Five Ws — WHO

  • Who
  • What
  • When
  • Where
  • Why
  • How

So, who is telling you this?  My daughter, a budding green architect, recently described me as an unreconstructed hippy venting my pioneer woman leanings through conservation biology.  !!!  And now I see that she has just posted about my blog on her blog Lost Between the Letters Let me assure you that one of the most mind-blowing ways to see yourself is through your adult children’s eyes.who-Denise2

Back to the unreconstructed hippy.  Maybe.  I hit college in the late 60s-early 70s in Madison,Wisconsin, with the goal of training as a journalist and becoming the war correspondent who would single-handedly end the Vietnam War.  College in the 70s had the potential to seriously sidetrack an intrepid searcher.  I approached the counter culture with cautious optimism and a journalist’s basic skeptisicm and concluded that despite its many, many flaws and false starts that Back to the Earth was the direction for me.  It’s been a convoluted journey by way of the Netherlands, and the soulless suburbs north of Chicago.  My husband has found his own balance between an alternative life style and the discipline of a research science career.  But at long last, we  “own” 44 acres in Wisconsin’s magnificent Driftless Area where we are trying to live our beliefs.

We don’t live on this land yet.  We have been learning about it for five years now and after putting our early and ongoing efforts into restoring some vanishing habitats, we are starting to create our own.  Our daughter designed a timber frame barn for us, and Mike Yaker of Wood Joiners raised it.  We are slowly finishing it as time and materials become available. It is our outpost, and from there we will slowly and respectfully place a dwelling into this built environment, (we call it our B.E.) surrounded with protected natural areas and several food-producing fields.  Our goal is to be there by 2012.

Collecting water (and the occaisional tadpole) from the retention basin

Collecting water (and the occaisional tadpole) from the retention basin

Combining a journalist’s and a researcher’s insatiable curiosity and critical approach to information gathering, I hope to share and exchange information with others who are trying to sift through all the options and live lightly on this fragile earth.

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7 replies

  1. Apsolutely beautiful. I admire the research you have put into the restoration. Having a similar project that takes all my energy and wears out my joints, I highly recomend tools and workers to help. My favorite is our Cub Cadet. Yes she burns gas, but unless you have a team of Morgans you need more horse power. My second favorite is Camy who’s skill with a chain saw and high energy has removed honeysuckle, boxelder, and buckthorn like a pro.
    Add chains and the Cubby handles the hills pretty well. We hate the exhaust but she plows and pulls with only an occational backfire. The peace returns when she’s back in the shed and the firewood is stacked. So far she’s never run away either.

  2. Hi Denise,

    Im so glad you commented on our (well Melissa’s) blog as it lead me to find yours in return. Its always great to hear about other folks who are already living or working towards a sustainable solution. We are still in the “practice” phase. We are land shopping, but lucky us, we’ve found a land owner that needs help and is willing to let us play homesteaders. Today is day 100 of our project and thus far its been the most rewarding experiance of our lives.

    Kudos to you both, your land is beautiful, the barn is amazing and your tack is right on!

    • I can well believe it is the most rewarding. I have two daughters, ages 21 and 27, and they jokingly call the land our third child. It is all of that and more. I have to chuckle when people tell me they have researched their genealogy and find that they are related to royalty. I’m sure my own roots are strictly peasant class because working on the land feels so intrinsically right. We feel like beginners too. I think working with land is a constant learning process. That’s part of what makes it so engrossing. Denise

  3. You are an inspiration to me! My husband & I, along with my in-laws, are hoping to buy around 40 acres in the next year or two. We hope to each build houses there in about five years (or sooner if we can figure out a way to save money faster!) We discovered the Driftless area over the summer and are so in love with it. We especially like the Mineral Point/Dodgeville area due to its proximity to Madison…gives us more options for jobs in the future.

    I’ll be enjoying watching you build your own house as I dream about mine! I’m an Interior Designer (LEED AP), so am especially interested in the green practices you will incorporate.

    • Sara,
      Thanks for your kind words. It does seem like our minds are running along the same lines, and I hope you will find a bit of land that calls to you the way ours does to us.
      I agree that the area around Mineral Point and Dodgeville is beautiful and really suited to small scale farming.
      Getting comments like yours is why I started blogging– to learn from others and share what we are learning with people following a similar path.
      Are you thinking about building straw bale? Having worked on a straw bale project summer, I really loved that building approach.
      Good luck with your quest.
      Denise

      • We haven’t gotten so far as to think about building materials yet. I have read about straw bale houses though and think it’s very interesting. I do know for sure that I’m longing for some beautiful salvaged wood floors! I’d also like to salvage doors and kitchen cabinetry…and really anything else that I can.

        I know it’ll be a few years yet before we even begin building, but I’m excited for the journey. Just looking for land is a lot of fun!

      • It’s good to take some time before building. When we bought our land, we figured it might take 5 years to build. Circumstances are stretching that time out a few more years, but I am actually grateful for that because if we had built earlier, we would have built without a lot of knowledge we have gained along the way.
        I like to think it is something like the slow food movement — slow architecture. Rushing to do something so often means choosing what is conventient and short changing sustainablilty.
        Speaking of salvaged materials, do you know about Deconstruction? http://deconstructioninc.org/aboutus.html
        This is a great place to find some of those salvaged items from old buildings. We found the windows for our barn there.
        Denise

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