Location: central illinois
posted 4 years ago
I stumbled upon Mike Oeler and his book in 1982 at an AIM (American Indian Movement) sponsored gathering in the Black Hills. Jackson Browne and Bonnie Rait were there, Russell Means, lots of very committed, conscious people. I bought his book which was a refreshing departure from most published stuff on solar and natural type building-- remember, there was no internet then-- and much more affordable for poor people which was me and my friends. A couple of years ago I found him again on this website, bought the same book and re-read it. My reaction was very similar to my reaction the first time I read it 30 years ago. Positive and skeptical. The skeptical part has a number of aspects. First, his book is really his own and he presents it much like an artist displays a work of art. I'm ok with that but building and especially teaching and advocating for a certain type of building should involve a much more collaborative process than a personal work of art. Peer review and other evaluative mechanisms work well to improve whatever is being reviewed; they are also hard for the original creator to take as anyone who's posted on youtube can attest to. That is the value of this website and others that look at the concept of building with wood in contact with earth. Second, the book is heavy on artist renditions which don't didn't do much for me either time I read the book: they were vague and lacked detail, especially given the many points of contact with earth and the need for attention to detail. I kept getting the feeling that he stretched his own experience into the area of his dreams and fantasies which is ok but not helpful. Heavy on pitching his idea, light on detail. Third, he built in the mountains of Idaho or montana which is far different from the midwest where I live. We have termites and rain and clay and lots of frost heave and humidity. I would like to hear from more people east of the Mississippi who have built wofati type stuctures and how they have held up.
Location: Salt Lake Valley, Utah, hardiness zone 6b/7a
posted 4 years ago
While waiting for a response from someone with wofati/oehler experience east of the Mississippi, you may want to consider the experience of native american earth lodge builders (sorry, west of the Mississippi but in the plains and prairie). They rebuilt or abandoned their lodges every 15 or 20 years, more or less. There are probably many tricks that could be adapted from other building methods and traditions that could extend the life of the structure, perhaps a combination of stone and wood, as with kivas (but you would not, of course, be building a kiva) and some hogans. If you are trapped in the notion of a "permanent" structure, you may want to go with stone, steel or concrete. (I am not being judgmental, just practical.)