Last week when writing about Daytrip Society, an excellent store that blends modern design with a Mother Nature motif, I mentioned the Idle Thoreau Syndrome. I coined this term to describe someone smitten with the idea of an outdoorsy, adventurous, and off-the-grid lifestyle that never gets past the daydreaming stage.
Lou Ureneck is not one of these people. Like the proprietors of Daytrip Society who said sayonara to NYC and set up shop in Kennebunkport, Maine, Ureneck is bidding aideu to city life by building a rustic cabin in the contiguous U.S.'s easternmost state. There are no bells and whistles involved in Ureneck's simplistic take on the New England country home. In terms of building technique, budget, and locale, he's truly roughing it. There is, however, a trace amount of modern technology involved: Ureneck, an author and chairman of the journalism department at Boston University, is writing about the project for The New York Timesin a blog titled From the Ground Up. He's invited readers to follow along on his journey (currently, he's in the process of laying the foundation) in rural Oxford county and share their thoughts on cabin building, nature and simple living.
When I think of Maine, I think of outlet shopping and Stephen King. For folks like Ureneck, it’s the kind of place where one can truly escape and put those Thoreau daydreams into action. Personally, I’d go stir crazy but Ureneck writes about his "building-a-cabin-in-Maine-during-the-winter" dream in poignant, powerful, and very Mother Nature-friendly terms:
The cabin will be simple, even primitive, maintaining contact with a tradition of frugality that reaches back to Walden Pond -- a far cry from the big, fancy cabins that have become popular in recent years, with French doors, commercial-grade kitchens and wide decks for entertaining at the lake. 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.”
Ureneck’s cabin will be built from recycled (scrounged) materials and wood from a nearby lumber yard to keep costs low and the environmental impact minimal. Electricity to power his laptop will come via solar panels, lights and heat will be provided via bottled gas, and water will come from a well. He points out that his cabin will be about twice the size as Thoreau’s was. Once completed, Ureneck's plans for the cabin are similarly humble:
When it’s done, the cabin will also give me a chance and a reason to plant an orchard of heirloom apples; put out several bird feeders; buy an antique farm tractor; create a pond from the spring that waters a small brook that flows over the southwest corner of the lot; and learn a lot more about the history of Oxford County, Maine, which once buzzed with sawmills, bleated with flocks of sheep and echoed with the huzzahs of boys off to help fill the Army of the Potomac. Stoneham’s population, now 270, was about 400 when Abraham Lincoln was president.
Although I can’t quit picture myself in Ureneck’s (snow)shoes, I’m fascinated by his sojourn into Thoreau-land.