Henry and Gloria Red Cloud Promote Self-Sufficient Construction and Energy

Henry Red Cloud brought his campaign for Public Utilities Commission to Aberdeen this afternoon. The Democrat from Pine Ridge dined with us and offered the following remarks at the Brown County Democrats’ picnic:

I sat with Red Cloud and his family—wife Gloria and sons Scott and Alejandro. Gloria told me about equipment they have to make compressed earth blocks. Combine dirt and a cup of Portland cement, and you get building blocks that will last far longer than wood. Combine thick, insulating blocks made from the soil under our feet with energy made from the wind and sunshine all around us, and you have a recipe for local self-sufficiency in housing and heating.

Gloria said that she and her husband are planning to conduct workshops on sustainable building and energy production at the water protectors’ camp at the Cannonball–Missouri confluence this week. They’ll demonstrate straw bale construction and provide other useful information to the tribes who have gathered there to fight the Dakota Access pipeline.

We can mobilize to fight the predations of big fossil fuel projects on our water and our sovereignty (don’t forget: eminent domain!). We can chain ourselves to bulldozers, risk dog bites and pepper spray, and create spontaneous protest towns with thousands of vocal residents. But when the Cannonball–Missouri camp dissolves, if the tribes and other allies take the technology and mindset Henry and Gloria Red Cloud teach back to their communities, if they put the principles of self-sufficiency and coexisting with the Earth into practice, they may not have to go to war with big energy projects, because we won’t need them.

And electing a man like Henry Red Cloud would bring those principles into the conversations and the regulatory decisions of the Public Utilities Commission… which would be good for all of South Dakota.


35 Responses to Henry and Gloria Red Cloud Promote Self-Sufficient Construction and Energy

  1. Mixing things with dirt and straw is always fun and you can build forts and other neat things. I think HRC really has a grip on many of the issues which will lead to an election.

  2. Henry is clearly not a politician and that is what I like about him. In my view, politics should be left at the door while inviting common sense approaches to the needs of those whose lands are affected by utilities and utility companies. The idea that eminent domain is used so casually by Nelson and crew is really a crime against all citizens. The political corruption and the running over of landowner rights by Chris Nelson and the rest of the machine in Pierre, has to go. Henry Red Cloud brings to the table a knowledge of the direction the nation needs to follow. His background in the renewable field makes him someone that can actually lead from his experience.

    BTW, building with renewable is how to keep your home warm in the winter and cool in the summer. Straw and soil have been used successfully for hundreds of years. Now we are even seeing straw bale homes coming into play. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Straw-bale_construction

  3. mike from iowa

    The late Dennis Weaver was into straw for insulation as well as packing dirt inside old tires for insulation, if I remember correctly. Would like to have seen Weaver and the Red Clouds get together and share notes on environmentalism.

  4. Don Coyote

    Meh. Build a 12 story with rammed earth and straw bales and then go and live in that. Wood is the way to go. Not only can you build large structures typically built with steel and concrete, the wood also acts a carbon sink, locking carbon away from the atmosphere.

    http://www.newsweek.com/2016/03/04/carbon-sequestering-construction-oregon-428745.html

  5. I, for one, hope to see attempts to build 3 story structures with mud and straw. And, what I think they call hobber-holes. People could dig these hobber-holes and then build the little pig houses above them. This could solve a lot of housing problems that the PUC has to deal with today.

  6. Lucky you Coyote, here is a treat. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2010/nov/02/europe-largest-straw-building

    I read the article you sent some time ago. Impressive for sure. The real need is for trees to do the job they were intended to do and that is to clean the air and take out the carbon. By laminating the beams together, you can recycle wood to use for incredible projects. Think of all that blue wood in the Black Hills that could be used at a fraction of the cost of harvesting old timber. Who would have thunk it Coyote, you are a progressive!

  7. Even in the good ole USA, we can be farm friendly http://www.aia.org/akr/Resources/Documents/AIAP026855

    Many ways in which to utilize renewable resources right here in South Dakota. We have the ideas and we have the resources to get the job done, what we do not have is a willingness of the ruling political party to wean themselves from dirty oil and the corruption that goes with it. Henry would be the man to get that job done to increase jobs here in a good clean renewable way.

  8. Francis Schaffer

    Cory
    Does he sell the Dwell Earth compressed soil machines or just use them?

  9. Local resources, Coyote: not everyone has trees producing construction-grade lumber. Nearly everyone has dirt for compressed block.

    Francis, the Lakota Solar Enterprises website says Red Cloud does training and demonstrations. I don’t know if he retails equipment.

  10. mike from iowa

    If wingnuts had their way there wouldn’t be any trees for anyone except the lumber industry. Soon all old growth forest would be gone and wingnuts would blame it on tree huggers like Al Gore.

  11. Daniel Buresh

    What are the building codes for a straw house? Dirt hut? How much disease will occur because of such living conditions? How much will accidental death rates increase? If you want to revert our living standards back 200 years, you might as well expect that most everyone who does participate won’t live past the age of 45 and they will likely revive the plague.

  12. In South Dakota, the building code has to do mainly with the electrical code. The wiring is placed in conduits the same as in commercial buildings. The roof loads are engineered with beams so that wind load and dead load are accommodated. The foundation is a poured footing that can then be built upon much the same as a wood foundation. The flooring could be whatever you would like it to be. I would do a radiant floor myself, but others may choose carpet or some other covering. This is conventional building without a doubt.

    Now I will mention this to you Mr. Buresh, if you were to build any type of structure, be it wood, brick or steel, and you put it in the middle of a prairie dog town, you have a good chance of catching bubonic plague. There are signs up in that indicate that. FYI, you can speak to the old timers about their families life in the sod homes on the prairie as some are still alive that lived in them. 45 years of age had to do with more issues than living in a sod house.

  13. Henry Red Cloud seems pretty cool!

    Increasing heating and cooling efficiency on reservations is a key component to Native sovereignty and improving quality of life. Decreasing residential construction costs and using very local materials is also a huge winner.

    In the face of all that, it surely takes a snow-white suburbanite nuclear family guy to pose the question, “but what about all the disease that these homes will create? What about the plague?” Sounds like Sarah Palin or some other similar air head talking while sucking on the bendy straw in her large soda that came with her Taco Bell drive through meal combo.

  14. What the paid off politicians do not want is success for our energy needs. The last thing in the world they want is for us to really be independent with money in our pockets. Independence means freedom and that means actually taking a look around to see how shoddy they have run the place while keeping us from ways in which to hold us all down. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/clean-energy-economic-opportunity_us_5703cc2ce4b0daf53af0dc08

  15. Bill Dithmer

    Just over 20 years ago I helped build one of the first if not the first straw bale structure on the Pine Ridge. I pushed mud for a couple of days foe friends Brett and Tammy Prang, building a 40 x 80 two atory shop.

    I have spent countless hr in that shop and was always comfortable. It has infloor radiant heat, but it truly shines when its hot out. If you keep the doors closed, 100 degrees never get to 80 inside.

    At the time it wasn’t possible to determine R value with straw, but its good. What I found interesting was that with every layer of mud, there were three, the strenght of the building increased not incrementally, but many many times, so did the weight.

    I do know that the secret to atraw in how much the bales are compacted. They hand tied every bale. Now they are finishing a 4000sf southwest style home built the same way.

    If I were doing it now, I’d use red iron with straw.

    These same people run Incredible Metal, and art gallery. http://www.incredible-metal.com/

    When you look at Google Earth, they have a forty foot cross in the badlands that you can see from space.

    The problem with all great techniques is insurance, not safty, but changing atitudes. It must be hard to insure an unknown.

    The Blindman

  16. Daniel Buresh

    “Sounds like Sarah Palin or some other similar air head talking while sucking on the bendy straw in her large soda that came with her Taco Bell drive through meal combo.”

    This must be all that liberal tolerance Cory talks about. How can sanitary conditions not be considered in the discussion of primitive housing? Living conditions are one of the main factors in the spread of disease and the exposure to harmful elements in our environment. Sorry for asking questions that apparently no one wants to acknowledge. Continue on with the echo chamber and patting each other on the back.

  17. Daniel Buresh

    “snow-white suburbanite nuclear family guy to pose the question”

    Speaking of nuclear, what level of radon exposure happens within these types of buildings? During natural disasters, such as tornadoes, thunderstorms, or straight-line winds, what sort of increased fatality rate can we expect? Do these building have a stronger chance of fire due to exposed materials or is there a natural fire barrier? In the case of a fire, what sort of timeline can we expect when it comes to determining the complete failure of the structure?

  18. Well Daniel, folks like yourself do not want change. Even proven change is sometimes just too much to bear. I know that it must have been a difficult challenge for you to even think that there were actually telephones that you had to crank on to get your neighbor on a party line (Green Acres). Or that you used to use a windmill to generate your power and to pump the water, funny how that is back in style again though. Those old guys seemed to know a thing or two about saving money and their resources so they could maybe buy some sugar or salt as needed to try to stay solvent. Life is funny.

  19. Robert McTaggart

    Radon content in any home may depend more on what is underground, not necessarily what the home itself is made of.

    If any home is super air-tight to increase efficiency, then there is the possibility of Radon collecting in the home. If the home is extra leaky and the windows are open all the time, or people walking in and out frequently, etc., then it cannot build up.

    But you can design the home so that Radon from the ground follows the path of least resistance away from the home, and the foundation can be wrapped in a plastic barrier (Radon is fairly big). Those techniques do have advantages in reducing moisture as well.

    Radon removal and Radon-resistant construction should play a much greater role in the design of any future affordable housing. However it is an extra expense.

    With regard to R-values, you can always make the walls thicker with whatever you use. Don’t forget that dead air is also a good insulator, and you can mix and match different things based upon cost and performance. But I would think it would be of interest to make sure that insulation made from renewables is non-flammable.

  20. Either have kids, pets or an air exchanger http://energy.gov/energysaver/whole-house-ventilation and your air quality will be taken care of in any super insulated home.

    As noted by Blindman, the straw is compressed so less likely to combust even with direct source http://www.balewatch.com/technique.html In addition the the combustion factor, there is also mud to be considered. The only thing I would note is to build with laminated beams as they will not sag in the event of fire. Wood beams will hold their integrity for a longer period of time in heat.

  21. Robert McTaggart

    Air exchangers do help, but that doesn’t mean the Radon cannot collect in different rooms based upon circulation patterns. To reduce it as much as possible, the Radon will have a path either around the home or through a mitigation system before it enters the home.

  22. Daniel, a straw bale house is no more likely to burn than a stick-built house—probably less likely, since the straw is compressed and sealed. Compressed earth blocks won’t burn.

    Mice can eat straw and will like living in that nice warm insulated material, just as they’ll chew into your wood walls and live in your insulation. Moisture will cause mold and other trouble in any house that’s not properly sealed.

    Straw bale construction can stand up to prairie winds at least as well as wood construction.

    Straw bale and compressed block aren’t steps back; they are viable alternatives offering energy efficiency advantages from the first day of construction, when you aren’t having to haul construction materials in from hundreds of miles away.

  23. Daniel Buresh

    “Well Daniel, folks like yourself do not want change.”
    I have no problem with change as long as that change is for the better. Not acknowledging possible adverse effects of moving back to primitive style housing is completely dishonest.

    “Even proven change is sometimes just too much to bear.”
    Proven? OK…

    ” I know that it must have been a difficult challenge for you to even think that there were actually telephones that you had to crank on to get your neighbor on a party line (Green Acres). Or that you used to use a windmill to generate your power and to pump the water, funny how that is back in style again though. Those old guys seemed to know a thing or two about saving money and their resources so they could maybe buy some sugar or salt as needed to try to stay solvent. Life is funny.”

    No, I was not around when party lines were still common. I was at the tail end of it. I was around for rotary phones and we pumped from the well to feed livestock as we had rural water. Your comments make you seem smug and pompous if you are not willing to address valid concerns and write it off as unneeded criticism.

  24. Daniel Buresh

    “Daniel, a straw bale house is no more likely to burn than a stick-built house—probably less likely, since the straw is compressed and sealed. Compressed earth blocks won’t burn.”

    I didn’t think they would. They do worse things like loose their strength and crumble without clear signs of this happening.

    “Mice can eat straw and will like living in that nice warm insulated material, just as they’ll chew into your wood walls and live in your insulation. Moisture will cause mold and other trouble in any house that’s not properly sealed.”

    Are you suggesting that these homes are no more likely to have pest than modern homes? I find that hard to believe. I also think that once infested, it would be much harder to remove from the structure.

    “Straw bale construction can stand up to prairie winds at least as well as wood construction.”

    I would think they could stand up to it better, but in the event of a structural failure, I question if that is compounded because of the building materials.

    “Straw bale and compressed block aren’t steps back; they are viable alternatives offering energy efficiency advantages from the first day of construction, when you aren’t having to haul construction materials in from hundreds of miles away.”

    So how does that work with electrical wiring and plumbing? I would question whether material cost savings would be countered by increased labor costs.

  25. Mr. Buresh, sorry that you missed the party lines as they were kind of a good way to get information to all of your neighbors, even if you did not want to. Change we did though, maybe for the good maybe for not, but change we did.

    One of the things we got from all that change was a certain disconnect from all around us, mainly our planet. We suddenly thought that what was old was no longer a service to us and we discarded it like we do with almost everything now. Ask yourself how many shirts and pants do you now own then take a look at what your great grandparents or grandparents for that matter, had for their clothing. It fight into a wardrobe closet. http://www.ebay.com/sch/America-Antique-Armoires-Wardrobes-1900-1950/66858/bn_18114549/i.html?_fsrp=0 So here we are now in a crowded planet that is rapidly running out of time and resources if we are not quick to think of ways in which to reinvent ourselves. One of those ways is to go back to the future. We have and still have building projects using the basic elements of soil and additives that have served us well throughout our history. What innovative thinkers like Henry Red Cloud bring to the table is the curiosity of possibility. This is a rare thing in politics today. The very idea that you can look at something so simple as soil and work a way in which to make it into a viable resource without jacking fertilizer into it. To be able to quarry it right away from within the confines of your property. You are not raping the ground then, you are keeping it as the beauty it is. To have respect for the land and therefore have respect for those whose livelihoods depends upon it. That is something that we sorely lack in our PUC today. What thinkers and doers like Mr. Red Cloud know and understand is that you do not have outsiders or anyone come in and take a crap on your land and expect you to not only embrace them but to ignore what they are doing to you and your property and all whose lands are affected by that action.

    I would make a suggestion to you Mr. Buresh, research. Take a look at alternatives to stick built homes. We started to use them because they were the cheapest method out there. Not really all that energy efficient, but oil was cheap and we got hooked on that drug. We cannot survive with the current thinking of the destruction of our water and our lands like Chris Nelson would like to continue doing. We could use a change in our direction, someone who actually has practical ideas, we have that in Henry Red Cloud.

  26. Don Coyote

    @cah: “…when you aren’t having to haul construction materials in from hundreds of miles away.”

    Unless the straw is just laying around waiting to be turned into someone’s dream home, the straw bales will be needed to be trucked in and due to the amount of straw needed, I’d suspect that that is not going to be just a couple of tanks of gas in your brother-in-laws pickup.

    Also contrary to your fantasies, lumber is needed for the post and beam construction of the straw bale walls, for the roof framing and sheeting, for the window and door framing, for the doors and trim and cabinets.

    Building with dirt or straw is labor intensive and unless a considerable of amount of the labor provided is sweat equity or volunteer, labor costs will exceed that of a comparable size stick built house.

    Please tell me why straw/dirt is any more “green” than the renewable timber used in stick built or factory built homes?

  27. On plumbing and electrical: true, we have not found a way to make straw bale conduit. Gotta wait for solar-powered replicators for complete local self-sufficiency. However, building the walls out of local materials significantly reduces shipping.

  28. The conduit that you would use would be the same as you would use in any construction project. If you are using conduit, you would be better served to go through a licensed electrician that can lay out your renewable dream home. Those guys actually use benders to make you a professional job. The cut outs on bricks are done in a variety of ways so as to accomodate light switches and outlets along the way. As the conduit must follow the code of 16 inches off the finished floor, you would then have the knowledge of location so you could add an outlet if needed in the future. In order to have your dream home insurable, you must have a wiring certificate issued by the state of location. Interior, load bearing or non load bearing walls, could be of the same back yard material with the conduit built in as you go up the way in construction. You could get your roof engineered at any lumber yard for either a traditional type roof or a sloped roofing system. In Chicago, the city roofs have been gardens for some time http://www.greenroofs.com/projects/pview.php?id=21

    Regarding plumbing, that would be done the same way, by employing a qualified plumber to make sure that you do not run into the problem of finding that $#i+ does not run uphill. Building with straw bricks is like building with regular bricks only the material you use is in your back yard. Vermeer has a beautiful machine that will make your bricks. Your cousin Billy Bob, is damn good with a shovel so he can help with the loading of the machine just keep feeding him lefse and wojapi so he will be able to keep up. In short, you can make your home a reality literally right in your back yard.

  29. I would use conduit myself, but here is a video on how to do this work https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A7u76MyqR6s

  30. Big DEM meeting out in Rapid City this weekend. Hope all those power brokers are coalescing and coming out strong against the Dakota Access Pipeline! Let us know!

  31. Leo, they are holding 20 rooms at the Ramkota and have the hospitality suite already reserved so if you’re going get in line early because 40 people really packs that little room. 30 if you assume some of them are going stag or doe.

  32. Grudznick, Apparently, it is a meeting of the “minds”. I don’t care if they sleep on the ground in sleeping bags, I want to know what they are doing and the policies and strategies they are proposing.

  33. 20 minds at the Rapid City Ramkota will no doubt set the future of the Democrat Party in this state for decades. Big decisions are to be made.