Before His Time....
A Minimalist Carbon Footprint Pioneer!

by @ellies58
(Hamilton, Ont. Canada)

This is the fireplace that Grampa built!

This is the fireplace that Grampa built!

I want to share with you the story of a remarkable Man that was way ahead of us all...

My Grandfather.

In 1958 my Grandfather set to building a summer home on leased land, in the woods surrounding Collingwood Ont.

He wanted this place to be a special home for all of us to use. To enjoy the purest and simplest, most beautiful forms of nature! In his mind; that meant keeping it pure and without the travails of city life.

He began by honing stones straight from the ground for both a fireplace and an outdoor BBQ. This would provide heat and a place to cook; free of electricity.

He then set about building the actual structure that was to be the home; around the enormous fireplace, that he had built with his bare hands.

Once this was completed; he had to decide how they would obtain water, keep foods cool, and light the home.

His philosophy was; ideas are limitless if you just stop and use your imagination.

He began to fashion sheet metal boxes which he then attached to the outside of the home. On top of these he added screening. You see; these containers would gather water from rain to be used inside for dishes, bathing and cleaning.

The water was heated by the sun beating down on the metal containers. He ran pipes from them to the kitchen sink, the standup shower bag, (also in a sheet metal shower stall), and to the bathroom sink.

He added a septic Tank and a foot pedal flush toilet.

His next challenge was drinking water and a way to keep perishables safe.

There was a lake at the bottom of the road. There was also a cold, fast running stream and waterfall. Hmmm...he thought; I can rig power through the waterfall, get cold water and keep food fresh from/in the spring.

All 3 water sources were downhill from the home tho, and try as he may; he could find no way to pump the water up natuarally.

So, he set about hooking in hoses to the spring for the water. He ran them downhill into the drip. It meant a trip downhill with the wheelbarrow and bottles to fetch water. But in his mind; this meant staying strong and healthy!

Next he set about fashioning wire mesh baskets to hold food items that needed to stay cold. When they were done he took them to the spring and inserted them. There we stored all things like milk, meats, cheeses etc. And believe me when I say; this works like a charm!

The baskets have lids to keep the foods safe from foraging animals. And for the most part; this works also. Not to say there was not an incident or two over the years! We learned to make sure that plastic containers had airtight lids etc! lol

Next he fashioned a small mill wheel for the falls. It was only a small water fall so his expectations were not unrealistic. If he could even obtain enough energy for lighting that would be great!

Alas; this was the only part of his plan that never came to fruition!

In the end; he piped in lines for propane lighting. The lamps, (which had mantles like a coleman lantern), were on the walls in every room. They ran off regular sized BBQ propane tanks. So the use of propane was kept to a minimal.

There was always a large supply of pillar and utility candles too. He encouraged us to use them as much as possible.

To this day; this summer home is run the same as it has been since 1958. He refused to have electricity run in. He never allowed the use of television in this home.

It is still a beautiful, natural escape from the City!!

Through my Grandfather, I learned that Man can survive just fine without making a large carbon footprint!

We can all exist, and in a pleasing manner; without cars, tv's, radios, and other modern gadgets!

We never ever felt like we were missing anyting when we were there! And, we have never stopped honoring his wishes to keep Hearns Hallow a pure and simple place where we exist as one with the woods, to this day!!!

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A Minimalist Carbon Footprint Pioneer!

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Sep 17, 2011
by: Montez

This is such a beautiful story! You are so blessed to have had your grandfather and to have the house in the same state. This is my dream; I want to create a house and environment similar to this house. After experiencing the loss of a job for almost two years, I started to reconsider the importance of things. I want to purchase an old house and equip it with the natural surroundings. I am educating myself on the natural energy sources. I still do not understand how the energy is converted, but I will learn. I cannot afford to pay the electric companies and purchase gas for my vehicle. I am just fed up with the extreme prices. What an awesome and encouraging story! Thanks for sharing it.

Jun 08, 2010
WOW - What an inspiration!
by: Mike

What an inspiration your grandfather must have been to you - and indeed to all of us!! Great to read that you still keep it the same today!

If only everyone could employ just a tiny bit of his vision then we could significantly reduce our carbon footprint!

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