St. Francis to give regular tours of straw bale house

Growing public interest in tours of the straw bale house at the Franciscan Earth Literacy Center has led to a regular tour schedule on the second Monday of each month and Sunday brunches.

“We are having all kinds of people interested in this place,” said Sister Jane Omlor, who lives in the house and coordinates tours. “We have a lot of tours. We’re on our second guestbook.”

The house is open beginning Monday evening for tours at 7, 7:30, 8 and 8:30. Tours include a video of the construction process.

In an effort to generate funds for home maintenance and future projects, donations for the tours are accepted.

To make more money, Omlor is hosting private Sunday brunches by reservation.

Sunday Brunches at Little Portion Green are available for up to six people by donation. A variety of food is available featuring either waffles or egg dishes. The morning includes breakfast “with all the trimmings” and a house and grounds tour.

The newest addition at Little Portion Green is permaculture landscaping, which began this spring under the direction of Vince Kirchner, certified permaculture designer at Great Lakes Permaculture of Tiffin.

A boardwalk made from recycled plastic lumber creates a walkway from the house to the FELC building, and stone walkways lead from the parking area to the front and back doors.

Plantings also have begun with berry bushes in the front yard.

“This year, we just did a couple to make sure they grow well,” Omlor said. “On the other side of the walkway, we’re going to have bird and butterfly plants.”

A small orchard is planned for the back of the house with a water-catching system for natural irrigation.

Omlor said a future project would use blocks of compressed soil as bricks to create a storage shed with a “living roof.”

This weekend, more than 60 people from a group led by St. Wendelin Church, Fostoria, is gathering at the site to dig a swale, which is part of the permaculture landscaping. A swale is a water-catching ditch that uses soil removed from the ditch to create a mound. The flow of rain water then concentrates water where the trees need it.

The group also is to help organize the barn, clean the greenhouse, build a wooden fence and other projects.

“We got tremendous help from CROSSWEAH volunteers,” she said about projects already completed. “Their help has been invaluable.”

Also helping on outside projects have been Catholic youth groups from the area.

Two weeks ago, groups from Willlard and Bucyrus worked on the chicken and duck enclosures, weeded gardens and finished the walkway from the house to FELC as well as hauled mulch and wood chips.

Anyone interested in learning about permaculture design is invited to attend a weeklong class given by Kirchner Sept. 21-28 at FELC.

“When you’re finished, you will be a certified permaculture designer,” Omlor said.

Accommodations are available at various locations at St. Francis.

For more information, call (419) 448-7485.