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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Nature's Gazebos

Air Date: Week of

Jan Nunley speaks with an Oregon listener who grows trees together in formations to create a sort of natural gazebo house. Patience is required to achieve one of these arbor houses.


NUNLEY: Last year an average of about 3,000 single-family homes were built every single day, and each one of them used about 8,000 board feet of wood. That's a lot of trees that every year go into building shelters. Well, every once in a while we hear from listeners who have a different way of doing things. My next guest says he has a way to build houses without cutting down trees. Howard Grund-Clampit hails from Oregon's Willamette Valley and he lives there on his family's farm, and he's trying to grow a house. Mr. Grund-Clampit, explain to us, how are you growing a house?

GRUND-CLAMPIT: Well, the technique is actually pretty simple. I plant a lot of very small trees close together in the pattern that I want them to grow up in, and then as they grow I kind of weave them together and they will eventually merge into one another and grow a wall for me.

NUNLEY: Now, what kind of architecture, if you will, is this going to look like?

GRUND-CLAMPIT: Well, the first structure that I've grown is a circle. It's about 20 feet in diameter, and it's made of weeping willow trees. I have a full-scale house that I started growing last winter, and I'll be adding more pieces to that this winter. It's a 5-room house, it's just out in the field here.

NUNLEY: Are you planning to finish out the interior?

GRUND-CLAMPIT: Yes. In fact, before I planted those trees I put in pipes in the ground so that I can put water and electricity into there. I'll put a deck floor in. That structure has an opening for a doorway and two windows, which we can put in once the trunks have gotten fat enough to support those frames.

NUNLEY: Gee, I want one of these houses.


NUNLEY: (Laughs)

GRUND-CLAMPIT: You wouldn't believe how easy it is.

NUNLEY: It's amazing.

GRUND-CLAMPIT: It's been really slow to figure out how to make things work, because what I do this year I don't see the results of until next year.

NUNLEY: But you've also got to have such an eye for things, how they sort of move and how trees sort of decide to go. So it's almost, it's a mutual relationship, one the tree and you are working on this together.

GRUND-CLAMPIT: Exactly, yeah.

NUNLEY: Yeah, 20 years ago people thought earth homes, earth-banked homes and that sort of thing, was unusual. So do you think this will catch on in a similar way?

GRUND-CLAMPIT: (Laughs) Well, I think that what I'm doing will probably become pretty accepted in the field of landscape design, because it's real simple to do and you can get some really attractive and unusual things from it.

NUNLEY: Sort of a natural gazebo.

GRUND-CLAMPIT: Yeah, a natural gazebo. You can do chairs, tables, footbridges, lampposts, and those kinds of things real easily.

NUNLEY: Mr. Grund-Clampit, thanks for joining us.

GRUND-CLAMPIT: Well, it's been my pleasure.

NUNLEY: Howard Grund-Clampit lives in Oregon's Willamette Valley.



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