A Living Living Room – The Farmhouse at Hickory Highlands

the living living room

My wood-artist friend Duncan, tells of the temple builders in Japan. They go to the forest to find the temple. When found, ceremonies are performed amidst the trees. Then the builders relocate the temple from the forest to the population center. I consider myself (and likely delude myself) creating on that level — finding the house in the forest, asking permission, seeking willingness, then moving the house from the forest to the brow of the hill.

30 years ago, I was gifted a scroll from Japan by a friend who studied there. It depicted dozens of people moving a huge log with rollers, ropes and oxen. In turn, because of his interest in Japanese woodworking, tools and culture, I gave the scroll to Duncan who kept in on a low table in his temple office with other treasures of wood and art and spirit.

A room with a wooden ceiling, curved in a soft barrel vault, emerged from a deep place in my heart. With this internal picture, I went for a walk in the snowy, hickory woods, searching for this room. Because hickory trees grow straight and tall, the likelihood of finding a curved one for the ceiling was slim, and two beams with the same curve pushed the dream into the realm of unrealistic. But dreams are to pursue, explore, manifest.

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With the foliage gone, snow under foot and gray skies made it easier to see the sizes and shapes needed for the posts, the beams, the rafters, the window trim. The trees that wanted to participate stepped forward to be flagged and join the project. When the trees were cut in the spring, we moved them from their home in the forest to their new home in our house. We removed their bark revealing the most luxurious rippled, glowing, cream-colored wood.


We moved the trees with assistance of a contemporary team of oxen, a Kubota tractor, made in Japan. The image from the Japanese scroll of moving logs with ox and ropes — a gift from a half a lifetime ago — came off the paper and into an inspiring, three dimensional reality, with the tree spirits still lively.


I saw on Lloyd’s blog that you are accepting photos for a book on small houses. Susan and I are closing in on this after four years. Much of the material — straw bales, clay, logs, boards, stones — have come from the farm.

–Kind regards,
John Freeberg & Susan Walch
Fairfield, Iowa

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