UM COOP Unveils Williams Tribute

MISSOULA – After an uneventful summer, COOP director Boss Frida K. announced this past week the unveiling of the COOP’s own tribute to the COOP’s favorite avian actor, Robin Williams. “We were floored when we heard the news, I just can’t believe this happened,” confided Frida. “Amelia E. has been roosting nonstop since she heard, and the others have been running around like, well, you know what.”
Ever since last year’s sensation around the COOP’s use of forced human labor, the Hens have become known their for unconventional displays of emotion. This week’s move by COOP public outreach coordinator, Jeanette R., is no exception.

“Our favorite film has always been Mrs. Doubtfire; we’ve always been proud of the scene where Williams liberates the animals from the petting zoo,” explained Jeanette. “Then this just sort of fell in our nests.”
Cleopatra, one of the six original hens, is actually more of a Mark Antony. “We thought she was just quiet, and that the large comb on her head was just a sign of good circulation,” explained Frida. “But it turns out that she is actually a he.”
Rather than ruffle their feathers, however, the news came as cause for celebration. The five remaining residents of the COOP pitched in to send Mark Antony, who has been nick-named Mrs. Doubtfire, to a farm upstate where he can have a better life free of city rooster regulations and enforcement, “except that it really is a farm upstate,” explained Amelia, “not the farm upstate where your pet dog ended up.”
The COOP has not yet announced plans to replace Cleopatra, but there have been rumors of acquiring one Audrey H.

*CORRECTION: In the August 17 post titled “COOP Unveils Williams Tribute” it was noted that Cleopatra has been dubbed either Mark Antony or Mrs. Doubtfire; in addition Cleopatra’s new owner has renamed him Ford, to be a companion to two other displaced roosters Chevy and Dodge.

Insights from the Interns

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I know we are all excited to be finishing up our spring semesters, but before you go make sure to check out all the work that has been done over at the UM FLAT. After a long winter and busy spring we are proud to announce the completion of our Native Plant Garden!

Over the course of the semester, and under the supervision of Mara Menhan, Aimee Kelley and myself have been exploring the basics of urban design and sustainability through the planning and implantation of a native plant garden.

From the basics of nature journaling, to the principles of garden design, our sketches became more detailed and site maps more realistic. After weeks waiting for the snow to melt and determining species appropriate to the constraints of the space (such as sunlight and soil type), we were finally able to finalize details and begin the ordering process.
At the Fifth Annual Earth Day Celebration BBQ we revealed a small portion of the work that had been taking place over the past few months. Four distinct plots were created- each specific to the conditions of the space and a representation of a Montana environment: such as our classic understory plants in Plot 1.

Screen Shot 2014-05-13 at 8.37.04 AMBy creating inviting pathways throughout the space, foot traffic is now better directed to designated areas such as the studio, back house and garden. A welcoming slate path laid through Plot 4 provides access to the garden, main event space, and the newly built chicken run. Each plot was defined by lining the beds with river rocks and to ensure our dainty plants retain moisture, wood chips were used to subside weeds. With the support of the FLAT mates, and help from students, faculty, and community members our designs became a reality.

Thanks to Claire Emery, my nature journaling developed into more detailed and focused sketches. I began to concentrate not only on the specimen but the place from which it came. By including details such as time, and temperature, and asking questions about the place, I was better able to recall specifics later on. Experimenting with different mediums, such as using shading to create tone, and using repetition to create texture, my sketches more realistic and appealing. Included is an exercise done with Claire, as well as a sketch prior to the workshop, and one using some of the suggested techniques.

With the help of Kelly Chadwick we had a better understanding of the extensive work that is required to prepare an area for landscaping. Understanding the desired usage and maintenance of the space impacted our initial designs, and made us reevaluate the species we chose; taking into account texture, repetition, definition, competition, pollination, and the overall aesthetic flow of the space.

After extensive research, we took our finalized species list to Marilyn Marlar to confirm the plants we had chosen were viable, available and worked well in the desired space, prior to ordering.

The backyard may have changed but the mission of the FLAT remains. So come check out the new Native Plant Garden, cuddle some chickens, meet some new faces, and finish the semester strong!

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(Pictured above is map of the backyard with Plot 1,2,3 and 4 outlined. The beds became more natural and less rigid once lined with river rock.)

Written by: Sophie Hainline
Photos: Mara Menahan

Photo Essay: UM FLAT Year in Review


One year. One full academic year at the FLAT. What a journey it’s been. The ups. The downs. The laughter and the tears. The activities and the quiet, the heat and the blizzards. The UM FLAT, in it’s fifth official year, made moves. It was a year of action, of community-building, and of fun. Lots of it. Peep our photo essay below from some of the highlights, to give you an idea of what the FLAT was up to. You build a community of intention, action and support, and you change the world. Simple.


EVST Orientation. New students arrived to the FLAT to meet each other and faculty, to start their new academic journey.


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Of Stories and Bonfire: The 2014 Wild Mercy Reading Series


(Written by: Nick Triolo, first-year graduate student and FLAT house member.)

When the world frays at the edges, we must tell our stories. When things crumble, we must sit closer—closer to the fire, closer to each other. And we must tell stories, of all types. Stories of loss. Stories of gain. Stories of being confused in a confusing world. Through confusions expressed, we discover clarity, a little clearing in the chaos. Through both telling stories and listening to them, we begin to trace some common, umbilical attachment that binds us all together. To be drawn into a story is to follow this thread of another and realize that, in some strange way, it’s also our own.

Since 2003, the Wild Mercy Reading Series, sponsored by the EVST Department, Camas Magazine and UM FLAT, has highlighted some of the finest writers and student voices in Missoula’s burgeoning environmental writing scene. Over the past few years, the UM FLAT has hosted these readings in our studio. For eight consecutive weeks this spring, two writers got up in front of a crowd of 30-60 people to read their work—stories, poetry, and music.

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It’s Not Murder If You Kill-a-Watt

One of our dark haired, witty, and charmingly brilliant residents here at the FLAT has been crunching the numbers on our home’s solar output. Though suspected of being member to an underground bagpipe band, our FLATmate has come through to make sense of tricky spreadsheets and kilo-loads of data.

Since the James E. Todd building on the University of Montana campus uploads daily power generation averages (the FLAT used to do this before the wireless router was moved to the studio), we used Todd building daily data and applied it to our own array to get an estimate of what our daily average is.

Spring 2011 to March 21st, 2014 average daily estimation of the FLAT solar array using Todd building solar array data for base estimates.

Spring 2011 to March 21st, 2014 average daily generation of the FLAT solar array using Todd building solar array data for base estimates.

As of March 21, 2014, we had generated 8729 kWh (kilowatt-hours) of electricity.Using assumptions of Northwestern Energy’s power production mix (how much of NWE power is from coal, gas, hydro, etc.), we then figured that, to date, we had saved about 5.4 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2-e) by using solar power rather than purchasing power.  Just trying to brighten your day with our solar array!

FLATmates storm the CASL

University of Oregon's CASL

                                             University of Oregon’s CASL

This spring break a couple UM FLAT residents left on an adventure for lush, green conditions in Oregon’s beautiful Willamette Valley. At Eugene’s University of Oregon, those two FLATmates encountered a handful of empowered and sustainability-minded students. The University of Oregon’s Center for the Advancement of Sustainable Living (CASL), is a house that strives to inspire sustainable living practices through demonstration and experiental learning.

The UM FLAT’s founder made a connection with CASL years ago and even used CASL as a model for how a sustainable demonstration house could function. This spring, FLAT residents reconnected with these Oregon demonstrators while touring their project during one of CASL’s weekly workdays. The CASL project, though inspired by similar ideas as the UM FLAT, has its own unique approach to experiental learning.

Getting the CASL tour

                                                        Getting the CASL tour

The University of Oregon offers a handful of classes through its architecture program to allow students to fulfill an advanced architecture elective.   Students, through hands-on work at CASL, research and learn about LEED design and passive-house building techniques. Eventually, three directors will move into CASL and lead tours, maintain the grounds, and provide demonstrations of sustainable living.

Acknowledging places like CASL and exchanging lessons and information with University of Oregon students is an exciting prospect for FLAT residents. Keeping an open dialogue with entities with similar aspirations allow us to expand and improve on our projects while also sharing our own ideas and experiences. Cheers to sustainable demonstration house camaraderie!

Cheep cheep! (A chicken update.)


This past Sunday, some of the FLATmates drove out to Clark Fork Organics, where our new chicks are being raised. It’s pretty normal for chicks to suddenly die in the first few weeks, but all ten of ours are still alive and well!




Well, all except for one. Apparently she’s got some digestive issues…baby chick diarrhea, while it sounds like it might be cute, is still pretty gross. (Poopy chicken not pictured here.) Don’t worry, there’s a good chance that her condition will improve.




We were excited to learn that we should be able to move the chicks to their home at the FLAT in a few weeks…just in time for our Earth Day BBQ on April 25th! (Stay tuned, more details to come!) They won’t lay eggs until later in the summer or early fall, but it will be good for them to get used to being held by us.




After checking out the chicks, Josh Slotnick (on the right) gave us a tour of the farm. His wife Kim, who runs the farm, planted onions last season in the field next to us in this photo.




In addition to keeping the farm dog amused, we helped Josh wrangle a couple dozen of the grown chickens from a holding pen into their spring coop and run. We wish there were photos to document that event. Let’s just say there were feathers everywhere, and lots of squawking – but the chickens were happy once they started pecking around their new home.

(Photo credit: Nick Triolo)