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Innermost House


Q. How long did Diana live at Innermost House?

A. Diana and her husband lived at Innermost House for seven years, interrupted in the middle for a period of nine months while they lived away from home, mostly in a monastery in Northern California.

Q. Did she actually live at Innermost House full time, or was it a part-time retreat residence?

A. During the whole length of their seven years in the woods, Innermost House was the Lorences' full-time and only residence.

Q. How small was Innermost House?

A. Innermost House was about twelve-feet-square: twelve feet by twelve feet, or about 144 square feet in all. It was also twelve feet high from floor to ridge beam. That space enclosed five distinct rooms: living room, kitchen, study, water closet, and loft sleeping room.

Q. Did they build the house themselves?

A. Yes, the Lorences built Innermost House themselves with the daily help of a skilled handyman over the course of nine months. You can read more about it here.

Q. What are the materials used to build the house?

A. The land where Innermost House is built is a native mixed forest of redwood, fir, pine and oak, which make for the local materials of which the house is constructed. The exterior of the house, including the doors and windows, is entirely of coast redwood, which is naturally fire, rot and insect resistant. The roof shakes are of western red cedar. The interior is primarily constructed of douglas fir, with pine used in smaller work. The walls are of gypsum plaster.

Q. Was there electricity available at Innermost House?

A. Innermost House had neither electricity nor propane nor power of any kind. All its heat for warmth, for cooking and for boiling water came from the fire. All their food was cooked in the hearth, and all their night-time light was from beeswax candles.

Q. I have seen in a Youtube video that they had running water. Doesn't that require electricity?

A. Innermost House had cold running water that was gravity-fed to the house from a cistern on the hill above, providing about 50 psi of pressure. No electricity at the house was required.

Q. How did they bathe?

A. Without hot water, ordinary showers are not a practical possibility, specially in the winter time. So the Lorences did what most people have done through most of history: they sponge bathed. Diana's bathing water was heated over the fire in the winter time, but Mr. Lorence bathed with cold water the year around.

Q. Did they grow their own food?

A. No, the Lorences lived in the woods, where growing food would have required clearing and fencing, and they did not wish to disturb the wild. They lived in the foothills of an agricultural valley, so all their food was delivered to them once a week from local farmers. Read more about it here.

Q. How did Diana keep her food from spoiling?

A. In exactly the same way all people did before refrigeration--by choosing those foods and forms of preservation that would last best, then eating the freshest, most fragile foods first.

Q. How did Diana cook her food?

A. All of the Lorence's cooking was done in a cast iron Dutch oven over the fire. Diana had only that one pot, and it served her for everything from bread to stew.

Q. Where did they get the wood for their fires? Isn't that polluting?

A. The Lorences gleaned all their wood from the land and from their neighbors. They used an axe for the felling of orchard trees marked for removal, then cut the wood themselves with a handsaw. They lived in a valley of fruit orchards, so their wood came entirely from removals and prunings, which would otherwise have been burned as waste in the field. The Lorences burned less fuel for heat in a year than a farmer burns as waste in one afternoon.

Q. The fireplace is so clean it looks like they hardly used it. And what are those curved shapes that look like gray sand underneath the logs?

A. The fireplace at Innermost House was used every day of the year for seven years. In the summer time they burned lump charcoal in the trivet off to the left to cook their one hot meal every day and to boil water for tea. In the winter they burned a fire every day and cooked over embers from the fire. The curved shapes are seven years of accumulated fruitwood ash, cleaned every morning and reshaped with a hand broom for the next fire. Mr. Lorence took care of the fire, and maintaining its cleanliness took him five or ten minutes each morning, no more. The curved shapes in the ash were important to feed as much air to the fire as possible because the Lorences burned very small "Indian fires," and it is much more difficult to keep a small fire burning cleanly than a large one. The cleanliness was important because of the very close quarters in the small house.

Q. The house looks so clean I can hardly believe they lived there full time. How did they keep the walls and cushions so white?

A. Innermost House was very simple to keep clean because it was so small. The house was dusted and swept daily, but the Lorences spent no more than a couple of hours a week cleaning. The white walls around the fireplace were white-washed annually, just as was common in past times. The white cushion covers are an outdoor material that can be sponged clean with soap and water.

Q. How did they do their laundry?

A. The Lorences took care of their clothes and linens in the same way many people did in past generations. The woolen clothes were regularly brushed. Their linen clothes were washed in the sink and hung out to dry. The bed linens were sent out to a "fluff and fold" service in the nearest town. They had two small wardrobes of clothes, one for summer and one for winter. The season in use was kept in the small loft closet. Out-of-season clothes were stored in one of the two side sheds.

Q. Why did Diana leave Innermost House? Did she get tired of it after seven years?

A. Diana finally left Innermost House so that the owners of the land on which it was built could enjoy it for themselves. She never tired of it in the least. The Lorences have moved many times and lived in more than a dozen tiny houses, from 18th century servant's quarters to a 19th century trapper's log cabin to colonial revival guesthouses. They have never owned property themselves and have not wished to. Their seven years at Innermost House is the longest they have ever stayed in any one place.

Q. Where does Diana live now?

A. The Lorences now live in a small cottage in an old village with a horse pasture and a little woodland in their back yard.

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