Welcome
 Listings
 Who We Are
 House Talk
 Staging
 Before & After
 Resources
 Contact Us

 

1960 Mountain Blvd.
Montclair CA 94611
(510) 339-0400 x346
fax  (510) 339-9129

Line

3070 Claremont Ave.
Berkeley, CA 94705
(510) 652-2133
fax (510) 652-0114

Line
House Talk

No. 39 - September 19, 2010

 
Modern Pioneers
  
A talk with Grace Lovelace and George Thompson


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 San Miguel.

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 basis.

For more information about Grace and George you may email them directly at deljardinmx@gmail.com.

Back to House Talk


For further information or questions for our House Talk column, 
please contact Glass/Sabine by email:  Sheila@GlassSabine.com
or call us at 510-326-5055.

  The Glass-Sabine Team is Number One!