All posts by susan

straw bale housing

Lately I have been reading up on house building techniques and have become enamored with plastered straw bale houses. The practice began in the U.S. in plains of Nebraska in the nineteenth century out of desperation for there were no trees to build housing. Straw bales homes were fairly simple for folks to construct and it turns out the bales were very insulating. It saves on heating and cooling costs as they keep a very consistent temperature year round. The neat thing about straw bales is that they are fire resistant. A plastered wall does not contain enough air to keep a fire going. Also they are good materials to build with in places of high seismic activity. When these simple walls are plastered on both sides they become air tight and keep out moisture and critters. With a good foundation and roof to keep out the elements they can last a very long time. The bales themselves are by products and should definitely be adopted to make low cost, efficient housing as they are in abundance and could be composted back into the earth at the end of their lives. With growing climate change concerns and a cost effective way to build in California I hope the practice becomes a more popular choice!


People say that inside the thick walls feel cozy and quiet.

ready for a change

I know that I am not the only person who is experiencing this phenomenon but after twelve months of living in a city during this pandemic I am definitely ready for a change. I need nature and I want a place for my child to be free. We are stuck in an apartment and outside there are too many cars, too much noise (don’t get me started on the fireworks) and not enough space for any of us. I used to love this neighborhood but now that I have felt imprisoned within it I am worn out. But I am thankful too. We have visited Lakeside park at least three times a week for seven plus years. Emma Clover grew up always visiting Fairyland. We frequented all the museums and libraries we could. I appreciate so much all the kindness shown to us by the people who have made up our community. It’s been a glorious walkable neighborhood but now I need to grow some new leaves, to make new friends and find new adventures. ❣️

Monarch butterflies in Oakland

As a homeschooling project Emma learned about monarch butterflies in Oakland. She illustrated their lifecycle and discussed how the gardens work to serve as a safe place for butterflies and other pollinators to visit.

Recently I learned this milkweed I photographed on Lakeshore Ave (seen in caterpillar photos below) is actually not the best kind of milkweed for monarchs. There are so many different varieties and it’s best to plant native species. It is all so interesting!

See also: previous posts on chrysalis and butterfly seen in the Gardens of Lake Merritt.