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She uses power tools, chainsaws to build self-reliance

Samantha Hinrichs offers classes in variety of construction skills
By: Gloria Young Home & Garden
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When Samantha Hinrichs learned how to use a chainsaw last year, it was an enlightening experience. “(I thought) if I could do this, I could have control over my own heat — because I have wood heat — and brush clearing,” she said Tuesday. She quickly decided she wanted to pass on that expertise to other women. “It was so inspiring and so empowering to have that knowledge,” she said. She started the chainsaw workshops about a year ago. The three-hour class covers basic aspects of chain sawing — posture, safety, terminology, cleaning, problem solving, cutting and felling small trees and brush, according to an information flier. “The (classes) are pretty small — five to seven women,” Hinrichs said. “We pair up for the instruction. … While someone is sawing, her partner is watching every move and seeing to it that she doesn’t do anything unsafe.” One of the students in Hinrichs’ first class was Juliet Ericson, who owns a farm in Penn Valley. “I was attracted by the concept,” she said. “A lot of women are doing a lot of work on the land and being more self-sufficient with things. When you have property, you’re hiring out everything right and left. So I thought it would be a really good skill to learn something like that. I’m not afraid of (chainsaws). I respect them. It’s good to know how to carry one of those things around.” Hinrichs’ knack for creating a distinctly feminine tone made an impression, too. “When we arrived in this fairly remote location, there was a little table set out with cups, saucers, tea and biscuits,” Ericson said. “It was just really fantastic. It was time to have a cup of tea. And we had tea while she set up the program.” Ericson discovered that her fellow classmates were a mix of farmers and professional people. “She showed us how to dismantle (a chainsaw) and put it back together,” Ericson said. “She showed us how to be safe and that’s the most important thing. It was a lot of common sense and a lot of hands on. By the end of the session we were doing things we hadn’t done before. (The class was) very well structured, clear and fun.” Since then Ericson has put her new skill to use only once, but she’s ready for the next opportunity. “If I need to (use one), I can,” she said. “It wasn’t difficult because (Hinrichs) made us concentrate on the machine itself, taking it apart and putting it back together and making it feel comfortable in our hands. (The class) would have been appropriate for men or women. It is one of those survival skills people should know, particularly in this area where there’s a lot of fire and a lot of trees.” Using a chainsaw is a reflection of Hinrichs’ overall interest in skill building. As the daughter of a contractor, she grew up around construction. Then, at 24, she decided to put together her own cabin. “My dad helped me with that,” she said. “I didn’t realize (until then) how much I liked building things and using tools.” Hinrichs, who is very eco-aware, used straw-bales for the cabin and added an earthen plaster mud finish. “I think it is the non-toxic issue — having a house that’s breathable,” she said about her choice of materials. “It just made so much sense to use a waste material, which straw bales are. It seemed economical to be building walls that were also your insulation.” For the exterior finish, she had originally planned to use stucco. “It wasn’t until I experienced earthen plaster and saw how it worked,” she said. “Humans have been using it successfully for millennia. It’s available. It’s cheap. It’s a local resource. It’s non toxic. It’s beautiful. And I can do it myself and I can get my friends to help me.” The name of her company, Mud and Pearls, encapsulates her philosophy. “I have a great photo of me plastering my house with my granny’s pearl necklace on,” she said. “I want people to see that things can be really rough, but really beautiful at the same time.” She also installed blue-jean insulation. “It’s a recycled insulation instead of using Fiberglass insulation,” she said. She started the building project 10 years ago and says it’s still not completely finished. “It’s a work of art,” she said. At just 400 square feet, it’s a small work of art. “That’s part of my other philosophy,” she said. “Small spaces can be really wonderful spaces because I had to choose everything I put in there. Part of that was going overseas. I saw how houses in Ireland, Greece and Australia were so much smaller than American homes. They’re more human-size and they felt comfortable and cozy, and the acquisition of stuff wasn’t as important.” As she has expanded her business, Hinrichs is building on the contacts and experience of building her own house. In addition to the chainsaw workshops, she offers classes — for men as well as women — on other aspects of construction. “My goal is to empower men and women to create beautiful, healthy, natural living spaces,” she said in an e-mail. Hinrichs works in partnership with Habitat for Humanity to offer a power tools class. “It’s for the do-it-yourselfer who doesn’t have all the tools she needs,” Hinrichs said. “Last month we made a box based on a vintage crate. (This month) we’re making saw horses. Then in November we’ll make shelving.” Those classes are held at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore in Grass Valley. “My goal is to take that class on the road and, hopefully next summer, arrange a tour of ReStores and go all over talking about natural building and tool empowerment for women,” Hinrichs said. In the natural building classes, participants learn about plastering, cob construction and working with stone. “There’s a mason who will give that one,” she said. The training program is something she’s very passionate about. “I feel that a lot of the homes we build are constructed poorly and don’t last for very long,” she said. “These natural building techniques are effective and last a long time. A cob house (made out of mud) will last for 700 years.” Reach Gloria Young at gloriay@goldcountrymedia.com. ----------- Mud and?Pearls Upcoming workshops • Chainsaw —Designed to empower women. 1 to 4 p.m. Dec. 2. Basic chainsaw skills needed for brush clearing, road clearing and cutting rounds. $65 • Stone Masonry — 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Oct. 16 Ezra Storm, expert stone mason, will discuss dry stacking, mortared walls, stone selection, and rock morphology. $100 • Plaster — 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 8. Brian Arnold will talk about how plaster is made, additives and tints, and how plaster is applied on the inside and outside of a building. $70 • You Can Build It — 1 to 4 p.m. Oct. 15 or Nov. 19. Participants will work on their own projects in each workshop from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on both days. On Oct. 15 Samantha Hinrichs will teach attendees how to build a box or a saw horse. On Nov. 19 she will teach attendees how to build a shelving unit. $50 On the web: www.mudandpearls. com