Usonian Dream May Soon Be Reality…

Have not updated blog in some time. I will write a more detailed post soon but just know we will either be in our new Usonian-Style House soon (with the help of a very prominent Frank Lloyd Wright style architect) or we will be moving to newer digs for a few years until we are capable of then building. The perfect storm of low interest rates, perfect job situations and much mojo working together may actually let this happen very soon. Can’t wait to share the possibilities with  you once we know more details. It is a very long and detailed story that others looking to build a Usonian Floor Plan may want to do so now as well.

Best, Your Usonian Dreamer.

What Does The Usonian Future Bring?

When I was 21, my dream was to own a home of my own, preferably in a nice area and a garage. I was in Las Vegas at the time and the garage was not possible but the home was. Cheap affordable living at the time.

When I was 31, my dream was to own a huge house preferably on the lake, as long as it had a garage. I got my wish with the garage and once lived on the lake then later near the lake. At 35 I eventually had the monster 3000 sq ft home with a garage in the burbs. It was my dream home and I had it when I wanted it.

When I was around 41 I began this Usonian journey. Part of it was to economize so we could afford our Usonian dream house on a huge secluded property. We live in a very modest 100 year old home that was rebuilt in the 80s. 2100 square feet and NO garage or shop. It is in an extremely nice area. We both like and would love it were it not for the lack of a shop. Our kids were in high school and now they are going to college this year.

My point of this synopsis is to show our needs and wants change in life and what we think we need now in regards to space and function will certainly not be the case in 10 years, let alone 30 to 40 years into the future. My “Granddad” tried to teach me this before he past a few years ago and I was in McMansion-mode and he told me I should not be working for a house, it did not leave room to raise a family. Didn’t agree with him at the time, but I do now. I sold that McMansion soon after he told me that line.

What brought this up is we are VERY far from attaining this plan we have set forth so far. I was in Princess Auto the other day and I was talking to an old guy that went through the same life I did, but was in his 70s now. He said what you want and need now is not what you will need in the future when you are ready to build.

Our kids will likely be grown up and out the door in a few years. They are practically not around as it is now. A 3 bed plus office is just too much room and more importantly, too much future debt. That may become a 2 bedroom and office/library. It will reduce the square footage by about 350 sq ft. We may go down a bit more but we should end up with a house roughly the size of the one we are in, but with a huge cost-effective shop and decent property.

The other thing we have to keep in mind is maintenance into the future. The guy I was talking to told me he used to own an automotive parts machining company in our city but could barely machine a washer anymore. He said his interests went from machining to living the snow bird lifestyle (Canada in the summer and Florida in the winter). Heck, I dont blame him! It was the worst winter on record here last year. He fishes and plays golf and hangs out in auto parts stores :-) (which my grandfather was doing a lot even into his 90s). He said he still does small wood projects but even that was rare.

The other thing that we don’t know is where we will be generating our income from. My wife’s plant actually suffered a huge loss that cost them 40 million dollars. We do not know if she will be up to the level she was before this accident happened and she may not be working there in the future so our location can again change if we need to.

My own income has lowered and I have been looking for something to fund the property purchase but the job market is BAD in our area. You would think doing work for Google would look good on a resume but in fact it is a black mark on our future. Companies have not hired me because they are afraid they will invest training into me and I will leave to go to Google again. However, I have gone back to doing work for several clients and this is beginning to turn around. I guess I was never meant to work for a company that was not my own ever again.

But alas, this may change in the next few years as well. That is the nature of what I am talking about.

(Just a side note to others along this goal, all it takes is two small incomes to fund this exact dream. As long as you learn about handling debt (or lack there of), this Usonian Home is entirely possible to fund for very little. You may want to read a book called the Automatic Millionaire to see how this is possible).

So anyway, this guy’s point really hit “home” for me. I did not even think my interests and goals and ability to actually have the health to do them are certainly going to change and change again and again. I would have never thought our income level would change.

Our current goal is to break ground sometime in the next three years. We are going to make the budget work one way or the other. Many people are watching how we do this and that is yet another part of growing up…managing the money no matter how little or how much you have to fund your Usonian Dreams…

Quick Spring Update of Usonian Dreams

Well this was the second worst winter in the history of recorded weather. More snow and more cold days than every year except 1880. We did reach down into -33F which had us working in the house most days getting it ready for sale.

Not much has been going on in the design front. We were designing a garage to add to our current house to increase our home value and practice skills we will need to build our future Usonian house but as with everything else, it has been put on hold until we know what is happening with our future.

We still have not decided to purchase a piece of property that has an existing house on it or just an empty lot. There are advantages and disadvantages to both and to be honest, we have not seen that ideal property that is within a realistic price range. The previous house/property we were looking at has only been reduced by $10K and is still honestly $40K over-priced (or it would have easily sold over the winter). The other 200 year old house and 1.5 acre property we wanted, the new owners are building as we speak (don’t know how they dug a foundation with a frost depth of 50 inches this year).

There is so much up in the air right now with our girls starting college in the fall that we are still not sure where to look or how long we will be in our current home. If a nice piece of property with a liveable house comes on the market and is realistically priced, we are ready to sell and move on short notice. We can then get permits to start the Usonian house using our floor plan. Otherwise, we will stay here till the girls are completed school and build the garage/workshop and work on some of the furniture we will need for the new house.

Never has my wife and I been so much in the unknown as to our future. I had someone ask me where I picture myself in a year and any other time of my life I would have told them in a flash. Recently though our only stable piece of information is we know that our dream is out of the city living in our Usonian Dream house.

Fallingwater Colors and G Plus Reminder

Found this great link to colors you can select from Pittsburgh Paints that will match Fallingwater’s color palette:

It will also let you order the brochure or use the colors in their paint color visualizer tool. Very cool!

The background color is now Frank Lloyd Wright’s classic Cherokee Red (#79413A, R121/G65/B58, H4/S84/L84 on the addative color system for your info).

Just a reminder as well, please be sure to hit the G+1 buttons on as many pages as you possibly can so I can continue to provide you much more Usonian content. Thanks so much for the help so far! It should also help you to find more Usonian and Frank Lloyd Wright Information into the future.

Usonian Concept – Leo Tolstoy’s How Much Land Does a Man Need

Leo Tolstoy - Usonian Concept Leo Tolstoy – How Much Land Does A Man Need is a very Usonian Concept

I wanted to reproduce this story I found recently while searching about how much land the average person needs to live on. We are still debating a one to three acre property in the area we are in versus a 50 to 100 acre property about 5 hours north. This short story certainly put things into perspective and told me exactly how much land a man needs.


An elder sister came to visit her younger sister in the country.
The elder was married to a tradesman in town, the younger to a
peasant in the village. As the sisters sat over their tea talking,
the elder began to boast of the advantages of town life: saying how
comfortably they lived there, how well they dressed, what fine
clothes her children wore, what good things they ate and drank, and
how she went to the theatre, promenades, and entertainments.

The younger sister was piqued, and in turn disparaged the life of a
tradesman, and stood up for that of a peasant.

“I would not change my way of life for yours,” said she. “We may
live roughly, but at least we are free from anxiety. You live in
better style than we do, but though you often earn more than you
need, you are very likely to lose all you have. You know the proverb,
‘Loss and gain are brothers twain.’ It often happens that people who
are wealthy one day are begging their bread the next. Our way is
safer. Though a peasant’s life is not a fat one, it is a long one.
We shall never grow rich, but we shall always have enough to eat.”

The elder sister said sneeringly:

“Enough? Yes, if you like to share with the pigs and the calves!
What do you know of elegance or manners! However much your good man
may slave, you will die as you are living-on a dung heap-and your
children the same.”

“Well, what of that?” replied the younger. “Of course our work is
rough and coarse. But, on the other hand, it is sure; and we need
not bow to any one. But you, in your towns, are surrounded by
temptations; today all may be right, but tomorrow the Evil One may
tempt your husband with cards, wine, or women, and all will go to
ruin. Don’t such things happen often enough?”

Pahom, the master of the house, was lying on the top of the oven,
and he listened to the women’s chatter.

“It is perfectly true,” thought he. “Busy as we are from childhood
tilling Mother Earth, we peasants have no time to let any nonsense
settle in our heads. Our only trouble is that we haven’t land
enough. If I had plenty of land, I shouldn’t fear the Devil himself!”

The women finished their tea, chatted a while about dress, and then
cleared away the tea-things and lay down to sleep.

But the Devil had been sitting behind the oven, and had heard all
that was said. He was pleased that the peasant’s wife had led her
husband into boasting, and that he had said that if he had plenty of
land he would not fear the Devil himself.

“All right,” thought the Devil. “We will have a tussle. I’ll give you
land enough; and by means of that land I will get you into my power.”

Close to the village there lived a lady, a small landowner, who had
an estate of about three hundred acres. She had always lived on
good terms with the peasants, until she engaged as her steward an
old soldier, who took to burdening the people with fines. However
careful Pahom tried to be, it happened again and again that now a
horse of his got among the lady’s oats, now a cow strayed into her
garden, now his calves found their way into her meadows-and he
always had to pay a fine.

Pahom paid, but grumbled, and, going home in a temper, was rough
with his family. All through that summer Pahom had much trouble
because of this steward; and he was even glad when winter came and
the cattle had to be stabled. Though he grudged the fodder when
they could no longer graze on the pasture-land, at least he was free
from anxiety about them.

In the winter the news got about that the lady was going to sell her
land, and that the keeper of the inn on the high road was bargaining
for it. When the peasants heard this they were very much alarmed.

“Well,” thought they, “if the innkeeper gets the land he will worry us
with fines worse than the lady’s steward. We all depend on that estate.”

So the peasants went on behalf of their Commune, and asked the lady
not to sell the land to the innkeeper; offering her a better price
for it themselves. The lady agreed to let them have it. Then the
peasants tried to arrange for the Commune to buy the whole estate,
so that it might be held by all in common. They met twice to
discuss it, but could not settle the matter; the Evil One sowed
discord among them, and they could not agree. So they decided to
buy the land individually, each according to his means; and the lady
agreed to this plan as she had to the other.

Presently Pahom heard that a neighbor of his was buying fifty acres,
and that the lady had consented to accept one half in cash and to
wait a year for the other half. Pahom felt envious.

“Look at that,” thought he, “the land is all being sold, and I shall
get none of it.” So he spoke to his wife.

“Other people are buying,” said he, “and we must also buy twenty
acres or so. Life is becoming impossible. That steward is simply
crushing us with his fines.”

So they put their heads together and considered how they could
manage to buy it. They had one hundred roubles laid by. They sold
a colt, and one half of their bees; hired out one of their sons as a
laborer, and took his wages in advance; borrowed the rest from a
brother-in-law, and so scraped together half the purchase money.

Having done this, Pahom chose out a farm of forty acres, some of it
wooded, and went to the lady to bargain for it. They came to an
agreement, and he shook hands with her upon it, and paid her a
deposit in advance. Then they went to town and signed the deeds; he
paying half the price down, and undertaking to pay the remainder
within two years.

So now Pahom had land of his own. He borrowed seed, and sowed it on
the land he had bought. The harvest was a good one, and within a
year he had managed to pay off his debts both to the lady and to his
brother-in-law. So he became a landowner, ploughing and sowing his
own land, making hay on his own land, cutting his own trees, and
feeding his cattle on his own pasture. When he went out to plough
his fields, or to look at his growing corn, or at his grass meadows,
his heart would fill with joy. The grass that grew and the flowers
that bloomed there, seemed to him unlike any that grew elsewhere.
Formerly, when he had passed by that land, it had appeared the same
as any other land, but now it seemed quite different.

So Pahom was well contented, and everything would have been right if
the neighboring peasants would only not have trespassed on his corn-
fields and meadows. He appealed to them most civilly, but they
still went on: now the Communal herdsmen would let the village cows
stray into his meadows; then horses from the night pasture would get
among his corn. Pahom turned them out again and again, and forgave
their owners, and for a long time he forbore from prosecuting any
one. But at last he lost patience and complained to the District
Court. He knew it was the peasants’ want of land, and no evil
intent on their part, that caused the trouble; but he thought:

“I cannot go on overlooking it, or they will destroy all I have.
They must be taught a lesson.”

So he had them up, gave them one lesson, and then another, and two
or three of the peasants were fined. After a time Pahom’s
neighbours began to bear him a grudge for this, and would now and
then let their cattle on his land on purpose. One peasant even got
into Pahom’s wood at night and cut down five young lime trees for
their bark. Pahom passing through the wood one day noticed
something white. He came nearer, and saw the stripped trunks lying
on the ground, and close by stood the stumps, where the tree had
been. Pahom was furious.

“If he had only cut one here and there it would have been bad enough,”
thought Pahom, “but the rascal has actually cut down a whole clump.
If I could only find out who did this, I would pay him out.”

He racked his brains as to who it could be. Finally he decided: “It
must be Simon-no one else could have done it.” Se he went to
Simon’s homestead to have a look around, but he found nothing, and
only had an angry scene. However’ he now felt more certain than
ever that Simon had done it, and he lodged a complaint. Simon was
summoned. The case was tried, and re-tried, and at the end of it
all Simon was acquitted, there being no evidence against him. Pahom
felt still more aggrieved, and let his anger loose upon the Elder
and the Judges.

“You let thieves grease your palms,” said he. “If you were honest
folk yourselves, you would not let a thief go free.”

So Pahom quarrelled with the Judges and with his neighbors. Threats
to burn his building began to be uttered. So though Pahom had more
land, his place in the Commune was much worse than before.

About this time a rumor got about that many people were moving to
new parts.

“There’s no need for me to leave my land,” thought Pahom. “But some
of the others might leave our village, and then there would be more
room for us. I would take over their land myself, and make my
estate a bit bigger. I could then live more at ease. As it is, I
am still too cramped to be comfortable.”

One day Pahom was sitting at home, when a peasant passing through
the village, happened to call in. He was allowed to stay the night,
and supper was given him. Pahom had a talk with this peasant and
asked him where he came from. The stranger answered that he came
from beyond the Volga, where he had been working. One word led to
another, and the man went on to say that many people were settling
in those parts. He told how some people from his village had
settled there. They had joined the Commune, and had had twenty-five
acres per man granted them. The land was so good, he said, that the
rye sown on it grew as high as a horse, and so thick that five cuts
of a sickle made a sheaf. One peasant, he said, had brought nothing
with him but his bare hands, and now he had six horses and two cows
of his own.

Pahom’s heart kindled with desire. He thought:

“Why should I suffer in this narrow hole, if one can live so well
elsewhere? I will sell my land and my homestead here, and with the
money I will start afresh over there and get everything new. In
this crowded place one is always having trouble. But I must first
go and find out all about it myself.”

Towards summer he got ready and started. He went down the Volga on
a steamer to Samara, then walked another three hundred miles on
foot, and at last reached the place. It was just as the stranger
had said. The peasants had plenty of land: every man had twenty-
five acres of Communal land given him for his use, and any one who
had money could buy, besides, at fifty-cents an acre as much good
freehold land as he wanted.

Having found out all he wished to know, Pahom returned home as
autumn came on, and began selling off his belongings. He sold his
land at a profit, sold his homestead and all his cattle, and
withdrew from membership of the Commune. He only waited till the
spring, and then started with his family for the new settlement.

As soon as Pahom and his family arrived at their new abode, he
applied for admission into the Commune of a large village. He stood
treat to the Elders, and obtained the necessary documents. Five
shares of Communal land were given him for his own and his sons’
use: that is to say–125 acres (not altogether, but in different
fields) besides the use of the Communal pasture. Pahom put up the
buildings he needed, and bought cattle. Of the Communal land alone
he had three times as much as at his former home, and the land was
good corn-land. He was ten times better off than he had been. He
had plenty of arable land and pasturage, and could keep as many head
of cattle as he liked.

At first, in the bustle of building and settling down, Pahom was
pleased with it all, but when he got used to it he began to think
that even here he had not enough land. The first year, he sowed
wheat on his share of the Communal land, and had a good crop. He
wanted to go on sowing wheat, but had not enough Communal land for
the purpose, and what he had already used was not available; for in
those parts wheat is only sown on virgin soil or on fallow land. It
is sown for one or two years, and then the land lies fallow till it
is again overgrown with prairie grass. There were many who wanted
such land, and there was not enough for all; so that people
quarrelled about it. Those who were better off, wanted it for
growing wheat, and those who were poor, wanted it to let to dealers,
so that they might raise money to pay their taxes. Pahom wanted to
sow more wheat; so he rented land from a dealer for a year. He
sowed much wheat and had a fine crop, but the land was too far from
the village–the wheat had to be carted more than ten miles. After
a time Pahom noticed that some peasant-dealers were living on
separate farms, and were growing wealthy; and he thought:

“If I were to buy some freehold land, and have a homestead on it, it
would be a different thing, altogether. Then it would all be nice
and compact.”

The question of buying freehold land recurred to him again and again.

He went on in the same way for three years; renting land and sowing
wheat. The seasons turned out well and the crops were good, so that
he began to lay money by. He might have gone on living contentedly,
but he grew tired of having to rent other people’s land every year,
and having to scramble for it. Wherever there was good land to be
had, the peasants would rush for it and it was taken up at once, so
that unless you were sharp about it you got none. It happened in
the third year that he and a dealer together rented a piece of
pasture land from some peasants; and they had already ploughed it
up, when there was some dispute, and the peasants went to law about
it, and things fell out so that the labor was all lost.
“If it were my own land,” thought Pahom, “I should be independent,
and there would not be all this unpleasantness.”

So Pahom began looking out for land which he could buy; and he came
across a peasant who had bought thirteen hundred acres, but having
got into difficulties was willing to sell again cheap. Pahom
bargained and haggled with him, and at last they settled the price
at 1,500 roubles, part in cash and part to be paid later. They had
all but clinched the matter, when a passing dealer happened to stop
at Pahom’s one day to get a feed for his horse. He drank tea with
Pahom, and they had a talk. The dealer said that he was just
returning from the land of the Bashkirs, far away, where he had
bought thirteen thousand acres of land all for 1,000 roubles. Pahom
questioned him further, and the tradesman said:

“All one need do is to make friends with the chiefs. I gave away
about one hundred roubles’ worth of dressing-gowns and carpets,
besides a case of tea, and I gave wine to those who would drink it;
and I got the land for less than two cents an acre. And he showed
Pahom the title-deeds, saying:

“The land lies near a river, and the whole prairie is virgin soil.”

Pahom plied him with questions, and the tradesman said:

“There is more land there than you could cover if you walked a year,
and it all belongs to the Bashkirs. They are as simple as sheep,
and land can be got almost for nothing.”

“There now,” thought Pahom, “with my one thousand roubles, why
should I get only thirteen hundred acres, and saddle myself with a
debt besides. If I take it out there, I can get more than ten times
as much for the money.”

Pahom inquired how to get to the place, and as soon as the tradesman
had left him, he prepared to go there himself. He left his wife to
look after the homestead, and started on his journey taking his man
with him. They stopped at a town on their way, and bought a case of
tea, some wine, and other presents, as the tradesman had advised.
On and on they went until they had gone more than three hundred
miles, and on the seventh day they came to a place where the
Bashkirs had pitched their tents. It was all just as the tradesman
had said. The people lived on the steppes, by a river, in felt-
covered tents. They neither tilled the ground, nor ate bread.
Their cattle and horses grazed in herds on the steppe. The colts
were tethered behind the tents, and the mares were driven to them
twice a day. The mares were milked, and from the milk kumiss was
made. It was the women who prepared kumiss, and they also made
cheese. As far as the men were concerned, drinking kumiss and tea,
eating mutton, and playing on their pipes, was all they cared about.
They were all stout and merry, and all the summer long they never
thought of doing any work. They were quite ignorant, and knew no
Russian, but were good-natured enough.

As soon as they saw Pahom, they came out of their tents and gathered
round their visitor. An interpreter was found, and Pahom told them
he had come about some land. The Bashkirs seemed very glad; they
took Pahom and led him into one of the best tents, where they made
him sit on some down cushions placed on a carpet, while they sat
round him. They gave him tea and kumiss, and had a sheep killed,
and gave him mutton to eat. Pahom took presents out of his cart and
distributed them among the Bashkirs, and divided amongst them the
tea. The Bashkirs were delighted. They talked a great deal among
themselves, and then told the interpreter to translate.

“They wish to tell you,” said the interpreter, “that they like you,
and that it is our custom to do all we can to please a guest and to
repay him for his gifts. You have given us presents, now tell us
which of the things we possess please you best, that we may present
them to you.”

“What pleases me best here,” answered Pahom, “is your land. Our
land is crowded, and the soil is exhausted; but you have plenty of
land and it is good land. I never saw the like of it.”

The interpreter translated. The Bashkirs talked among themselves
for a while. Pahom could not understand what they were saying, but
saw that they were much amused, and that they shouted and laughed.
Then they were silent and looked at Pahom while the interpreter said:

“They wish me to tell you that in return for your presents they will
gladly give you as much land as you want. You have only to point it
out with your hand and it is yours.”

The Bashkirs talked again for a while and began to dispute. Pahom
asked what they were disputing about, and the interpreter told him
that some of them thought they ought to ask their Chief about the
land and not act in his absence, while others thought there was no
need to wait for his return.

While the Bashkirs were disputing, a man in a large fox-fur cap
appeared on the scene. They all became silent and rose to their
feet. The interpreter said, “This is our Chief himself.”

Pahom immediately fetched the best dressing-gown and five pounds of
tea, and offered these to the Chief. The Chief accepted them, and
seated himself in the place of honour. The Bashkirs at once began
telling him something. The Chief listened for a while, then made a
sign with his head for them to be silent, and addressing himself to
Pahom, said in Russian:

“Well, let it be so. Choose whatever piece of land you like; we
have plenty of it.”

“How can I take as much as I like?” thought Pahom. “I must get a
deed to make it secure, or else they may say, ‘It is yours,’ and
afterwards may take it away again.”

“Thank you for your kind words,” he said aloud. “You have much
land, and I only want a little. But I should like to be sure which
bit is mine. Could it not be measured and made over to me? Life and
death are in God’s hands. You good people give it to me, but your
children might wish to take it away again.”

“You are quite right,” said the Chief. “We will make it over to you.”

“I heard that a dealer had been here,” continued Pahom, “and that
you gave him a little land, too, and signed title-deeds to that
effect. I should like to have it done in the same way.”

The Chief understood.

“Yes,” replied he, “that can be done quite easily. We have a scribe,
and we will go to town with you and have the deed properly sealed.”

“And what will be the price?” asked Pahom.

“Our price is always the same: one thousand roubles a day.”

Pahom did not understand.

“A day? What measure is that? How many acres would that be?”

“We do not know how to reckon it out,” said the Chief. “We sell it
by the day. As much as you can go round on your feet in a day is
yours, and the price is one thousand roubles a day.”

Pahom was surprised.

“But in a day you can get round a large tract of land,” he said.

The Chief laughed.

“It will all be yours!” said he. “But there is one condition: If
you don’t return on the same day to the spot whence you started,
your money is lost.”

“But how am I to mark the way that I have gone?”

“Why, we shall go to any spot you like, and stay there. You must
start from that spot and make your round, taking a spade with you.
Wherever you think necessary, make a mark. At every turning, dig a
hole and pile up the turf; then afterwards we will go round with a
plough from hole to hole. You may make as large a circuit as you
please, but before the sun sets you must return to the place you
started from. All the land you cover will be yours.”

Pahom was delighted. It-was decided to start early next morning.
They talked a while, and after drinking some more kumiss and eating
some more mutton, they had tea again, and then the night came on.
They gave Pahom a feather-bed to sleep on, and the Bashkirs
dispersed for the night, promising to assemble the next morning at
daybreak and ride out before sunrise to the appointed spot.

Pahom lay on the feather-bed, but could not sleep. He kept thinking
about the land.

“What a large tract I will mark off!” thought he. “I can easily go
thirty-five miles in a day. The days are long now, and within a
circuit of thirty-five miles what a lot of land there will be! I
will sell the poorer land, or let it to peasants, but I’ll pick out
the best and farm it. I will buy two ox-teams, and hire two more
laborers. About a hundred and fifty acres shall be plough-land, and
I will pasture cattle on the rest.”

Pahom lay awake all night, and dozed off only just before dawn.
Hardly were his eyes closed when he had a dream. He thought he was
lying in that same tent, and heard somebody chuckling outside. He
wondered who it could be, and rose and went out, and he saw the
Bashkir Chief sitting in front of the tent holding his side and
rolling about with laughter. Going nearer to the Chief, Pahom
asked: “What are you laughing at?” But he saw that it was no longer
the Chief, but the dealer who had recently stopped at his house and
had told him about the land. Just as Pahom was going to ask, “Have
you been here long?” he saw that it was not the dealer, but the
peasant who had come up from the Volga, long ago, to Pahom’s old
home. Then he saw that it was not the peasant either, but the Devil
himself with hoofs and horns, sitting there and chuckling, and
before him lay a man barefoot, prostrate on the ground, with only
trousers and a shirt on. And Pahom dreamt that he looked more
attentively to see what sort of a man it was lying there, and he saw
that the man was dead, and that it was himself! He awoke horror-struck.

“What things one does dream,” thought he.

Looking round he saw through the open door that the dawn was breaking.

“It’s time to wake them up,” thought he. “We ought to be starting.”

He got up, roused his man (who was sleeping in his cart), bade him
harness; and went to call the Bashkirs.

“It’s time to go to the steppe to measure the land,” he said.

The Bashkirs rose and assembled, and the Chief came, too. Then they
began drinking kumiss again, and offered Pahom some tea, but he
would not wait.

“If we are to go, let us go. It is high time,” said he.

The Bashkirs got ready and they all started: some mounted on horses,
and some in carts. Pahom drove in his own small cart with his
servant, and took a spade with him. When they reached the steppe,
the morning red was beginning to kindle. They ascended a hillock
(called by the Bashkirs a shikhan) and dismounting from their carts
and their horses, gathered in one spot. The Chief came up to Pahom
and stretched out his arm towards the plain:

“See,” said he, “all this, as far as your eye can reach, is ours.
You may have any part of it you like.”

Pahom’s eyes glistened: it was all virgin soil, as flat as the palm
of your hand, as black as the seed of a poppy, and in the hollows
different kinds of grasses grew breast high.

The Chief took off his fox-fur cap, placed it on the ground and said:

“This will be the mark. Start from here, and return here again.
All the land you go round shall be yours.”

Pahom took out his money and put it on the cap. Then he took off
his outer coat, remaining in his sleeveless under coat. He
unfastened his girdle and tied it tight below his stomach, put a
little bag of bread into the breast of his coat, and tying a flask
of water to his girdle, he drew up the tops of his boots, took the
spade from his man, and stood ready to start. He considered for
some moments which way he had better go–it was tempting everywhere.

“No matter,” he concluded, “I will go towards the rising sun.”

He turned his face to the east, stretched himself, and waited for
the sun to appear above the rim.

“I must lose no time,” he thought, “and it is easier walking while
it is still cool.”

The sun’s rays had hardly flashed above the horizon, before Pahom,
carrying the spade over his shoulder, went down into the steppe.

Pahom started walking neither slowly nor quickly. After having gone
a thousand yards he stopped, dug a hole and placed pieces of turf
one on another to make it more visible. Then he went on; and now
that he had walked off his stiffness he quickened his pace. After a
while he dug another hole.

Pahom looked back. The hillock could be distinctly seen in the
sunlight, with the people on it, and the glittering tires of the
cartwheels. At a rough guess Pahom concluded that he had walked
three miles. It was growing warmer; he took off his under-coat,
flung it across his shoulder, and went on again. It had grown quite
warm now; he looked at the sun, it was time to think of breakfast.

“The first shift is done, but there are four in a day, and it is too
soon yet to turn. But I will just take off my boots,” said he to himself.

He sat down, took off his boots, stuck them into his girdle, and went on.
It was easy walking now.

“I will go on for another three miles,” thought he, “and then turn
to the left. The spot is so fine, that it would be a pity to lose
it. The further one goes, the better the land seems.”

He went straight on a for a while, and when he looked round, the
hillock was scarcely visible and the people on it looked like black
ants, and he could just see something glistening there in the sun.

“Ah,” thought Pahom, “I have gone far enough in this direction, it
is time to turn. Besides I am in a regular sweat, and very thirsty.”

He stopped, dug a large hole, and heaped up pieces of turf. Next he
untied his flask, had a drink, and then turned sharply to the left.
He went on and on; the grass was high, and it was very hot.

Pahom began to grow tired: he looked at the sun and saw that it was noon.

“Well,” he thought, “I must have a rest.”

He sat down, and ate some bread and drank some water; but he did not
lie down, thinking that if he did he might fall asleep. After
sitting a little while, he went on again. At first he walked
easily: the food had strengthened him; but it had become terribly
hot, and he felt sleepy; still he went on, thinking: “An hour to
suffer, a life-time to live.”

He went a long way in this direction also, and was about to turn to
the left again, when he perceived a damp hollow: “It would be a pity
to leave that out,” he thought. “Flax would do well there.” So he
went on past the hollow, and dug a hole on the other side of it
before he turned the corner. Pahom looked towards the hillock. The
heat made the air hazy: it seemed to be quivering, and through the
haze the people on the hillock could scarcely be seen.

“Ah!” thought Pahom, “I have made the sides too long; I must make
this one shorter.” And he went along the third side, stepping
faster. He looked at the sun: it was nearly half way to the
horizon, and he had not yet done two miles of the third side of the
square. He was still ten miles from the goal.

“No,” he thought, “though it will make my land lopsided, I must
hurry back in a straight line now. I might go too far, and as it is
I have a great deal of land.”

So Pahom hurriedly dug a hole, and turned straight towards the hillock.

Pahom went straight towards the hillock, but he now walked with
difficulty. He was done up with the heat, his bare feet were cut
and bruised, and his legs began to fail. He longed to rest, but it
was impossible if he meant to get back before sunset. The sun waits
for no man, and it was sinking lower and lower.

“Oh dear,” he thought, “if only I have not blundered trying for too
much! What if I am too late?”

He looked towards the hillock and at the sun. He was still far from
his goal, and the sun was already near the rim. Pahom walked on and
on; it was very hard walking, but he went quicker and quicker. He
pressed on, but was still far from the place. He began running,
threw away his coat, his boots, his flask, and his cap, and kept
only the spade which he used as a support.

“What shall I do,” he thought again, “I have grasped too much, and
ruined the whole affair. I can’t get there before the sun sets.”

And this fear made him still more breathless. Pahom went on
running, his soaking shirt and trousers stuck to him, and his mouth
was parched. His breast was working like a blacksmith’s bellows,
his heart was beating like a hammer, and his legs were giving way as
if they did not belong to him. Pahom was seized with terror lest he
should die of the strain.

Though afraid of death, he could not stop. “After having run all
that way they will call me a fool if I stop now,” thought he. And
he ran on and on, and drew near and heard the Bashkirs yelling and
shouting to him, and their cries inflamed his heart still more. He
gathered his last strength and ran on.

The sun was close to the rim, and cloaked in mist looked large, and
red as blood. Now, yes now, it was about to set! The sun was quite
low, but he was also quite near his aim. Pahom could already see
the people on the hillock waving their arms to hurry him up. He
could see the fox-fur cap on the ground, and the money on it, and
the Chief sitting on the ground holding his sides. And Pahom
remembered his dream.

“There is plenty of land,” thought he, “but will God let me live on
it? I have lost my life, I have lost my life! I shall never reach
that spot!”

Pahom looked at the sun, which had reached the earth: one side of it
had already disappeared. With all his remaining strength he rushed
on, bending his body forward so that his legs could hardly follow
fast enough to keep him from falling. Just as he reached the
hillock it suddenly grew dark. He looked up–the sun had already
set. He gave a cry: “All my labor has been in vain,” thought he,
and was about to stop, but he heard the Bashkirs still shouting, and
remembered that though to him, from below, the sun seemed to have
set, they on the hillock could still see it. He took a long breath
and ran up the hillock. It was still light there. He reached the
top and saw the cap. Before it sat the Chief laughing and holding
his sides. Again Pahom remembered his dream, and he uttered a cry:
his legs gave way beneath him, he fell forward and reached the cap
with his hands.

“Ah, what a fine fellow!” exclaimed the Chief. “He has gained
much land!”

Pahom’s servant came running up and tried to raise him, but he saw
that blood was flowing from his mouth. Pahom was dead!

The Bashkirs clicked their tongues to show their pity.

His servant picked up the spade and dug a grave long enough for
Pahom to lie in, and buried him in it. Six feet from his head to
his heels was all he needed.


I didn’t really understand the story till I read it twice and this concept is one that is very Usonian. A man needs enough land to be happy and should not spend their whole lives chasing more and more and more stuff and land. Frank Lloyd Wright in fact mentioned many times a man should only possess the amount of land they need to perform their profession or make their income and live (which he randomly calculated as 1 acre for some reason). This is of course the goal we are after. Btw, the true answer how much land a man needs is a 6 foot hole in the ground as explained in the last sentence. It is a very religious story in context but pretty simple. Find what makes you happy and do not be greedy that you need more and more. For my wife and I, we can deal with 2 acres (maybe even one if it offers us privacy). The happiness will come from making use of the land as a quiet and beautiful retreat, a place to get our girls the rest of the way grown-up, and a place to put our shop that will be used to both pay for the land and allow me to figure out more serious energy issues on earth. If we can accomplish that with 2 acres, that is how much land this man and woman need.

Property Update and the “Usonian Basements” Oxymoron

Flooded Basement Not a Porblem With Usonian House Flooded Basement Not a Porblem With Usonian House

Property Update

The property we were considering, we had one last look at it with the entire family and after a long discussion with the wife and the real estate agent we were using to represent our offer…the consensus is it just needs too much work for the insane price being asked. There was already 4 failed offers and we were not going to waste everyone’s time with number 5.

The picture here is somewhat appropriate because the house that was on the property we were considering had a flooded cellar that needed work right away as it is causing an allergen in the air that was effecting our whole family just during a walk-through, let alone living there. To make it worse, the furnace was placed in the cellar and in a flood, would easily be wrecked. This would be disastrous in the middle of winter!

The Usonian property hunt continues.

“Usonian Basement” – An Oxymoron

The reason I brought up the basement flooding situation is because recently in the local news, they mentioned the city was willing to help alleviate some of the local flooding problems by subsidizing getting people to disconnect from the storm sewers. They want homes to instead go back to the old way… gutters out to the yard and using a sump pump to a drainage bed instead of to the overloaded storm sewers.

I can tell you from personal experience with MANY flooded basements, it is not a permanent solution and your indoor swimming pool WILL fill up one day and you WILL have mold problems and insurance claims. I have personally stood three feet in water even after the sump pump kicked on full blast…it will happen!

Frank Lloyd Wright said “Nothing good ever came out of a basement” and never have I been so aware of this as recently.

Usonian homes RARELY have a basement and in the case of the Jacobs House in Madison Wisconsin, they have an area excavated for the “mechanicals” which I am pretty sure was not placed in many more Usonian floor plans after that.

Instead, a concrete pad (or mat as he calls it) is embedded with hydronic heating tubes and does triple duty as the floor, floor covering (no carpets or hardwood) and the heating carrier (thermal mass). The problem with this design is a lot of heat is heatsinked to the earth… but… with ground insulation…not an issue!


The reason most houses in our area have basements is because most construction companies are digging down 4 to 9 feet to get the footers below the frost line (which FLW completely advised against, btw) and figure “Why not just throw the concrete pad at the bottom??? Saves having to refill the space with dirt?”

Why? Because I have yet to see a house with a basement that has never flooded. It is literally a swimming pool you will be fighting with for the life of the house.

I know the homeowner’s thoughts are probably that it is extra storage but the problem is in today’s McMansion mentality, it usually becomes another living space fully furnished, floored, drywalled and heated…all awaiting the next big storm to fill up the gutters, overflow down the frost wall and into your tiling and overwhelm your energy sucking sump pump. AND if your mechanicals are in that pond, you are looking at a seriously high repair bill.

Frank Lloyd Wright had it RIGHT. Get rid of the basement… you will never regret it.

Proceeding with Offer for Future Usonian Property…

Possible Property to Live In While Building Our Usonian House Possible Property to Live In While Building Our Usonian House

Well we are tentatively moving forward with option 2 from my last post, buying a 2 acre property 15 minutes from the city that has a 100 year old house on it. We can then later build our Usonian House on the property while living in the old house, then we are required by the town to tear down the original structure (sad but rules are rules).

We had our hearts set on another property closer to the city to do this but were disappointed when it sold before we were able to put an offer in. This is becoming common right now as baby boomers are scrambling to get out of the cities and go rural.

Here is our thinking on this. This property is about 1.74 acres square and it is extremely rare something like this comes up. It is usually a bowling alley property that is for sale (small frontage, long property towards back…total waste of time).

The only issue we have is its on the north side of the concession but the road is not busy and the closest neighbor is currently 1000 feet away. So we should be able to back the house into one of the north corners and create our court similar to how the Weltzheimer/Johnson House in Oberlin Ohio is now. See Google Maps view of it — its the only house canted 45 degrees in that shot. People would enter the property from a side driveway and not see the house or center yard at all. There is still an open view to the north and east/west. Should work.

What this allows us to do is live on the property for 3 years, convert the barn into a woodshop, save about $20K in development fees and build our Usonian Dream house on site. So we figured the cost of 3 years in mortgage/tax payments plus the savings on the develop fees will equal what we will pay anyway so we mind as well enjoy country life now instead of 3 years from now.

The area is actually closer to the girl’s school and a quick hop on the highway to just about anywhere we need to go. Very ideal.

The only issue is an old woman that grew up on this property and raised 6 kids on it (none of them want it) is being slightly difficult. But now the other one that was a direct comparable sold for $30K less with a brand new septic system, we are hoping she will understand our plea that we want to homestead this property and start a whole new generation of country dwellers. One girl is already excited to live out there so it may be in our family for as many generations as it was in hers.

Will keep you up to date on offers progress.

Street View of Possible Usonian Property we will put offer in on. Street View of Possible Usonian Property we will put offer in on.

Possible properties to later build a Usonian House or Move WAY up north to get more land…Update…

Have not posted in awhile but a lot has been going on that I will update here over next few weeks.

Autumn is a bit late and winter promises to be a bad one so I will certainly have more inside time to write and upload photos.

The biggest news is we have been considering two new options to arrive at our ultimate Usonian dream.

1. We were considering selling our current house and purchasing about 50 to 100 acres about 5 hours north of here and build a house. This would let us be completely debt free upon moving in and the areas we are looking are very cheap to live and we can use the wooded lands to help heat the house for free, thus saving the $2400/yr we are spending now. Can also grow TONS of food, hunt for deer, fish and work in one of the mid size towns in Northern Ontario to keep monthly expenditures down. We want to move to as much a self-sustaining model as possible.

2. Option 2 is we recently found out the house we are in now is worth WAY more than we thought with close comparables (including several of our neighbours) selling in a few days with no agent involved and in one case a paper sign on the lawn. We happened to live in the most desirable location with the largest amount of buyers looking in the ideal price range home. I will get into why this is so in future posts and our logic to sell now and not 3 years from now. The other factor is land in our area has gone up over 23% in one year making it nearly impossible to look 3 years down the road here. We just wont be able to beat the MANY others looking for the same thing. Then we looked at a few 2 acre properties with 100 year old homes on them and workshops and barns that we can easy “move sideways” so to speak. In other words, we would not go into debt anymore than we already are, we can live in the old house while we build a new one in 3 years. There are many factors to this and the one ideal property/house we had our heart set on is most likely sold… but we shall see. It would have easily fit our Jacobs style house on it and have no neighbours and be 15 minutes from the city still. We would be on site to do the work each day. But again, it is about 5 times more expensive than 5 hours north of here. Land is in some cases 20 times more expensive than even a hundred miles south of us in the US.

My wife and I have also been continuing to set up our Usonian Workshop and have been thinking about making a few products to sell online here. More to follow about that…

Quick Note on our Usonian Master Plan

Someone asked me a question about our Master Plan we figured out…

“Why not just place a mobile home on site and sell when the house is done?”

This was certainly something we considered from the beginning but unfortunately in all the areas we considered, unless you are zoned as a mobile home park, cannot place one on your property for any reason.

You will also have to have septic installed and electrical/gas run to a hookup, which the cottage/garage/shop will later need anyway (and in fact accounts for a large portion of the $30K cost).

If it wasn’t for those restrictions, we would have been out in the country already.

One thing that comes to mind is an architect recently told me one reason Frank Lloyd Wright said to go 50 miles out (or farther) was because the rural areas were not governed by such petty rules and building restrictions. It is so bad here in some areas that they even restrict the length your soffits can be, so I can understand his thinking.