We hosted two open houses this past weekend.  On Friday, we invited friends and many others interested in alternative building paths to come out and see how Underhill House is progressing.

On Sunday our realtor, Tom Tarrolly, held an open house to put our Madison home on the market. 

The whole weekend was intense and surreal.  Working so hard on two similar but different projects was like putting on those glasses they give you before you enter a theater projecting in 3D.  It really brought our goals into focus and has left us a bit overwhelmed.

In order to open new doors, you have to close old doors, and for us that means selling our current house.  Getting it ready for market was a big job that has been easy to postpone when all our hopes and dreams are wrapped up in the new house.

Fixing up old houses has become a familiar drill.

We understand and enjoy many of the DYI skills needed for restoration. We’ve done it four times now.  We lived in a great old house built in 1906 when we were first married. Our current home broke ground in 1922.   We have come to love the process of easing an old framework into a cozy home that can facilitate the active, sustainable lifestyle of people who want to live lightly on the planet.  With a deep respect for the original architecture and associated hardware, we have become pretty good at using what is available at a reasonable cost (to both pocket book and environment) to carry out repairs and upgrades.

Building our new home, Underhill House, we are aiming for these same goals but we’re starting with a clean slate.  We have had to learn many new skills as we peel trees and build slip form stone walls, and as we get ready to put up straw bale walls.

One of the common themes is being creative and respecting each house’s individual nature. Another common theme has been working nonstop.

For the past week we have spent most of our artisanal efforts on home improvement on our current 90-year-old abode in the heart of the 500,000 metropolitan area of Madison instead of in rural Ridgeway, more than a mile from the quiet community of 660.

We only had time to go out and spend one day this week working on the slip-form stone wall with Tom Spicer.  Meanwhile, the list of tasks in town was daunting.  Doors to repair, concrete and brick sidewalk steps to replace, interior and exterior painting.  Organizing and decluttering.  Deep cleaning and detailing.

Now that the dual open houses are behind us, they seem like a bench mark of sorts.

With the Underhill Open House, about 60 people got to take a look at a hybrid of natural building, high tech and straight forward conventional practices.  Hopefully it will be the spring board for other people who have been thinking of building something sustainable, green and a bit off the beaten path.

The in-town open house at 122 Bascom Place has rolled the dice for the process of transferring our home of 8 years to new owners, who we hope will love  the deep shade provided by three massive 100+ year old oak trees and the resulting low, slanting morning and evening light.  Its simple, dark brown stained woodwork and interesting, idiosyncratic space, from its cool, dry basement to its tree house-like attic.  With its natural, forest floor yard fed from a productive compost bin and its carefully designed water flow to keep rainwater from contaminating the Madison lakes.  Its great neighbors and easy proximity to campus lectures and events.

It will be hard to say goodbye to you, 122 Bascom Place.

But Underhill House is calling with its challenges to live a smaller, close to nature, very low carbon footprint life.

1 reply

  1. Thanks for the “tour” of your new abode. I know you have things mentally visualized as to how it will look when it’s completed. I, of course, can not visualize what it will look like, and so I’m looking forward to seeing it when it is completed. However, you have a lovely spot there, with a wonderful view, and I know it will be a very comfortable place when the two of you are finished with it.

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