If I had a hammer…

If I had a hammer…


If I had a hammer I’d hammer in the morning
I’d hammer in the evening all over this land
I’d hammer out danger, I’d hammer out warning
I’d hammer out love between my brothers and my sisters
All over this land

If I had a bell I’d ring it in the morning
I’d ring it in the evening all over this land
I’d ring our danger, I’d ring out warning
I’d ring out love between my brothers and my sisters
All over this land

If I had a song I’d sing it in the morning
I’d sing it in the evening all over this land
I’d sing out danger, I’d sing out warning
I’d sing out love between my sisters and my brothers
All over this land

When I’ve got a hammer, and I’ve got a bell
And I’ve got a song to sing all over this land
It’s a hammer of justice, it’s a bell of freedom
It’s a song about love between my brothers and my sisters
All over this land

(Pete Seeger / Lee Hays as sung by Peter Paul & Mary)

To the Straw Build Squad,

First of all, congratulations!  You did it and I am proud of you.  I am proud of your hard work, your kindness to me and each other, your faith in me and in the team, your dedication to the project and of course – the beautiful results.  You successfully built a strawbale house in 29 days!

Hammers. We have been talking about them since January. As well as saws, pliers, nails, and drills. You now know the difference between finishing hammers, claw hammers, waffle headed hammers, and framing hammers. Circular saws, table saws, sawzalls, jig saws, hand saws, ripping saws, cross cut saws, chop saws, and concrete saws. Slip joint pliers, needle nosed pliers, channel locks, and vice grips. Cordless drills and hammer drills. Hilteys. Chalk lines. 16 penny nails and 8 pennies. T-25 versus T-30 star bits, square bits, philips bits. You had hammering homework. You hammered in the morning. You hammered in the evening. You came in wanting to know about making a house and now you know. You are smarter and stronger than those tools – you can now boss them around to do your bidding. They are part of a new tool kit. Dance tools, dance!

Green. What does that even mean now? You have explored, researched, and built green. Is sustainable different than green? Certified buildings? Is UM green? Are you – or your family – or me? You now see buildings differently. You can critique them pointedly. You know buildings represent energy, and place, and culture, and people, and land, and materials, and carbon. How are they put together? Who built them? Who designed them? What where they focused on? You dreamt of your own designs. Keep your creative concepts fresh and responsive. Please push the green needle further. Show people what it means.

Change. You changed the landscape of UMBS. You created a legacy that will outlive us all. You did something that hasn’t been done in more than 100 years. As a majority women crew, you did something at UM that has never been done before. You changed the perspectives and attitudes of peers and faculty and administration. You made a beautiful space and the world is better for it. Please continue to push for more change.

Hammering for Justice. You learned you are stronger than you thought you were. You are more comfortable with risk and the unknown – not to mention power tools. You know the pride and power of making stuff and the creative process. You aren’t afraid of getting dirty or working long days until you are exhausted. You know how to better communicate; you know how to work better as a team. Group projects aren’t as intimidating now. You have new muscles – literally and figuratively. You can visualize bigger goals. A large thesis project or grad school might not seem that bad now. Push to think big. Push to be less intimidated by big, wicked problems (like climate change). The house is a 30 day stepping stone – you have 30+ years ahead. I take solace in knowing you are strong. Solace in that you are better prepared to be more productive and braver than you were in January. That is great since there is much work to do. I hope you inspire others to hammer. I look forward to seeing you continue to be a hammer of justice (you can also use words, songs, bells, Photoshop, or whatever works best for you.)

Rest and Recover You deserve a break. You worked hard. Catch your breath – but don’t sit still too long. Get ready for a new and bigger project. I believe in you.

Your strawbale mentor,






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