In 2010 we've been making a huge move. Only two miles down the road, from our wonderful, old village home to a smaller, passive solar house on a hillside above the village. We designed the new place, and our oldest son Josh built it for us with the help of several of his buddies. We're happy with the move, but that doesn't mean we won't miss the old place!

All the photos at right were taken of the old village house by Linde MacNamara, the realtor who is trying to sell it for us. ( It has lots of wonderful rooms, and that was part of the problem. When we had three growing boys, we had a use for four bedrooms, two living rooms, and so on, but no longer.

Also, the place is nearly 200 years old now, and although it's in quite good shape, an old home takes a lot of TLC.

We'll certainly miss living there — not only the house itself, but the grounds. The bottom two photos at right show the deck over the river, and the garden in spring. Besides all that, it was just a few steps from the store. We couldn't have wanted a better location.

For a while we thought about a major move, possibly to Montpelier or Burlington — certainly not leaving Vermont. In the end, though, we found a good site just a couple of miles uphill from the village, so we decided to stay in South Strafford.

Neighbors, seeing the new place under construction, sometimes exclaimed, "I thought you were downsizing!" The new place does look big, but it's an illusion. You'll see why below.

The photo is taken from the house site before any work began. It's on a 3.7 acre building lot about two miles up the main road from the village of South Strafford. This view — and later, the house — are facing due south.

Josh, our oldest son, was our contractor, doing a good deal of the work himself and hiring friends in construction for the rest. Here he and Jeremy, his younger brother, work on an old excavator that we bought for this job.

We aimed to dig into the hillside so that the north wall of the first floor would be mostly below grade — there is no basement. There was ledge, which we expected, and Josh hired a friend with a second excavator that had something like a giant jackhammer to break through the ledge. They managed to dig out a site in one day. Even the realtor who sold us the place thought that we would have to blast, but fortunately that wasn't necessary.

This is the Wragg Brothers well-drilling rig, overseen by neighbor Doug Cook, set up just above the house site. It was necessary to drill over 500 feet! At that depth, we did get a good water supply.

The concrete work work was done largely by Corey Chapman, a friend of Josh. In this photo the footings have already been poured and Josh is working on a form for the back (north) wall.

Here the concrete is being poured. The high wall on the left is the north; the east wall is stepped down, so that the entire southern facade is above ground level.

This is the finished foundation. The part of the foundation to the right is the main residence. Farther to the left are a connector to the garage, and the garage itself. These parts of the building are angled a bit to the northwest, following the contour of the hill.

The house will have radiant heating on the ground floor, and radiators on the second floor. Here the tubes are being installed above the insulation. They'll be buried in the reinforced concrete that will be the ground floor.

The first floor of the residence has been framed in, and materials for the second floor are being delivered.

This is the residential part of the house, seen from the east. You can now see how the north side of the first floor is below grade. Retaining walls will be built on both the east and west sides to handle the steep grade.

Here the roof is going on. The excavator turned out to be a great investment; Josh certainly used it a lot.

Work started early every day. Here the guys are nearly finished
with framing the main roof.

Josh hired Dave Slater, an experienced framer who did a lot of work and did a great job.

Barbara insisted on having a little tree mounted at the peak of the roof — an old European tradition. The guys were not enthusiastic about this rather difficult job, so we skipped a topping-off ceremony.


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