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BLOG: Science, magic embrace at the Fairie Festival

Mel Barber

The 25th annual Fairie Festival at Spoutwood Farm near Glen Rock over the weekend was my first.

I lost count of the amazing costumes I gawked at on both people and their pets.

Children in dragon-suit hoodies? Check. Men in long leather tunics or kilts? Check. Women wearing floral crowns, leather corsets and ankle-length medieval-style skirts? Check. Wotan the fairy-catcher blinded by bubbles? Check. White-and-blue ice dragon complete with full-fur suit and face mask? Check.

And wings. Everywhere, wings. Fairy wings, butterfly wings, raven wings — gossamer, light and airy; curved and colorful; deepest midnight, thick and feathered. Even the dogs in attendance wore wings. (Some better than others.)

It was, without a doubt, a magical experience, from the mesmers and mermaids to the music and dancing. But amid the magic, science staked its claim.

Most of us live in homes insulated with fiberglass or spray foam. On Friday, when the rain came down off and on and the wind blew cold across the hilly festival grounds, one lovely shelter beckoned: the straw bale home.

The straw bales form both the structure and its insulation, with a plaster sheath. Add a hot stove near the wall opposite the door, and you have a snug safe haven from the cold and damp. The shelves packed with science books made the little straw-bale house an immensely appealing retreat.

Now, we're not all likely to trade our wood and fiberglass for straw and plaster. But insulating with easily renewable resources is a smart play for the future. You don't have to go with a straw-bale home.

Have you considered a Hobbit hole?

Earth is another fantastic insulator. Think about how geothermal heating works: the earth retains a certain amount of heat, maintaining a constant temperature, right? In a Hobbit hole — also popular in American history as sod homes or dugouts as settlers moved west — the ground is actually built up over the home to form the roof. Pre-fab construction makes the process quicker and easier.

So all of the Lord of the Rings fans and fairy folk can now live in the style of the fantasy realms they love, and they'll be making their homes more energy-efficient while they do it.