Sometimes we need to learn things more than once in a lifetime. Of course some “lessons” we learn over and over again. In this instance, I am re-learning autocad. And it’s kind of like re-learning how to ride a bike with different gears. Even after twenty years not much in the mechanics of the program have changed.
So watch out you youngsters, cuz I’ll be speeding by you soon. Just need to learn how to shift a few more gears! From concept to spec, I am gaining the power to tell the whole story.
Knowledge is empowerment. A great lesson from Remote Studio.
I fell in love with the wetlands of Louisiana in part because I read Aldo Leopold, and in part because the grasses that wave against the blue sky of the Gulf remind me of the grasslands of the Great Plains of North America, which brings me back to the legacy of Aldo Leopold. I don’t use the word LOVE as a simple term, but as a description for that deep feeling we have when someone, thing, or experience moves our soul. That sense that we have when we believe we have found meaning in our world where so little existed before.
But this takes me a bit off-course, and the course I intend to take you on is the ground breaking trajectory of Aldo Leopold. Actually we will explore, his words, thoughts, and the legacy of Aldo Leopold.
As every Remote Studio begins, so will this one in the summer of 2015, with the reading of Aldo Leopold’s A Sand County Almanac, with Essays on Conservation from Round River. Even if you don’t realize it today, in a a few weeks you will. You will understand the great debt you owe Leopold for the places we call wilderness today, for the endangered species that are protected, for the idea that poetry can be found and experienced on the land, and then written about, and shared with all of us. That the fast paced day you spent online, driving in traffic, and answering texts, can be slowed down and valued relative to the place you find yourself: with the experience of sun, wind, scent and birdsong.
And if you wonder why we would be reading a book written by an activist (although he may not have called himself such) in 1949 , you only need to read the book to learn. The obviousness of this request will appear as you understand how necessary words written sixty-six years ago are in 2015.
Aldo Leopold’s book, the whole book, will be discussed at the end of the first week of Remote Studio, a week of hiking and making, with very little time for sitting still. To give yourself the opportunity to savor his words, thoughts, and to commit to your future, I recommend that you start reading the book before Remote Studio begins. And to take notes, and to write notes to yourself and underline passages you value inthe book.Live in the book. And perhaps someday, if you pay attention you will have a place you love, too.
From this place that Leopold provides we begin our journey with Remote Studio, and the understanding of why architects so desperately need to know the world as he saw it.
A significant condition to Remote Studio is that we are constantly moving, and out-of-doors most of the time. If you are joining us for Remote Studio to ensure that our discussions and your time to create are always at your fingertips bring the following items with you…
The Moleskine Notebook and Sketchbooks are great for carrying around, and they can help you establish a format for documenting life-long creative practice. You can find these at most paper stores, and even Barnes and Noble is carrying most of them. So, no excuses about not being able to find them.
Bring one of these notebooks for taking notes and journaling look for this notebook, its about 5.5″ x 9″ and is a hardback. They are hardback, and come in different colors if black is not your thing.
Also, you will have time – and opportunity – to draw or paint while we are out. Please pick up one of these great notebooks:
They are called a soft bound “sketch album,” un-lined and is a horizontal format with perforated pages if you want to take them out to send home.
Also, bring one of the three options for drawing or painting with, and don’t worry if you don’t know how to use them. You can learn while you are here.
This small set of oil pastels is great to travel with. This particular set is available online from Cheap Joe’s. But I am sure you can find some at an art store near you. Word of warning, Michaels is NOT AN ART STORE. DO NOT BUY your pastels there because the quality is poor.
Water Color Set
Water Colors in a small plastic box that are not in Tube format, but instead the hard pancake that you add water to. And don’t forget to bring a few paint brushes.
Or you could bring a small (12 or so) set of colored pencils with you.
The concrete blankets have come off. The giant hole has been back filled with gravel and dirt and leveled…and the plumber has roughed in the drains and pipes that will soon be buried in the concrete slab.
Rigid insulation has been set on top of the gravel, along with wire mesh. And tomorrow it will be my turn for some work. I will be adding the tubes on top of the wire mesh that will serve as the loops that will be buried in the concrete slab to create a radiant floor.
There will be no selfies made of this process. So if you want to see the action you can come on out and take pictures . And maybe tie a little wire. If you are a past Remote Studio student you probably had a similar experience when we formed concrete for your project!
On October 26 I wrote a post called “Beginning Practice” as a follow up to a small piece I wrote “Practicing” on September 26. Now comes the journey.
As I have been traveling to speak to students at universities these past few weeks I have been asking them a question Artemis Institute has been focused on since it’s first program in 1997. I ask them if they believe they have a specific journey in life. Almost all say “yes.” But the next question, ” do you know what that journey is?” Usually follows with their response of “no.” The “no” is the challenge for our future.
There is a big change of outlook occurring with this new generation of people who are of college age. No longer do they believe a degree at a university provides an unquestionable best trajectory for their lives, and certainly not a guarantee for happiness. Truths cannot be guaranteed by those guarding antiquated cultural models. The primary change I see ( as is evident by theses covers of current magazines) is that happiness and job is important, place is important to this generation. And journey is ultimately important. The journey is not just about the self, the journey for these folks includes interaction with community and environment. They want to make change happen. Change requires a clear mission, a practice for that mission, and commitment to take the journey.
The journey is the exploration of who and how we are in the world . There is no straight-line to the end game of success. That idealized trajectory is one of the biggest myths we have told ourselves since the Enlightenment. Interaction, cooperation, multiple considerations, multiple answers, and inclusion all lead us to a new form for being in the world beyond the myth.
I’m on the plane headed from Montana to North Carolina to visit life-long friends. Friends whose children have transformed in the past few years into different versions of the creatures they were the last time I visited.
I’m thinking about the visit, great conversation, good, local food, and a few long walks. And as I think about their home I can’t help but land in the middle of my own imaginary “Annie Dillard” land. While it has been many years since Dillard wrote
“Pilgrim at Tinker Creek,” when I visit my friends I always feel like I am returning to the land and experiences she wrote of many years ago. Beyond Tinker Creek ruminations I realize I mostly transport to the landscape she describes in her short story “Living Like Weasels”, deciduous woods filled with scurrying sounds, that remains a strong touchstone for me even twenty-odd years after reading it the first time. Such a profound reference point for life this story has given me, that I read it every year with my students. A discussion of freedom, choice, intuition, love, living , and instinct pursues. Each discussion , every year, different, but similar in nuance.
Tomorrow I will head into the woods, both real and imagined, for that soulful journey that marries reality with imagination. I will bow to the six directions, as Jim
Harrison notes. I will live for a bit with the weasel and look for the wild rose bush , if I am lucky I will lose myself for a while, lose destination, hear the sounds of the wild woods beyond the motors of cars that hum past the perimeter. I will think about what I should be holding onto, and what is unnecessary. I will smell the woods, look up into the sky for that Eagle she writes of and deliver myself to the World, mindless for as long as I can muster, searching for my necessity in life .
In early April I visited Cloud Nine Farm near Wilsall, Montana for the first time. The ground was just thawing at this high-elevation farm that bases it’s growing techniques on Permaculture. Despite the fact that there was nothing sprouting green in the land that surrounds them, Allison and Seann, owners of Cloud Nine, were following their daily farm activities. In order to make Cloud Nine profitable the farm is a year round operation. Green houses, chicken and duck eggs, and micro-greens help extend the seasonal potential for the farm. Cloud Nine is an organic minded farm and in the past few months that we have been planning the Remote Studio project for them they have been working through the process for gaining full “organic farm” status. This status not only is a great personal goal it also assists their product commitment with the CSA they work with, Market Day Foods in Bozeman, Montana. As the organic reviewer told them, they have the most diverse farm requesting organic status she had ever seen. Which means that the farm had ultimately more paperwork and verifications to deal with , because their application for organic status extends beyond a mono-culture farm, and instead operated as a holistic entity. The holistic condition is representative of the permaculture farming that they have adopted. It is a best case operation that organic farms can reach toward. In May they gained their full organic status!
The concepts of permaculture farming are not so different than the architecture profession’s goals seeking to design their buildings to work with the environment of their buildings. Consideration of land, orientation, weather patterns, and best conditions for employing the “energy” and “productivity” of the place. While this may sound straight forward, its not simple. Certainly not simple if you are farming in the high elevations of Montana with land that had been previously overgrazed. And if you want to develop a closed-loop farm as Allison and Seann do, the challenges can be even greater. Closed-loop (just as in architecture) means that what you need you gain from your “ground” and what you produce in by-product stays on the land, and is not hauled away.
one of the hoop greenhouses growing micro-greens
seeding for the upcoming growing season
Artemis Institute is interested in supporting practices and experiences that recognize the relationship between nature and culture. With the Remote Studio program we focus our design/build project on community structures that assist this relationship. This year we are committing the Remote Studio project to Cloud Nine Farm because we believe that the food that they produce for our community helps ensure that we have healthy “connected to the land” choices. We are overly impressed with Cloud Nine and other such small organic farms who commit to find a way to grow healthy food, in less than simple environmental and economic circumstances. These young farmers work long hours, reinvest their meager profits in bettering their ground, seldom have time-off, and little financial opportunity to build the simple support structures we all imagine to be in place on farms. For these reasons, Remote Studio Summer 2014 students will be designing and building a multi-functional support structure that enables the farm to store their implements out of harsh conditions, hang their garlic and store their onions, better rinse their vegetables for market, and store their young plants in a more protected environment.
To achieve this new support structure Cloud Nine is providing the funds for all construction materials, and Artemis Institute/Remote Studio provides the design, construction management, drawings and construction of the structure for free. There is one more component that is on their list, but not in their budget: a refrigeration unit with a high-performing “cool-bot” that would allow them to extend the storage and delivery season of their products. We have estimated materials and technology for this portion of the structure at about $5,000 for Remote Studio to incorporate into the design and construction of the new structure. If supporting our developing American Organic Farmers seems like an important and necessary thing to do, then consider helping Artemis Institute build the new Refrigeration Unit for Cloud Nine Farm. Artemis Institute is a non-profit organization. Your donations are tax-deductible to the full extent of the law. To make a donation click here.
Remote Studio students start designing the Cloud Nine structure June 16!
eggs and sunflower mico-greens from Cloud Nine Farm
If you are joining us for Remote Studio or Quest– Utah you do NOT need to have a tent. We have enough for the trips. But if you are thinking that you would like to invest in one for the program (if you are attending Remote Studio you may want to camp on the weekends) or that you want one not to have one for the future, following are some tips I have learned over the years.
looks comfy, right? Don’t expect to find a pillow in the backcountry…
1. A car camping tent is not really the best for backcountry camping, but a backcountry tent can always work for car camping.
3-season mountain hardware tent with vestibule and end entry
2. Unless you live all the time and camp all the time in a temperate climate you should have a 3-season tent. And if you live in Alaska or want to trek in Nepal, you would need a 4-season tent.
3. A few years ago the tent manufacturers came up with a concept called an “integrated fly” for 3-season tents. I think the idea is that these tents weigh less. I have not seen these perform as well as the traditional fly with tent system. What’s a fly, you are asking? Take a look at the images of tents here. The fly is the outer layer of the tent applied after the primary tent enclosure/structure. The fly is like the rain jacket or coat of a tent. It keeps the bad weather from getting to you. And the fact that it is on the outside of the frame structure means that it is held away from the surface of the primary enclosure. In nasty weather, which happens often enough in the Rockies or in the shoulder seasons most anywhere, you want a 3-season tent that has a separate fly.
Side entry with vestibule. Mountain Hardware
A very large vestibule tent from Big Agnes, a new idea, could be useful if you need to “cook” in the vestibule, But not in bear country!
4. A few more things about the tent fly. If its cold and rainy you want it. If its not you can leave it off and let your tent breathe, and you get to watch the stars. Worst case scenario if the weather changes you can snap it on in only a few minutes. (Unless you are totally convinced that the weather is going to be perfect when you are out in the backcountry and decide you can leave it at home or in your car.)
5. Quality of the tent. Walmart or a real technically designed tent? Seriously? If you are car camping or camping in your friend’s backyard you can last in a Walmart tent, or other “cheap” tent. But if you are hiking for miles into a place that has no alternative accommodations, not even a cave, you want to spend the cash to get a good tent. Why? Because they are built and designed to stand up in bad weather, and to last a long time. If you take care of the tent. I have watched cheap tents buckle under the weight of a spring snowstorm and almost blow away in the wind on the edge of the Great Salt Lake. I don’t think anyone was enjoying life inside those tents.
Mountain Hardware, Drifter . You could easily end up camping in snow like this in early June in the Northern Rockies, be prepared.
6. Tent profile: The “taller” the tent the more challenged the tent is in adverse weather, snow or wind. So, while the idea of being able to stand up inside your 3 or 4 person tent is cool when you are in the store, I recommend a lower profile tent. Being able to sit up is nice, and good enough.
7. Shape of the tent? Shape is relative to use and how many are using the tent and how well you know the person you are sharing the tent with and how much weight you want to carry on your back. Consider all of these conditions when considering the shape. If its low in profile and thin in plan you are going to want to be pretty comfortable with your tent mate.
Make sure you check the size of the footprint and the head height.
7. How many doors? How many vestibules? This question relates to the question above. There have been times when I have slept in tents with folks I don’t know very well. I hate climbing over them to get in and out of the tent. So, consider that issue when you are looking at the tent layout. Also, double vestibules and openings allow each person the ability to simply slip out of the tent from their “side”. Long, slender tents with an end opening are nice. But they seem the best when you are intimate with the person you are sharing your tent with. Because most of the time you need to shimmy in and out of the sleeping bag and tent to get outside. One more thing about about multiple openings/vestibules. If you travel with a dog and you don’t want them in the tent with you, they can sleep in the vestibule. And if you are camping in a place that is not storming or has bears you can leave some of your gear in the vestibule and not in the tent. And lastly, if you are experiencing terrible weather you can heat water in your vestibule if the vestibule is big enough.
8. Weight of the tent?? Weight is certainly an issue. The more highly engineered tent, with the latest fabric and poles is going to be lighter than the others. But usually they cost more, too. So while you don’t want the heavy and inexpensive Walmart tent, you still want something lighter and affordable. Consider the issues above, how you are going to “live” in your tent, and where you are going to be living and then also consider the weight. There will be several tents of different weights to choose from even after you have used the above criteria to narrow your decision.
Another Big Agnes, 3 season, double vestibule tent. Removable Fly. Tent has screen above for night watching.
9. Color. Yes, color. I didn’t think too much about color of the tent when I bought my “blends into the landscape” colored tent. But here are a few things to consider if you actually have a choice in color. There is conflicting data on whether color makes a difference to a bear. Some say a brighter color attracts them. Some say they don’t care. I have no experience to offer regarding this issue. But what I can say is if you are having an emergency and need to be rescued, or send someone out for help in changing weather conditions and they need to find you and the tent again, a brighter color can help for identifying and locating the tent in the back country.
10. Best tent manufacturers? There are many. Marmot, Big Agnes and Mountain Hardware to name a few. They all make their tent details and shapes a bit differently. But are of a good quality and well engineered. And just about any tent you are going to find sold with these three will be similar quality. You can pay full price, or you could do a little research and figure out what you are looking for (size, type, weight, etc) and then buy one online at a site such as backcountry.com. Check them out for other gear, too.
11. Don’t forget the ground cloth. It goes between the tent and ground. Should be light weight. There is a specific ground cloth for the tent you buy. Well worth it when it is pouring rain and the water is rushing under your tent. The ground cloth can be turned up on its edges to ensure that water runs under it, and not into the tent. (true story).