The home of Eva Barr and Todd Juzwiak at DreamAcres will be one of the stops during the Spring Valley Historical Society’s Fall House Tours this weekend.
The home of Eva Barr and Todd Juzwiak at DreamAcres will be one of the stops during the Spring Valley Historical Society’s Fall House Tours this weekend.

Do you think you could live "off the grid" with no electricity? Down the road to the east, a family of four is doing just that - living very comfortably and efficiently. We are talking about DreamAcres, the home of Eva Barr and Todd Juzwiak and their two sons, Chester and Stanley.

The impressively talented couple hosts countless events, interns, special occasions with friends and "seekers" who are intrigued with this lifestyle.

Their pleasurable home is situated on a hillside, framed up in 1995 with wood from Michigan; the open beams are notched and pegged into place. Much of the interior is graced with salvaged board siding rescued from many area barns. Other wood pieces have come from the Fillmore sawmill; handsome flooring is local elm, polished by daily traffic. However, the house was built around the masonry heating unit of Russian or Finnish design, a substantial stone structure that dominates the center of the entire house.

When the couple moved to the place, there had been an old barn on site, blown down by a tornado, but parts were still standing, with trees growing among the ruins. When a portion was moved, the stone foundation collapsed, leaving a fine pile of rock for their use. Hauled one piece at a time up the incline, the couple built the unit to form the heart of their home. The "fireplace" begins in the basement with a solid foundation, and has no open hearth. On the main floor the stone "chimney" contains a large firebox where a raging fire is set, burning for at least an hour at 800 degrees that leaves glowing coals that warm the rocks thoroughly and this "furnace" heats the entire house. There is an oven over the firebox, which can be used for baking when the heat moderates. A large woodbox nearby is a necessity, keeping folks hustling to keep it well supplied.

The living spaces surround the heating unit - a kitchen, work and eating area, sitting room, office and home school center, and storage spaces. Barr's kitchen boasts a lovely Copper Clad range, which dates to 1928. Set on a stone floor, its six cooking lids, two warming ovens and one baking oven make it a splendid cooking headquarters. Their source of water is a cistern that collects rainwater, and the blue cistern pump is located by the sink, offering water for household use. Drinking water is drawn from the 300 ft. well. A tank near the stove is filled with soft water and provides a gravity-fed shower in the basement as well as a flush toilet.

Barr's basement is lined with shelves loaded with home-canned produce, everything raised in their flourishing gardens - a variety of vegetables, every kind of pickles, applesauce and fruits, jams and jellies, fruit juices, even maple syrup. Eva regretted this was not a maple sap year - a very unusual season for all growing things. With a new milk cow on the farm, Barr is also experimenting with cheese making.

As one walks through the living quarters, note the unique items under the eaves, on the walls, hanging from above, especially the great wagon wheel. The player piano is blessed with a number of rolls, and the hand-cranked Victrola plays delightful old records including "Blueberry Hill."

The house has four levels - basement, main floor, the loft, and the kids' loft. Climb the sturdy stairs with the handsome carved wooden rail, highly polished by daily hand-rubbing. The fascinating cast iron sides were created by Juzwiak using Barr's decorative design. Barr pointed out the fancy round floor grate that had come from Grandpa Barr who collected such things. It shares more heat from below as well as a "listening post" for the boys when company is entertained in the living room.

Under the antique stained glass window is an enormous wooden trunk dated 1849 with a rounded top and sturdy iron bands and locks, both from Grandpa Barr. This level features bedrooms for the family - the adult area set off by barn board siding, curtained closets, and the boys' desks and home school headquarters. For sleeping the boys climb to the fourth level, a neat loft of their own. Over the adults' bed are three windows that bring in the morning sun, and above is a ladder used for entrance to the "attic" where more storage is set. Two sand-blasted windows declare 1995 and 1997, years the home was begun and completed. In one area is Juzwiak's loom where he spends winter hours making rugs. For lighting there is a marvelous collection of beautiful oil lamps of various designs, but Barr said it was surprising how few are needed.

DreamAcres is located on the former Frank Smith farm of 60 acres, jointly owned by four parties. There is another dwelling, the barns, and then several outbuildings used for various activities that are scheduled, especially in the summertime. One may see Juzwiak shepherding the young oxen team, or horses, accompanied by super-friendly dogs. The entire farm lies in a valley that is surrounded by hillsides of breath-taking beauty. This fall the deciduous trees are turning to their seasonal colors - what a treat! We were reminded that Deer Creek flows through the land. The front porch with its lavish greenery of "Kiss Me Over the Garden Gate" and maroon and gold amaranth, sports a picnic table and Adirondack chairs but the extensive gardens remind us the family probably has little time for leisure - we're thinking of those preserved foodstuffs on the basement shelves.