This blog chronicles the importance of and efforts to return to Mother Earth in spirit and in body. This journey is not one of primitivism or reenactment of an earlier age. It's hope is to inspire me to find the middle ground between necessities of the 21st Century, the need to find a simpler way of life, and our ethical responsibility to protect the land and preserve our natural resources.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Setback

"One farmer says to me, 'You cannot live on vegetable food soley, for it furnishes nothing to make bones with;' and so he religiously devotes a part of his day to supplying his system with the raw material of bones; walking all the while he talks behind his oxen, which with vegetable-made bones, jerk him and his lumbering plough along in spite of every obstacle."
—H.D. Thoreau, Walden
This blog came up in discussion at work yesterday. It is not a secret. And if you enjoy it, I'm flattered. But its purpose is to allow me the space to articulate thoughts. My adult training has prohibited me from writing effectively in a journal; I have the learned requirement of writing to be read (whether I will or not). I write and edit, edit and write. That is my method. I am no Mozart who, as legend has it, made no corrections of any kind. (This simply is not true, anyway. Among his works are drafts, sketches, and corrected manuscripts.) This blog however, is not a vehicle, that when well marketed, will help me gain respect from my contemporaries, or make my cause seem more genuine. It is a testament to a dream and the faith I have to see it through. First and foremost, it is for me.

The simple interests I take (privately) are misconstrued as an attempt to undermine the essence of my work ethic. Is it not enough that I am jerked and worn by my oxen that I must be hypocritical of what sustains me? Is it too much to ask that the work environment be pleasant and host the engagement of a civil tongue?

"Yet we think that if rail-fences are pulled down, and stone-walls piled up on our farms, bounds are henceforth set to our lives and our fates decided?
—Henry David Thoreau, Walden
And my dreams cannot be extinguished by another. Perhaps that's all they are—dreams. But only I can and will determine that.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Cabin in Colorado: the "showme stage"

This is considered a medium-size cabin. Here are some plan drawings of the main floor and the loft. I've read that it is easy to incorporate a basement and root cellar when the foundation is poured. Since the cabin isn't planned for mountainous terrain, heavy equipment can be brought in without irreparable damage to the environment. The design calls for 12" drawn timber on a natural stone foundation. The roof (I'll post exterior elevations later) will have shakes. I apologize that the drawings show rather crummy on the blog. However, you can click to view them larger.

The plan drawing of the main floor is illustrated
with furniture so that when viewing on screen, you may better
understand relevant scale.



The plan drawing of the loft includes a catwalk to an
eastern balcony and reading area. The western side has room for
two additional bedrooms or a family room and project area.




The following rough is an elevation of the northern interior wall.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

The world is too much with us

The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers:
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
The Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers;
For this, for everythng, we are out of tune;
It moves us not. — Great God! I'd rather be
A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathed horn.
—William Wordsworth (1770-1850)
Blog note
This is one of my favorite poems and I think you might like it too. Considered the greatest writer of sonnets in English after Shakespeare and Milton, Wordsworth unites in this poem disdain for modern life, an almost ecstatic vision of the beauties of nature, and a nostalgic yearning for a mythical golden age. — Dad

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Nature as Scripture [COMMAND-Z]

I received more than a dozen angry comments from bloggers "indicating" their "displeasure" [my quotation marks] at the "Nature as scripture" post. Oops. Inadvertently, I've managed to raise the hackles of a few members of a group calling itself "Jesus is the Father." Thanks guys, I guess I've learned my online lesson. I did wander a little off the path into territory better left to scholars, experts, and divinity students from Texas.

But, for the record, you might want to review the family tree. In my recollection (oh, and I looked it up for you), the Bible indicates that Jesus is not the Father. Pentecostals may argue that a person can be both a father and a son (and a husband) at the same time. While this may be true in technicality, such a person is never a father, a son (and husband) to the same person.

Or, you may believe a different interpretation. That's fine with me. But, if you want to post comments, (and that's OK with me, too), please refrain from using language that might be difficult to reconcile when you run into Saint Peter. (Contrary to popular belief, Peter is not the patron saint of people who throw stones and live in glass houses.) See below.

"But if I do judge, my decisions are right, because I am not alone. I stand with the Father, who sent me. In your own Law it is written that the testimony of two men is valid. I am one who testifies for myself; my other witness is the Father, who sent me." Then they asked him, "Where is your father?" "You do not know me or my Father," Jesus replied. "If you knew me, you would know my Father also." (John 8:16-19)

"What about the one whom the Father set apart as his very own and sent into the world? Why then do you accuse me of blasphemy because I said, "I am God's Son" (John 10:36)

If I had not done among them what no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin. But now they have seen these miracles, and yet they have hated both me and my Father. (John 15:24)

If you want to read the original post, email me and I might send it to you.

Pioneering speculation

"Imagination is the 'pioneering speculation' in and about the process of art-creation which acts to bring enlivening impulses and animation into [art-creation]."
—Eliel Saarinen
[Senior Saarinen to Eero, the architect of Dulles Airport, Chantilly, VA (1958-1962), Gateway Arch, St. Louis, MO (competition 1947, construction 1961-1966), and others]
Blog note
Yesterday I received an email from my dad. He has sent me his copy of Walden with his study notations. I read a copy from the public library, so I look forward to having it on my shelf to reference. I suspect that his notes are worth a great deal more than the price of the book.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

The free-range chicken or the nest egg

From a marketing perspective, there isn't a lot of validity to the term "free-range" these days. However, it's the sentiment that's important. Does one first search for the free range or germinate ideas for cabin design? I guess the question is moot, if money (or lack thereof) is the first stump to clear. So, I have decided to entertain both the search for land and the drafting of cabin plans simultaneously to keep my mind occupied and the dreams alive while the money is carefully saved.

The cabin
For years, I happily have thought about owning a cabin in the woods. In the daydream it was a place to which I could retreat--a place to regenerate and steel oneself for the eventual return to "life." Perhaps that is why I never took the notion seriously--it was impractical to think only of diversion without taking a serious look at my life.

The curious thing about the cabin I've had in mind is that it has never evolved. It hasn't become more elaborate. It hasn't metamorphosed. Though it has changed locations from time to time. (I remember thinking about how a cabin might be at this spot or near that lake, or whatever.) But it has never changed in its size, structure, orientation, or amenities. All of these years I have summoned the same cabin.

Recently when I sat down to sketch it, the cabin, as they say, simply flowed from the pencil. I searched for prefab cabin plans on the Internet that I might use to gain perspective on costs and construction detail. There are some cabins with similar features, but I think the plan is unique.

The land
Finding land that has reasonable access and the advantages of electricity and water has been surprisingly easy to date. Any quick online search will return a couple dozen properties from Taos to Montana along the Front Range. Looking at property that spans from 10 to 30 acres, prices start as low as $200 an acre.

I've read that one can be self-sustaining on just two acres of farmland. To insure some privacy from neighbors, 10-20 acres would be ideal. Besides the fertility of the soil and it's elevation, the acreage must be appealing to a future buyer--most likely as a retreat home.

The yolk of the matter
Initial thoughts are to visit some properties and get a better sense of what is out there. I'm going to continue to draft and tinker with the plans and elevations.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

A hymnal for voicing change

I recently finished reading Principles of Ecological Design: Integrating Technology, Economics, and Ecology by Art Ludwig. This slim book presents some radical ideas for rethinking the fabric of one's existance. The principles Art has clearly and consisely presented include:
• Follow nature’s example
• Transcend market culture
• Intervene as little as possible
• Context is everything
• Appropriate technology
• Moderate and efficient resource use
• Individual thought and action
• Green living inspiration
• Cooperative anarchy
• True progress
• True comfort
• Preserving our legacy of ancient wisdom
• Alternatives to the conventional score board for success

I suggest that anyone finding this blog interesting, order the book from Oasis Design. While you're at it, check out the other titles in the backlist.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Raise high the roof beam, carpenters

As Buddy Glass would, I realize that many are more qualified than I to start a life-changing journey. For many, the journey is the destination--as many a American writer-turn-builder will testify. Fran Lebowitz once said that men "have this sneaking suspicion that writing is not the most masculine profession." Perhaps, then the construction of a cabin with the sweat of the brow has become an ultimate rite of passage for elite wordsmiths: [Arthur Miller, Death of a Salesman (1948); Michael Pollan, A Place of My Own (Random House, 1997); David McCullough, 1776 (Simon & Schuster, 2005); and of course, Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862), Walden (Houghton Mifflin Co., 1948), among many]. (Though he did not build a cabin, John Muir walked a long, unbeaten path, which, suffice to say, is the same destination.)

I begin the transformation of a lifestyle and the construction of a sustainable cabin with the knowledge that my journey shall be more like entering detox. It will be fraught with the shakes and manifestations of going cold turkey. The sudden jolt of a 21st Century man used to TV, eating out, shopping, and "modern conveniences" suddenly embarking on massive cutbacks--to sock money away and rehabilitate mind and spirit--will be shocking, to say the least. To say the most, it will be stressful, aggravating, and a slippery rock unto familiar habits. The journey is the journey. The destination is the destination.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Postcard from the left side of the brain

I'm a frustrated designer who has been living for twenty-five years with the notion that what I do is of insignificant value. I create ephemera. I contribute to the glut of noise and gilt of advertising. Surprisingly, I'm rather good at it. And that has made it OK for years. To be precise, I do believe that my work from 9 to 5 (and then some) is important for the capitalistic wheels of the world to keep turning; it's just not me. Maybe it never was.

It's not exactly the crossroads of a mid-life crisis; perhaps it's a mid-life awakening that keeps me up nights and agitates my brain and senses. I can't help but wonder, that if efforts were placed squarely on the ideals that well from the soul, could I recreate myself in an image more congruous with the person imagined when I was younger and innocent?

Unfortunately, there are more than ideals that drive the dream of leaving a lifestyle behind. The details of reality might be overwhelming when putting theory into practice--if I weren't such a stubborn optimist. We'll have to see about that.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

10 reasons life is too complicated

1. The average American sees more than 1,000 pieces of paid advertising every day.
2. At the present rate of consumption, fossil fuel supplies will be exhausted by 2015.
3. The average woman's purse contains 35 separate objects.
4. The average American in his lifetime spends an average of 6 months waiting at red lights.
5. More people speak fluent Klingon than Hebrew.
6. In the U.S., a pound of potato chips costs 200 times more than a pound of potatoes.
7. The cruise liner, QE2, moves 6 inches for each gallon of diesel fuel that it burns.
8. Today, a new car costs more than Columbus' voyages to and from the New World.
9. More calories are burned while sleeping than when watching television.
10. A 1999 survey of 25,500 standard English-language dictionary words found that 93% of them have been registered as dot-coms.

Monday, July 10, 2006

The dream

"For two years I lived alone in the woods in a house which I built myself. I am convinced by experience that to maintain oneself on this earth is not a hardship but a pastime, if we live simplly and wisely."
–Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Reproduction of Thoreau's cabin near Walden Pond