Made of earthen materials, Strawbale Studio connects the past to future

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The Strawbale Studio is in Oxford in Oakland County.

These days, more and more people are starting to think green, when it comes to building their homes.

From solar panels to rain barrels, people are making more environmentally-friendly choices. But the Strawbale Studio, in Oakland County is already green - inside and out. - and loaded with charm.

Strawbale offers educational workshops and activities that promote sustainable living skills. 

When you walk up to the Oxford property, you're not sure what to expect. Then, when you finally see the Strawbale Studio, you feel like you've entered another world - maybe a fairy tale.

With a thatched roof and use of materials like stone, sand and clay, this is clearly not like any house you've seen before.

"This is a lower level and I like to call this the cozy nook," said Deanne Bednar. "Of course the walls are strawbale inside and covered with these earthen plasters." 

Bednar is one of the women who designed and built Strawbale, with help from many volunteers.

After retiring from teaching, she took a class in Oregon and was inspired to build a space, using natural building techniques and sustainable materials. 

"I like going down to that elemental direct contact level which is what people throughout history did," Bednar said. "Until a couple generations ago."

Strawbale was built using natural, local materials. It is named for the bales of straw, that are actually used to build the walls of the house.

As much as possible, all the materials - the stones, the wood, came from right on the property or from nearby. That is something Bednar wants everyone who visits Strawbale to understand.

Visitors like Ann Jacob, who was here with her students from Baker College.

"We can purchase and use something from construction that is recycled and green," said Jacob, from the Baker interior design program. "But if we have to truck it all the way across the country we may have defeated the purpose."

The property includes a smaller studio for drying herbs, that Deanne has named "The Hobbit Project," a wood shelter with a living roof, that has ferns and flowers planted on top, a "Smiling Sun Earth Oven" that's great for making pizza and even a whimsical outhouse that Deanne calls "The Spiral Chamber."

But her favorite spot is inside the main cottage.

"Here we see a truth window," she said. "Inside is the truth of this wall system which is strawbale and then we sculpted this tree out of the earth again. And made it look like a real tree and the branches that come out are real branches."

Deanne believes that natural building is all about connecting. Connecting people to the earth, connecting with the people who came before us and with those who will come after us.

"We're literally connecting to the future, I believe through this process," she said. "We're creating a bridge that we can get across to a future that can keep on supporting our children and grandchildren."

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