December Free Workshop Winner!

Written by Andrew Morrison

Congratulations Leanne for being selected as this month’s Free Workshop Winner! We are delighted that you will be joining us at a workshop this summer. World, meet Leanne…

straw bale workshop winnerI’m Leanne Repetto, an elementary school teacher in the San Francisco Bay Area, and I am bouncing-off-the-walls THRILLED to be this month’s winner of a free Straw bale Workshop. Straw bale construction first captured my imagination decades ago, and it has remained in the back of my mind for all these years. Until recently, though, life circumstances did not suggest it was worth pursuing. But there’s this beautiful little cottage in my mind, on a hill overlooking some body of water. Might be a river. Might be a lake. The cottage embodies my beliefs about how to live in the world – comfortably, but with care for the generations who have to live with the results of my choices. With a bit of determination, I will have the wherewithal to make my dream a reality within the next several years, so the question becomes, where and how? Enter straw bale!

But there’s even a greater dream. In 2003, my healthy, athletic brother got ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease, and soon was a vent-dependent quadriplegic. For the next six years I watched how stressed and isolated he and his wife became, despite supportive friends and family. Later, another ALS caregiver and I started brainstorming how things could be better. We believe the central problem is our cultural notion that disability, and therefore the need for care, is some rare catastrophe that happens to the old or the sick, or anyways, always to other people.

Out of that notion comes the way we design our homes and neighborhoods. We looked into co-housing, but no one seems to have created exactly what we imagine: an eco-friendly community of private and public spaces, built on the understanding that unless you get hit by a bus early on, disability and care are a normal part of life. We imagine accessible features like wider doorways and hallways … we see open floor plans, so people in wheelchairs and hospital beds can always be part of the action, but well-insulated spaces where people with loud ventilators can blast their TVs.  We see private structures linked by public paths and courtyards. And we have many other ideas as well.

It was in thinking about this grander dream that I googled “straw bale construction” to see what was going on with my old fantasy these days. And wow! You guys have been busy!! I know there can be a cottage on a hill someday. I hope – though it will take some real doing – that my cottage might one day be the first structure of a straw bale co-housing project that helps the abled and disabled enrich each others’ lives. And I can’t WAIT for the workshop this summer!!

5 Responses

  1. Leanne,

    I’m so glad you won the workshop! =) What a beautiful dream you have…. I hope you can make it come true! =)


  2. Hi Leanne,

    Congratulations on being a free workshop winner! You have such a wonderful vision for your cottage on a hill and co-housing project. I hope this is just the beginning of seeing that vision realized.

  3. Hi Leanne, congratulations on your wonderful win! You are in for one amazing experience. Three years ago my oldest daughter and husband were the winners of one of Andrew’s workshops, here in Australia. It was an incredible event, there were all kinds of dramas leading up to the workshop, including lots of unseasonal rain that put their plans way behind. By some kind of miracle, it all happened and I was privileged to be part of it. They had 5 very young children including a 6 month old baby. There were up to 50 people there at times and catering was lots of fun. One of the best bits was meeting Andrew and getting to know him. My daughter and husband and children now have the most fantastic straw bale home in one of Australia’s most extreme climate areas. It can be well over 40degrees in summer for weeks on end and can frost every morning in a row for weeks on end in winter. So they are very happy in their home and heating and cooling costs are way down.
    I love your idea for a special place for those with special needs. For a long time I’ve thought of something similar for the elderly. Why do older folks need to be crammed into an institution with not much more that 4 wall to look at.? I realise an effort is made to make their lives happy and comfortable but how much better could it be in an aesthetically and environmentally friendly place ? You’ve got me thinking !
    I wish you well and I just know you will enjoy the workshop and love your place once it’s done. All the best. Anne

  4. How can we get involved in a workshop? How can we enter the contest for a free workshop? How can we get together to discuss your community ideas and ours?

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