Uncategorized BLOG POSTS

The Little Dojo That Could

by Deborah Frieze May 29, 2016

LBC 3_0_Cover_300dpi

Sometimes breakthroughs happen because, well, you really didn’t know what you were getting yourself into. I suppose that’s one way of understanding the grueling process that my architects and I endured to have the Old Oak Dojo become one of the first 11* buildings in the world to be Living Building Challenge certified. (Eleven? I had hoped the Dojo would be in the Top 10, but it appears that LBC certified the final three all at once. Then again, maybe it’s even more magical to say, “Ours goes to 11.” Note: reference reserved for people over 40.)

The LBC is a building certification program, advocacy tool and philosophy that defines the most advanced measure of sustainability in the built environment possible today. It is comprised of seven performance categories called Petals (Place, Water, Energy, Health & Happiness, Materials, Equity and Beauty) which are subdivided into twenty Imperatives.

And our teeny little Dojo passed them all. Read the case study.

So it’s time to celebrate! We’ll show off our salvaged materials, rainwater harvesting, indoor compost toilet, urban permaculture gardens and more at our 4th Annual Summer Celebration on Saturday, July 23, from 4 to 7 PM. RSVP on Facebook.

Playing with Plants

by Deborah Frieze May 22, 2016


I can’t quite put my finger on why, but this year’s annual Planting Party and Skill Share was by far the best in the Dojo’s history. Maybe it’s because after a week of forecasted rain, the sky stayed clear. Or maybe it’s because a dozen kids ran around digging, planting, watering and tasting. There was rope-swinging, bee-feeding, stomp-rocketing, dog-tackling and movie-making. Somehow, after a few hours of hanging with friends and meeting neighbors, four big raised beds got filled up with flowers and food.

It’s feeling more and more like a village here every day.

So… Much… Snow…

by Deborah Frieze February 28, 2015


We, the people of the Old Oak Dojo, love snow. Really we do. But even we can feel overwhelmed at times by snowdrifts big and round enough for us to wonder if we’d parked our cars on the patio.

In January 2005, Boston recorded its snowiest month on record at 43.3 inches. This February crushed all historical records with a whopping 64.8 inches of snow! Things have gotten so crazy around here, our mayor has even had to warn Bostonians not to jump out of windows and off of rooftops into these beckoning piles of snow.

(We confess: Aaron did just that only a few weeks ago. He said it was a blast. Don’t tell the mayor.)

Blessed by Lightning

by Deborah Frieze September 7, 2014


Last night, GaBrilla Ballard and I were in the Dojo around 7 pm preparing the space for her concert. Aaron had just finished sweeping the patio and was around the corner putting something away in the basement. We’d just decided to host the concert indoors, since despite clear skies, there was a threat of severe thunderstorms. That’s when the wind started whirling and the sky went dark. Then… Crack! The sky crashed with an ear-splitting sound and a bolt of lightning struck the middle of the patio, leaving this blackened scar as a remembrance.

The Dojo is nestled beneath four mammoth oak trees, one of lightning’s favorite targets. The Old Oak must have said to Lightning, “No thanks. Not today.” And so Lightning obliged and blessed our center instead. In many ancestral traditions, the site of a lightning strike becomes sacred space, a place of honor and reverence.

We’ll take that.

Growing Mushrooms

by Deborah Frieze June 2, 2014

It couldn’t be easier. Find some fresh hardwood logs. Drill holes an inch or so deep, fill the holes with mushroom spore, seal with wax and leave in a shaded place. A year from now, we’ll get our first crop of  mushrooms, followed by another every six months for 5 to 7 years. How about that?
Thanks to our neighbor Dan Bensonoff and a half dozen curious mycophiles, we are now proud cultivators of Shiitake mushrooms. The technique Dan showed us has been in use throughout the far east for at least 1,000 years and is well-adapted to our climate. Come check it out next spring!

Practicing Parkour

by Deborah Frieze April 14, 2014


The Old Oak Dojo has attained a new level of coolness. Remember that scene in Casino Royale where Daniel Craig chases some dude who launches himself off rooftops and bounces from wall to wall? The guy he’s chasing is one of the early developers of parkour, the art of moving smoothly through any environment, negotiating obstacles by running, jumping, and climbing. The Old Oak Dojo is partnering with Parkour Generations to launch a series of  classes where students train to develop strength, speed, endurance, precision, spatial awareness, dynamism, and creativity.

We’ve built scaffolding in our backyard to support skills training. Add that to the slackline and climbing rope, and we’ve got a real playground!

The Healing Properties of Chopping Wood

by Deborah Frieze December 6, 2013

chopping wood

It was your average early winter day in New England. Seven bearded scruffy men appeared yesterday at the Old Oak Dojo for Aaron’s Morning Practice, and they lingered afterward just long enough to be pulled into service. Two hours later, our wood had been chopped, our late fall crop of kale had been eaten, and seven pairs of hands were seen rubbing aching shoulders after swinging on the climbing rope and falling off the slackline.

If you ever start to feel the winter blues, please stop by — nothing is more restorative than physical play, a little laughter and a stellar cup of hot chocolate.