As Underhill House nears completion, we are holding our final open house Sunday January 13.DSC_0025

This will be a chance for those of you in the area to have a walk-through and check out some of the materials and methods we have employed, some new and some ancient, to build a house  that we feel looks to the future.


 Sunday, January 13, 2013  from 1-4 p.m.

3487 County Highway H

Ridgeway WI

Come and check out the creation of the many minds, hearts and hands that have helped us build an experimental  structure – a possible blueprint for a more sustainable building model than the one we all know too well.

We have had many guides and artisans on our building journey, and you will be able to meet some of them and see their handiwork.IMG_1502

WholeTrees Architecture and Structures whose visionary approach to building uses un-milled and branching timbers made from “weed” trees to generate distinctive structures and a healthier forest.

Roald  Gundersen, co-founder of WholeTrees, will be on hand, along with WholeTrees project designer Della Hansmann, our daughter.

Bryan Dalstrom of Eco Spirit Design Studio , our construction manager, whose calm, capable hand on the tiller has kept our project on course.DSC_0021

Full Spectrum Solar  who designed and built the solar hot water heating system that runs through the floors and our innovative mass wall.  If you are thinking of solar heat, this system is worth inspecting.

Flynn’s Custom Concrete .  Mike and his crew stepped up to the plate to pour us a complex foundation molded into a challenging site that will make the most of our solar gain possibilities and last for ages.

United Brick and Fireplace  who provided the wood-burning stove best suited to fill in our heating needs during cloudy periods.

DSC_0037Artisan Exteriors who crafted the lime stucco finish on the outside of our house and the earthen clay plaster on the inside.  Krome Burke-Scoll and his crew have covered Underhill House with surfaces that are beautiful and durable.  The interior plaster is made with local clay.

Landscape Construction,  Tom Walczak built the graceful and solid retaining walls around Underhill House that will guide water runoff from the hill to our northeast around and away from the foundation.  He worked with limestone blocks originally quarried in the area and then salvaged from a wall-rebuilding project nearby.

Bruce Lease, 608 924-8711whose skillful excavation work underlies and supports everything else at Underhill House.

Tom Spicer’s slipform stone walls that form the base for our straw bale walls.  Tom’s work is inspired by Helen and Scott Nearing .  We worked with Tom to make this wall with stone from a quarry a few miles away.  It’s a method designed to make simple stone masons out of anyone who wants to try.Untitled-1

Alchemy Painting, 608 513-8244.  Zac and Jake took on the task of painting our timber and canvas ceiling with aplomb, and as I worked beside them on the walls and trim, I learned the vast difference between an enthusiastic amateur and a professional painter.

Brad Selz, 715 579-8772 who suggested we had all the materials on hand to make a wood-burning cob oven.  Using scraps of wood, clay and sand from our land we helped Brad construct  an outdoor oven that is already producing tasty pizza and bread.  We hope to have warm samples at the open house.

Foggy Bottom Woodworks, a local, family-run cabinet shop who have constructed the bathroom and kitchen cabinets.

DSC_0074Our amazing carpentry crew of Michael Donavan, Prairie Sundance, Joe Cole, Tom Spicer and Brad Selz who have applied themselves with diligence and creativity  to the challenges posed in a structure defined by the natural contours of several hundred trunks, limbs and slabs of wild wood.  They have built Underhill House with their own hands, and their can-do spirit shines out of every single piece of joinery that holds the place together.

Come by on Sunday.  We’d all love to see you.

9 replies

  1. Hi I have SO enjoyed your blog! My husband and I live outside of dodgeville and in 1989 signed up for of Roalds straw bale workshops We cant make it to the open house sadly as we have a funeral in Evanston Illinois…but hoping one day we can see it Liz Bothfeld

    • Thank you for your kind words, Liz. I hope you will be able to come by one of these days.
      My condolences for the funeral.

  2. Hometown Drywall would like to congratulation you Denise, and all those who had a hand in building this unique house! We appreciate being given the opportunity to work with you on it and are excited for you that you are near the point of completion and having your final open house. Unfortunately I too will be out of the state this weekend, but have talked with Bryan and will be stopping by Wednesday morning to see him and take a look at the project! I have enjoyed reading the blogs during the building process and we couldn’t be happier for all of you! Toni OConnell, Office Manager, Hometown Drywall, Inc., Mazomanie WI

    • Thanks, Toni
      I hope to see you Wednesday.
      Your crew did an amazing job, as you will see when you visit.

      • Thanks so much for taking the time to show my husband and I around today and tell Doug thanks also! Your house is amazing! Thanks for your compliments about our business and also for allowing us to share photos of our work done at your place on Facebook and our website! Please let me know if you want or don’t want your names mentioned in our comments posted with the photos as well as any credits you want us to give along with the photos. I have a message in to Bryan as well asking him how he wants Whole Tree mentioned and anyone else. Hope to have pictures up on our Facebook in the next couple of days and on our website by next week if you want to check them out! It was great to finally meet you and see your project! Good luck with the completion, open house and moving!

  3. Did you use just regular plaster for the walls? I had read about earth plaster and wondered what that was like to use. The one thing we are not short of at our place is clay.

    • Our interior walls are made of earthen plaster, the main ingredient of which is clay from out area. Our plasterer has his own special mix that he has worked out. He is planning to produce it commercially and did not give me his exact list of ingredients.
      I know it is not just clay.

      • I thought it wouldn’t be just clay somehow. I don’t suppose he is likely to release the ingredients list then if he is going to produce it commercially. Maybe he should produce a book as well for people to make it themselves, particularly if, like us, we live too far away

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