The $30,000 Recycled Cabin Manifesto


Starting earlier this month, the NY Times began publishing the blog of Lou Ureneck, chairman of the Journalism Department at Boston University.  The blog was given a name we’ve seen before, From the Ground Up, and will document Lou’s journey building a cabin in some picturesque scenery of western Maine.  Take a gander at what he’s written so far and it may conjure up thoughts of Henry David Thoreau’s own cabin near Walden Pond.  That’s a purposeful analogy, though, because Lou channeled a bit of Henry while pushing the envelope of frugality with this interesting endeavor.  All in, the $30,000 cabin and $32,000 swath of property promises to be quite the retreat. 

That said, if someone mentions they’re building a second home, the typical environmentalist will most certainly pounce.  It’s a common, knee-jerk reaction, but tell me you don’t find some truth in Lou’s statement:

Building a cabin, I’m finding, can be a lever into a middle-aged man’s rural fantasies. Second homes are an American obsession, partly — maybe mainly — because of the chance they give us to live a second life, one that may be truer to our real selves than the first that we live out of necessity.

A place to get away and enjoy nature.  Maybe even respect nature and realize how important the environment actually is.  Maybe even get back to nature because our first homes don’t really do the job.  Lou tells us why he’s building a cabin, and we can’t blame him either.  He seems to be going at it the right way, that’s for sure.  Says Lou:

With the extravagant vacation-home market in collapse, I’m happy to offer my simple and inexpensive cabin as a manifesto for the times. Let it declare the old New England adage, "Waste not, want not."

It’ll be roughly 640 square feet in size and made of a good portion of recycled and salvaged materials.  And like Mr. Thoreau, Lou will be doing most of the work himself, that is, with the help of his brother and family.  There’s just something about two, fifty-year-old brothers working to build a $30,000 cabin out of existing materials that’s hard not to follow.  Don’t you agree?

[+] Blog: From the Ground Up [NY Times]
[+] Intro: Building a home for another life [NY Times]


Image credits: NY Times.

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  • Andrew Stone

    It’s funny isn’t it? Do any of us really live where we want to or how we want to? If I had life my way I would live on a paid off 40 acre swath of land in a home that I built myself. I would raise a cow for milk and meat along with a couple of sheep and goats. It would have a creek for trout and and I would have a pond. Duck, geese and chickens would the grounds with the guinea fowl and peacocks. All serve an organic purpose and will eventually serve as food.

    Moving along I would reserve enough of the acreage for organic gardens that would create enough food for the family and enough to sell to keep us in the necessities that the land did not provide. It would be off grid of-course and fully self sustaining.

    That is me, that is the life I REALLY want. As a child we were probably 1/4 of the way there. As an adult I have never had the means to buy the right 40 acres in the right location. Someday……

    So yeah, the reaction may be to pounce, for some. Not all of us. Many understand.

    • Preston

      I bet you could find a pretty sweet deal on 40 acres somewhere tangentially located near Park City … and at a good price these days, too. I’ll make sure to visit and eat the vegetables.

    • T C

      I would have to agree with Andrew….I was fortunate enough to be the child of a man who dreamed to return to the land to raise his six children. It was a sacrifice moving his family from the inner city of Chicago to a 40 acre farm in Michigan. The farm was a working fruit tree farm with grape vineyards….a real delight. with dark woods nearby for adventurous boys to explore…but alas time has its course and slowly the shear size of the work involved proved to be too much to keep up with as he battled an illness that would claim his life a short 14 years after the move. The trees soon became worthless and they, along with the vineyards were uprooted to be rented for corn and soybeans to supplement his widow’s income. But the years I spent there as a child thru early adulthood were truly soul enriching. I now live in the morass of the Los Angeles metropolitan area and long for a day when I can have a place of my own to get away to and I will forever thank my father and mother for their decision to move to the country…for the feel of the wind on my face or the sound of it blowing through the grass while watching clouds float by is something one cannot get in a busy city with the rush of traffic an ever present sound… for those who would down play the concept of a second home….there is more to life than the size of one’s carbon footprint…for the meaning behind the environmental movement is joy in appreciation of this glorious world of ours…

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