Occupy: Sunshack

September 16, 2014

The building of the Sunshack, a free-standing classroom, is part of the GreenROUTES initiative at Colby-Sawyer college. The Colby-Sawyer website explains, "GreenROUTES is a campus-wide initiative to eliminate our greenhouse gas emissions, integrate sustainability into our curriculum and overall educational experience, and achieve our shared vision of personal well-being, social justice, financial security and environmental stability for ourselves and our larger global community."

The project began in September of 2012 as a sustainable design and construction course with instructors Steve Whitman, founder of Resilience Planning & Design, a New Hampshire based firm providing collaborative planning, design and education services, and Bryan Felice, the founding owner of Undustrial Timber Frames. This course ran for two semesters and involved students of Colby-Sawyer and the broader community in the theory and design of natural buildings. Over these two semesters students were involved in every aspect of design of this new classroom space. In the winter of 2012/2013, they cut the timber frame that they had designed and that spring, the beautiful frame was raised with the help of the community.

The landmark initiative continued in the spring of 2014, this time as an applied permaculture course, led by Bryan Felice, with the help of Marty Castriotta of Village Roots Permaculture. During this course, students learned how to construct cob benches and a living roof system. Several days were also devoted to building with straw. One wall in the Sunshack is made of straw bales, another out of straw and clay mixed together in a technique known as straw light clay. The other two walls are insulated with blown in cellulose. One of the goals of this course was to connect all these techniques with the principles and practices of permaculture.

Other aspects of the Sunshack, such as natural plasters and finishes were completed by independent study students at Colby-Sawyer. The integration of this space into the surrounding landscape is paramount. Next to the building are permaculture gardens and outdoor seating areas. The intention is for a seamless transition between these spaces. Water catchment from the roof can be used for these gardens as well as the rooftop gardens. The building is largely heated by passive solar.

According to a November 2013 blog post by The Kearsarge Valley Transition Initiative, "most of the main timbers are Eastern White Pine, and the braces were a combination of both local yellow birch and black cherry. Every material that was obtained was within 35 miles of the college. This includes local loggers, cutters, and mills. This also included all the pegs of the Sunshack, which were bought at North Cut Pegs in Walpole, NH. This small family business supplies 98% of all timber frame pegs in the country." Check out a great slideshow at the bottom of the Kearsarge Valley Transition Initiative blog.

Photo by The Kearsarge Valley Transition Initiative

It is so beautiful to see this awesome project come to fruition. After a fantastic 24 month design/build process, the Sunshack open becoming the first commercial straw bale building in the state of New Hampshire, complete with cob benches, clay paints, timber frame, and a "tree of many hands."

Photo by Colby-Sawyer College

Bryan Felice did an excellent job orchestrating the project. By my count over the 2 years, there were 97 students and 73 community members who participated. I can't wait to do this again.

Photos by Steve Whitman

Dear Village Roots supporters and friends...I have an unusual request...in the name of land reclamation and regeneration

June 17, 2014

A small bit of history. Village Roots leases about 13 acres of pasture from Orchard Hill on which we graze lambs, broiler chickens, turkeys, ducks, rabbits, pigs (who also pasture in the woods) and our oxen, Boss and Chez. We hay another 7 or 8 acres for winter forage. When I say pasture, I mean cleared land that was once considered prime agricultural soil, but has been over grazed, compacted with heavy machinery and chemically fertilized until about 10 years ago. When Orchard Hill bo...

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Late spring stories from around Orchard Hill

June 5, 2014

Lots of things happening here at Village Roots and on the Orchard Hill Community. Here are just a few highlights from the last month.

We started construction on two high tunnels at the Sullivan County Complex. These high tunnels will be used for research (studying the comparison between regular greenhouse poly and Solawrap covering). Community gardeners from the area will grow the crops and a student from Colby Sawyer College will be conducting the research. Eventually this site will be...

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A successful December barn raising...and looking forward to 2014

January 4, 2014

Blessings to the community that came together to help raise our barn on December 14th. The day started at a balmy -2 degrees and inched its way up to 6 degrees by mid day. Fortunately the snow held off until after the sun set and it wasn’t until we started losing daylight and picking up tools that it really started to fall. A blanket of eight inches rested on every surface by the next morning.

Twenty helpers made lifting three 24-foot bents seem like light work. Thankfully, all of our ...
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Farmers & Foragers - Fall 2013

November 18, 2013

Picking apples, pressing cider, herding turkeys, making greenhouse beds and planting seeds. These are just some of the activities that Farmers & Foragers have participated in so far this fall. This week we held circle around a campfire, drinking cider and eating other local treats (apples, carrots, cheddar cheese and popcorn). At our circles we share stories, songs and farm experiences. We also discuss what we are getting into that day and why.

“What does it mean to sustain...

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Happenings in August

September 2, 2013

August 26, 2013

Things have been busy around the farm in August. With some drier weather earlier in the month, we finally got a first cut of hay on our field. We had time to get plastic on the new high tunnel, despite the wind. We are harvesting lots of cucumbers, greens, summer squash and herbs. We put a dozen ducks in the freezer last week and 50 more broilers started. We are looking to harvest wheat tomorrow...help permitting and before more rain. There's work to do to break down fro...

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Mid-Summer - Summer camps and the challenges of so much rain

September 2, 2013

July 23, 2013

We have finished teaching in the 2013 summer camp season at The Orchard School, and I've never seen so many squash bugs, earwigs, potato beetles and Japanese beetles in my life. I taught
"Our Earth, Our Voice, Our Choice" a leadership camp for 13 to 16 year olds that provides an exciting forum for teens to connect, explore, and create around the three basic principles of food, shelter, and clothing. Who do you want to become? How do you walk your talk? How can your choices c...
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Happy Solstice

July 1, 2013

June 20, 2013

Must be mid June..the 12 hour farm days are really stacking up. After lots of wet weather and soggy gardens and fields, we're finally getting more plants in the ground and young animals on pasture. Almost done with the new high tunnel and a couple new portable poultry cops in process.

We have chicks, turkeys, ducklings, piglets, lambs and calves. There are lots of mouths to feed, good thing for grass. We're going 100% organic grain this year. We're all done with you M...
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Changes and Spring News

April 14, 2013
This year Village Roots will no longer be operating as a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). We will instead offer a Farm Stand at the Orchard Hill Breadworks. The farmstand will be open Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. We are also offering a very limited number of working shares or trades. Contact us to inquire.

This year will also be offering limited Holiday shares. For Thanksgiving this share will feature a heritage turkey, along with winter squash, potato, onion, turnip, greens an...
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About Me

Marty Castriotta Marty grew his first potato when he was 12 year old on a worn out piece of ground behind his parents’ house. He’s been attracted to the idea of growing food ever since. He started growing seriously in 2001 with his wife Ellen’s guidance and has worked on several organic farms prior to moving to Orchard Hill. His passion is in integrating all aspects of the farm; the gardens, animals, buildings, water systems and so on. Marty has been raising heritage farm animals since 2003, and started training his young oxen Boss and Chez to do some of the farm work in the winter of 2012. Marty graduated from Antioch University New England with an MS in Environmental Studies and currently teaches Farmers & Foragers and summer camps at The Orchard School, as well as Permaculture Design Courses at Orchard Hill.