Judith Glass and Sheila Sabine often meet people who
want to scale down and make a change in their living situation. Many homeowners
are tired of city living, freeways, and congested parking. In San Miguel de
Allende, Sheila Sabine recently visited one couple, Grace Lovelace and George
Thompson who had the courage to jump into a new canvas and re-design their life.
The two Americans, Grace and George, had been
living on a one hundred acre farm thirty miles from San Antonio, Texas where
they were teachers, designers, artists and organic farmers. Upon George's
retirement from the University of Texas School of Public Health in San Antonio
they decided to re -locate to Mexico. After many trips to Mexico, they settled
upon twelve acres of vacant land, eighteen miles from the heart of San Miguel de
Allende. The area is called Puerta del Aire, meaning the door to the sky or the
wind. Their ranchito is on the Mesa de Guadalupe, a lush plateau at 7,000 ft.
elevation, surrounded by larger ranches and beautiful hills and valleys.
The installation of their new life occurred in
several stages. They first began by improving fences and building corrals and
sheds for their tools and supplies. The casita, or small house, is patterned
after the "Dwell" homes, which are one long rectangular space rather than boxy
small spaces and are very ecologically efficient. The exterior of the house is
made of murocrete which is styrofoam sandwiched between wires which is then
plastered with cement and is very thermal efficient. The roof is also made of
the murocrete panels. The final coat of cement on the roof is colored with iron
oxide, the interior walls were finished by hand with a mixture of white cement
and marble dust, and the exterior walls are made of cement mixed with earth
pigments to give a golden glowing effect. The surrounding outdoor patios are
made of flagstone, which comes from the nearby fields, and were carried,
piece-by-piece by Filemon, their resident donkey. All the materials and everyone
working on the farm are local.
Being the only "gringos" for miles around, George
and Grace want to support the community as much as possible, and the locals
consider them as part of their family. The finished product is a 600 sq. ft.
efficiency space with combined bedroom, kitchen, office and bath. There are two
additional rooms for guests and Grace’s studio along with several large shaded
outdoor patios. The casita is loaded with charming details including a front
walkway inlaid with small pieces of broken china taken from the collections of
George's mother and grandmothers. The sound of solitude combined with an
occasional rooster’s crow is very healing. Grace says that it is so quiet you
can hear the blood running through your veins.
Being highly eco-conscious, George and Grace
raise almost all of their own fruits and vegetables. Rainwater is collected in a
large cistern and is used for drinking. Grey water is used for irrigating
plants, the toilet is a low water appliance which drains into a composting
Watson wick, and any additional food scraps are fed to their eight goats, which
produce milk and cheese, and also to their chickens and roosters.
George is presently occupied with the
construction of a slightly larger residence on the land and a multitude of other
projects related to farm life. They have a five-acre "milpa" next to their house
that they share with the neighbors. It is plowed by horses and planted and
cultivated by hand. Here four colors of corn are raised. The black variety are
handmade into tortillas and sold every week at the local natural foods store in
Grace had a career as a Mayan archeologist and
became especially interested in weaving. Grace says that she had more in common
with Mayan women than American women. "Instead of putting on panty hose and
going to work, I stayed at home weaving and growing my own food." As a result,
she spins yarn from her own sheep, dyes the yarn with plant material such as
eucalyptus bark and pomegranate skins and makes beautiful shawls, scarves, and
bed linens. She also makes a rich skin emulsion made of oils and herbal
extracts, and a line of soaps, which are sold locally.
In summary, these wonderful modern pioneers
(complete with Internet access in their office provided by a satellite dish on
the roof) are completely happy and relaxed. They do not miss freeways and say
that they have a much easier life and a lot more fun. They are especially
impressed with the simple faith which their campesino neighbors manifest daily –
a faith based on liturgical calendars, which date back thousands of years to
pre-Columbian days. They are greatly respected by the locals and have actually
adopted several families in addition to extending a helping hand on a daily
For more information about Grace and George you
may email them directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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