Congratulations Leanne for being selected as this month’s Free Workshop Winner! We are delighted that you will be joining us at a workshop this summer. World, meet Leanne…
I’m Leanne Repetto, an elementary school teacher in the San Francisco Bay Area, and I am bouncing-off-the-walls THRILLED to be this month’s winner of a free Straw bale Workshop. Straw bale construction first captured my imagination decades ago, and it has remained in the back of my mind for all these years. Until recently, though, life circumstances did not suggest it was worth pursuing. But there’s this beautiful little cottage in my mind, on a hill overlooking some body of water. Might be a river. Might be a lake. The cottage embodies my beliefs about how to live in the world – comfortably, but with care for the generations who have to live with the results of my choices. With a bit of determination, I will have the wherewithal to make my dream a reality within the next several years, so the question becomes, where and how? Enter straw bale!
But there’s even a greater dream. In 2003, my healthy, athletic brother got ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease, and soon was a vent-dependent quadriplegic. For the next six years I watched how stressed and isolated he and his wife became, despite supportive friends and family. Later, another ALS caregiver and I started brainstorming how things could be better. We believe the central problem is our cultural notion that disability, and therefore the need for care, is some rare catastrophe that happens to the old or the sick, or anyways, always to other people.
Out of that notion comes the way we design our homes and neighborhoods. We looked into co-housing, but no one seems to have created exactly what we imagine: an eco-friendly community of private and public spaces, built on the understanding that unless you get hit by a bus early on, disability and care are a normal part of life. We imagine accessible features like wider doorways and hallways … we see open floor plans, so people in wheelchairs and hospital beds can always be part of the action, but well-insulated spaces where people with loud ventilators can blast their TVs. We see private structures linked by public paths and courtyards. And we have many other ideas as well.
It was in thinking about this grander dream that I googled “straw bale construction” to see what was going on with my old fantasy these days. And wow! You guys have been busy!! I know there can be a cottage on a hill someday. I hope – though it will take some real doing – that my cottage might one day be the first structure of a straw bale co-housing project that helps the abled and disabled enrich each others’ lives. And I can’t WAIT for the workshop this summer!!