Monday, November 29, 2010


When Ande and I first got married we moved to Kentucky. I worked at Mud Creek Clinic , and she at Our Lady of the Way Hospital. We lived away from these places, up a holler called Blue River. You had to cross the "river," your car wading through the stream, past the old landfill, back to our land at the head of the holler.

That was the first of two unsuccessful community land trust attempts we've been part of—too much idealism and not enough attention to the practical details that make things work. But the story of broken land trusts is another story. This is the story of building the physical structures.

With the help of a community of ex-patriots from the north and locals, mostly Catholics, in the land of Old Regular Baptists, we built a house with a pole-barn-like foundation, vertical board and batten siding, formed of 8-16 inch wide sawmill planks—rough cut red oak & hickory. Its floor plan was 20 by 32ft., on two levels following the 30 degree grade of the hill.

To get to the house you had to cross a foot-bridge. All of the home's construction materials were hauled over that bridge or up a side path, on foot. By design it faced 15degrees SW, and the eaves had the proper overhang for maximum sun in winter, minimum in summer. It looked a passive solar menagerie of self-built double paned windows, and was hyper fiberglass insulated.

Maura, our first of four, was born when the shell was just being completed, and lived her first two years with sounds & sights of finish construction surrounding her. Now Maura has gone from Blue River, KY, to co-founder of Bluhomes, Inc., a multi-million dollar start-up company producing factory built efficient green homes. They use an innovative technology combining hinged steel framing, and state-of- the-art ecological materials, that can bring affordable earth friendly homes, right to your site-prepped door. The more basic designs [one at 432 square feet] are "small is beautiful," and can be built out for greater living space. [see the Bluhomes website, ] -- the Origin model below

Maura wasn't old enough to add much to house construction efforts, until helping to paint her new room when we moved back to Michigan, building our second community assisted home, more conventional but still eco-oriented. Yet something in the can-build-it atmosphere contributes to who she is. With her attention to detail, and the spirit of building good structures, this in some way multiplies the two simple homes we built with lots of help, perhaps now into the hundreds.

My hope and prayer is that someday soon, our society will also find ways to form more creative, just, respectful, and merciful nonviolent communities in which to build our good world-conserving homes.

As the advent season begins this week, keep in mind the coming of the Prince of Peace, savior born in a stable, builder of beloved communities. For a moving reflection and prayer on this theme, contact Fr. Emmanuel Charles McCarthy at .

1 comment:

  1. Dad - what a great article~ it tells the story in a way i did not even quite know.

    Love you!