Risa and Beloved found eighteen heavily wooded Coast Range acres in 1978, for which they paid cash with the money they had raised among friends, using the random-repurchase-of-homemade-bonds method. They lived in a decrepit $300 travel trailer (having sold the Ritz Hotel) and roamed the Northwest, doing contract labor to cover the costs of the bonds and construction materials. A friend leveled the site for them and they began, that first summer, by building the one-room schoolhouse and moving into it. They also built an outhouse and a combination toolshed and woodshed, and began clearing the garden site.
This is the kitchen of the schoolhouse-to-be. This old 110 Kodak shot is a little dark, but there is, left to right, a propane stove (from the salvaged travel trailer), propane lamp (ditto), pitcher pump on the drain board, woodstove and dining room table. This photo was taken from the bed, which occupied much of the remainder of the cabin. The walls were insulated with moss, and that winter they were quite cozy.
The house was begun the following summer. Four-by-fours were set up on pier blocks on eight-foot centers and the sill plates were leveled all the way round from a pencil mark in the foreground corner, using an eighteen inch level resting on each two-by-eight. Many materials for the house were salvaged, and the total cost, in 1979 dollars, was about $7500.
The house used spring water, via pitcher pump, and ran on propane, on wood heat/cooking, and twelve-volt lamps. The twelve-volt system ran off the alternator in the car, with a "splitter" and a set of golf cart batteries in the car and another set in the house. An errand to town, twelve miles away, was enough to top off the house batteries nicely. One had to remember to unplug the car when driving off, though!
As the place was off-grid, almost all the work was done with hand tools and a Stihl 031 chainsaw. Outside sheathing was 1X12 barn boards and 1X2 battens. Along with the moss insulation, the place was fairly tight and stood winters well. Interior walls were unfinished cedar 1X6 siding, which Risa and Beloved thought very attractive. Shelving and countertops were all made from the 1X12 barn board remnants.
When they had moved into the house, the schoolhouse came into its own. The school district gave Beloved a set of old desks, lots of science equipment, and library privileges. In return, she got them off the hook for a bus trip that took three and a half hours each way on a one lane road shared with monster log trucks.
The school, with usually about five kids, provided a way for Beloved, an all-grades teacher, to contribute to the family income while staying home with her own baby. Risa, still traveling to forest work, was often gone for weeks at a time during the fall, winter, and spring, and wrote letters home from Idaho, Washington, Montana, and Colorado.
Has Kitty recovered from jumping up on the stove yet? Everyone went to town on a beer run and then it snowed enough to close the canyon. They aren't back yet and it has been two days, and it's like a little vacation. I am fine as I have the crew yurt to myself and plenty of wood lots to eat and the hay on the floor is dry as there aren't twenty people tracking in and out. There is almost a full moon and so I go for walks close by and it is very nice, though I don't go down to the river as it is so dark under the old firs there that it gives me the shivers a little bit so I stay in the clearing where it is all white and blue. There are a good ten or twelve chimneys as this is a big camp but only one is making smoke! There is a good melt on and I think we'll see the road open tomorrow or the next day and if there is still snow on the hills Friday, the Forest Service will turn us loose for awhile; and I will give you a call and come home and I bet you will get the call before this in fact I might just hand it to you...
Life is always a struggle whether you're struggling for anything worthwhile or not, so it might as well be for something worthwhile. -- Carla Emery