Mother Earth News Magazine Articles: Oldies But Goodies

This hand-built home of recycled goods cost just a little over $200 in 1975.
This hand-built home of recycled goods cost just a little over $200 in 1975.

As a young carpenter, Mother Earth News magazine was very influential in my life and those of my friends. Almost no one I knew back then could afford to build a home with standard building materials from building supply centers. That would have cost a fortune. However, what we lacked in financial resources we made up for in youthful enthusiasm and building skills. We could build all sorts of things with the right information about alternative building. We were searching for very low cost building methods that are suitable for DIY owner-builders. That’s where Mother Earth News magazine fit the bill with issue after issue of innovative, low cost home designs such as domes, underground solar houses and such. It was a different era back in the 70’s. There was an oil crisis and a huge back to the land movement. It seemed everyone wanted to build their own energy efficient solar home on the cheap. Our young minds were abuzz with all the possibilities. Why pay for gas heating when the sun can heat the home for free? Why not add solar panels for free electricity?

Sound familiar? The same problems are still with us. Except now fuel prices are higher and millions of people are more determined than ever to make the move to a rural homestead or at least build a low impact, low cost home with sustainable materials. So I thought this would be a good time to highlight some old articles from Mother Earth News. You can read articles like those below on the Mother Earth News website for hours or days and/or buy their back issues, PDFs and CDs.

Here is one example of a home built with recycled goods:
“The structure you see in the photos is a second home I’ve built — more or less singlehanded — in the woods on my 100-acre place in Quebec. The hand built home is 28 feet by 14 feet, rises 10 feet at its highest point, and cost just a little over $200. I had a lot of fun putting it together and would like to tell you about the process.

When I first began the project early in 1974, I was partial to a dome of some kind for this hand built home. I’d built models from plastic straws and had an idea of the strength inherent in the triangles of a geodesic structure and the stress distribution of the curved form. Yet I had neither the money nor the inclination to buy the new materials such domes seem to require. What I did have was a platform left from a building I’d torn down . . . so it seemed reasonable to use that as the floor plan for whatever I was going to construct.

But what other resources did I have? Well, there was timber on the place . . . of a sort. All the larger trees had been cut as pulpwood, by a “hurry-up” logging crew that felled many just for being in the way. Other trunks had been bent and then left to grow in that position for four years. Aha! Ready-made arches!”

Read the rest of the article: Creating a Hand Built Home from Recycled Goods

List of some other oldie but goodie Mother Earth News articles:
$400 ferrocement house
The Fundamentals of Root Cellaring
An Earth-sheltered Cordwood House
Unit One: A Solar Adobe Home
Solar Heated Home Designs
How to Build a Live-in Solar Greenhouse
We Built Our Own Frank Lloyd Wright Designed House

9 thoughts on “Mother Earth News Magazine Articles: Oldies But Goodies”

  1. Trying to find an article I read in my dads mother earth magazine around the early 80s. I believe it was about constructing a ” hyrdraulic water ram” using either abs or pvc pipe and fittings. Anyone remember this article, and where I might find it? thank you. Fred

    • Have you tried searching their site? Make sure you spell it correctly. If you can’t find it there, the info is easy to find elsewhere on the Internet.

    • Thanks. We covered that about 1-2 years ago. I send a lot of people to their website and will include them in an upcoming blog post on artisan homes.

  2. I never found the article I was originally looking for. (But along the way I realized all these old articles would make a good blog post.)

    Does anyone remember the article about building ferrocement dome sections one at a time and then putting them together later? I can’t remember where I read about this.

    • But Carroll, it’s easier to just buy everything new down at the building supply center. Oh wait. That cost a sh*t load of money. So you’re right. Most of us will have to figure out different ways of doing things by improvising, adapting and overcoming.


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