Couple Builds Off Grid Homes With Recycled Materials; Teaches Sustainable Living

ADAMS CENTER — James S. and Krista E. Juczak have spent decades creating a self-sufficient livelihood by building their home, and others, using what people leave behind.

Whether the task involves building walls or roofs, installing plumbing and appliances or crafting furniture and decor, the couple believe they should do so with their own hands from local and recycled materials. The homesteaders also value the ability to grow their own food and generate their own energy from renewable sources like solar and wind.

Using a mantra they fostered along with passion, hard work and determination, they have transformed an approximately 50-acre gravel quarry at 14910 Fuller Road into a landscape including their own two-story home, about five other homes, a produce garden, an orchard and a workshop. All facilities have become part of their sustainable community named Woodhenge.

The two retired teachers from the South Jefferson Central School District don’t withhold their tactics as trade secrets, but rather share their knowledge with a multitude of students through lectures, workshops and helping people who wish to join their community.

“I always liked to teach people how to do stuff,” Mr. Juczak said. “I want to be known as the guy who can teach simple technology to a society that has forgotten it.”

Mr. and Mrs. Juczak acquired their land in the late 1990s and spent five years building their home alongside other projects before moving in 2003.

Mr. Juczak said they manufactured their home using wood from fallen trees, salvaged roofing and windows, tile from other peoples’ projects, sinks from Thruway rest stops and high beams from a bridge to help make the staircase.

They used mortar partially made with waste paper pulp from Knowlton Technologies for the walls, and trusses from an old, demolished Watertown bowling alley to help build the roof.

“You look as much as possible for what’s available locally, recycled and preferably disused material,” Mrs. Juczak said. “What can we build with somebody else’s junk?”

The other houses on the property were also made with materials that other people planned to throw away; one house began as a 270-sqaure-foot fuel tank. The couple also renovated the former Cozy Rest Motel, which was transported from its original location, into a multi-bedroom dwelling with a hearth made of recycled stone and a compost toilet.

The couple installed the plumbing throughout most of the homes and power them using solar panels, a wind turbine, batteries and generators when needed.

“You don’t have to hire somebody ... to do the work on your home, your car, or your land,” Mr. Juczak said.

While building and renovating the homes, Mr. and Mrs. Juczak would recruit students, interns and anyone else willing to learn how to be self-sustaining and use the labor as a mechanism for instruction.

Mr. Juczak, who previously taught woodshop and construction, said he and his wife had middle school and high school students help build their house to learn carpentry. College interns would also stay with the family in the intern cabin and work for them, Mr. Juczak said. Each intern would also select improvements to make to the cabin.

“There’s a lot of labor involved, but what are you doing with your time?” Mrs. Juczak said. “What can you do as opposed to just spending time?”

Prospective homesteaders would rent one of the houses on the couple’s property for several months or an entire year, but rather than pay cash, they would help the couple out with projects and make improvements to their respective dwellings.

Brandon M. Kellar and Gina M. Ebbrecht have lived together — in the home built off of an old fuel tank — for about two years, on and off, although Mr. Kellar has lived at the property, on and off, for four years.

During that time, the couple, with the help of Ms. Ebbrecht’s father, David J., have tiled the bathroom, replaced the roof, built overhangs and created a keyhole garden. They plan to finish the siding on their house, build a duck house and landscape.

Ms. Ebbrecht said she desired for years to learn how to live off the land, an interest she shares with Mr. Kellar.

“This place is definitely, like, the best fit,” she said. “We definitely plan on staying here long-term.”

Mr. Juczak has also hosted a series of workshops with Local Living Venture, Canton, which teaches people how to build tiny homes and the vital techniques used in many construction projects.

Last year’s series focused on building the frame the for tiny home; this year’s series will teach carpentry, plumbing, heating, design principles and basic tools, Mr. Juczak said.

Workshops will be held throughout the spring and summer at Mr. and Mrs. Juczak’s property, with upcoming workshops April 28 and May 5.

Anyone interested in learning from Mr. and Mrs. Juczak can contact them at People interested in participating in the tiny house workshops can contact Local Living Venture at or 315-347-4223.

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