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Women learning how to build infrastructure  RSS feed

 
K Putnam
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Location: Unincorporated Pierce County, WA Zone 7b
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In jest, I wrote this in the "fishing for coin" thread, but it has actually been on my mind a fair bit lately.  Maybe there are other women (or men) here who want to discuss.

Topic of discussion: how women can figure out how to be involved in the infrastructure portion of permaculture.  Because I am a fit, strong woman in her prime and power tools can still take me for a ride, not to mention I don't have the physical strength to be dragging logs around to build structures.  When I need something build, I need to pay men.  That requires monies.  I'm great in the kitchen and the garden, but that limits how far I can take things on my own.


I was not raised with power tools.  That does not mean my parents raised me to NOT use them, but neither of them did a lot of projects, so I just wasn't raised in a house where projects were happening regularly.  I don't have the basic skill set.  I do have an increasing set of tools, but I'm not feeling super comfortable using them.   I am pretty darn strong, but they were designed by and for men.  They are heavy.  Keep in mind, I lift *heavy* weights to stay in shape for my job. I lift 50 pound bags for my horses.  I'm not spindly or wimpy.  I find most of my power tools fairly heavy for my hands. 

I am working with a couple of cedar 8X8s.  I tried to move them on my own and could not safely do it.  I had a male friend come over.  He simply floated it up onto his shoulder and walked off with it.  Now, he is a strong, burly dude, but it emphasized the strength disparity between the two of us.

Even if I was good with tools, I don't know how to build things.  When I ask male friends for help, they try to be helpful but offer instructions but they have all assumed I know a lot more than I know.  For example, I have a friend who is helping me with a project and was giving me instructions on what I could do on my own.  I quote, "OK, you need to make a cut here and "da da, da da, da da."  Wait, what?  What's in the "da da, da da, da da," portion of this project.   He listed off the things I would need to know, but there's no way I'd know these things were important on my own!  I'm totally willing to get into it and learn.  Recently, I learned about mixing and pouring concrete.  I did that just fine.  It was easier than baking a cake.  Add water, stir, pour, level.  Ok, great.

Jocelyn made some good suggestions about making trades and I do make a point to take care of and feed the friends that would help me out, but they have their own big projects, too.  I am more concerned about doing trades with men I do not know and having them on my property.   For example, when I had a new roof put on a cabin, I woke up one day to find five men in my yard unannounced.  No one told me they were coming.   It was sort of a sketchy crew.   I am a single woman living alone.  Men may not understand that fear, but I think most women will.

Obviously, a great answer would to be dating someone like-minded with a shared vision and interest in these things.  As much as I don't believe in divisions of labor between men and women, there are certain things I just can't do on my own.   But, until that next chapter of my life happens and just happened to be with someone interested in these things (not a guarantee), I'm feeling a bit stuck on how to really learn this stuff.  There's not too much building I want to do on this current property, but I have much bigger plans in mind for my next property that I can't even think about embarking on without somehow figuring out how to do this on my own or having a partner to do it with me.

Websites?  Books?  Women out there with blogs?   I'm open to suggestions.
 
Tyler Ludens
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I've been the primary carpenter at our place, building all the chicken coops, and half the other structures we've built, plus doing virtually all the fencing, gardening,plumbing, and hand-dug earthworks. My husband isn't that interested in these things, except as a spectator!  I mostly learned by doing and some from a couple of basic home maintenance and repair manuals.  There's loads of info on the internet.  I can't remember any specific sites, usually if I need specific info I search for it and try to find the most helpful webpage or blog.

I do sometimes ask my husband to help with lifting, and I prefer for him to use the circular saw, I'm just not that comfortable with it and it is heavy.  He also does all the chainsawing, again, a weight problem. 

Here's a book I got, but have not had to employ the ideas because not alone:  https://www.amazon.com/Working-Alone-Tips-Techniques-Building/dp/1561585459

 
K Putnam
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Location: Unincorporated Pierce County, WA Zone 7b
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Here's a book I got, but have not had to employ the ideas because not alone:  https://www.amazon.com/Working-Alone-Tips-Techniques-Building/dp/1561585459 ;


Thank you!
 
Tyler Ludens
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Many structures can be built using much lighter framing members than are typically used. For instance, I use 1x2 and 2x2 in my coops instead of 2x4. I was trying to find some references to wooden airplane construction.  My husband just advised me to tell you to buy and build a balsa wood airplane model, so you can experience how a bunch of flimsy members when put together properly, become strong.  This may help you in designing structures in the future which can be built of light, easy to lift sections.

 
Michael Bushman
Posts: 144
Location: Sacramento, CA
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I am slowly working toward setting up a woodworking school primarily for youth and I am going to offer to paths, one is female only the other is co-ed.   Goal is to nurture girls in the mechanical arts with a focus on hands on use of math and geometry as well as tools, combining both wood and metal work.   Only real obstacle I have at the moment to starting is still working out the insurance portion, I have the tools, the space, the teachers and the network.

I do adult ed stuff with a local permaculture meetup group and when I do the woodworking stuff it is about 2/3 women.   I was very proud when a woman who had taken a few of my classes and at first was very timid around powertools announced in another class she had taken the confidence she had gained in my classes and designed and built her own wooden chicken coop.

We need more of this...
 
Michael Bushman
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Location: Sacramento, CA
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K Putnam wrote:Websites?  Books?  Women out there with blogs?   I'm open to suggestions.


A good place to start for woodworking are two common woodworking stores, one is Woodcraft in Seattle and another is Rockler's stores in Seattle both offer classes and many are in touch or even host local woodworking groups.   Another option is to google woodworking groups in your area, Seattle seems to be full of them.

And frankly, lifting big beams isn't easy for many of us.  I recently had a chance to scrounge a bunch of scrap wood and I had to leave the 16' foot long 4x6 beams because they were just too heavy to lift out of the dumpster.

If you don't mind answering, you mentioned you could lift 50lb stuff but are struggling using your power tools, can you expand a bit on what tools you are struggling with?   I am curious if you are trying to use a full size worm drive circular saw rather than a lighter model and what sort of infrastructure would you like to build and what issues building it daunt you?



 
Pearl Sutton
Posts: 136
Location: Zone 6a, on the edge of 6b
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I followed this idea from the original post in Paul's fishing for money thread... I was going to start one if KPutnam hadn't expanded on it. I have a similar issue, not exactly the same, not sure if I should start my own thread.  Anyways. I am good with tools. I have smaller scaled ones and certain tools that I do well with (see below for link, it ran amok and I gave it it's own thread.) but I also lack the muscle to just flat move things around. AND lack the money to pay help. AND I just moved and have no contacts here yet for casual help that I don't pay. AND don't have a kitchen yet that I can even feed help well out of. AARGH!! What CAN small women do in this situation?  I also get frustrated by seeing the guys just pick up stuff I'd have to get creative with to move. I also REALLY resonate with KPutnam: "woke up one day to find five men in my yard unannounced. No one told me they were coming. It was sort of a sketchy crew. I am a single woman living alone. Men may not understand that fear, but I think most women will." YES. How DO you find men who will do stuff who you don't mind them being on the property?! I moved 6 weeks ago, I can already name several who will NOT be welcome to show up again. I don't care HOW skilled they might be.  Also I get SOOOO tired of reading on the net the women who say "oh yes! I am a homesteader! My husband does all the labor and I feed the chickens and cook dinner!!" AAAUGH!!!

How DO real women cope with all of this? I am fairly strong, I use a LOT of physics to move stuff, but it takes me so much longer, it frustrates me. If anyone has better ideas than "get a guy to do it" I'd LOVE to hear

I started to reply to KPutnam's comment about tools being "designed by and for men" and it ran totally amok, and turned into a book (not a real book, just long enough, good lord) and I'm giving it it's own thread.  http://www.permies.com/t/57572/woodworking/Tool-thoughts-women#486343 ; What tools work best for small women and why, how to choose them, because tools being designed for men is one of my pet peeves. Like I said, I'm good with tools. And it's not easy to learn to be good with things that aren't made for you. Like learning to drive a car by being in a huge truck with the seat all the way back and you can't move it... it CAN be done, it isn't easy. So it's advice from one woman who has been there, aimed at women who might want to learn.

And thanks KPutnam for starting this thread!!
 
Tyler Ludens
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Pearl Sutton wrote:"oh yes! I am a homesteader! My husband does all the labor and I feed the chickens and cook dinner!!"


Must be nice
 
Pearl Sutton
Posts: 136
Location: Zone 6a, on the edge of 6b
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Tyler Ludens wrote:
Pearl Sutton wrote:"oh yes! I am a homesteader! My husband does all the labor and I feed the chickens and cook dinner!!"


Must be nice! 


That's FAR more polite than what I generally say
 
Amanda Bramble
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Location: Cerrillos, NM
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I wasn't taught to use power tools even though my dad was an expert woodworker.  I mostly taught myself and got guidance from friends- that's on not only how to use tools but how to design infrastructure.  I started a Sustainable Learning Center in New Mexico with my husband but I've been the main designer, fix it person, and manager of building projects. My husband is the one that's great with the computer stuff.  Whether you are a man or a woman, designing building projects and just diving in to learn a new tool may or may not come naturally to you.  While I'm a larger woman, I still have plenty of physical limitations. My advice is to Build Community First!  As I have developed friendships with people with skills, my self education has skyrocketed.  Also, once you become proficient at something or have some good things to demonstrate, you can get volunteers who want to learn what you know and see your examples.  That's often how I get the strength I need to help my designs come together. (looking for volunteers in Sept/Oct by the way)  Of course I have been at this for a while and developed a reputation so that helps. I do have a blog that I post things on once in a while.  It's ampersandprojectblog
And my website is ampersandproject.org
Best to you!
Amanda Bramble
 
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