[Strawbale] Hurt Herbert and the future of strawbale building

Max Vittrup Jensen Max at PermaLot...
Thu Sep 1 00:14:05 CEST 2011

Dear all and Herbert,

Herbert, in brief: I feel pity for you.

At length: Here's some more significant omission from your mail.

 Some personal remarks on the so-called european strawbale gathering 2011 in
the sleepy village Bouzov-Podoli (CZ)

 With representatives from about 22 countries and from all shades of SB
building, I do believe it qualifies as an ESBG, right?

My first day in BP:

 This is the significance: You forget to mention that you first arrived on
the Thursday; The day before the conference. Thereby you didn't get any
introduction to the place or the event, you obviously didn't ask anyone
else, and hence your mail is emancipated by judgments and wrong conclusions.

To me it seems that the fundamental underlying cause of your mail is that
you were not on the list of presenters for the conference, and that at 1:20
at night you refused to turn out your cigarette, even when asked 4 times.
You were sitting 1 meter from a pile of loose straw, under a flamable tent,
bringing a huge risk to people and property. Significantly you were smoking
with people who had been told several times that this was our central rule:
No smoking beyond the camp fires. We had also very clearly asked people to
'police' among yourself, that we would much prefer not to have that role.
You refused to turn it out, and I ripped it out of your hand and
subsequently closed down the bar due to such behavior. You were extremely
close of being kicked out of the property, but I showed leniency and didn't.

So lets look at your accusations.

  imagine coming to a place where permaculture is the
thing. That?s fine by me, but in this case it literally means

 I"m afraid you're not aware about my two Land Rovers, tractor, chain saw
and power tools?

The only room for presentations - a tiny teahouse

 I beg to differ: There was a large tent with room for 100 people. We had
sides ready to be put on if necessary. We had 2 beamers available and 2
large monitors. Another place to show digital images could have been in the
area we used as internet cafe; has housed 30 people at other times for
film/slides. Perhaps the most significant issue is that there was not much
of a request, hence using the cottage was the chosen place for the limited
occasions. I suppose you didn't arrive for the Passive house discussion in
the big tent?  One of the big monitors were in use there; again, being a
'full' participant could have done a lot of difference to your mail.

(and this also means no coffee anywhere)

 At any given time there was about  20 L. of hot water and coffee ready to
mix in it. Personally I complained to the cook about this way of serving
unfiltered coffee, but it comes down to "When in Rome, do as the Romans",
and this is a very normal way for Czechs to drink their coffee. But I guess
you were not present when the coffee table was announced? (It was 4 meters
from where you sat and smoked later).

with a sunken roof because of the abundant vegetation on it,

 Not quite. Fano had unmounted some boards in order to put new prettier ones
on it. Unfortunately Fano got busy with other more important ESBG issues,
and it didn't get done. I'm sorry it looked worse than ever during ESBG.

 that you have to enter with a deep bow and some deep respect of
mother nature. A big bump on the head reminded me: tree-trunks are
harder than my skull,

 Perhaps you should take it as a reminder of the several mails, where we
have mentioned we have a forest kindergarten? Kind of make sense for me that
a hosue for children is dimensioned according to kids, right?  The doors are
175 cm tall, very few people are not observant to notice this fact;
apparently you chose to find out the hard way.

  maybe because I had not taken off my shoes before entering.

The purpose of the building (100 % ecological of course, made of trunks,
earth and maybe a little straw)

 Once again: WRONG. It is a straw bale building, made of 4 big bales, with
about 40 small bales on top of the big bales, as well as one wall section
made from small bales. Only the South facing wall is from rocks with cob
infill, as is the rocket mass oven. The cottage was started at an European
Natural Building Colloquium; Noe, Tom Rijven, Elke Cole, Cristo Markham,
Sara Tommerup, Tony Wrench, Paulina Wojzicowska and many others all took
part and added their touch to it.

became quite clear: it?s a stresstest on
what earthen walls really can do for indoor-climate. No ventilation,

 ???  I suppose you didn't look up and notice that the roof of the tower
tips and allow for cross ventilation from the door?


 There's 2x100 volt electricity supplying all the light necessary for the 12
LED bulbs inside. There's also a small inverter available for a notebook PC.
Yes, when we need a projector we pull an extension from our house; is that a
problem for you?

no windows to be opened, and now you may multiply like 30
people in a room for 20 with the 36 ?C it had on this day, add a lot of
sweat and you come to the result, that it?s possible to build 100 %
ecological even with almost no money and without architects and building
physicians. At least if you don?t intent to use the building for longer than
the 2 minutes we humans survive without breathing.

 Central issue to this is that so many people have pointed out to me that
the building works extremely well in ensuring a cool temperature during hot
days of summer (should do with the large overhang, earth floor and 60
compact straw insulation!

Apropos shoes: We wouldn?t have needed them at all because of the heat, but
outside the teahouse we had to decide whether to walk on crushed stone with
bare feet (and get rid of this softening overcivilised attitude of us petty
urbans) or slip back in our dampening footwear.

 Now, is this a complaint that our local quarry has crushed gravel? That we
chose to use this gravel on the sloped driveway outside the cottage, as
otherwise we could never get a vehicle up the hill? I'm afraid you forget to
mention that at the flat area where the dining area were we had nice river
polished gravel for your feet...

 Nature was the big theme on this 'ESBG', but even the wasps (which seemed to
gather here from all over Czech Republic) knew that and so they decided to
populate the vegetarian feeding places in crowds and followed the food and
drinks to the tables. This was the next lecture to learn to live in
accordance to mother nature. And if you count those nice little creatures as
visitors (why not?), this ESBG was the best visited ESBGs of all time.

 This is very correct, a very kind Austrian biologist who arrived to help
prepare the ESBG explained how the wasps are aware that they will soon die,
and hence they want to get the last bit of sugar available. I'm sorry we
didn't find time to deal with this issue, install electrical zappers (proven
to kill 70% beneficial insects), spread agent orange, or whichever other
solution you'd prefer.

But who am I to complain: not arriving on the first day saved me from
working on the wells (yes, really!) to have the pleasure of pipewater.

 Incorrect again. A few people arrived a day before or early during Tuesday.
(We started at 17:00). One of them was Richard who kindly offered his help
preparing before the ESBG. He did a great connecting some of the pipes to
the new well which had taken 2 different well companies 15 months to make
(Welcome to rural Czech Republic; I'm very sorry things don't work like in
Austria here). One of the processes which had to happen was to lower a tank
into a hole we had escavated, and that hole had to be leveled first. Richard
is not a 'spring-chicken' anymore, and asked 2 young strong guys to level
the ground and help lower the tank. It is not my impression they had any
problem with performing this task?

Cold water was spare, except at the only real refreshing place around,

 Had you arrived Wednesday afternoon, you would have seen me pumping out
massive amounts of cold spring water into the garden/fields? During the
Thursday when you arrived all water systems was online and working, which
included hot water; heated by our 12 m2 integrated solar collectors, or our
DAKON central wood stove, which heats both a 500 and a 300 liter insulated
tank: All in all, had you arrived in time to get a tour of the house and
property, you may have benefited immensely; Ask the ones who did get the
tour during the Open Space session.

 a pond about 3 km astray, which had obviously been overlooked by the
and so kept it?s natural beauty.

 Funny viewpoint. Just for your information: It was made 13 years ago,
funded by EU.

Enough; I came here to meet and greet and share and exchange, so let?s come
to that. The programm was very relaxed, it's called ?open space? and
supposedly the latest hype for conferences.

 Once again: You arrived much too late and missed out on our facilitators
presentation of it. You apparently have also forgot that it was included in
the ESBG in Sieben Linden back in 2007. And, yes, Open Space has been proven
to be an excellent way to avoid the scene of some people being hostage to
other peoples ego-trips, when they feel they have to present something to
everyone. In this case people are free to go to another venue. I'm sorry
such freedom of choice does not appeal to you.

In fact open space means, that nobody feels responsible, because
nobody had to follow a schedule or could
even be sure about what he or she had to present or share.

 I'm sorry that you didn't notice the poster advartising the 3 x 4(or 5)
posted simultanous events happening in 45 minute intervals? Or know that the
central rule of Open Space is 'The law of 2 feet'. You may want to read
this? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open_Space_Technology  (It was also
forwarded to you when you paid your fee...(remember, the 'early bird' fee
you got for signing up in February, but which you first paid on 16th of May,
and yet got the discount?)

The majority was
wandering around the perimeter, not knowing where to go, what to say or

 I don't beleive this is true.

 Superfluous to mention the lack of any presentation technique like a
silly beamer

 Again, 2 beamers and 2 large displays available (One serves as a mobile
cinema at festivals). Every workshop convener at the Open Space was asked if
they needed IT for presentations; everyone requesting was served.

 (which really doesn't fit to such a low tech area);

 ????  You're really off here. I work 4-8 hours a day on computers, we own
3+monitor, cameras and most digital equipment you'd imagine. I'm very sorry
we don't live up to your accusations and judgements.

we crowded
together around some laptops, until their batteries went dead.

But let?s have some practice. Only pure naturalists enjoy standing in the
baking, burning sun for more than 5 minutes, not to speak of building
strawbale constructions. But there are always those tougher than the rest.

 We had 350 m2 of area covered by 3 huge tents, in addition to the 35 m2
cottage and the SB house. All in all it seems to me that anyone wanting to
get out of the sun had ample opportunity?

Some were very willing to work with the handmade strawbales, but...

 When in Rome; do as the Romans. It's well known the CZ bales are of bad
quality due to old East German equipment (Farmers tend to buy round bale and
big bale machinery when they upgrade). The bales we had was made with such
old press 2 km away. Before they were made Kuba had visited the farmer and
agreed that he could use them for his workshop. He insisted on compacting
them further as part of his educational approach, and his overall sense of
quality. It took an hour or two. Do you really seriously believe we should
have imported 40 bales for this workshop? Or for making an open bus stop?

according to the law of Max (I come to that later) one has to begin with the
stemming of the lines before the wrapping may begin.

 ??? I've never even hinted at anything like this, so please don't spread
this kind of nonsense to 650 innocent list subscribers. Fact is you never
had a conversation with me at ESBG, apart from refusing to turn out your

A lecture, that the truth of strawbale-building isn't just fun with
bales, but a lot of
preparing work around. After 15 minutes everybody seemed to know the
technique of wrapping by watching the stemming and left the place.

 I was busy and did not take part of Kuba's workshop. As far as I could see
it was always a place of attraction for many people. When you arrived and
sat watching there was min. 15 people at the area.

Dusk fell, it was still very warm, and after exchanging a lot of
anger-calming jokes about the ongoing events

 In other words, about 6 hours after you arrived, 2 days into the ESBG,
without any understanding, you're busy back stabbing; isn't that what you

(in the center of which stood
?Mad Max?, the ever stressed out, goofylike leader with an annoying cowboy
attitude (and hat)),

 Do you really want me to public describe your looks? Simply try a mirror.

 we found ourselves coming together, enjoying delicious
cold beer and soothing cigarettes (some more natural smokeables) and each
other, celebrating a birthday child with a ?cake? of clay with candles, and
entertaining us with tales of the strawbalers world and about the funny
situation. The local ESBG-team tries always to compensate Max' chaotic
manner and is really nice and friendly, serves some schnaps and (free) beer
to lift the spirit... but it all came to a sudden end with the spontaneous
arrival of the 'leader'.

 Again; I was about 100 meter away, inside an old farm house made from
adobe, and at 1:15 on a Thursday night I heard loud screams, and figured I
better czech out the situation, afterall, I have to live here with my
neighbours, my daughter play with their kids etc. You on the other hand are
only here for extremely limited time. In other words, my role what that of
the 'host', and yours that of a 'guest'. And after hosting about 3000 guests
here, you win the prize for being the worst guest ever.

He prohibits smoking (we sit outside in the open
air on a place called 'bar', but according to Max' law we are on a
strawbuilding site and everybody knows: don't play with fire when on a

 This is simply too rediculous. You were 1 meter from the leftovers of
Kuba's bale tightening workshop; a 1 meter tall pile of straw with a 5 meter
diameter. In a very hot weather period and among lots of people. I will
forever view your actions as grossly irresponsible, and not worthy of anyone
entitling himself the 'National coordinator of SB building'.

 Because the author of this silly review seems to ignore
the actual seriousness of the situation, Max threatens him to remove him
from the premises and fetches the lighted cigarette out of his hands. ?What
about the candles?? one dares to ask. You all can surely imagine, that the
cake with the candles followed the cigarette immediately into the dust of
the night.

After that lecture in preventing fire on strawbuilding-sites we could have
proceeded smoking, lighting candles and joking but nobody was in any mood
for that anymore. What was told in the minutes before we went to sleep is
better not be cited.

 Yes, equals attracts. You had attracted a few other who favoured smoking
and back stabbing, rather than pro-active involvement: Congratulations!

 But what the hack, the next day would save the event: the big 'European
strawbale conference' which takes place ? oh glory halleluja ? in a
different location at the townhall in Bouzov (and this means comfortable
toilets, a beamer, windows to open and hopefully no wasps).

 You are aware that during the past 6 months you've been aware to rent a
hotel or pension? Was the toilet seat not comfortable enough for you? Was it
better in Sieben Linden? And again; why didn't you ask for any of our 2
beamers, 2 monitors etc, if you had the need?

My second day in Bouzov-Podoli: In preparing the big event some creative new
things were established, e.g. the european networkers, who have brought
european strawbale building-efforts to the point, where it is today, had to
present their topics on posters.

 Once again: WRONG. As majority of whom you refer to as 'European
Networkers' are not recognized as such in their own country/or do not
network, then we had not especially asked them, and most certainly never
asked them to present 'their topics'. We asked the participants of each
countries to please make a poster representing SB building in their
respective country; a poster which we then had printed and used for a poster
exhibition. I'm awfully sorry that you once again feel hurt due to the fact
that other Austrians were asked; I view this as a central cause for your
overall slander campaign.

Themes of the presentations were edited and
dictated to prevent duplication and different views, as a result e.g. a
well-known plasterworker didn?t talk about his expertise, but shared some
refreshing notes about his life as a young entrepreneur... an entertaining
presentation in contrast to the usual specialized strawbale-lectures.

 Eh; WRONG. As part of the www.Ted.com format, we did the best we could to
get very consize specialized topics, rather than 'all round'. We had a
series of themes. We invited special selected people whom we knew had
something significant to contribute with, and whom we beleived would be able
to do so in an engaging and enliving manner like at the www.ted.com. This
was also the why you were not invited; as a matter of fact; the only 2
presentations which were very diffuse, was the 2 which were not in the
planned program, including yours.  In the case of Noe; he never offered to
talk about plaster. He accepted our invitation to talk about his fascinating
self designed apprenticeship path, which I personally found very stimulating
and thought provoking as a contrast to the formal EU funded approach
presented right before him.

The schedule was tight, to say the least. We were at the clock; a
countdown-device counted 20 minutes, starting again in the second it reached
zero. Questions were entirely postponed to after the last presentation at 5
pm and exept a lunchbreak and a short break on afternoon we had no pauses at
all for questioning or discussions (or smoking:-). A conference without the
usual exchange like comparing experiences, sharing knowledge, bringing up
strawbale building by working together. Obviously Max has a completely
different viewpoint on that ? no topic was scheduled more than once, so in
the end it was one large heap of puzzle-pieces, only every stone belonged to
a different puzzle...

 I'm afraid I can't claim the honor of inventing the hugely populate and
effective TED.com concept, but thank you for giving me such credit. As for
your other misconceptions: Tomas clarified it. He actually spent some 3-4
hours making that 'stop clock App', and it's the central issue why this
conference didn't slip so much in time as the Cohabitat did. BTW: Have a
look at the TED.Com conferences; they always have such a clock to help keep
presenters in line.
BTW: Have you ever considered that standing in front of the display, reading
up what's already projected on the display, and wanting to captivate people
for as long as possible to listen to you, may more be due to your need of
attention, than due to the desire of the audience? Which of these two
elements should as conference serve?

Unfortunately even off the stage it was not possible to learn much, because
whatever was interesting and not per se understandable in the presented
system turned out to be a secret of the inventors. All in all a pleasent
conference-day with concise presentations and without arduous debates...

I left immediately after the conference, some of the visitors from Poland
and Germany did that immediately after arriving (and clashing with Max),

I'm afraid I don't recall any clash? The 3 company partners you mention
wanted the type of ESBG they had experienced in Belgium, and would likely
also have left the ESBG in Sieben Linden or Friland, as they didn't have
that 'conference/shephearding' approach which you experience in conference
halls. I tried to find out their concern, and all it came down to of facts
was that they felt we should have imported German standard bales, and that
we shouldn't mix the body coat for the bus stop with our clay-rich soil and
local sand, but rather use ready mixes (as their company consequently does).
Had you stayed a bit longer, you would have experienced a great concert at
the castle grounds, a nice farm fair and more workshops, and a farewell
circle with about 50 remaining people at 3pm during the Saturday, many with
a lot of praise for the organizing and execution of the event...  But once
again you chose not to take part.

most of the others persevered, tolerated and outlasted the challenges and
inventions because of the big distances to their home-countries, waiting for
something like a turning point, which didn't come at all.

 You generally seem to be projecting your feeling of hurt on a lot of other

My conclusion: Certainly it was great to get to know and meet again so many
nice people, but if this so-called ESBG is in any way significant for the
future of the european strawbale building, then good night, european
strawbale building. Whats the purpose of an ESBG? For me, what it always was
? sharing knowledge and experiences between all european networkers and
straw bale builders, so that we can go home to our respective countries,
with renewed enthusiasm (which lasted long e.g. after the last Belgian
ESBG), the reinforced feeling of being part of a movement, fine-tuning next
years coordination, and some new ideas in the baggage to be spread at home
in workshops. In one word ? bringing forward the case.

 What you describe above was indeed what we tried to emphasize by using the
very successful instruments used at the ESBG in Sieben Linden; the 'World
Cafe' and the 'Open Space'. Please notice that you refrained from joining
any of those events, refrained from taking anything in, refrained from
contributing to making the event, never submitted anything for the
conference, and arrived with a seriously bad attitude. BTW: Here's your
written promise of June 15th: "I will soon send you my potential conference
contribution, thank you for the reminder."  , well, it never came.

This years ESBG paints a threat: a threat of an event advertising the

 ? I hardly feel we took it to the extend of Casa Calida? Yes, we showed
which non-profit organisation it is which hosted this ESBG. I believe that's
quite 'Kosher'.

abused for the sake of the local/regional strawbale building
scene alone.

 You mean; "Also using the ESBG to promote SB in Czech Republic?" Yes, this
was a central reason to offer to host the ESBG, and clearly stated in our
initial proposal. In addition we asked online as well as among participants
for 'deep' topics to the world cafe, topics which then were carried on in
the Open Space (which you missed out on).

That leaves the international networkers with the task that
should be done by the locals: teaching newbies.

 Not at all. This was not about 'International networkers'. This was about
asking the participants to share their skills with each other. Kuba offered
his wrap, Tom his C.U.T. (But was hospitalized right before ESBG), Niels
showed ramming. Fano Cobbing. Maren and Rikki recognized at the opening
circle that some participants would appreciate basic stuff and offered that;
Is that so wrong? If so, then please take up that issue with Maren and
Rikki, don't blame the ESBG planning/execution.

 Don?t get me wrong, that?s
an honorable task, and an important one, only why should any international
expert pay for that? Experts pay for becoming even greater experts. If
there?s just a job to do in which they only give, they should GET at least
paid. Or otherwise simply no one will gather together anymore.

 This has always been a central issue for me in planning the ESBG. I firmly
believe we're all equal, and I wouldn't dream on treating our esteemed Doc.
Minke differently than ...say, a Polish architect student. This is also why
we chose the approach of simply asking all registered participants if they
had something they wanted to present. The Google document where they could
offer suggestions, material and tool needs is still online for your to view;
the link is in one of the many mails you obviously didn't read.

This is just my opinion, but I think its time to act now and push the next
ESBG in a better direction....

 Yes, this is very clearly very opinionated. As you heard at the end of the
conference, we will compose a call for hosting the next ESBG and invite for
an online vote about this, as there's not a fixed system to decide for these
issues, and as the list of national networkers is for a large part
dysfunctional. Please be a little patient and a lot less judging. We have an
international course starting tomorrow morning, so I've had other issues to
deal with and believe that this can wait for a week or two.

BTW: We'll start our course with a team work exercise which includes doing
the Jung/Briggs personality test:
I just did mine with these results:
Extraverted    Intuitive    Thinking    Perceiving
Strength of the preferences %
22    12    1    11

I have a suspicion you're going to hit the '100' mark in 'Judging' ....?



 Ing. Max Vittrup Jensen
 "Jen-Sen: Make it Reality"
 Consultancy in sustainable building, planning and environment
 +420 585 15 20 10 - www.jen-sen.cz

> Message: 2
> Date: Wed, 31 Aug 2011 13:20:48 +0200
> From: Cas Mol <chwmol at hotmail...>
> To: <strawbale at amper....muni.cz>
> Subject: Re: [Strawbale] ESBG 2011 and the future of strawbale
>        building
> Dear All,
> I wasn't there so I can't really comment but I do recognize some of it.
> This is what you get when people make strawbale building into a believe
> instead of a science.
> Best regards,
> Cas

Cas: I'm sorry that you feel called upon to bark up at the wrong tree (A
I view myself as a natural builder, using a multitude of techniques.  I
design my approach using permaculture, also called 'a design science'. On a
more academic level I have a M.Sc. in Planning and Environmental Management.
I hope the long mail above illustrated that there's more than one side to
Herberts fractionalized story?
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