Hello and willkommen! My name is Ellen and I’ve lived most of my life in the Madison area. Building a home has been my primary goal the last seven years and I’m thrilled to be at the point where everything is coming together.
Before I get ahead of myself, I probably should introduce you a bit more to myself and my property, Fernsicht. For those of you who are not familiar with German, “Fernsicht” is a noun that means “clear and/or distant views”. It is a nod to the street name of the property and the view of Blue Mounds from the west side of the field. The foliage in summer blocks a lot of the view but when I first saw the hills rising up in the distance, I was struck by the beauty and meditative qualities of the land. I hope that by building a home here, I can really tap into the clarity and focus that spending time caring for the earth gives me.
I’ve lived a somewhat transient lifestyle my entire adult life and have moved at least 14 times. My jobs have also reflected that, as I have drifted from working in schools to remodeling houses to working in local government and, most recently, working in a gift shop. Previously I’ve spent some time living in Germany and I am grateful that I’ve learned enough German to dive deep into the culture. I’m at a point in my life now, though, where I crave a peaceful home with spaces for me to grow flowers, herbs, and vegetables, and create wood crafts and fiber art.
I hope that this experience will provide you with time for introspection, deep connections with people who share similar passions, and, quite possibly, some singing and shenanigans around a campfire.
Located just outside of Madison in the sprawling farmland of southern Wisconsin, my property is a 15-acre field with rolling hills and a border of deciduous trees. I dream of nurturing this blank canvas into a lush food forest and, eventually, an organic farm focused on seedlings and cut flowers. Way down the road, I envision my property as an educational retreat space. The straw bale house I am building is the first step in realizing that dream.
The 1500 sq. ft. two bedroom house will be the first structure built on the property and is the focus of this workshop. I plan on this being a forever home, so I’ve focused on sustainable construction practices, quality natural materials, and accessibility. The property will be run completely off-grid with a well, solar power, and geothermal heat. The straw for the house will come directly from the farmer who is currently working the land.
I highly recommend you arrive early for the workshop and enjoy the Dane County Farmers’ market on Capitol Square (only 35 minutes away!). It is the largest producers-only farmers’ market in the entire country and the joyous atmosphere on Saturday mornings is contagious. There are many other attractions in the area including local craft breweries, State Street, Cave of the Mounds, and Devil’s Lake State Park.
Some other special sites to see include: Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin, House on the Rock, or if you have the chance to visit American Players Theatre, their outdoor stage in the woods is super cool.
During your stay, we will be providing all meals and drinks, but if you need anything, the closest towns, Black Earth and Cross Plains, are both less than 10 minutes away. There you can find gas stations, groceries, and restaurants (including the beloved Midwest fast food chain, Culver’s). While I think camping onsite provides the best workshop experience, if you prefer to stay in a hotel, there are many accommodations located 20 minutes away in Middleton.
Bringing your own vehicle will provide you with the most flexibility, but should you choose to fly in, we will provide a shuttle service from the Dane County Airport. If you fly into Chicago O’Hare, the Van Galder bus service has an excellent direct connection from the airport terminal to downtown Madison. Please provide us with advance notice if you need any sort of transportation.
I had the time of my life at the 2021 CoodaBenna workshop and greatly appreciated the extra effort the hosts gave to make meals hassle-free and nighttime fires entertaining. The overall experience was magical. I hope to provide an equally impactful and inclusive experience if you choose to come build with me and my friends and family this summer.