SOUL FIRE Building Immersion

This year we will offer one Building Immersion at Soul Fire Farm from July 26-31, 2020. This will be a hands on training for our community to level up our carpentry and building skills in a space that celebrates the liberation of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) and LQBTQIA  (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, Asexual) communities.


Program Overview: The Soul Fire Building Immersion is a hands-on training designed for equipping and inspiring changemakers, community builders, farmers and food fighters to “level up” our hard skills in building and construction. In order to build the just and sustainable world we desire, we need more than theoretical ideas. We need to know how to produce the material conditions for community survival – food, shelter, trade, and medicine – or we will remain entirely dependent on an exploitative capitalist system. Soul Fire Farm will be offering 1 Building Immersion in 2020 as part of our survival skills programs.

TWO COURSES OFFERED (2019 dates and info)

Beginner Carpentry – Applied Carpentry – September 22-27

Intermediate Carpentry – Timber Framing – July 28-August 2


BEGINNER CARPENTRY – September 22-27

This training will weave together 2 main components: (1) Basic design considerations and building anatomy, including site selection, foundations and materials choices, and (2) a hands-on immersive experience on a construction site to construct a small building on the Soul Fire land. We will also be working on other aspects of construction on different buildings so participants touch many different phases of construction. Participants will hone skills in hand and power tool use, layout and measuring, and fastening, with special focus on safety and efficiency. This is primarily an applied carpentry training.


Timber framing is a traditional carpentry that uses large wood members with structural wood-to-wood connections. Some of the oldest buildings in the world are timber framed. It allows for a timeless building often using locally sourced materials. In this training, we will be building the frame for an outbuilding to be used for equipment storage, chicken brooder, and firewood. We will (1) explore design considerations and building anatomy, and (2) immerse ourselves in a hands-on experience. Participants will hone skills in hand and power tool use, layout and measuring, and cutting structural wood connections. The precision required for timber framing is higher than in typical framing because the frame is also the finish carpentry. There is no trim to hide inaccuracies! Thus, we work to 1/32 of an inch in the shop and cut the entire frame with theoretical numbers. We will then raise the frame on the final day. While the skills in this training are specific to timber framed structures, they are highly transferable to all types of carpentry. For more info on what is timber framing, please explore this website. Also, if you have ever been to Soul Fire before, many of our buildings are timber frame or have timber elements incorporated.

True to Soul Fire Farm’s values and culture, this work will be rooted in fierce love, courageous self-reflection, and healing connection to land. We will all participate in kitchen cleaning chores during the program and have time for networking and celebrating life. Note: This is not a farm skills training.

Who Should Apply:

The beginner carpentry program is designed for BIPOC who are beginners or advanced beginners. Participants may be already in the building trades or have strong desire to incorporate building carpentry into their personal endeavours. This is not a novice training, so some familiarity with carpentry tools, measuring and layout is requested. However, no previous building experience is required.

Those attending the intermediate carpentry  training should have a strong interest in fine carpentry with attention to detail, previous experience and comfort with carpentry tools, be comfortable with layout and reading measurements, and have at least a basic understanding of what timber framing is. This training will focus on teaching the style of carpentry and less on tool use. While the project will be working on a timber frame project, the skills will be transferable to many other carpentry projects.

For all our programs, we pay attention to having participants from diverse ethnicities, genders, geographies, life experiences, and class backgrounds in the group. We are committed to reserving the majority of the spots for women and/or T*GNC people.

Dates and Times: Programs start at 5pm on the first day and run through 1pm on the final day. Dates are as follows:

  • Intermediate Carpentry: July 28-August 2, 2019
  • Beginner Carpentry: September 22-27, 2019

Cost: Sliding scale $150-1200. Once you are accepted to the program, a $50 non-refundable deposit holds your spot. (Note that the real cost to run the program is around $900 per person so please support at a higher level if able.)

Facilitation Team: The Builders Immersion will be facilitated by Jonah Vitale-Wolff and Sandy Nurse.

Jonah Vitale-Wolff is founding co-director of Soul Fire Farm.  He loves the myriad capacities of the earth to be sculpted into shelter, to transform into food, and even grow our beloved healthy communities. With land as his greatest teacher, Jonah has become an experienced farmer, community organizer and builder.

Jonah’s building knowledge and skills span the realms of natural building, traditional timber framing, and ecological design. He is affectionately known at Soul Fire as the Habitat Builder, and is responsible for designing and building all of the structures and facilities at Soul Fire Farm – including the ones that don’t work! He formerly owned Hudson Valley Natural Building and has 18 years of experience in the field. Jonah is a Sephardic Jewish, queer cis man, who identifies as white.

Sandy Nurse is a social justice activist and community organizer based in Bushwick, Brooklyn. She began learning carpentry and other relevant skills three years ago through a year of intensive training with the NY District Council of Carpenters and the Mason Tenders Training Fund. She later worked for a Passive House design-build firm in 2012-2013, which eventually became the first minority-owned construction collective in New York City. Sandy is a Black woman.

Accommodations: Our accommodations are rustic and we hope will meet your needs for comfort. Our family’s home is open to all of us as a place to congregate, eat, cook, read, stretch, bathe, use the bathrooms, whatever. When it’s time to sleep, we stay in tents or on twin beds in an indoor space.  Please plan to bring plenty of warm bedding, a pillow, and a sleeping pad/inflatable mattress. There is an outdoor composting toilet that you are encouraged to use. There are also hoses and spigots outside for drinking water and washing up.

Some people find the accommodations “rugged.” Both the beds in the Canopy and the ground under the tent are firm. Bring the amount of padding you need for comfort.  There will be about 25 folks sharing 3 indoor showers so we keep our bathroom time brief to be considerate. We are working to add additional outdoor showers and toilets, which we anticipate being completed by the 2019 program season.

Our meals are rich in vegetables, legumes, and whole grains and there is always a vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free option. If you have additional dietary needs, be sure to communicate them clearly. For certain diets, you may need to bring some of your own ingredients – such as 100% raw, legume-free, paleo- etc. We occasionally have dessert, but live a pretty low-sugar life so bring some sweets if you need a daily fix.

We do not wear outdoor shoes in the house or the barn loft, so bring indoor slippers/shoes if you do not like to be barefoot or in socks.

Packing List


  • All tools you bring should be clearly labeled with your name and expect that other participants will occasionally use them.
  • Everything is required unless otherwise noted.
  • Links are for suggestion and visual purposes only.
  • If you cannot afford or source any of these tools, please let us know and we will do our best to make sure some are available for use during the training.


Beginning Carpentry

Intermediate Carpentry

  • Tool belt with basic tools (the attached links are what we like, but comparable alternatives are fine):
  • 24” carpenter’s square (it’s actually an ell)
  • 12” Combination square
  • 2” and/or 1-½” chisel. Here’s a few options for high quality, industry-standard timber frame chisels. 1 2 (These are expensive and also an essential tool to timber framing. If you cannot afford a chisel, we will make sure some are available for use during the training. These can also be found used for a lot less, but will require some work to make a clean sharp edge. Make sure your chisel has a handle with a ferrule, not a slick handle.)
  • Wooden or urethane mallet, heavy duty 1 2
  • 7-¼”Circular saw. If you can afford to purchase one with a blade brake it is preferred (strongly recommended)
  • Marking gauge (strongly recommended)
  • Chalk line (optional)
  • Cordless impact driver (optional)
  • Cordless drill (optional)

Clothes, bedding, etc.

  • Closed toed shoes or boots for work site. No soft material shoes, sneakers or sandals please.
  • Rain gear – waterproof raincoat AND rain pants.
  • Warm sleeping bag, pillow, sleeping pad or air mattress
  • Headlamp or flashlight with extra batteries
  • Toiletries
  • Towel
  • Bathing suit
  • Watch (to keep time on the work site where cell phones could get ruined)
  • Warm clothes for cool nights
  • Hot weather clothes
  • Sun hat
  • Work clothes for all kinds of conditions (rain, cold, hot, etc). Really, clothes for the rain. Must have.
  • Notebook and writing implement
  • Bug stuff (there are minimal mosquitos around the fields, but plenty in the woods) IMPORTANT: There are deer ticks and the danger of lyme disease.  This does not mean you should not go into the woods – we do all the time – but learn how to prepare and check yourself accordingly.
  • Sunscreen
  • Water bottle
  • fanny pack (optional)
  • snacks/specialty foods (we provide 3 meals and 1+ snack per day but if you love to snack or have certain foods you can’t live without, bring provisions)
  • sacred objects to add to collective altar that represent your ancestors


If you are driving, please plan to arrive on the first evening between 4 and 5 PM. If you are taking the bus or train, you may select from GoBus, Megabus, or Greyhound to the ALBANY station or AMTRAK to the Albany/Rensselaer station. Plan to arrive 2-4 PM and let us know your itinerary so we can pick you up. Plan your departing bus on the final afternoon 3-5 PM. Note that if you are flying out from ALB airport on the last day of the program, allow extra time (a later flight departure time), keeping in mind that you will likely arrive at the airport at 2 PM at the earliest on the last day of the program.

Google directions are very accurate if you use “Soul Fire Farm”.  Our street address is 1972 NY Highway 2, Grafton, NY 12082. Note that is is different than our mailing address.


All program participants must COMPLETE THIS WAIVER along with submitting your application.



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