I am honored to have been asked in 1980 by Harlan
Hubbard to help with the work of the Hubbards home and land here at
Payne Hollow. I did that work with them for seven and a half years.
Before Harlans death in 1988 (Anna died in 1986 at the age of 83),
he asked me if I could continue the work of Payne Hollow and be happy living
there. I understood the work and philosophy of Anna and Harlan and, at Harlans
request, agreed to take Payne Hollow forward and make it my home.
Payne Hollow alive
Many people expect Payne Hollow to be a Hubbard shrine,
museum or tour house, basically kept just the way it was when the Hubbards
Harlan called their life and home an experiment in living that worked.
The experiment in living did not stop with the passing of Anna and Harlan.
It is still alive and developing.
Payne Hollow is still a private home, separate from the influences of
the fast-paced techno-driven world which surrounds its boundaries. I,
like Anna and Harlan, have chosen to live a quieter, physically demanding,
artful life at Payne Hollow, where the work is done mainly in solitude
using simple hand tools.
As interest in Anna and Harlan and Payne Hollow grows, there
is danger to Payne Hollow from having too many visitors. Its been
called tourist pollution. It is a bit of a dilemma. Parking is very limited
to approximately four cars, and the mile trail is in the rugged category.
The Hubbards preferred their privacy through the week, setting Sunday
afternoon aside for visitations, and I have found that Sunday visits work
best to preserve the pace of life here. Harlan said he built his home
to have a lot of solitude and little society, but as time passed, there
was less solitude and more society.
I turned the Hubbards guest book over to the archives at University
of Louisville and have continued my own.
Over the past nine years, I have received guests from 27 states and 14
foreign countries. One visitor came by sea plane.
I have hosted two classes from Northern Kentucky University on "Utopias
in Our Life and Imagination," and yearly visits from Hanover Colleges
"Utopias and Intentional Communities" class, taught by Dr. Robert
Rosenthal. The Trimble County Junior-Senior High Art classes have visited.
Also the Cincinnati Historical Society, the Sailboat Cruising Club of
Louisville, the Westlake Church of Christ and the Kent Church of Christ.
I loaned Harlans artwork to the J.P. Speed Art Museum in Louisville,
Ky., for the first major retrospective show after Harlans death.
Also to the Gallery at Hanover College, the "Always a River Show,"
which was on a touring barge, the Painting Heaven Show at the Capital
Arts Center in Bowling Green, Ky., the Progressions Show in Washington,
D.C., and a show called "The River," which is currently touring
the state of Kentucky for two years.
Ive given lectures and slide shows at the opening of the Painting
Heaven Show in Bowling Green and also at the BonAir branch of Louisville
Free Public Library and Duerson-Oldham County Public Library and the Hubbard
Symposiums at Hanover College.
of the 1997 flood
Ive been asked, What happened at Payne Hollow
during the spring floods?"
The flood waters didnt reach the buildings. It did cover two-thirds
of the upper garden, a few feet lower than the 1964 flood.
The lower garden valley floor was also covered, the water blocking the
trail in or out in the east valley. I was able to walk upstream of the
flood and creek, locate a log, make my way up a steep bank and then around
to the path to the studio and breezeway entrance, which leads on to the
I had been in Louisville the night the storm hit, and the river rose so
fast I wasnt able to return in time to move the salvaged lumber
(retrieved from the riverbank from earlier rises) brought back by johnboat
and stacked on the lower gardens shelf, beside the canoe, which is untied.
The water floated and filled the johnboat and moved the riverbank ramp
to where they were caught by the stand of bamboo. I found the canoe upside
down and floating beside the johnboat, as were the boards, lifejackets,
canoe and paddles and upper garden floor ramp. I was able to empty the
water out of the johnboat and use it to snag and retrieve the other floating
items. Amazingly, little was lost.
When the water leaves its banks and fills the long narrow valley bottom
in front of the cabin, its like being on the point of a large wraparound
lake. When the water subsided, it had left a deposit of two to three inches
of fresh topsoil, very sandy in some places, muddy in others. A very large
hackberry at the base of the hill near the cabin uprooted and lay on its
side. The run-off creek had changed course.
The most serious situation is the heavy erosion on the riverbank now consuming
the upper garden. I have observed a loss of one foot to four feet of bank
erosion following each high water rise. Unless some attempt is made to
construct a retainer wall, the narrow upper garden shelf will be gone
in 10 to 15 years.
The main valley floor, location of the lower garden and upper garden banks
floods every year usually one to three times, sometimes in late spring.
The gardening method established here by the Hubbards is to start the
early garden on the upper level shelf, which rarely floods, and then to
transplant and re-seed in the lower valley garden after the flood water
recedes and the soil dries out.
Since self-produced food is one of the goals and chores here, the upper
garden allows for an earlier growing season. I am open to suggestions
as to the best construction methods and ways to finance a retainer wall
for a little above the goat shed to near the creek mouth.
Hollow: A home
Ive lived here for seventeen years now and It didnt
start feeling like my home until two years ago. Now it is fully my home.
The work is still done by hand with hand tools.
I consider even this work as the production of art, the art of the place,
which is full-time work with no income, so I take occasional short-term
I am finding more time to produce art objects that can leave the place
and hopefully provide the income needed.
A print of one of my pieces should be available soon, which should help
set up a support system, which will allow me to do more of the work of
to be learned
Anna and Harlan Hubbards lives and the art, literature
and music from and about their lives have encouraged and inspired many
people. No one can repeat their life and times, but we can learn from
them about the inner rewards of a life of order and discipline: An easy
grace and serenity of life.
The Hubbards were two people living on a very meager cash income but possessing
a rare combination of vigorous intellectual creativity and skilled practical
know-how: people who could think with their hands as well as their minds
and who therefore lived by a philosophy rooted in the solid earth, not
just flying in the wind.
The Hubbards did not say: Here is what should be done, but
rather Here is what we have accomplished.
Some of the simple methods and wise advice from the Hubbards is learning
how to make do. What you need is at hand, is another way of
saying it. Be friendly to your neighbors. Dont think you know it
all, or dont be afraid to admit your ignorance. Theres not
just one way that works. Find the simplest and most efficient way that
works for yourself and your situation.
Another point to remember is to feed your body and your mind what is healthy
Another very important ingredient is ones attitude toward physical
labor. Somewhere along the line, humans decided work was dull
and painful. I agree with Harlan that when carried on outside in nature,
work is an adventure and a never-failing source of health, pleasure and
satisfaction. Harlan said that working for someone else, at someone elses
bidding, is what can be distasteful. Far from being tedious, doing your
own work frees a man.
If you are touched by the lives of Anna and Harlan Hubbard, the best tribute
you can give them is to gradually include elements of what touched you
into your own life and your own circumstances. I think we all would like
to thank people who pursue a life of time well spent.
Copyright 2005 - 2012, Kentuckiana Publishing, Inc.