Humble Abode or Glorified Creation?

This NY Times article, Exhausted by a House That Saves Energy: Was It Too Soon to Be Sustainable?, was floating around the FLAT this week featuring a retired couple who escaped to the woods of Vermont in order to build themselves this close to net-zero house. Instead of downsizing after retirement, this couple opted to build a 5,000 sq. foot house with the intention of it later accommodating their kids and grandkids so that the youngins could take care of them and continue the operations of the house. After reading the article I got to wondering, was it worth it to the couple to go through all this construction and labor just to maintain a house? They couldn’t leave for vacation unless a trained family member could tend to the house all day. It requires constant attention to ensure all mechanics are working and chores are being completed (ex. opening and shutting the 56 shades throughout the day). I bet you’re also wondering how much this fine beauty costs (including the garage, outbuildings, chicken coop, etc.)? A whooping $500,000-$600,000. That’s an investment for retirement.

Ok, so maybe I shouldn’t be as hard on them. They are trying to be a model for their community by demonstrating how various technologies and practices can lead to a  sustainable lifestyle. It’s just that I get a bit fussy when people say they’re living a more “sustainable” lifestyle, when in fact, they’re contributing more to the environmental footprint -in this case it’s the new construction, cutting of existing trees, and lack of small scale construction. But now I want to focus on some of the positive and really interesting things this couple included in their abode:

  • a compost-heated chicken coop in the winter
  • 71 photovoltaic panels
  • 8 solar thermal panels
  • insulation and tight walls
  • “fancy ceilings”
  • hydraulic elevator
  • swimming pool…(sorry, I couldn’t help the “…”)

IMG_7197 IMG_7199 IMG_7200 IMG_7201 IMG_7205

If you’ve been to the FLAT this year, you might have noticed some of the plans for our new abode. We don’t know where these plans came from or who took on this in-depth project, but we like it! Apparently so does Frenchie at UM Facilities Services. I don’t know about my fellow FLATmates, but I am perfectly happy with what we have now and am pleased to see all our hard work come to fruition around our small cozy house. I am proud to call this house with these fabulous people who live in it my home.

Its frozen outside so lets nuzzle up to a warm fire and watch a movie.

Much to our dismay or joy without warning winter is upon us and the pellet stoves have been thrust back into action.   Lucky for us we’re fully stocked with an array of winter storage vegetables ranging from burly potatoes to a colorful squash.  If you haven’t stocked up, never fear.  Check out the Western Montana Grower’s Cooperative fall/winter CSA shares and your local Missoula Community Food Co-op for winter storage veggies.  As we hunker down for a winter full of pond hockey, hot coco, and blazing fires our minds are squarely focused on warming foods as we’ll be hosting a handful of folks from the university administration to showcase our projects and talents.

I’d like to share one of my favorite cold weather recipes featuring my favorite soup ingredient, celeriac.  Feel free and encouraged to experience with variations, different squash, and even a dash of dairy in this gluten free and vegan recipe.  If you have never dealt with celeriac aka celery root here’s an excellent video on how to prepare this delicious treat:

Squash 1

Squashy Celeriac Soup

2 squash of your choosing (Buttercup, Butternut, Kabocha, and Pie pumpkins are all ideal)
¼ cup of oil of your choosing
1 softball size “bulb” of celeriac
1 onion
3-5 cloves of garlic
1 Tablespoon Sage
1 ½ teaspoon thyme
1 quart of broth plus water if necessary
Salt, Pepper, and Honey to taste

  1. Preheat oven to 400º.  Slice squash horizontally and place skin side down in an oven safe dish w/enough water to cover the bottom, about ¼ inch deep.
  2. Roast 30-35 minutes until soft and scoopable. Scoop out seeds into compost and scoop squash flesh into a bowl.
  3. Remove scary hairy outside layer of celeriac root and dice into ½ inch cubes, dice onions into ¼ inch, dice celery ¼ inch, and roughly chop garlic.
  4. Over medium-low heat with the pot top on sweat onions, celeriac, garlic, and pinch of salt for 5-10 minutes until soft and translucent.
  5. Add broth, sage, and thyme. If necessary add water to cover vegetables.  Bring to a boil and simmer for 15-20 minutes until celeriac is soft and cooked through.
  6. Blend until smooth. If too thick add milk or water till you reach your desired texture.
  7. Add salt, pepper, and honey to your heart’s desire.

Our fall, now winter, movie series continued last Thursday with a screening of Damnation.  A rousing discussion followed the film lead by Chris Brick, PhD. Science Director from The Clark Fork Coalition.  We covered topics including: the expression of activism, the importance of watersheds to ecological vitality, and awareness of our Montana watersheds and damn influences such as the Milltown damn site.  No mention was made of the potential FLAT moat and hydroelectric damn project scheduled for spring of 2024.

If you didn’t have the chance to join us, don’t sweat it.  The film can be viewed at home on Netflix; of course we would be unable to provide warm tea and the rousing discussion with friends.  Don’t miss our next movie at “The Studio Auditorium” on December 4th.  This edition of our environmental film series will feature Momenta a film addressing the coal industry’s action in the Pacific Northwest.  Join us in our non-coal headed studio for an evening of film, tea, snacks, and a lively discussion.


FLAT Winter is Coming!

With winter weather comin’ in hot…or I guess starting to cool off quite a bit, the residents at UM FLAT have been putting some finishing touches on winterizing the house along with some of our projects. At the UM FLAT, changing seasons mean changing focus and sometimes even switching our projects. Spring 2014 had us planting native gardens, preparing our vegetable crops and tomato greenhouse, utilizing our water catchment system, and raising our new young chicks.

Fast forward half a year and the FLAT is still actively working in the house and yard, but with different purpose. Here are a few things the FLAT has been working on recently.

Rye Cover Crop

Rye Cover Crop

We put our garden to bed! After pulling out a lot of the remaining roots, we planted a rye cover crop to pump back some solid structure and nutrients back into our garden’s soil system. This will help prevent rain-splash erosion, encourage aggregate growth and maintenance over winter, and will add a good amount of organic matter when spring comes. That Rye is looking Rye-teous!

Chicken coop weatherization

Chicken Coop Winterization

Another yard project FLAT residents recently took on was to make our FLAT Flock more comfortable. Dropping temperatures can reduce egg production, cause comb frostbite, and can make for some unhappy hens.  We’ve covered the majority of our coop with greenhouse plastic to greatly reduce the wind coming out of Hellgate Canyon and we’ll have a heat lamp turned on during the day to provide a little extra warmth and comfort to our laying hens.

Windows are Weatherized

Windows are Weatherized

If you do not have the extra space for a large garden, and are still lacking those little feathered friends in your backyard, weatherizing your windows is a pretty easy step to keeping the house warmer and reducing your energy bills.  It’s inexpensive and easy to do yourself. Stop by the FLAT sometime to see how we managed it and get some tips for your own home!

Bring it on Winter!

FLAT Fall Film Series Begins Next Tuesday!

envirofilmfestposterfinalWe are excited to announce that the FLAT will be starting its fall film series next week, and you won’t want to miss this year’s lineup! All films begin at 7:30 pm in the studio; we will have tea, snacks, and guest faculty to lead a brief discussion after each film for those who are interested. Donations are welcome!

GMO OMG Tuesday, October 7

Site and trailer here.

Damnation Thursday, November 13

Site and trailer here.

Momenta Thursday, December 4

Site and trailer here.

We hope to see you there!

(The FLAT is located at 633 S. 5th St. E., one block west of the University)

New Poll Finds 17% of Residents Self-Identify as “Cold”


One in Six residents self identify as cold, according to the latest FLAT poll

MISSOULA – A recent poll published by the local think-tank, FLAT (Forum for Learning Absolutely Tiddly-twat), found that roughly two in twelve residents consider themselves cold. FLAT statisticians studied the results from the six participants surveyed and found that “the trends are clearer than we expected. When we started this study in July we predicted a lower rate of self-identified “cold” people, so this raises some serious questions about the direction in which our society is headed” conferred lead investigator Dr. Lau, a respected researcher in the area.

The trends to which he refers, of course, are the lifestyle choices of local residents, particularly between the ages of 20 and 34. “It’s a lifestyle that many may find upsetting,” Lau says, “particularly among conservatives.”

Critics of the recent study have noted several misleading aspects of the poll. “If you look closely at the data, you can see some inconsistencies between the participants” notes Green Onion contributor and long-time advocate of appropriate attire, K. Stanley. “The 17% self-identifying as cold also happen to live in the basement, which the study failed to take into account.” Also, according to Stanley, the 17% is inflated from 16.67%, “a far more reasonable estimate” of the portion of residents claiming the cold lifestyle as their own.

Lau continues to stand by his team’s results, noting that “while there is certainly need for further study, the trends seen here are alarming enough to warrant concern.” Indeed, with a change from 0% to 16.67% of the population, the dramatic increase in the number of cold Americans in the three short months from July to October outpaces that of Ebola and the socks-with-sandals fashion combined.

“We can’t just ignore this,” says Lau. If trends continue, Lau’s team predicts, the number of cold Americans could double by December.

Winter is Coming


In the great FLATland

There was some dead grass

And an old rubber band

And a sweaty garden hand

And there were four little chicks pooping on bricks

And a million plums

And a FLATfull of bums

And a grimy house

And a little dead mouse

And a hotbox and a press

And no less

Than a FLAT director whispering “we gotta do something about this mess…”


Goodnight FLATland

Goodnight dead grass

Goodbye old rubber band

Happy bathing, garden hand

Goodnight chicks

Sorry, bricks

Hello plums

Eat up, bums

Looking better, house

Spatula that mouse

Farewell hotbox and curse you, press

And late but not less

Goodnight FLAT director whispering “we sure cleaned up that mess!”

Later, studio dust

Goodbye compost heap

Goodbye all the stuff we couldn’t keep

-An unoriginal poem by FLAT poet-in-residence, M.C. Donough

One Year Later, FLAT Secures Food Source

MISSOULA – Since the dawn of the FLAT’s most recent era almost one year ago, during which the Green Onion and the ever-popular “What’s Kate Putting in Her Mouth Now?” series both made their debuts, FLAT residents have subsisted on back yard pickings, various basement rodents and insects, and occasional donations from friends during so-called pot-lucks. Their monk-like emaciation has become almost synonymous with the FLAT, but all that may be coming to a fast end with the addition of their newest FLATmate.

Kara G.B. Colovich (figure 1) appeared late this past August amid mysterious circumstances in which Kate “The Hair” Stanley was suddenly and inexplicably moved into the property’s confinement ironically referred to as “The Cottage.” After quietly establishing her presence with the help of an unknown family member, Colovich joined the rest of the FLAT on their annual fall retreat to a cabin near Rock Creek.


Figure 1: Kara G.B. Colovich acquires much-needed food for her famished FLATmates. Colovich declined to respond to questions about her license.

“We really didn’t know what to do with her,” explained Lick Freeolo. “She was nice enough, but she was always making these long-distance phone calls to someone she only referred to as her ‘cousin.'” But on their first afternoon out, during which FLAT DJ Emcee Donough reportedly scrounged peanut butter sandwiches from the trash bins, Colovich produced a long pole-shaped object and fake insects, waded into Rock Creek, and produced a fish.

“I think it goes without saying,” acknowledged FLAT director and resident DOV, “that she may have changed the FLAT forever.” Since their retreat over the holiday weekend, residents have been showing signs of significant physical development. Deer populations in the area have begun to dwindle, some think as a direct result of the residents’ newly acquired survival tactics, and maps of the Ukraine have been reported replacing the FLAT’s National Geographic archives.

Responding to inquiries, residents have assured reporters that it is merely coincidence.