley. The Red Cross set up shelters immediately after Irene hit for flooded-out families to stay in.
• The VT Irene Flood Relief Fund is raising money to help people and communities affected by flooding. 100% of all donations will be distributed to businesses and families.

The MRV is also open for business and major Labor Day weekend events including the Mad River Valley Craft Fair and the Green Mountain Stage Race are ON, so don't be a stranger- your business helps the whole Valley to recover and rebuild. This will require a major community effort, over the next weeks, months and years.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Conservation Innovation Grant Award

Today US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the winning proposals for the 2011 Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG), including $5,000 for Yestermorrow's new demonstration greenhouse design and construction. According to the USDA's website, "through CIG, the USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is investing nearly $22.5 million in innovative conservation technologies and approaches that address a broad array of existing and emerging natural resource issues."

According to Vilsack, "The grants will help to spur creativity and problem solving to benefit conservation-minded farmers and ranchers. Everyone who relies upon the sustainability of our nation's natural resources for clean water, food and fiber, or their way of life, will benefit from these grants."

Yestermorrow's greenhouse project is currently in design development, working with Zach Weiss from Perpetual Green Gardens and a variety of Yestermorrow faculty who will contribute their expertise to the design process. Current Kitchen/Garden Intern Josh Capodarco has taken a lead in coordinating the planning and helped to research and write the winning grant proposal.

The greenhouse will demonstrate a variety of innovative technologies including a "Jean Pain mound" (woodchip compost) to heat the soil, a biochar stove to increase soil fertility and provide emergency backup heat, rainwater catchment for irrigation, and an integrated chicken coop. We plan to move forward with construction of the greenhouse once a site is determined through our current master planning process. Yestermorrow's greenhouse will not only serve as an example to its students interested in household scale greenhouses, but will be open to local farmers and community members so that a wide variety of people can learn from the technologies demonstrated by the project.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Innovative Homes Tour Offers a Peek Inside Five Hidden Gems

The many inventive and beautiful homes in the Mad River Valley are a nod to the creative, resourceful, and ecological sensibilities of the community. Yestermorrow’s 9th Annual Innovative Homes of the Mad River Valley House Tour, taking place Saturday, August 27, provides a rare opportunity to sneak a peek inside five hidden gems, each brand new to the tour.

Previous Tour Location: Archie Bunker (exterior) - Dave Sellers

Innovation can take on many forms in the realm of home design, including creative design features, unusual materials choices, unique building processes, progressive renewable energy technologies or energy efficiency strategies, and ecological-minded site design. This year’s itinerary includes homes with a staggering variety of innovative aspects.

Tour participants will explore an almost completed, eighteen year-long work-in-progress timberframe home, the owner of which has lovingly crafted and sourced structural and aesthetic details that will inspire even the most jaded viewer. Another home on the tour, a contemporary masterpiece, burned to the ground just a few years after it was built, and was lovingly rebuilt from the ashes with only minor alterations.

The tour will include two homes in the shape of barns. The first actually was a barn, built in the 1800’s, disassembled from it’s original location 100 years later, and rebuilt at it’s current site as a luxurious home. For the other, the structure of the building is new, but almost every material choice and architectural detail -- from the exterior barn board, to the interior flooring, to the playful mud-room cubbies -- was salvaged and rescued from a variety of locations around the state.

The final home on the tour is a model of gracious self-sufficiency and independence. This inspiring hillside farmhouse was designed and built by the owners, who also continue to provide for much of their own needs with large vegetable gardens, chickens, and a sheep-farming/breeding business. The house is also completely off the electrical grid!

Previous Tour Location: Archie Bunker (interior) - Dave Sellers

At each stop on the tour, participants will be met either by the owner or designer of the home who will talk about the concepts that drove the design, and the unique and innovative choices that were made. Seats on the tour bus are limited and going fast, so reserve now by calling 496-5545. This full-day event runs from 9:30am to 4:30pm. The $50 ticket includes lunch. All proceeds from the tour support Yestermorrow Design/Build School’s scholarship fund.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Getting Ready to Welcome Semester Program Students

Wow- things are really humming at Yestermorrow this August as we prepare for the arrival of 12 new students in our fall Semester in Sustainable Design/Build on August 21st. This year for the launch of our new semester programs we are renting space at the Vermont College of Fine Arts in downtown Montpelier, VT where we will have a satellite design studio, office, dormitories and jobsite. Our new full time faculty member Carey Clouse arrived at the beginning of the month, and we've been meeting regularly to refine our curriculum plans and last minute logistics.

Last week we spent 2 days at VCFA setting up a 24x32' tent structure which we will use as a shelter while we build the semester's project- a tiny house built on a 8'x28' trailer bed. Faculty member Josh Jackson's experience in raising timber frames came in handy as we assembled and raised the "bents", only this time with steel tubing and bolts instead of traditional pine rafters and pegs.

While we were working on site, faculty member Ben Cheney and former intern Zack Hunter were working away welding the parts for 16 drafting tables which will grace the new studio.

Thursday morning bright and early at 7AM a large truck from North Carolina bearing our tiny house trailer arrived in Montpelier and Josh and Jose maneuvered it up to VCFA.

Next week Carey will give a public lecture at Yestermorrow on her work in affordable housing development in post-Katrina New Orleans on 8/17 at 7pm, and we'll be setting up the new studio and office in Montpelier all week. Then after the students arrive on Sunday, they'll head off on a 3-day orientation backpacking trip on the Long Trail.

In upcoming blog posts we'll introduce each of the students, but just to give you a snapshot, they range in age from 20-40, hail from Maine to California to Switzerland, and attend UMass, Hampshire, The New School, Clemson, U. Washington, Pomona, UVM, Sarah Lawrence, Norwich, Skidmore and College of the Atlantic. Their majors include environmental design, fine arts, architecture, human ecology, and construction management.