A Hand-Built Underground House

In an attempt to escape the suffocating lifestyle of middle class suburbia, the Beadles family of Michigan hand-built their own underground house that runs on wind energy and is heated by wood.

| July/August 1978

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    Earthwon's windplant goes up, and the house's "homemade electricity" goes on tap!
    JOYCE BEADLES
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    The snug — though slightly uncompleted — kitchen of the Beadles family's new dwelling.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
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    The greenhouse on the south side of Earthwon is entirely solar heated (when the sun shies).
    PHOTO: JOYCE BEADLES
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    The lower level floor plan for the Beadles' house.
    JOYCE BEADLES
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    Earthwon, its water pumping windmill, its TV antenna, its wind-drien Jacobs electrical generator, and its still-unfinished observatory look out across Michigan farmland from a hilltop vantage point.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS
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    The upper level floorplan for the Beadles' house.
    JOYCE BEADLES
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    Earth piled up against the house's north and west sides protects the home from winter winds.
    JOYCE BEADLES

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The Terry Beadles family of Michigan knows how to get from middle-income, middle class America to Middle Earth. Just roll up your sleeves and build yourself an underground house.

Our All-American Dream

Two and a half years ago, our family of four was living the All-American Dream. My husband had a good job as an insulation installer, and I stayed home in a four-year-old "rancher" and raised our two sons (then 9 and 7). The house was cute, it had white siding just like it was supposed to, it was located in a nice middle class and middle-income suburb of Vicksburg, Mich., and we were beginning to grow quite dissatisfied with everything about the way we were living.

Despite the heavy efforts we had made at decorating our rancher, the place — like so many other suburban "cookie cutter" houses these days — lacked any kind of personality or integrity. And the flat land surrounding the home was attracting more of its kind at an alarming rate. And the development was growing more and more desolate with each addition. And the increased automobile traffic that all those new houses brought in was rapidly making all the new asphalt and concrete streets around us too dangerous for our sons to ride bikes on.

Finally — after four years of watching our All American Dream steadily erode into a nightmare — we had had enough. "We don't ask much," we told each other. "Just a home with some character, in a more isolated spot, with real native trees around it. Shucks. We'll even compromise and call anything with a trunk 3 inches in diameter a tree. But we've gotta get out of here!"



After several months of canvassing realtors' listings and thousands of miles of not-so-patient searching we found what we were looking for! Fourteen acres. Not heavily wooded, but stimulatingly wild. And those hills! After four years in a flat suburb, the hills seemed absolutely sensuous! And the neighbors were a real plus too: Two owned 80 acres each, and the third was a monastery. All of three frowned on "development."

As soon as we had our option-to-purchase in hand, we excitedly began designing our new home. "It should be a rustic cabin!" we said . . . and then — because we had been brainwashed by Madison Avenue for so long — we added: Rustic in appearance, anyway. But of course we'll need a dishwasher, and air conditioners, and a clothes washer and dryer, and mixers, and blenders, and ice crushers, and can openers, and all the other electric appliances that are, well, essential to the modern way of life."






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