Book, Greenspace September 23, 2011 By Jordan Sayle
Foundation/Courtesy: Lou Ureneck

Foundation/Courtesy: Lou Ureneck

Sure enough, through months of hard work and one stomach-wrenching scene involving a bruised fingernail, the family builds a new house, and the author begins to reassemble the parts of his life that have gone missing over the years.
     Rest assured, this is no vacation house, and it’s not a designer log cabin. Ureneck takes pains to make those distinctions. On the contrary, he’s hoping to build something on his five-acre parcel in the lee of the White Mountains that’s right out of the 18th Century Transcendentalist playbook. A shelter, in Thoreau’s words, is one of those things deemed “necessary of life,” and yet, the precise form of shelter makes a tremendous difference. Civilized life offers its advantages, but only when “it has produced better dwellings without making them more costly” can the condition of man be said to advance (“and the cost of a thing is the amount of what I will call life which is required to be exchanged for it”), Thoreau writes in “Economy.” With that criterion in mind, Ureneck’s cabin would likely pass the Thoreauvian test, built as it is with the utmost intentions of simplicity in mind.
     That’s not to say that there aren’t limits to the project’s success at maintaining that simplicity. Even as he makes sure to use local lumber, Ureneck finds that in a globalized world, he’s unable to avoid using nails from China.

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