Our Vermont vacation has come to a close. Our family has flown home, and all that remains of the previous week is a wealth of memories and photos. Tara and I are back in the car, headed west. Before we return to Minnesota, we have one last natural building stop to make: the Hay House in Old Saybrook, Connecticut. Built in the 1970s, this ancient-looking cottage is the oldest strawbale house east of the Mississipi.
During our visit with the owner, artist David Brown, we learn that the Hay House would likely be in shambles by now, had it not been for his care. Built in a rather boggy area, and entirely without a foundation or frame, the hay walls are sinking by a half-inch per year. David has added cement footings in a few places to combat the slow collapse—notably under the door-frame, which would likely be at hobbit height by now without them.
In spite of its obvious and serious flaws, the structure is still providing warmth and shelter to its inhabitant, some 30+ years after it was built. Considering that it was thrown together for under five hundred dollars, and was only expected to last five years, I'd say it's doing really well. Our visit reminded me of a passage from The Hand Sculpted House, and it has me thinking again about how much simpler things could (and perhaps should) be.
A specialized education for the work you do may already have cost a small fortune. Unless you really enjoy your job, you pay for recreation to recover from it, and toys and treats to compensate yourself for having to work at all. You may pay in health and just possibly with your life itself. You could spend your most productive years driving to work to pay for the gas to get to work to pay the taxman and the bank for a home that may never become yours. In 1995 only 10 percent of Americans owned the houses they lived in, while 50 percent were renters. The other 40 percent? Mortgage-holders. According to Webster's, the etymology of mortgage is "death pledge." Ianto Evans
Our visit to the Hay House was short and sweet, but very informative and inspirational, as well. With each non-conventional home we visit, our spirits are bolstered. When people like David take time out of their day to walk us around their property and answer our many questions, our confidence grows and our belief in what we're doing is re-affirmed. Thank you for making time to meet us on such short notice, David!