First, to set the stage, here are a few images of the Totten farm (I've also heard it referred to as "Tottenshire"), where Don grew up and where his family have farmed for generations. As an Air Force brat with little notion of "roots", the deep generational attachment of Don's family to this place is both astonishing and wonderful to me.
The area where we have our house is very rural. We don't see any neighbors or lights from our place up on the hill, and on clear nights the stars are brilliant. One of my favorite experiences is on clear midsummer nights when the fields out front are full of fireflies and the sky above full of stars. It is like sitting in an imax theatre with the universe all around us, the fireflies like twinkling stars below, the milky way soaring overhead. Pretty cool.
The lower right photo below is the view from our house looking downhill toward the next hill in the distance where the farm house and barns are located, the main part of the farm. The picture on the lower left is a spot known as the "old sheep barn" - it is a tumble of rugged old stones that once supported a barn for sheep. This is where we are building the studio (located on the same hill as the top photo in this collage). This is summer when the living is very pleasant. Winter is a WHOLE other story - very rugged and downright cruel at times.
Here we are building the house - we had some of the lumber milled from local trees. That's me in the upper left photo (no I don't look like this anymore - this was about 10 years ago when I was SO skinny). That's Don and his nephew Drew in the lower right photo (Don STILL looks like this...grrr). And yes that is an african drum in the lower left photo - we did a lot of drumming back then.
Here are a few views of the house and surrounding woodlands ... This part of the Totten farm - where our house is located - has always been known as "The Johnson Lots". Nobody seems to remember why - maybe the name goes back to a family who lived there long ago. An old foundation of a house is located halfway down the hill next to freshwater springs. Who knows how long ago that house was occupied...? The spot where Don is walking uphill (lower right photo) is approximately where the foundation is located. The arrowheads and other artifacts, such as tent weights and grinding stones, were found mostly on the hill where we are building the studio. Don's father ("Poppy") would find them while plowing fields with the tractor. Apparently there was a lot of indian trade and hunting up there in the distant past (we are near Seneca land).
Okay now that we have the history and setting out of the way, here are the plans for the studio building.
The ground floor will house the clay and glaze part of the studio, along with a small garage for a tractor. What is the tractor for you say? Um, snow removal for one, LOTS of snow to remove (you have no idea!). And also to keep the road up to the house clear of brush.
Just outside the door we'll set up a small shed for the gas kiln. My electric kilns will be located on the next hill over - a part of the farm where we have access to electric (grid) power.
Oh! I did I mention that the house is entirely OFF-GRID??? We have solar panels and a battery house that powers all our basic needs. We have propane for hot water and a small furnace, but mostly depend on a wood stove for heat in winter. In summer it is generally pleasant as the weather up here is typically about 10 degrees cooler than the lowlands. When it gets warm we have ceiling fans that do the job of keeping us cool. We currently use our cell phones for internet but are planning to install satellite access.
Here's the ground level layout. Can you spot our dogs Casey and Sierra?
Here's the upper floor where I will be working most of the time. There is extra space for a spare bedroom or office for Don. Initially however, we will use this space for storage.
That's it in a nutshell. These plans are in development and changing even as I type this. We have yet to price out construction costs, etc. I'm certain there will be modifications as we evolve the project. Stay tuned as I document our progress - there will be updates over the coming months!