Grandpa’s Hobbit House

Every day is a new adventure on this homestead with its handcrafted hobbit house.

| October/November 2006

A growing number of people want to simplify their lives. I am one of those people.

I’m a 60-year-old subsistence farmer from Wisconsin, where I was born and raised on a dairy farm. I spent many years as a packer, or stock manager, for the Forest Service in Idaho, working with the mules and horses that carry people and supplies up into the mountains. But Wisconsin is where all my family lives, so I left the Forest Service a few years ago to move back here and live near my grandkids.

My adventure in homesteading began about four years ago, when I decided to make some changes in my life to reconnect with Mother Earth. The one thing I owned was a 12-acre hayfield near Elroy, Wis., so I went out to the field and sat in the tall grass. As I felt the cool earth below me and gazed at the expansive sky above, I began to imagine a dwelling, and then a homestead. I did not, however, start out with the specific intention of living in a hobbit house.

An Earth-Friendly Home

My idea of a homestead started with building a simple home out of native materials. I wanted an earth-friendly living structure, and my intuition said to build it round, like a Navajo hogan, so the energy could flow around it. I did not want any electricity or plumbing. I feel more at peace when not surrounded by electricity, and plumbing never made much sense to my way of thinking. I think outhouses are very practical because they don’t waste so much water.

I began the two-month project of creating a home by forming a circle of red cedar posts set upright in the ground. Next, I framed the roof by running logs wagon-wheel fashion from a center pole to the posts. I set rough-sawn oak boards over these rafters. Then, on top of the boards, I put No. 30 felt paper and two layers of 6 mil black plastic. I cut blocks of sod — hunks of earth, with grass, intact roots and all — and put a 6-inch layer of sod over the plastic. Next came the real work of filling the area between the posts with blocks of sod. Because I’m on a hill and have a terrific view, I chose to have lots of windows, which cut down on the amount of sod I needed.

After laying the sod blocks, I applied three coats of cob — a clay and straw mixture — to the sod walls. Cob is wonderful stuff and can be molded into any shape imaginable, so I had a lot of fun being artistic. Now here I am in my home, which is about 200 square feet and does in fact look very much like the hobbit houses from J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. My house was built one handful at a time using basic hand tools, all for a cost of about $3 a square foot.

1/25/2009 7:58:46 PM

Hi i really don't have a comment i have a question. How do you keep the building and codes people off your back. Does it have to do with the fact that your living without electric or what? J

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