"A tree as great as a man's embrace springs from a small shoot;
A terrace nine stories high begins with a pile of earth;
A journey of a thousand miles starts under one's feet.
- Lao Tsu
Tao Te Ching
Chapter 64

Banyan ~ Grown Shelter, focuses on natural building and natural building techniques. This includes timber frame, straw bale, light straw/clay, adobe, hemp & lime, and natural plasters and finishes. Natural building may be defined as using materials that are relatively unprocessed (versus highly processed materials such as polyurethane foam or concrete). Natural materials are prioritized due to their inherent inert and benign nature. Ideally, these materials will also be found locally within the immediate environment (such as one's wood lot) or bioregion.

Natural buildings, contrary to popular Western belief, is what the majority of the world lives in (and has through millennia). From Dogons (earthen thatched homes) in Mali to log cabins in Ontario, people built with what was at hand and with what the land could provide. What we consider to be conventional construction (stick framed walls and modular construction techniques) is truly the alternative of historic and vernacular forms of building.

Other than for reasons of health, environmental impact, energy efficiency, social responsibility and reconnection with the earth, the beauty of natural buildings is in its ability to involve not only the owners, but the larger community. Anyone can help to build a natural home - you do not have to be a specialized trade or even able bodied or of a certain age. There is always a way to participate and make a positive contribution. Building a natural home is an exercise in community and bond building. Whether raising a frame by hand or stacking bales for walls, natural building is essentially about people.

Food & Shelter: The Basic Necessities
I have recently been blessed with the acquisition of an organic farm. I now split my time between farming and building... which to some may sound like a lot of work (it is) but they're both part and parcel of the same loving-life package! The farm is 2.5 hours northeast of Toronto.
: thistlecroft.ca>>

For the past year, I have been the principal Sustainability Instructor at Fleming College's Sustainable Building Design and Construction. With 17 other students, we built a 2788 sqft. retail space for Abbey Gardens>>

Banyan Goes to Seed
While contemplating the timeless question of "if i was a tree, what tree would I be?" I knew immediately I would be a banyan tree (Ficus benghalensis). Banyan trees of a certain age, are characterized by its aerial roots that descend from branches to help support its ever growing canopy (growing laterally). I feel that these supportive roots are an apt metaphor for my propensity to have interests in many different areas in life and work yet they all support the larger picture. My interests range from kung fu to woodwork, composting toilets to flint knapping, permaculture to lazy sundays. Sometimes they seem contradictory, but i feel they all have an underlying narrative of striving to be a better person and hopefully in turn, making the world a better place.

  Some other writings:
Banyan ~ the Tree ~

Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Urticales
Family: Moraceae
Genus: Ficus
Species: F. benghalensis

Banyan (English)
Bahupada, vata (Sanskrit)
Bar, bargad, bor (Hindi)
Bar, bot (Bengali)
Vad, vadlo, vor (Gujurati)
Vada, wad, war (Marathi)
Marri, peddamarri, vati (Telugu)
Al, Alam (Tamil)
Ala, alada mara, vata (Kannada)
Alo, vatan (Mala
* Robinson Crusoe , in the 1719 novel by Daniel Defoe makes his home in a banyan tree.

* The world’s largest banyan tree is at Thimmamma Marimanu near Gooty in Andhra Pradesh. The Forset Dept.of this state says that the tree is recognized by the Guinness World Record 1989 as the largest tree coming in at over 1100 prop roots and covering an area of 2.1 hectares (5.2 acres).

* One of the largest trees on record grew at the Calcutta Botanic Garden with 1,000 prop roots and covering an area of 4 acres.

* The canopy of some banyans provides shade for entire villages.

* Alexander the Great reportedly camped with an army of 7,000 soldiers under a single banyan tree.

Banyan is of the fig family and is a very large tree, spreading by aerial roots which eventually become accessory trunks. Found in the subcontinent of India (and having been planted in other tropical areas such as Hawaii), older trees can reach more than 200m in diameter, covering an area of some hectares with a height of 30m. Banyan is epiphytic when young, sometimes growing on young trees and strangling them with its roots.

The English name comes from 'banyans' or 'banians', the Hindu traders seen resting or carrying out their business under the tree canopy. It is a very useful shade tree throughout South Asia. In Hindu mythology, the banyan tree is also called kalpavriksha meaning 'wish fulfilling divine tree'.

Leaves - large, 25x17cm, leathery, smooth on top but hairy underneath. They are cut from the tree and used as fodder for animals.

Fruits - figs are about 1.8cm in diameter orange-red turning scarlet when ripe. They have hardly any stalks, growing very close to the branches. The ripe fruits are very popular with birds and monkeys and are eaten by humans in times of famine.

Flowers - are pollinated by two types of wasps, one (in the Blastophaga genus) pollinates the smaller flowers and the other (in the genus Apocrypta ) the large flowers.
Banyan trees are sacred in South Asia, particularly to Hindus and Buddhists. The tree features in many myths. The tree represents eternal life because it supports its expanding canopy by growing special roots from its branches. These roots hang down and act as props over an ever widening circle, reflecting the Sanskrit name bahupada , meaning 'one with many feet'.

In Hinduism the banyan tree represents immortality and there are many stories about it in ancient literature. In a the Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna uses the banyan tree as a symbol to describe the true meaning of life to the warrior hero Arjuna. Banyan is viewed by Hindus as the male plant to the closely related peepul or bodhi tree ( Ficus religiosa ). It is regarded as a sin to destroy either of these trees.

Banyan is also mentioned in the Buddhist Jataka tales. In the tale of Satyavan and Savitri, Satyavan lost his life beneath the branches of a banyan. Savitri courageously entered into a debate with Yama, the God of Death, and won his life back. In memory of this couple, in the month of Jyestha during May and June, the tree is celebrated. Married women visit a banyan and pray for the long life of their husbands.

Minor deities such as yakshas (tree spirits), Kinnaras (half-human, half-animal) and gandharvas (celestial musicians) are believed to dwell in the branches on banyan trees. Ghosts and demons are also associated with its branches. Because it is believed that many spirits are harboured in the banyan, people do not sleep under it at night.

The sacred banyan is also useful in a variety of crafts, from lacquer work to to leather dressing. This is a useful product from the lac insect, which feeds on the banyan. The wood of the banyan is moderately hard and is not considered to be of much value as timber. It is durable under water and may be used for well curbs, boxes and door panels. When carefully cut and seasoned, it can be used for furniture.

The wood of the aerial roots is stronger and more elastic; it is used for tent poles, cart yokes, banghy poles and carrying shafts. This makes the roots useful as carrying poles, cart yokes and tent poles. The aerial roots also make good toothbrushes. In the Economic Botany Collection at Kew there are some partly processed fibres from banyan bark which is ready to make into paper. Fibres from both the aerial roots and the bark are also used to make rope.

Various parts of the banyan tree are used in traditional forms of South Asian medicine. The sap is frequently used. it is applied externally to treat inflamed skin and bruising. Infusions of the plant are also prepared to treat a variety of conditions.

from plantcultures