Homes for the 99%, made by hand

I once featured a Crone Chronicles interview with a 72-year-old woman who worked for three years to construct her own hand-made cob home in Oregon. (Summer Solstice 2000, #43; to order this issue, go to Here’s the cover, showing off Lois Lewis’s beautiful hand-hewn living room.

Meanwhile, people are still building hand-made houses, and will most likely be expanding that art into the future — along with taking over giant vacant McMansions and reconfiguring them for extended families, communes, neighborhoods, villages . . . I really like this one, just the right hobbit size. Thanks to

A Woodland Home That Isn’t Just For Hobbits

March 6, 2012

by Tracy Petrucci
Everyone is all a buzz about the cute little “hobbit house” created in a rolling hillside. Not only is it attracting praise for its aesthetic, but its simplicity and sustainability as well.

After trying to move to the countryside and raise his first child with his wife, Simon Dale was put off by the price of mortgages, and was on the brink of renting a home when the family met a woman who told them they should try and build their own house. The family enjoyed the concept of being your own architect as well as the idea of being closer to nature. “Being your own have-a- go architect is a lot of fun and allows you to create and enjoy something which is part of yourself and the land rather than, at worst, a mass-produced box designed for maximum profit and convenience of the construction industry,” explains Dale.

The first ray of luck came upon them when a land owner gave them permission to use his land for free, as long as the family would look after the area. Dale built his woodland home with his father-in-law, friends, and even passersby. It only took a total of four months from start to finish until they were all moved in and settled.

Building the house only cost about 3,000 pounds, an amazing price to pay for your family’s first home. The main tools needed to build this cozy bungalow consisted of a chainsaw, shovel, chisel and a hammer. A number of reclaimed wood pieces were needed for the floor and roof construction, and the bulk of the home was made of stone, straw and sod. A wood burning fireplace heats the home, and the rest of the power is created from a solar panel. Even the refrigerator is cooled with air that flows from the under the home’s foundation. The result is an economical dream for the family. But even still, the process wasn’t all romance and fairy tales.

The family of four, which included two toddlers at the time, lived under canvas for weeks while the house was being built. There was rain, nights by candle light, no bathroom and no electricity. How does a family do it? Jasmin Saville, Simon Dale’s wife says, “I can assure you of a few things. Children like mud, diggers, tools, wood and candlelit extended camping. Mums hanker after cosy cafes and make frequent excursions to venues with warm, clean toilets. Children see materials taking form, observe the construction process and make a lot of connections; they see their parents being effective. Everyone wonders at the nature of slug slime. Then one day you get a house.”

Saville admits there were definitely times of stress and exhaustion, but has absolutely no regrets and nothing but satisfaction. In fact, the family has since moved into their third self-built home and is active in the area of building projects such as an emerging “eco village” in Wales. The village emphasizes sustainable living on another level with a sense of community that includes low impact gardening, car sharing and integrating the living spaces of everyone involved.

You can find more details about just how the woodland home was built here.

Related Stories:

American Houses Are Getting Bigger Again, Because The Only People Buying Are The 1%

The US Needs Massive Energy Efficiency Gains

How ‘Green’ Can a Giant Mansion Be?


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