Harold Reynold’s Cordwood Home in Sherman

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My first interview with Harold Reynolds was over the phone, sometime in late February. As we talked, I tried taking notes on my laptop. I say tried, because by the end, I was typing so fast, all I had were sentences like “code officer was unfamiliar, and unsure a building over in french creek and cordwood and round.” By the time we finished the interview, I realized I had to see Harold’s house for myself; there were too many things to talk about just over the phone. So, on a sunny day in mid-March, I packed up my notebook and camera: my sister (my volunteer photographer) and I headed over to Sherman for a visit.

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At the beginning of this building project, Harold wanted to build his entire house using cordwood construction; he was inspired by a book he read as a child, My Side of the Mountain, by Jean Craighead George, where a young boy builds his own home in the base of a large tree.  However, after some complications arose (code laws, expense, time, etc.), he decided to scale back his original plan. In 2003, he and a small team of dedicated friends and family members began work, as they say, from the ground up. They installed a floating concrete slab foundation (no basement due to the location of the house on the watershed), and, with great effort transported two small, nearby houses (due for demolition) to the site. The houses, each cut in half, were dragged onto the slab, and placed on opposite ends of the foundation. In between the houses Harold built a floor system to bridge the gap then a pole barn system around it all and roof over the top–the house began taking shape. He used a combination of cordwood and regular wood siding to encompass the entire structure, making a single, rectangular, house.

Throughout the entire process, Harold has done his homework. Researching on-line and in books, he has learned all about cordwood construction and other methods not only to reuse materials, but to make his home more energy efficient (A cordwood wall has an insulation value of about R26). Two books in particular, Cordwood Construction by Richard Flatau, and Cordwood Masonry Housebuilding by Rob Roy, really helped him in learning how to build and insulate walls using cordwood and home-made mortar. He experimented with different combinations of sand, sawdust, cement/lime, and mud, until he found the blend with the best consistency.

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This picture shows how the cordwood is set up, with the mortar to hold it in place, and a filling of sawdust to help insulate the wall—with additional sawdust in the mortar, the wall is impervious to air, insects, and moisture. Harold used wood from his own land—mostly locust wood and ash, since they are very hard and durable.  The wood can be different lengths and widths, although many who use this kind of construction make sure the wood is flush on the inside of the wall. In addition to its energy and environmental benefits, cordwood is also a very attractive style. On the front, Harold added a sun design using different shaped pieces of wood, and in the back, he painted the mortar white for more contrast.

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While the bulk of time Harold has spent on this home relates to the foundation, structure, and cordwood, his ingenuity has not stopped there. Old stone steps salvaged from a church have become windowsills in the main room. Glass blocks sandwiching colored plexi-glass have become stained glass window accents (seen in the photo above). Rescued materials have been turned into kitchen cabinets, countertops, and wood paneling; reclaimed sinks, bathtub, and an old-fashioned stove have been cleaned and refitted as well.

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Before we left, I asked Harold if he had any advice for those dreaming of building their own home. He said, “If you want to build your own house, get busy and do it. It will take a lot of money, and a lot of time, but it’s worth it.” He then said, “this place started out as a house, but it’s slowly turning into a home.” And at the end of the day, isn’t that what we’re all looking for?

Living Green – March 17th at Audubon

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DateSaturday, March 17, 2012
Time:   11:00am-3:00pm
Age:  All
Cost:  $5/member and children 12 and under; $7/non-member adults; Free/children 2 and under
Reservations: Reservations not needed.
Description: No one can do everything, but everyone can do something.  Join us at Audubon for an day full of simple, easy ways that you can “green” your home, garden and car.  Share your tips and practices and learn more.

Making choices that are better for the environment can often be overwhelming and confusing.  But there are some easy steps that you can take in and around your home that will make you and the environment healthier.  All day, there will be activities for all ages.  Drop in to plant some lettuce to take home and enjoy.  Make a coaster from old jeans or beads from magazines. Pick up a new-to-you book to enjoy.


Demonstration Tables-
Visitors can view demonstrations and pick up information about cleaning product alternatives, make crafts with reusable and natural materials, repurpose old clothing, and plant food plants and native wildflowers and  from.
Our special guests include: 
I-86 Truck Repair & Auto Service-Learn easy car maintenance to increase your gas mileage.
Allegheny Cyclery- Get you cycling quesiton answered.
Western New York’s Energy $mart Communities Coordinator, Wendy Sanfilippo- Find out about easy ways to save energy in the home.
Planet Earth Catering Company- Get recipes for natural food dyes and information about catering with local, organic food for your next event.

Book Exchange- Bring in your old books for Audubon’s first used book exchange.  Why throw it out when someone else might want it?  Drop off books you have read and pick up a new used book.  Books should be in good condition and should not contain inappropriate content.

Trail of Beauty- Get outside on our trails to view a temporary installation of our Trail of Beauty, based on Joseph Cornell’s popular nature activity. Signs are placed along the trail for visitors to read and reflect on the quotations and find  inspiration from the natural surrounds.

Living Green Mural- We are interested in what choices others have made in their home to live a little lighter on the plant.  Share your tips and green practices as part of our Living Green mural.  

For more in-depth information, attend a scheduled program throughout the day.  Programs run 30-45 min.  

11:00am- Repurposing Old Clothes
With a little ingenuity that old t-shirt, pair of jeans or sweater can become a useful item, great gift, or fun décor!  Make one item and leave with more ideas to take home and try.

11:30am- Green Tour of Audubon

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Naturalist, Jeff Tome explains how Audubon’s solar panels work.

The past few years, Audubon has taken a serious look at the energy bills and taken both large and small steps to reduce them.  Take a tour of the building and find out what we’ve done and get ideas to save energy (and money) in your own home.

Noon- Nature at 3.5 mph
Studies have shown that spending time outside can be healing and relieve stress.  Walk, at little faster pace, with a naturalist and see what is coming out for the spring.  Along the route you can discover some interesting facts about our environment placed along the trail. (Remember those Burma Shave signs along the highways?)

1:00pm- Simple Car Maintenance with I-86
Rhonda, owner of I-86 Truck Repair and Auto Service will demonstrate some simple, routine vehicle maintenance to increase gas mileage, save you money and reduce emissions.

2:00pm- Green Tour of Audubon
The past few years, Audubon had taken a serious look at our energy bills and take both large and small steps to reduce them.  Take a tour of the building and find out what we’ve done.

Also, Sunday, March 18th, 2012  1:00-3:00pm
Ruth’s House: Adventures of Building a Straw Bale House
Audubon’s president, Ruth Lundin and her husband Paul have made the big decision to build their retirement home- and their doing in the “greenest” way possible.  Join Ruth on a tour of her work-in-progress to see the resource and energy saving methods they are using including straw bale insulation, a living roof and both passive and active solar energy.
Click here for more information.

Straw Bale Home Tour – March 18, 2012

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Audubon President Invites Visitors to “Straw Bale House”

Jamestown, NY — Jamestown Audubon Society president Ruth Lundin and her husband Paul have made the big decision to build their retirement home — and they’re doing in the “greenest” way possible.

Ruth's house - compressing straw bales

On Sunday afternoon, March 18, Jamestown Audubon Society President Ruth Lundin will offer an open house to show the work in progress on the straw bale house she and her husband Paul are building. Reservations can be made by calling the Audubon Center and Sanctuary at (716) 569-2345. Here workers are compressing straw bales before they get placed in the walls.

From 1-3 pm on Sunday, March 18, Ruth and Paul will have an open house at their work-in-progress. Visitors will be able to learn about the resource and energy saving methods they are using, including straw bale insulation, a living roof and both passive and active solar energy.

“Building a straw bale house is truly an adventure,” Lundin observed. “We’d like to share our progress – and possibly inspire others – so we’re welcoming the community to come for a visit.”

Reservations are required by Thursday, March 15, by calling (716) 569-2345, emailing info@jamestownaudubon.org, or using the on-line form at on Audubon’s website. After that date, call to check on available space. When you register, you will receive directions to the house.

While there is no charge, donations are appreciated.

For details on this and all Audubon Center and Sanctuary programs, call (716) 569-2345 or visit http://jamestownaudubon.org.

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Update from Dave Brugge

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An update from Dave Brugge on his log home in Frewsberg (click here for the original post from November 2011):

I have completed the installation of my solar hot water system, as shown in the attached picture. This system is a closed loop, evacuated tube solar hot water system. I have a large insulated storage tank that stores hot water from the system. I will be using the heat generated and stored in this tank for my domestic hot water, and as a supplement to my home heating. It is a fully programmable system and the pumps and controller of course are powered directly from my Solar Voltaic System–as seen in the photo. I am very excited about this new system and the continued advantages of using alternative energy sources.

Free Home Energy Workshops

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Free Energy Workshops:

Offered by different organizations!  Both give away free stuff if you register first.  Attend both!

Brugge Log Home – Frewsburg, NY

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Log HomeMy name is David Brugge, and when I built my Log Home back in 1993 I had no idea what this would lead to for myself today. Throughout the 80s I was on the road as a Computer Technician, and as the years passed I always had thoughts of living a more independent type lifestyle in the country. In 1992 this dream became reality when I purchased property outside of Frewsburg, NY and built my log home the following year. Shortly after that, I made a career change and became the Authorized Kuhns Bros. Log Homes Representative for Western NY and Northwestern PA. Now, over 15 years later, I am still continuing with my Log Home business today.

As the years passed and the focus on Green Energy became leading news I started experimenting with different energy projects mostly as a hobby. Over 8 years ago, I designed and built from scratch my first wind turbine which electrically pre-heated my domestic hot water. I recently rewound a new alternator and completely rebuilt this machine this past spring 2011 for charging deep cycle batteries. This now supplements my electrical needs through an inverter. It also provides emergency backup power automatically to critical circuits within my home, should the grid power go down. I custom-designed and built the control circuitry and computer interface for real time site monitoring and data logging as well.

Wind turbineRealizing that in our area a large percentage of our energy consumption is needed for heating, I researched for a solution to help reduce my own fuel costs. After deciding that Solar Thermal could be cost effective, I designed and built 2 solar hot air panels. These are mounted on my south-facing wall and provide heated air blown back into the home whenever the sun shines and will even produce some heat on bright overcast days. Thermostatically controlled, these are automatic and the blowers are powered from my battery bank.

Oftentimes in our area we may have little wind and more sun, and vice versa. This changes seasonally as well, so I recently created my own “hybrid” system by adding an array of photovoltaic panels to assist in the charging of my battery bank. The combination of my wind turbine and photovoltaic panels is proving to be very effective at keeping my battery bank charged for emergency backup power or as a rechargeable off-grid source of power to select circuits such as my refrigerator, furnace and lighting.

My next project will be the design and installation of a Solar Thermal Hot Water System. This will provide for my domestic hot water and for supplemental heat as well. I am anxious to complete this project soon so I can monitor the energy output during the winter months. It is amazing to me how much clean energy surrounds us every day and throughout the year. The energy I am harvesting is helping me save on my utility bills and is clean for the environment. I can’t help but be excited by that, and I enjoy helping others to understand how they may benefit from “Green Energy” as well.

If you are interested in Log Homes and or more detail about my Energy Systems I would be happy to talk with you. You can contact me at: 716-569-3906 or e-mail at bruggelog@netsync.net My website is http://www.kuhnsbrosnypa.com

Straw Bale House Featured on Channel 2 News

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http://www.wgrz.com/video/default.aspx?bctid=1267523414001

3:08 minute video about Ruth and Paul’s Home that will be insulated with straw bales, use passive solar, and have a living roof.

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