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)

What’s 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 charge–yet 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:

The Wood-Fired Barrel Oven

The book Build Your Own Barrel Oven is now available!
Click here to find out more and order yours today!

THE “BARREL” OVEN is a very practical and wood-efficient oven which can be built at very low cost using mostly natural and recycled materials.   The oven is sometimes also called a “mixed” oven because the heat generated by the wood burned cooks both by directly transferring heat into the cooking chamber as well as by retaining heat in the oven’s mass and slowly returning that heat to the inside of the oven.  For these reasons, this oven is much more practical to use and requires much less wood to do the same amount of baking as in the retained-heat mass ovens and traditional domed earthen ovens.  It allows for quite a bit more spontaneity too since you can be baking just 15 minutes after lighting your fire.  The firebox and the inside of the oven are sealed off from each other so the baking chamber is always clean of ash and carbon-black.

This is the kind of oven that you can easily cook for large groups of people with, run a cottage-industry scale bakery or a farmer’s market booth several times a week with.  Another great feature of this oven is that all the operational parts of the oven can face indoors while the bulk of the oven can be outside.

We have both built as well as cooked for our communities and for large gatherings with these ovens and are convinced of their great functionality.  We know of only two ovens of this style built in North America so far (they are very popular in South America) so we are very excited for more of these to be built!

Some links:

Oven in Comunidad Rio Azul, El Bolsón, Patagonia, Argentina…

Drawing for oven to be constructed in a weekend-workshop, August 2010, Duvall, WA…

Oven we built for gathering “Manos En La Tierra” in October 2008…
Eva and Max were part of the prep team who went into the sight, about an hour’s walk into the jungle of Catamarca, Argentina to build infrastructure for a collaborative gathering of 200 people to explore positive and creative solutions.  Within a couple of days and with only found objects and materials, we built this oven….

Our friend Al built the wonderful “train stove” you see pictured with the oven that easily cooked meals for very large numbers of people…

The Ortega family hired us to design an outdoor kitchen/gathering space that included a barrel oven at its heart.  Here are the preliminary drawings and how the oven and kitchen turned out…

Oven built by our friends- Damian and Sylvia, Tandil, Argentina

Metalwork for the Barrel Oven

Firespeaking can provide you with all the metal working for you to create a state of the art wood-fired oven of this kind.  We can ship you these parts anywhere in North America and will be happy to provide follow-up support and consultation for the construction process.

The Barrel Oven Kit!!

More specific information about the Barrel Oven Kit including current pricing and ordering information….

Note: the door is weighted to close without need of a latch and the whole front face is actually an insulated sandwich of metal and ceramic wool insulation.

As mentioned, we are currently in the process of writing a booklet on the construction of this kind of oven due out this winter.  Please let us know if you are interested in receiving an update when the book is ready.  Please contact us if you are interested in having one of the ovens built at your home, in your community, at your school, in a collective bakery, etc.


Order your Build Your Own Barrel Oven Book Today!

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:

River Front Farm Oven

Using local materials and our creativity, we made an earthen oven at Riverfront Farm in Spokane, Washington. Eva led a 4 day workshop with community garden members about the ins and outs of earthen ovens, including how to bake in them.  The project was a part of “Green Jobs Now: National Day of Action to Build the New Economy”, in which we joined with 700 communities and 50,000 people across the North America.  The oven will be part of a bigger outdoor kitchen and band shell and is used by the neighborhood and by “Project HOPE” toward the development of youth micro enterprise projects. See more photos on my blog www.evalarevolution.blogspot.com

Alex’s House

During 2006 & 2007, Max and Alex Edleson set about the building of Alex’s house in a clearing in the woods on a community-owned piece of land in the beautiful Rio Azul valley, near El Bolson, Argentina (Patagonia).  The building is a hybrid of natural building techniques including round-pole timber framing, rustic carpentry, non-load bearing strawbale, wattle and daub and living roofs.  We harvested about half the wood for the building from the woods around the house and a had a local woodsman bring in the other half by truck, some of it milled.  Our good friend Simon Van den Heede grew the oats that the straw for the straw bales came from and one fine fall day, with the first sprinklings of the season, we swept the recently harvested bales off of the field and stored them under the newly constructed roof.  We still have yet to make and place the shingles on the front roof so the corrugated asphalt roof is temporary.

Consider the whole structure an homage to the sun, completely oriented to that infinitely generous source of heat and light….

Adobe Meditation Studio

In October 2009, Eva, Max and the fantastic Betty Seaman of Spirit Pine were hired by an accomplished healer in the Santa Barbara area to construct a building to do prayer in.  Perscriptions for the building were that it be affordable and that it follow basic Huichol cultural guidelines for such a space which included being made of adobe and having few windows.  Here’s what we built….

“Naturally Building Patagonia”

February 15-20, 2010
El Bolsón, Patagonia, Argentina

Inquiries and registration

Program includes:

Introduction to Permaculture
Permaculture and Natural Building
Passive Solar Design
Introduction to Natural Building
Composting Toilets
Solar Water Heating
Grey Water Treatment
Sacred Geometry
Green or Living Roofs
Geodesic Domes

Natural Building Techniques Covered:

Adobe Brick
Wattle and Daub
Light Straw-Clay Bricks
Earth Bag Construction
Natural Plasters
Earthen Sculpture
Tile Mosaic
Natural Paints
Insulating Panels
Cast Floor Panels


CIDEP, which stands for Center for Permaculture Research, Development and Education, will be the central location for both hands-on projects and lectures.  The center is a 24 acre farm in a beautiful rural area at the foothills of the Andes and 9 miles from the center of the town of El Bolson. Many sustainable systems at various stages of development exist at the center including natural windbreaks, natural buildings, alternative energy generation, passive solar systems, composting toilets, recycling, garden, and nature reserve spaces.  The presence of all these systems creates a dynamic environment for participants since they actually live in and experience them.

Lodging and Facilities

The coursesare residential-based since the community experience is an important part of the program.  The facilities are simple: including 12 dormitory-style beds and many options for camping.  Composting toilets are available.  Participants should bring sleeping bags, sheets (or a tent depending on arrangement), towel and other personal hygiene materials, flashlight, comfortable and warm clothing, hat to protect from the sun and footware adequate for not getting your feet wet.
Lodging in the dormitory is limited so it is necessary to reserve your sport upon registering.


Food served during the course will be based on a naturalist diet which includes organic, fresh, whole grained and varied options.  We will harvest many vegetables straight from our and neighboring farm.  We make sure that you receive a diet that will keep you energized and open-minded throughout the course.  Like other aspects of the course, the cuisine we serve is an expression of creativity, art, care of people, and care of the earth.

Registration and Costs

The cost of the course is $1500 (Argentine pesos) or its international equivalent (aprox. U$S 400 / € 275).  Registration is confirmed with a 30% downpayment.

Any other inquiries can be directed to the following email: bioconstruyendo@gmail.com .

Visit the course’s main website which is in Spanish….