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ManyTracks' House and Home

by Steve Schmeck and Sue Robishaw

underground house 2009

Designing and Building our Northwoods
 Solar Underground House

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It began in the 70's and I can't say exactly how but Steve and I came together and over a few years so did our plans to move out of the city and build our underground solar home and sustainable homestead in the northwoods. It was a quite an adventure! We didn't know that we couldn't do it, so we did.

Between Thanksgiving and Christmas 1978 we built a basic but adequate cabin (which later became our power tool shop) and dove into planning the earth house. It took longer than we had originally thought (of course) but in 1985 we moved in to the spacious 1000 square foot dwelling. Now it's 2022 -- we're still here, we still love it, and yes, we're still working on it.

Use the menu above left to go to photo pages of Construction and Indoor shots of the house as well as related subjects. There is more information on our move, building the cabin, and building the house (and much more) in our book "Homesteading Adventures".

camper and Sue 1998

Our First Home on the Homestead 1978

cabin 1998

The Cabin - Adding on Already 1979

Cabin with Porch

Ever Expanding Cabin-Shop ~1990

house 1991

The Underground House 1991

The house layout as it stands today, surprisingly near to drawings Steve made when the house was just a dream.

Some folks have their GARAGE attached to their house, some a little bit away. Here in the Upper Peninsula it is common to see old houses back a ways from the road but with the garage built right up by the road, with a very short "driveway". Such were practical the home builders of old. And we did the same. Of course, the distance from our house to our garage is a bit longer -- about 1/2 mile through the woods, up or down the fairly steep hill, depending on if one is coming or going. This has worked wonderfully for us for forty years and we expect it to continue for another many decades. Much of the year we drive down to the homestead, parking near the shop. But when the snow arrives we dig out the snowshoes and start packing our path to the garage. That is so much easier and more pleasant than trying to plow or blow snow that whole way, which isn't practical anyway. This friendly little building has held up well but we knew it was time, and it deserved, a nice new roof...

September 22, 2021 -- Garage Roof Update         

A bit of history on our garage: It is located at the end of the county road about mile south-west of the house, on our neighbor’s property. We built it over 40 years ago on the edge of the snow-plow turnaround. The county road stops there because of a significant escarpment. About 30 years ago the paper company that owned adjacent land filled and graded beyond that cliff to create a viable logging road which gave us a nice, gated driveway. Nice in the summer, that is. The hill is steep enough that it is not passable once covered with snow and ice.

Having the garage up there at the top of the hill has been nice, especially in winter. We sized it for the smaller cars we were driving in our early years here on the homestead; Opel Kadetts, Toyota Corolla and Dodge Rampages. Our 2007 Prius fits in lengthwise but it is a bit tight getting in and out.
Originally the roof was covered with 30# tar paper, and then upgraded to roll roofing and eventually, 30 years ago, re-roofed with cedar shingles. The shingles did their job admirably for about 28 years. A couple of years ago we began to notice points of sunlight shining through those picturesque shingles. After two years of procrastinating we have finally replaced the shingles with boring, gray metal roofing – that does not leak.

Well, in truth, so far we have only done the south-facing side. This afternoon I’ll go up and begin on the back side (that nobody sees, but still needs replacing). Here are some ‘Before & After’ photos of the project.

Garage roof - 'Before'   Garage roof update - in process

To read more about the first two decades on our homestead check out

"Homesteading Adventures -A Guide for Doers and Dreamers"  

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Updated 04/07/2018


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