EcoNest Natural Building Workshops and Timber Framing Workshops

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February 2011

More Workshops, Building Biology Certification
and Graduate Michael Morningstar

Japanese Timber Framing Natural Building WorkshopWe are excited to announce more workshop opportunities for this Spring and Summer! After an extraordinarily successful Fall workshop last year in Salt Spring, we have decided to team up again with Dale Brotherton for Japanese Timber Framing, this time in Ashland, Oregon, May 30-June 4th.

Our Return to New Mexico

We will also be returning to the Santa Fe area to hold a Clay Fiber Walls (Builder Training I) Workshop in Pecos, New Mexico, June 20-24. We look forward to many more opportunities to connect with our previous Santa Fe community, still close to our heart.

Building Biology BBP Certification Course Announcement

Paula Baker-Laporte will be instructing a Building Biology Practitioner Certification Course to be held in Ashland Oregon. Building Biology is the study of the relationship between human health, the built environment and planetary Ecology. The Institute for Building Biology and Ecology USA offers several levels of certification. A  group of concerned health practitioners, builders and architects  has formed in conjunction with Hidden Springs Wellness Center and there is currently room for 2 or 3 more students. The course will include self study, engaging assignments, and several instructional meetings.

Featured Graduate: Michael Morningstar

For Michael Morningstar, coming to an EcoNest workshop was a big deal. He was a homesteader, living with his wife and two young girls in a tepee, tucked away in a remote wilderness. In 1996 he stumbled upon a copy of “Mooseprints” (Robert’s first book) and felt a resonance with the clay/straw and timber-frame construction. Four years later, having gathered together the necessary resources, he left the seclusion of the forest and made the journey from northern California to the New Mexico. An electrician by trade, his only prior building experience had been the construction of a doghouse, but he had a vision to build his family a home – and not just any home but one that exuded craftsmanship and permanence – one made of natural materials found in the surrounding forest.

A Sense of Destiny

Upon his arrival from an exhausting journey he was immediately thrown in to a whirlwind of people and activity, a bewildering contrast to his secluded life in the woods. Admittedly he spent much of the workshop dazed, but a couple of days later “things clicked”. Michael had unknowingly stepped into the next chapter of his life.

He hung out with us in the Laporte residence for a couple of days after the workshop, waiting for his scheduled return train. In our library he came across a book on Japanese architecture featuring the work of Len Brackett, a highly respected Japanese-trained carpenter working in California. He describes “an unshakeable sense of destiny” which came over him as he turned those pages, one that has stayed with him ever since.

The Apprenticeship Opportunity of a Lifetime

After a serendipitous association with an old friend of Len’s, he was encouraged to contact Len via telephone, who warmly and graciously offered a correspondence. Michael frequently barraged the master with questions as he tried to teach himself the basics of Japanese carpentry …with a few hand tools, alone in the woods. Finally Len tired with the absurdity of coaching Michael via telephone and made him an offer that he couldn’t refuse…. a 5 year apprenticeship.

Realizing that this was a rare and incredible opportunity, Michael, with family in tow, left the homestead. He was immediately sent to work and live on a project near San Francisco. He found himself living in crowded quarters with 30 of the finest Japanese-style carpenters in the country, soaking up all he could. The rest is history.

The Morningstar Residence in Mt Shasta, CA

We recently reconnected ourselves with Michael 11 years after our first meeting. He treated us to a spectacular hike in a wilderness canyon near Mt. Shasta where he was well acquainted with every tree and rock. These acres of wilderness are the backyard of the new Morningstar homestead and at its heart…an exquisitely crafted, Japanese cottage of clay/woodchips and timber frame built by Michael’s own hands! You can see the process by visiting his blog We are very inspired by the journey Michael has embarked on since taking the EcoNest workshop a decade ago.