2012: A Year in Review

Written by Andrew Morrison

live in the presentAs we draw towards the end of 2012, I have been reflecting on what an amazing year it has been. I’ve also been looking at my goals for 2013 and how I might set my self up properly to achieve them. Through all of this, I have  tried to live up to perhaps my most important life goal: staying present.

My good friend Chris Keefe gave me a bumper sticker many years ago for my birthday. It reads “live in the present.” I never stuck it to anything because I figured that whatever I stuck it to would eventually, sooner or later, not be effectively in “my present life.” That seems to have been a good idea because it still sits here in front of me at my desk each day, reminding me to stay present to all that is around me and within me. A powerful gift, indeed. So as I sit here sharing the story of this birthday gift from years past and its influence on me today, I’d like to take a look back at 2012 and share with you a few stories from a fabulous year.

For those who like bullet points, I’ll layout the stories I plan to share with you here so you can decide if you want to read the entire year in review or simply jump ahead to a specific spot.

  • Living small in a big world: Our life changing trip to Mexico and the experience of living in a tiny home for 5 months.
  • 10 Amazing straw bale workshops: 2 trips to Australia, the first ever Design Seminar, and over 250 more people trained in the art of straw bale construction.
  • The release of our Framing Video: The How to Guide to Framing a Straw Bale Structure.
  • The release of my book: A Modern Look at Straw Bale Construction.
  • Rediscovering my passion for inspiring others to greatness.

Living Small in a Big World

pop up tent trailer by a palapaI started 2012 on a beach outside of Mulege, Baja Sur Mexico. What was an amazing end to 2011 continued to be an inspiring start to 2012. I was roughly 3 months into a 5 month experiment of living tiny. As I have shared in other blog entries here (and my wife Gabriella has also written some truly wonderful posts at www.TinyHouseBuild.com that chronicle our time in Mexico and our return to the US some 5 months later) the experience of living in a tiny pop tent trailer on the beach in Mexico with my wife and 12 year old daughter was absolutely life changing.

I am forever grateful for having taken the trip, learned the lessons, and my continued passion to live powerfully-small in a big world. I hope you will check out some of the blog entries Gabriella and I wrote on the experience and that you will find inspiration in them. Perhaps start with this interview I gave back in November about the move to Mexico, our return home, and Living Small in a Big World.

The Incredible World of Workshops

straw bale workshop graduate classThis past year I had the privilege of teaching 253 people how to build their own straw bale house. That’s 253 more people in the world with the knowledge of how to create their own shelter. I imagine that not every single one of them will be able to build a house from start to finish after just one class, but I can guarantee two things: 1) that they all feel more confident about what’s involved in the process and 2) that we had a LOT of fun along the way!

I was blessed to travel to Australia twice in 2012, once to New South Wales and once to Western Australia. I also got to spend time with people from all over the world at my workshops, both in Australia, and in my classes across the United States. Consider that I got to hang out with people from Slovenia, Russia, Latvia, Lithuania, Japan, New Zealand, Mexico, the US (including Alaska), Canada, and South Africa, just to name a few.

It’s such a treat to share my love for straw bale with people and to have the opportunity to learn from them as well. Sometimes I learn about a new culture, sometimes it’s a new joke, sometimes is something related to straw bale construction. One thing is for certain: I always learn something new and I always have fun in the process.

A New Framing Video

man framing with speed squareWhat started out as a sad story, ended up in a completely positive light. It’s amazing how often this is the case, when I get out of the way of my own thoughts and allow inspiration to shine through. Here’s a quick story to share with you about how the Framing Video came to fruition. It was not planned and the Universe simply lined things up to allow it to happen. Teresa, the host of the Sam’s Valley straw bale workshop in May 2012, had tried really hard to get her financing in place for her dream straw bale home, but unfortunately got dragged back and forth by the banks. She never got her financing in time for the workshop, which is why things started out as a sad story.

Here’s where things started to shift though. She decided to host the workshop anyway as she believed that “doing a good thing can never yield bad results and my hosting a workshop can only show the Universe how much I want to build my straw bale home.” She decided to build a small cabin, the Mountain View Cabin, in which she would live while she refocused on gathering her financing to build her dream straw bale home.

To help her with the unforeseen costs of building this cabin, I offered to frame it up for her and used the opportunity to film the process for the creation of the framing video. This became one of my favorite things: a win-win for us both. Once her dream home is built, the Mountain View Cabin will be her guest cabin. The stunning view towards Mt. McGloughlin is what gives the cabin its name, by the way.

Why Not Write a Book Too?

Modern Look at Straw Bale ConstructionAs if my year was not busy enough, I decided to write a book as well, A Modern Look At Straw Bale Construction. It started out innocently enough, as such things often do. It was just going to be a simple book of design details, maybe 20 pages long, with some descriptions of each detail. Well…I have been known to talk people’s ears off about straw bale construction, I’m just that easily excitable about it.

Seems that the same excitement got hold of me in the book and I ended writing nearly 200 pages of instruction, design details, and construction tips and techniques. I have received great feedback on the book, and I must say, I am really proud of it. It is my first book and so there is a sense of fatherliness, I guess you could say, that comes with it.

Gabriella and I have decided to take it one step further in 2013 and we are seeking publication of the book. In fact, if you know anyone who can help us in this endeavor, we are very open to hearing from you. As we understand things, it’s easier to talk publication if you know someone in the field.

For now, we are self publishing and are having a heck of a time keeping enough stock on hand to fill all of our orders. In fact, some of you may remember the Thanksgiving evening when we launched the book and as a result, crashed our website due to too much traffic. Although frustrating, it was humbling to see the enthusiasm that surrounded the book release. That enthusiasm continues today and we are very grateful.


man opening arms to sky
Photo from www.cc-chapman.com

I have a strong passion for teaching straw bale construction. That’s clear to me and to those I have had the privilege of teaching over the years. What I  rediscovered in 2012 is that I have an equally strong passion to inspire people to reach their own personal greatness, whether it be within construction or simply within life. This is something that I have always aspired to bring to my workshop experience, and is something that I am excited to take to the next level in 2013.

In addition to my 2013 straw bale workshops schedule (8 classes in 8 states), I will be teaching three “mini-workshops” in the Mother Earth News Fair in Puyallup, Washington on June 1 and 2. Two of the “mini-workshops” are straw bale related; however, the third will be an expansion of my personal growth coaching and inspirational teachings. It will focus on people reaching their life goals and creating the lives they want for themselves.

I am calling it “Create Your Freedom” and I am extremely excited about it. I also intend to teach several expanded versions of the Create Your Freedom workshop in the coming years. The rediscovery of this passion fills me with joy and excitement which I hope to share with all of you.

That’s All Folks

best of 2012
graphic by: Todd Wiseman

There is so much more that happened in 2012 that I could share with you, but eventually I’ll have to stop, so why not now. I would like to say one more thing. Gabriella and I are so grateful for all of you who support what we do. We often sit with each other and reflect on our lives and the support we receive from you, our readers, is always a major player in our conversations.

Without you, so much would be different in our lives and we sincerely thank you with all of our hearts. I hope you will join this year end conversation by sharing some things that went really well for you in 2012. There is often a desire to look back at what did and did not work out well for us. I would suggest that we skip the “what didn’t work” aspect of things and focus on the positives of 2012. We all know exactly what didn’t work for us, so there is no reason, in my opinion, to perpetuate the story of those hiccups. So please, share with us one or two of your favorite things from 2012.

On another note, I plan to write a blog post in the coming weeks outlining my goals for 2013. I’m telling you this now so that you can start thinking about your own goals. I’m not talking about new year’s resolutions, by the way, as those never tend to last very long into the new year. I’m talking about achievable, realistic, inspiring, life goals that you can attain in 2013. I’m excited about mine and I look forward to sharing them with you soon and to hearing about the goals you have for yourself.

Want to learn more about straw bale houses and how to build one? Want to do so for FREE? Sign up for our totally free 16 Day Straw Bale eCourse! Find out more HERE.

17 Responses

  1. Happy New Year, I am a new subscriber of your website. I am very interested in building a Strawbale Home. I live in a travel trailor at this time. I am aslo, a older student that is struggling to reach my goal, aswell. I know, how to live small: I really understand the concept. I read your story of the family adventures, and the friend’s bumper sticker; inwhich I was touched. I hope the travels of life and reaching out to help others with a dream continues, through into 2013 and beyond. I looke forward to more of your instruction through the interenet thanks for being there. Best wishes to the family and to future/Now Strawbale Home Owners.

  2. Happy new year,Gabriella,Andrew,and your daughter.Thank you all for the life that you have shared with me over the years.I live in perth in western australia i am 51 years young and have been very interested in straw bale construction for about thirty years,as life has a habit of taking me in some directions that i did’nt see coming,i am yet to build with strawbales,in 2012 i missed your workshop you held outside perth as i was in India at the time, i only found out about it 1 week before i flew out,and i almost cancelled the trip so i could attend , but India is also a great love of mine,and that is where i would like to build a straw bale hotel in the himalayan mountains so maybe we will meet there some time in the future,I certainly hope so.thank you all for your great contribution to my mind and my dreams,you really have inspired me very much with your lives, and thank you Sharon ,who shares the same surname as me,i lived in a truck that i converted for 3 years it was great to live small and your post was what inspired this very slow one finger typer to reply,I hope all of your dreams continue to become your realities.and on the story of the bumper sticker i’d like to share this,its called, TODAY.
    Look to this day
    for yesterday is but a dream,
    And tomorrow is only a vision
    But today,well lived,
    Makes every yesterday a dream of happiness,
    And every tomorrow a vision of hope
    Look well,therefore,to this day.
    “Ancient Human Wisdom,author unknown.
    Have a great day everyone,Stuart.

  3. HI Andrew,
    Happy New Year to you and Gabriella. This year will be a beauty I believe. I have had the pleasure of designing a straw bale “complex” for a 3 generational family, which included black and grey wastewater recycling, photovoltaic cells, rainwater tanks and solar hot water..and all this on a town block. The complex consists also of a 3 bed 2 bath house, a 2 bed 1 bath cottage with loft space and a music.yoga studio which is shared by all. What I loved about the project was that the clients just wanted the best systems for self sufficincy, even though the water and power are to the bounday. Clients now are so switched on its just a delight. Best wishes to the straw bale world

  4. Andrew and Gabriella, I want to thank you and the Corvallis crew for helping me gain the confidence to take a major step in my career. My partners and I are working hard on launching our fledgling architecture/development/build firm, and my particular focus will be on healthy, efficient, beautiful buildings – what I think of as Friendly Modernism. Now, if I can somehow get this going while still being there for my family…!

  5. Way to go Tiffany! You can do it. The key is to visualize exactly what you want, believe in that vision fully, and take action towards creating the vision. Stay focused on both things: business and family, and never lose sight of what you truly want. Love to you and your family!

  6. Hi Stuart. Thanks so much for writing. So great to hear your story and your continued inspiration. I am glad that we have had a place in that inspiration and I trust we can continue to keep you excited about straw bale!! The hotel sounds like it would be incredible. Finally, I love the ancient wisdom you shared. Thank you so much for that. It speaks a definite truth for me.

    With love from,
    Andrew, Gabriella, Terra (our daughter) and Paiute (our son who did not travel to Mexico with us as he was following his passion to become an NHL hockey player!!!)

  7. Dear Andrew,
    I love the way you teach and write for that matter. Thanks to that, I found strength to pursue my dream/our dream, which started with an incredible teacher group at the Ecosa Institute for sustainable design in Arizona. Having worked so long in the harsh financing field I had lost hope to turn it, that kind of “life view”, into reality (though I had never had trouble getting financing for straw bale construction). Following you over the years, enjoying your videos immensely and seeing you in action at our June workshop (my first and last camping attempt, have never been so innerly wet in my life, lol)- Andrew, I am so impressed and happy to know you! Count me in if you need anything.

  8. Wow, that was an amazing read. Happy New Year! The three of you were just leaving for Baja when we completed the “timber frame on the fly” in Tennessee. FYI, I have just left my career in higher ed, moved to Austin, am completing a certificate in Interior Design from Parsons School of Design in NYC to fill some gaps (my bachelors was in Industrial Arts and think the Parsons credential will increase marketability), and am circling back to interior architecture/design, the career I’ve missed for many years. Will be looking for land to build on, so plan on Austin area in 2-3 years.

  9. Greetings, Andrew and Gabriella!

    A couple-four years back, you sent out what you promised would be a one-time only plug for an organization called Save the Rain. You’ve kept that promise not to repeat the request for donations, but that doesn’t mean I can’t post this here, right?

    I remain grateful to you for having told me about this organization, which I have continued to support in a small way. I was just inspired by their newsletter to ramp that up a notch or two, because Rotary Shasta, Rotary Arusha (Tanzania), and Rotary International are, this month, matching donations at a 3.5:1 ratio. Woot indeed! Bread on the waters, so to speak.

    Thought I’d let you know about this, in the event that you haven’t seen their newsletter, and take shameless opportunity to let readers of your blog know about this, too.

    For those who are not familiar, Save the Rain works in East Africa to build simple, sustainable rain catchment/sand filtration systems using local labor and materials, and recipients of their systems then help neighboring villages build their own systems. Ripples in a pond . . . They’ve expanded their projects to help with reforestation and sanitation, intimately connected with the water issue.

    Save a raindrop, save the world. http://www.savetherain.org

    just sayin’ . . .

  10. Way cool! Thanks for sharing this exciting development. They really do great things in the world. For anyone looking to gift a true gift, please take a second look at Save the Rain.

  11. Love the new look; wish I could be that brave though I am cutrenrly planning new sitting room curtains. I’m thinking I might have summer and winter weight ones as darker colours are nice for wintertime.

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