Adobe Pump House

This adobe pump house was built to reduce the sound coming from a generator at Spirit Pine Sanctuary. Betty Seaman made the bricks and together with her apprentice, Natalie Spears, they built this structure in December of 2009. Max led the construction of the roof which included milled lumber and cement- “ceramic” roof tiles.

Five Oaks Farm Oven

Five Oaks Farm is a small family farm located on the Henry Wilhelm Estate that was built in 1865 and is a historic landmark. The farm is located just off the Oregon Trail and was originally 160 acres with a house, chicken coop, sheep barn, stable, and black smith. The original outhouse is still hidden in the blackberries. The apple orchard, walnut tree and grape vines continue to fruit like gifts from the pioneers who settled here over 150 years ago.

Carol and Barry knew at first sight that the wonderful and historic Victorian house with a homestead apple orchard, original barns and five towering oak trees was where they wanted to live, grow their pesto business and raise their four boys.

They hired Eva to design and build this wood fired earth oven to establish and outdoor kitchen/gathering place near the vegetable garden. The oven was created almost completely from on-site materials and by family and neighbors during a workshop Eva led in June 2009. In addition to general baking and pizza parties, they wanted this oven to bake fresh bread that they could serve along with their delicious pesto at weekly farmer’s markets: Dante’s Pesto.

Future plans for this gathering place include benches and counter tops that attach to the oven.

Thanks so much to all of the neighbors and friends that helped! The roof structure was built by Mark Lakeman.

For more photos of this project, check out Eva’s blog post….

CIDEP Rocket Mass Heater

Rocket Stove @ CIDEP
Rocket Stove @ CIDEP
Rocket Stove from back @ CIDEP by John Santiago

What is a Rocket Mass Heater? A Rocket Mass Heater is a wood-fired device which is clean burning, affordable to build, uses local and recycled materials, and creates a wonderful kind of warmth for heating cottages and small homes. In a very unique way, the Rocket Mass Heater combines both the immediate heat offered by regular woodstoves with both the clean-burning and mass-accumulating features of masonry heaters.

As part of a phenomenal event called Bioconstruyendo held in February of 2010 in Patagonia, Argentina, Max led this very successful hands-on project of building a Rocket stove in a beautiful cabin framed from recycled barn timbers and in-filled with straw bale and adobe to create a very tight passive solar building. Considerations in the design included: having the firebox relatively near the door in order to be able to stack and dry the wood just inside the door, creating a daybed that would accomodate a twin sized mattress to act as a day-bed in the solar windows and as a sleep-over pad!

The first photo clearly shows the combination of the metal surface of a polished 55-gallon drum which radiates immediate heat to the space along with the “massive” day-bed made out of adobe bricks which stores the heat that the flue gases give off as they travel down and back the full length of channels inside the day-bed before exiting out the side wall.? The second photo shows after final plastering and the third photo shows where you load the wood into the unique down-draft combustion chamber of the Rocket Stove.

If you’re interested in learning about how to build your own rocket stove, Rocket Mass Heaters is the definitive guide and a good place to start. We look forward to developing more information on our site about rocket stove building so stay tuned.? It is quite a new technology so it is an extremely exciting area for research and investigation. I have been doing some interesting experiments in trying to refine the rocket stove by combining it with elements of masonry heater construction. Take a look at these two projects built as workshops at Wildacres documented on the MHA website:

Links to come:

-Process of building this Rocket Stove.

Read More….

Masonry Heater in the Rio Azul

This is the masonry heater that we built in the central community building of the Rio Azul community outside of El Bolson, Patagonia, Argentina in March of 2010. This heater can act as an open fireplace to provide the magic of fire and cut the chill in the late Spring or early Fall… but it really shines through the cold months when you close the first damper and send all the hot gases through a full round-trip in the day bed before they leave through the chimney. When the fire has gone out, you close the second damper to keep all the accumulated heat in the stone and adobe inside the building which emanates until the next fire you make the following day. There are pipes in the firebox that heat water in a hot water tank which is above the heater.

Most of the heater was built in our Naturally Building for Fire workshop that I led and then Eva and I did the finishing work afterward. Here you can see a little more of the context in which the heater was built. You can see the community kitchen in the background. The heater helps to form the living room / hang-out area. There is a sleeping loft in between. The building currently acts as a barn as well which is why garlic and herbs are hanging and bins of seeds are all around.

This heater also represents a breakthrough for us in making our own hardware. My old metalsmithing teacher let me build the firebox door, dampers and cleanouts in his shop.

More about masonry heaters….

Hawthorn Farm

Hawthorn Farm is 10 minutes away from the town of Woodinville with several grocery stores, library with internet access, bookstore, restaurants etc. This three-acre farm is 20 miles northeast of Seattle. There is plenty of space to pitch tents, and the living room has lots of floor space if people prefer to be inside. The garden will contribute to our meals, including home-grown chicken and lamb. Animals on the farm include bees, horses and pony, chickens and sheep.

There are many wonderful activities at Hawthorne Farm: learn to drive a pony trained to pull, useful for hauling logs out of the woodlot or speeding around in a pony cart. Learn to tan sheep hides and butcher chickens. Sheep provide much of the richness on Hawthorn Farm, especially wool for felting and spinning. See a spinning wheel and loom in action, and give it a try.

It goes without saying that good food is part of the whole experience at Hawthorne Farm. The Redmond Farmer’s Market will augment the garden’s supply for our Natural Living Courses..

The toilets are all humanure-style composting toilets, a marvelous nutrient-recycling system that nourishes the pastures.

Transportation: There are buses from the airport to the Woodinville Park and Ride, close to Hawthorn Farm. We will be glad to help arrange transportation from the airport.

Alexia Allen is a key part of Hawthorn farm and will be your host for the course. She is an accomplished naturalist and wilderness skills teacher with many years of experience. Alexia serves as a core instructor at the Anake Outdoor School. She is a 2002 Residential graduate, and a graduate of the Kamana Naturalist Training Program. Alexia also serves as a staff specialist for Wilderness Awareness School’s adult programs, and as a Kamana instructor. She has worked as a bird biologist in the North Cascades and Olympic National Parks, and has a degree in Environmental Science with a concentration on bird behavior and communication. In her spare time, Alexia stays busy riding her Bashkir Curly horse, listening to birds, playing the tin whistle, and spinning yarns (literally and figuratively).

Natural Living Workshops at Hawthorn Farm

Woodinville, WA
August 12-21, 2010

Wood-Fired Barrel Oven Workshop (August 12-13-14)

In this weekend workshop you will learn all the skills necessary to build yourself an affordable, practical and productive wood-fired oven.

  • Basics of making and laying adobe bricks
  • Construction of a vaulted arch
  • Principles of building for fire
  • Develop basic natural building intuition

Rustic Carpentry Intensive (August 15-20)

Stay with us during the week for a round-pole carpentry intensive. We will build the roof for the oven which will complete this outdoor kitchen.

  • Use of traditional hand tools
  • Basic round pole joinery
  • Experience in simple, hardy structural design
  • Develop confidence for building your own useful structures

Mastering the Mix (August 20-21)

Learn the basics of earthen plasters by joining us in the finish work on the barrel oven and knead different doughs to bake its first loaves!

  • Intuitive bread baking – sourdoughs, cinammon rolls and pizza
  • Traditional methods to make and apply earthen plasters and paints
  • Use local, natural materials to craft many types of beautiful finishes
  • Apply skills to Natural/ Green Building and Eco Remodeling
  • Special Addition: learn to churn butter and harvest honey

View our current design proposal!

Location/Host: Hawthorn Farm – Woodinville, WA

This productive, three-acre farm is 20 miles northeast of Seattle. It is an example of suburban small-farm revival which includes organic gardening; beekeeping; chickens, sheep and horse raising; wool spinning and other fiber crafts. Alexia is a naturalist and dedicated teacher of wilderness awareness skills. Find out more about your location and host….


Max Edleson and Eva Miller are accomplished natural builders who are dedicated to facilitating environments in which people can deepen their experiences with natural living crafts. There vast experience spans across mediums including a large variety of natural building techniques, woodworking, metalworking, farming and ceramics. Find out more about your instructors….

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Masonry Heaters

If you are interested in heating your home with wood, masonry heating is an excellent choice. While they may look like conventional fireplaces…. masonry heaters have channels inside them that absorb much more of the heat generated by the fire and then give that heat off into the space they are heating over a longer period of time. They are amongst the cleanest and most efficient wood-burning appliances. A well-designed masonry heater is sized so that a 2-3 hour fire in the evening supplies enough heat to the space for it to stay warm until the next evening when it is fired.

Take a look at the heaters that we have made in our masonry heater portfolio!

This masonry heater is designed into the center of a home and works as a normal fireplace until a damper is closed and the hot gases are forced through channels in the stone masonry which absorb and store the heat inside the building. The heater also serves as an oven, heats water and is a spiral staircase to the second floor.

Masonry heaters are part of a tried and true tradition that dates back centuries in Europe. They are slowly gaining popularity in North America as knowledge about this clean-burning, easy and beautiful way of heating homes with wood becomes available and more and more of them are built. They are also a part of a cultural renewal that recognizes the importance of craftsmanship and site-specific design as opposed to industrial manufacturing.

Firespeaking is proud to be a member of the Masonry Heater Association of North America. We are especially interested in combining the sophistication of the internal engineering of masonry heaters with the beautiful and comforting look and finishing possibilities that natural building has to offer. We are interested in working with owner-builders and creative architects to seamlessly design these heaters into the aesthetic and functionality of their home.

Please contact us if you are interested in discussing and exploring further this option for your life.

The following two photos are of masonry heaters constructed by colleague Holger Laerad and exemplify the kind of integration into homes that we would like to achieve with our heaters:

(photos included with Holger’s Permission)

Whats a Masonry Heater? (from MHA website)


The main thing that distinguishes a masonry heater is the ability to store a large amount of heat. This means that you can rapidly burn a large charge of wood without overheating your house. The heat is stored in the masonry thermal mass, and then slowly radiates into your house for the next 18 to 24 hours.

If you burn wood fairly rapidly, it is a clean fuel. If you try to burn it too slowly, the fire will change from flaming to smoldering combustion. The burning process is incomplete and produces tars. Atmospheric pollution increases dramatically. This is important if you are planning an energy-efficient house. The average energy demand of your house will be quite low. For most of the time, it may require only 1 to 2 kW of heat. For most conventional woodstoves, this is below their critical burn rate, or the point where they start to smolder.

Masonry heaters fill the bill perfectly. If you need even a very small amount of heat, such as between seasons when you simply want to take off the chill, you simply burn a smaller fuel chargeyet you still burn it quickly. The large surface is never too hot to touch. You have a premium radiant heating system with a comfort level that simply cannot be equaled by convection or forced air systems.

Take a look at the heaters that we have made in our masonry heater portfolio!

More Resources on Masonry Heaters:


Other Masons Doing Inspiring Work:

Wood-Fired Cookstove in Bali, Indonesia

In May of 2009, I traveled back to the island of Bali, in the Indonesian archipelago, where I spent much time as a young boy. The island, its people and its culture continually inspire me… the degree to which they are immersed in and work together with their natural environment, their exuberantly-expressed spirituality and their tacit commitment to craft as a way of life. During my time there, I built this wood-fired cookstove in which I combined the local architectural elements of the wood-fired cook stove in traditional (black!) kitchens with what I have learned about sealing the smoke into a pathway and combustion efficiency.

More photos and description of the research and construction process for this stove….

Rumford Fireplaces at the Cob Cottage Company

During my stint as a staff member at the Cob Cottage Company, I was responsible for building three Rumford fireplaces. Within open fireplace design, the Rumford fireplace offers the greatest efficiency in terms of how much heat actually radiates into the room. The Rumford design is characterized by a shallow firebox and a tall and open fire back which throws the heat into the room rather than straight up the chimney.

These Rumford fireplaces are almost entirely built with cob, a sculptable combination of clay, sand and straw. The Cob Cottage Company, amongst other things, is a laboratory for simplicity… so only the hearth and a couple of courses on the inside walls of the fireplace are made out of fired brick. The rest, including the throat, smoke shelf and chimney transition are all sculpted in the same way that one would sculpt a large ceramic vessel.

The Ridge House Rumford:

The new dining room Rumford (not yet plastered):

The Rumford in the Castle: