Browsing Archives for Design

Our first stop will be the urban slums.


Today, the world’s population numbers almost seven billion souls.   Close to one billion of these souls live in urban slums.



The number of folks living in urban shanty towns is projected to triple in under fifty years.

So that will be three billion people living in cardboard shacks on the edge of major cities by the year 2050.






Our next stop in the Global Village is Zambia.

Zambia is in Africa.  

When materials are available, Zambians often build round homes out of bricks that they make themselves.

Round homes do not waste any space, plus you don’t have to sweep out any dark and dreary corners full of spider webs.

The Zambian kitchen is an open fire underneath the thatched ‘pergola’.  A very clever brick chicken coop is located between the home and the outdoor kitchen.



This is my friend Dave standing beside the Zambian garden.  

He’s the one in the fierce, bright yellow rain slicker in case you didn’t notice him at first.





This is Zambia without Dave in a fierce, bright yellow rain slicker.




Personally, I think Zambia with Dave in his fierce, bright yellow rain slicker is better than Zambia without Dave in a a fierce, bright yellow rains slicker.  

But that could just be me.


As we left Zambia, we passed the Refugee camp.  I have a few photos of the Refugee camp but my computer is not cooperating with me, so I will have to describe it for you.  The refugee camp consists of a low slung metal barn with a concrete floor.  No fires were allowed in the refugee camp.  It was a cold, desolate, forlorn place.  Even Dave’s fierce, bright yellow rain slicker could not lift the gloom of the refugee camp.  Currently, 35 million people in the world can be classified as refugees.  Of these 35 million refugees, 12 million of them reside in refugee camps.

Did you know that Henry Kissinger was a refugee ?

So was Albert Einstein.

Refugees can be anyone, anywhere, anytime.  All it takes is a little civil unrest that leads to bloody bedlam, and then to people just like you and me fleeing for our lives with our most precious belongings tied up in a plastic bag on our backs.




Now we have arrived at my house in Guatemala.  



Come on in!  

Guatemala was the most cozy of  all the Global Village homes.  There were three rooms, including a kitchen with a wood burning oven, and even electricity.  

They must have known that I suffer from occasional bouts of weakness and shakiness so they gave me the most comfortable home.



There was colorful paint and simple furnishings too.  

Our Guatemalan home was on a coffee farm.   

Did you know that coffee is the second most valuable traded commodity in today’s world?

Can you guess what the world’s most valuable commodity is?

The typical coffee farmer makes about six cents from a ten dollar bag of Starbucks coffee beans.

If you purchase your coffee from a company like ‘Fair Trade’, the coffee farmers make as much as $1.50 from a ten dollar bag of coffee beans.  This is an extremely painless way to ‘vote with your dollars’ and buy a product that you can be sure the third world farmer is getting a decent percentage from his crop… oh!  and the coffee is fabulous too.  



From Guatemala we’ll swing on over to Appalachia.



In the year 2000, 13.6 percent of Appalachia was living in poverty and 5.8 percent of those people were living in what is termed ‘deep poverty’ which is having an income that is half the poverty level.  The national US average for poverty is 12 percent.  There are pockets of poverty throughout the United States including Hispanic migrant farm labor out West and poor black communities in the South.  All of these groups tend to share a common link of being involved in an industry that has historically wreaked havoc on the environment, the community and the health of it’s work force. Industries like coal mining and some types of farming which rely on a desperate work force willing to work under terrible conditions for little pay.  These industries all too often lead to workers getting sick from exposure to pesticides or diseases like black lung from working in the coal mines.  Once a workers health is gone, he can no longer support his family and they sink further and further into poverty.  





Our last stop will be my favorite place in the Global Village…


This is Thailand.

I loved the houses in Thailand.  





These simple structures are raised to survive the yearly flooding and also to get the people away from the mosquito breeding grounds.







The walls are constructed of bamboo and they are not fitted closely together to allow for air to move through the home.






These Thai homes are built with a thatched roof and a metal roof, but in Thailand the roofs would more typically be constructed of bamboo also.  








It is in places like Thailand that families can easily get malnourished due to lack of iron and/or Vitamin A in their diets.  This causes loss of peripheral vision, an inability to coordinate your movements, slowness in processing new information, general weakness and eventual blindness.  






A family that is struggling to see and to move and to think has less and less ability to properly work their land.






Sometimes it is easier to believe that poor people are lazy and just don’t want to work hard isn’t it?

In truth, there is all too often a vicious cycle of illness, malnourishment, and tyrannical forces such as a controlling industry that wants to keep it’s work force cheap as well as governments that simply don’t care for their people.  Heifer International is a charity that has been able to squeeze in behind this corruption and help people in ways that truly makes sense for the areas that they are working in.  







If you are interested in donating to Heifer or of learning more about their work, you can find out more here.  

Heifer International makes a difference by helping people to help themselves.  

Here ends the tour of the Heifer Ranch Global Village with locations throughout the United States…

Heifer Learning Centers
Heifer Ranch in Perryville, Arkansas
Hidden Villa in Los Altos Hills, California (Scheduled to open in Spring 2010)
Overlook Farm in Rutland, Massachusetts

Heifer Global Village Site Sponsors
Howell Nature Center in Howell, Michigan

Shepherd’s Spring in Sharpsburg, Maryland 

It has been a pleasure traveling with you today!

Please exit to your left and watch that first step, it’s a doozy!  

And thank you for choosing MSFH for your tour of the Heifer Ranch Global Village.


Perched on the eastern banks of the wide Missourah, Atchison, Kansas was once a thriving river port and then the original terminus for the “Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe” railroad.  As a result the town experienced more than it’s fair share of boom times and fairly bursts at the seams with gorgeous mansions from a variety of eras.  



These days, one of Atchison’s primary tourist destinations is Nell Hill’s, the much loved home goods store of designer, author and syndicated columnist, Mary Carol Garrity.  

Mary Carol often opens her home for tours during the Holiday season, but this year she opened it for a summer tour.  It is always a pleasure to see how she has her home decorated for the seasons.






Atchison is also the birthplace of Amelia Earhart.





Even though the Country Doctor taught school at Atchison High (physics and chemistry) during the year we were engaged, I have yet to see the inside of Amelia’s home.  I guess when I was visiting him, we were otherwise uh… occupied.






But I do remember taking some walks through Atchison’s beautiful old neighborhoods and marvelling at the lovely old homes.






Dreaming of maybe owning one myself someday…



Many homes are built on the cliff-side of the river.  






But others are tucked into various neighborhoods around town.





The best way to find them is to drive to the historic district…






Get out of your car…






And start walking…






I spent a lovely afternoon finding and taking photos of these homes.





Can you see the dragons?







I bet there’s a great story here….




As I was driving out of town I saw this last house towards the edge of town…








A nice way to end the day.  

Though it would have been nice if the sky wasn’t so DADGUM WASHED OUT!


Still trying to figure out the new camera. 

I think I will be figuring it out for a long time.

The Oracle Tours the Lodge

April 22nd, 2009


I am an architecture junkie.

I love houses and well designed buildings.

I love old derelict homes on abandoned highways sagging from neglect and misuse and I always want to hitch them to my car, drag them home and fix them up again.

I love new buildings too… the way they smell… how everything is still so clean… looking over the choices that the designers made and making note of great ideas for future reference.

So when the opportunity came to spend a weekend at Pioneer Woman’s lodge, I was very excited to meet the building in person.

It did not disappoint me.



My original plan was to snap a few photos of my favorite things about the lodge.




And then I would write a little snippet of why I loved this particular element so much. For instance, I love this door… I love it because… uh… I love it because… because… uh… well… because… it is so beautiful!

Is that a good reason?




I also this fireplace because clearly… again… very, very beautiful…




The way the light spills across the floor in this one little spot.

I have a thing for light spilling across a floor.

Maybe it is because of all those motes that give a person like me literally hours of viewing pleasure.



When the Oracle Known as Steve got wind of my simple idea for a tour of P-Dub’s lodge, he was none too pleased.




After all, The Oracle  is a mild mannered architect by day

and he wanted to know more than just how beautiful everything was at the lodge.




He demanded surveys, and pie charts, and a historical census of all the buildings in the area.



He wanted to know about the water table and the outcroppings and the ratio of people to cows.




I tried to make him happy. I tried to accommodate his need for fluffy, fervent, high falutin’, factoids.



“There are twenty two million cows to every half person out here.” I said.

“There are no water tables, but there are a few tables made of wood!” I pleaded.

“I can’t give you a pie chart, but I can give you a piece of pie if you will stop asking me questions I can’t answer!”

The Oracle grew quiet. He was clearly disappointed in me, but he seemed to sense that his profound need for information was not going to be met by an ordinary human such as I.

He sighed, “Alright then… I’ll take a piece of coconut cream pie and a cup of coffee… I guess” and he shrugged sadly, as he headed to the bathroom.

I wept with relief.




And then he yelled to me from the ‘little room’…

“Can you at least tell me, of what material these bathroom floors are made?”

(The Oracle is very good about not ending a sentence in a preposition.)

“I don’t know… but aren’t they beauti…” I yelled back and then stopped myself…and then with as much confidence as I could muster, I shouted down the hall…“they look just like limestone, but I think they are stained concrete!” 

“Wow!” the Oracle said, “They are really beautiful.”

“Yes, I replied, “I know.”