Denise Baker

October 2, 2005

Andy Mahler and Linda Lee don't just live in and protect the forest. They are the forest.

They live at the end of a dead-end road in the heart of the Hoosier National Forest on 269 acres in Orange County near Paoli. They're surrounded on three sides by the HNF, and it's one mile to their nearest neighbor in any direction.

Andy and Linda sleep outdoors every single night of the year. That's right -- every single night of the year. On an upstairs porch with no screening, mind you. As Andy relates, "When the wind is blowing rain, we wake up wet. When it snows, we wake up with snow in our hair." Bats and flying squirrels zoom by their heads as they sleep.

He and Linda have a "direct personal experience of this intersection of sunlight, weather, climate and soil," Andy says. Linda explains, "We slept with a baby groundhog between our pillows. The forest comes to us." So when Andy says, "We are part of this land," he means it. Literally.

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