Click Here for Pt. 1 of the Solar Powered Tree House
During our woodsy retreat, we soon discovered the fascinating history behind our host. The humble owner of this pristine property was none other than Bill Lishman, the award-winning sculptor, filmmaker, inventor and naturalist. He pioneered ultra-light aviation in Canada and the Oscar nominated movie “Fly Away Home” was inspired by his autobiography, “Father Goose.” Jeff Daniels played him in the movie, while Anna Paquin played his daughter.
Most of the movie was actually filmed in the fields surrounding our tree house, where Bill acted as his own stunt double for the flying scenes. We got to check out his flight hangers and the original “Goose Leader” plane before it was shipped off to a museum the following day.
Hollywood dalliances aside, he is most well known locally as an artist. We learned that the life-sized blue camel at the entrance was merely one of his many welded creations. We got a tour of his workshop and noticed that the property was scattered with relics from an 85 ft. high sculpture that he created for the Vancouver EXPO ’86. Apparently after the EXPO, they made him dismantle it and take it back as they didn't have enough room for it anymore.
Despite all of his previous press, Bill prefers to fly under the radar these days. He has lived in a self-designed and constructed cave dwelling on the property with his wife, Paula Lishman since 1991. Paula is an artist in her own right, creating luxurious coats through the intricate art of fur knitting (yep, you read that correctly).
On the last day we were lucky enough to be granted a private tour of their cave home. We walked on-top of it for panoramic views of Lake Scugog before entering (being underground allows for easy access to the roof). Framed pictures of Bill and Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, as well as autographed movie stills from “Fly Away Home” were small mementos compared to the masterful architecture and artwork that filled the walls.
The cave home is a series of interconnected igloo-like domes, all of which Bill sketched, designed and constructed himself. He liked the idea that it offered protection from storms, never has to be painted, and that the earth acts as natural insulation. This reduces heating and cooling energy requirements significantly. You only need to wear socks throughout the home though because the tiled floors are heated with a natural hot water system. Even though it's underground, some of the pods have skylights for sunlight to stream through and plants seem to thrive.
Everything in the dome home is custom built from the cupboards to the recessed closets to the rounded door frames. There are no hard lines or edges, everything is rounded and smooth. I liked the line Bill used in an old interview with The Toronto Star: "I felt claustrophobic living in a box before. We're not rectangular beings."
A giant swing hangs in the centre of the living room in front of a gorgeous stain-glassed door, but the coolest feature for me by far, was the fridge. With the press of a button, a multi-tiered circular refrigerator arose from the ground, spun around like a Lazy Susan and dropped back down out of sight.
Bill is currently working on building a smaller dome home, complete with antique spiral staircase, on an untouched part of the property for future glamping getaways. I already can’t wait to return for another storybook-worthy adventure.