Alex Freedman

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since Jul 09, 2011
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Recent posts by Alex Freedman

Harvey's youtube chanel:
he hasn't been active on here in a while.

here is the seismic test / vertical shake test
'way back in 2012 there was also a video of the wind/rain tunnel video, which i haven't been able to locate today. it may still be out there somewhere.

Isn't it just amazing that rescued sanitized plastic can build into a disaster resistant building?!

5 months ago
here is the Huffpo article from 2012.

A Palace of Trash and the World It's Changing
(This post was published on the now-closed HuffPost Contributor platform. Contributors control their own work and posted freely to our site. If you need to flag this entry as abusive, send us an email.)

On its face, the idea sounds wonderful: get trash out of the oceans, and use it to make building blocks for homes that can then be built in the poorest of communities.

The story of changing the world often starts this way. An ordinary man, with an extraordinary idea and the gumption to make it real, makes waves of change that ripple through the sea of humanity. It proves no different in the case of Harvey Lacey. Harvey is, first of all, a change maker. He is one of those rarest of individuals that not only believes in his ability to improve the lives of the less fortunate, he then takes massive action to bring his extraordinary vision to the world.

Harvey's idea is devastatingly simple. So simple that, if you weren't paying attention, it might pass you by. But in its simplicity lies its brilliance, for when brought to scale it can provide jobs, clean our oceans, and build sustainable housing for the poor that is truly built to last.

The idea is called Ubuntu-Blox -- named this way because the term Ubuntu refers to our innate interconnectedness, speaking to our common dignity and community. And yes, I mentioned Blox -- because what Harvey created is a process to make building blocks, not out of cement, but rather out of recycled styrofoam and plastic bags. With these plastic blocks, reinforced with metal wire, homes can be constructed -- and for every home constructed, one 40 foot shipping container worth of trash is removed from our oceans.

On its face, the idea sounds wonderful: get trash out of the oceans, and use it to make building blocks for homes that can then be built in the poorest of communities, whether in Port au Prince, Haiti or the slums of Mumbai. But first Harvey had to prove to the world his vision could be real.

So Harvey approached the Memnosyne Foundation, a Texas-based charity, walking into the office with a block in hand. He had dreams of building homes in Haiti with his Ubuntu Blox, homes that could withstand earthquakes or hurricane winds. But he didn't have the money to test it out.

Memnosyne funded Harvey with an initial $10,000 to build the first house and then put it to the test of whether it could withstand the harshest forces of nature. After taking the 400 square foot house off the truck, it was placed on a shake table that simulated a 7.0 Richter scale earthquake. The house shook as the shake table rumbled, and then -- miraculously -- the earthquake simulation stopped, and the house remained completely intact. This Ubuntu Blox home survived the force of an earthquake the size of the ground-shaking terror that struck Haiti in 2010.

More tests were to come. Next engineers subjected this house built of recycled trash bricks to 90 mile per hour winds -- and again, with disbelief, people looked on as the house easily withstood Category I hurricane winds.

Harvey hugged the people around him, and they hugged him back. And then Harvey got ready for his biggest challenge yet -- to construct such a house in the earthquake ravaged countryside of Haiti.

In Haiti, Harvey partnered with Haiti Communitere, an organization dedicated to providing three separate but critical areas of disaster recovery -- response, relief and renewal. Communitere served as a crucial middle man between Harvey's great idea and its implementation, funding the first building of the blocks and importantly, training local women how to make these blocks themselves. Sam Bloch, the founder of Haiti Communitere, sees Ubuntu Blox as an enormous economic opportunity: work to build the blocks at an economically competitive level with regular mortar bricks, so that Ubuntu Blox can be unleashed on the marketplace and compete pound for pound with their more traditional, and far less stable, counterparts. Sam noted that this is "such a simple technology", and that any viable building technique can go viral very quickly. Communitere's role is additionally in technology transfer. I asked him what would happen if a larger organization wanted to take the reins of this project with massive potential. His response: "If Oxfam wants it, they'll get it." The offer is open.

Harvey partnered with the right people on the ground, and immediately set out to train local women on how to build the blocks. With the promise of two full meals each day, the local women set out towards the Ubuntu Blox project and began to undergo training on how to build the blocks. The work was physically difficult. But the women, if anything, were prideful and determined. In Harvey's words, "they would not give up, they were all believers." One woman had a prosthesis for a leg and yet when it seemed that she would be unable to exert the necessary energy to build the bricks, she dug deeper and continued to build. The reason was simple: "so that they don't have to stand in water when it rains."

Harvey's message to both the women and to the folks at Communitere was simple: "you can't screw it up". Mr. Inventor, as they called him, continually empowered the women with the idea that they were capable of building something larger than themselves. His hope was for the community to build itself up, with each member improving his or her life. "The fire of my forge that melts steel, starts with a spark," Harvey said. That spark was indeed Harvey with his Ubuntu Blox.

Harvey is now back in Texas, now come back to affluence, as he put it. He told me how the women made him cry, and that if anything impressed him the most from his time in Haiti, it was the strength and character of the women. In his words: "If you want to change the world, you empower women. If you look at good societies, you see empowered women. If you look at bad societies, you see oppressed women."

There is a possibility of an Ubuntu Blox factory opening up in Haiti where women will be able to work full-time, earning a living wage, and building houses that take trash from our oceans and compact them into homes sturdier than cement. Harvey's model house was just featured for the second straight year at Southern Methodist University's Engineering & Humanity Week, where students evaluate engineering opportunities to fight extreme poverty. And Harvey is aiming for a trip back to Haiti in mid-May or June, to ensure the success of the first house and the project's continued efforts on the ground.

This project has been inspirational to many, and after reading this article you may want to contribute to the cause. There are two chief ways to do this. One is to donate to Haiti Communitere, which is currently headlining the efforts on the ground. The second is to donate to the Memnosyne Foundation, and specify that you want the funds to go to the Ubuntu Blox project. Both ways will get the money into the hands of those who are bringing this project to bear. To follow this project's growth, I recommend joining the Ubuntu Blox Facebook group where you can see the project's extraordinary progress. And don't forget to follow Harvey on Twitter:

Auren Kaplan, Contributor
CEO, Girl Justice

5 months ago
just saw this on their facebook page:
be patient, many folks have contacted them.

Mountain Gardens
September 2 at 10:11 AM  
Thanks to everyone for the outpouring of support since the  @petersantenello video!
We are currently full!

Please do not quit your job or break your lease and show up at @mountaingardens expecting to live here!

Thousands of you have emailed us asking to become apart of Joe’s vision of an eco-community. We are working on reading and replying to each of you.
Please be patient!

If you are local and wish to volunteer or passing thru and want to visit we are open to the public and you are welcome to explore the gardens and visit the herb shop.

Please don’t enter the structures as there are people living in them.

We do not offer impromptu tours. We are happy to answer some questions but are also busy busy working on projects.

Check the website for scheduled tours and events.
Thank you!
@Daniel Simms
@Nicholas Messer
@Brad Bitzer

you will need to contact Joe Hollis directly at Mountain Gardens.

i am not affiliated with him, i just honor him for all he has done all these many decades.

Contact information:

Joe Hollis
Mountain Gardens
546 Shuford Creek Rd
Burnsville, NC 28714

Phone: (828) 675-5664
Let the phone ring a long time, just in case.

Direct Email:

facebook: managed by the Mountain Gardens Non-Profit group

Hours: Mon - Sat  9:00AM - 5:00PM

here is the Mountain Gardens Apprenticeship page on their website.

upon reading more on the newer gofundme post, the non-profit named Mountain Gardens is purchasing the land from Joe, in order to create a land trust to protect it for future generations. and to help take care of Joe for the rest of his life.

In the interview with Peter Sanenello, Joe does express having a small 8 -ish person ecovillage there.

(apologies to everyone, if i inadvertently caused a stir posting this on the SKIP pages. Moderators can feel free to move this to another location if need be.)

Taking Care, Rebuilding, Moving Forward

As many of you know, last year Joe lost the main pavilion that serves as the hub of activity for Mountain Gardens to fire. Within a matter of hours, a library hosting a lifetime of books, a large apothecary and herb shop, many tools, and the communal kitchen were all gone. In response, we held a fundraiser to help support the rebuilding of this critical infrastructure. The response to that fundraiser was overwhelming and has continued to nourish and encourage Joe through an incredibly difficult year. With your support, we have accomplished much: the rebuilding of the kitchen and deck, and the construction of a foundation for the new library and apothecary. With the current soaring costs of construction, more funds are required to finish the rebuilding of the library. Additionally, we are raising funds for our newly formed non-profit (Mountain Gardens) to purchase the land from Joe, securing much-needed support for Joe as he enters his 9th decade and necessarily steps back from some of his duties at the gardens. This is also a first step in securing the land into a trust to be preserved for future generations.

Mountain Gardens has had a profound impact on visitors for decades. Through Joe's videos, writing and workshops, this influence has rippled out to an ever-growing number of people who value this example of a simple, plant-centered life. In addition to this inspiration, Mountain Gardens is home to a vast array of medicinal plants and perennial vegetables. The value of this seed and specimen bank is inestimable. And the knowledge of the specific cultivation needs of these plants, which Joe has gained through his five decades of experience, must be conserved and passed on, both to the next stewards of Mountain Gardens and to all those who answer the call of the plants.

With all this in mind, we are entering a new phase in our work to preserve Joe’s legacy: to maintain the living seed bank of useful plants, to realize the vision of a thriving future for Mountain Gardens, and to provide loving care for the visionary who has so lovingly tended these gardens for over half of a century. Joe lit the hearth, now we must help tend the fire. Thank you for your support.

**offline, fully-tax-deductible donations are always welcome, and can be made by writing a check to "Mountain Gardens, Inc." and sending it to 546 Shuford Creek Rd, Burnsville, NC 28714. Make sure that we have a way to send an acknowledgment/receipt for your donation if you want one (they are required for donations over $250).
Video vlogger Peter Santenello's series on Appalachia interviews Joe Hollis. Joe is 80 years old and looking for folks to join him for the long haul and beyond.

Video description: Deep in the woods of North Carolina is a man name Joe Hollis who's lived of the grid for 50 years. Here he's mastered the techniques of a life tuned to nature, dependent on his natural environment for survival. He also has the largest collection of native Appalachian and Chinese medicinal herbs in the Eastern US.

Over that half a century, he and a steady stream of apprentices and neighbors created an incredibly beautiful garden of useful plants. He calls this project Mountain Gardens and there he has cultivated not only plants, but also a way of life. You can read his philosophy in his seminal essay, Paradise Gardening

already had thriving apothecary and herb shop, apprenticeships, workshops. until the fire which damaged much of the buildings and greenhouses.

Joe's Mountain Gardens youtube channel

In May, a fire devastated the entire pavilion complex. Joe lost a lifetime of amazing books, the extensive herb shop & apothecary, the carefully-maintained seed collection, and many beloved plants, not to mention the garden tools, power tools, herb grinders, and the solar power system. This loss is devastating to Joe, the surrounding community and to all who have been shaped by Mountain Gardens. We are raising money to rebuild the pavilion and to upgrade the infrastructure on the rest of the land so that Mountain Gardens is ready for the next 50 years.

Sounds like an opportunity for some SKIPPERS to build on their own dreams, too.

I'd like to Anonymoosely Gift this bundle to someone. is there any way they can tell who this gift came from, when they receive the email with the codes, etc.?

thanks this is a powerful way to help our allies and spread good works around.
7 months ago

Zip Tie Domes has pages of resources on their website.

Will have lots of photos of Aviary and poultry domes and such.


as you scroll down first page, there are reviews galore about coops and more.Folks share what they covered the domes with and how they did it

they have videos showing how to cover dome with plastic and other materials.