Lincoln, Mass. — Smack dab in the center of this affluent, toney town, only a half hour's drive from Boston, is an aborted experiment in homesteading that churns the imagination.
The word ''homesteading'' creates an image of a rudimentary, back-to-nature, no-frills discipline - a way of life that appeals to those to whom self-sufficiency is its own reward.
At the other end of the spectrum are the conspicuous consumers; those to whom the luxuries are necessities.
Wind Mist Farm, an unfinished dwelling, falls right in the middle of the two groups.
But don't be misled by the rural appellation. Wind Mist Farm is no ordinary farmhouse. It is, in fact, a contemporary castle straight out of Camelot - with glass walls, cathedral ceilings, and 21st-century-fantasy-and-half, cone-top turrets. Several interior features are studies in contrast:
Beneath the rear entrance is an outmoded, dirt-floored root cellar. But one of the adjacent turrets awaits the installation of a circular elevator.
The floor-to-ceiling glass wall of the living room was designed to serve as a passive-solar-energy collection system, a triumph of modern engineering. Yet throughout the house are numerous outlets for old-fashioned wood-burning stoves.
A 17th-century-style fireplace with cooking facilities occupies a place of honor in the living room.
The massive front doors were salvaged from the ruins of an ancient church.
On the fourth level of one of the turrets, delicately colored rays of light, filtered through Gothic stained-glass windows from the same ancient church, play on the floor, where pipes await the installation of a modern-day circular Jacuzzi.
The house is wired for electricity, but much of the illumination will be provided by 38 antique carriage lamps, if and when a buyer is found to complete and move into Wind Mist Farm.
That's a pretty big ''if.'' Because of the price of the property (now listed at a negotiable $550,000 in its unfinished state) and the arduous lifestyle for which it was designed, the ideal buyers would have to be affluent homesteaders indeed, seemingly a contradiction in terms.
While people who might fill this bill are rare, they are not extinct.
A couple who fit the mold are Leik Myrabo, a laser scientist, and his wife Christie, an environmental biologist, the designers and present owners of the property. Wind Mist Farm was their dream, a dream that unfortunately had to be shelved when job changes required a move to Washington, D.C.
If found, the new owners of Wind Mist Farm will have it comparatively easy. They can simply follow the guidelines established by the Myrabos, if they wish. The hard part, already accomplished, was the design of the house, a design that reflects the backgrounds of Leik and Christie.
When they were married, they were living in California, but a short time later, they moved to Massachusetts, where they both fell in love with traditional New England farm structures. It is, therefore, not too surprising that the Wind Mist Farm home looks like a California contemporary from some angles and a group of silos from others.
But aesthetic considerations were secondary, they explain.
The prime concern was a concept that would allow maximum use of the forces of nature. Influenced by his training as a scientist and his conviction that petroleum will be prohibitively expensive by the year 2000, Leik Myrabo was determined to incorporate passive-energy systems into the design of his home.
As an environmental biologist, Christie agreed, without reservations. They both wanted to combine in their farmhouse the best of the newly emerging alternative-energy technologies with the old, time-tested features of early-American homesteads.
Since neither of them is a specialist in architectural or solar-heating design, the Myrabos enlisted the help of several talented students and teachers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard graduate schools to evolve a concept that would maximize the use of passive solar heat.
Central to the design is a large living room with glass wall - 350 square feet of double-glazed windows which face south. The sunlight falls on 1,100 square feet of 4-inch-thick, plaster-covered masonry walls and brick floors, all of which provide necessary thermal storage.
While a maximum amount of sun is admitted throughout the winter, a roof overhang provides necessary shade during the summer months when the sun is higher in the sky.
Further, the house can be ''air conditioned'' in summer by opening a large vent at the peak of the structure, inducing a natural convection cooling of all interior spaces.
A one-fiftieth scale model of the home was constructed at MIT and placed on an articulated light table in order to study the solar illumination of the south-facing glazing and the eave overhang. These studies indicated that the house would be cool in summer; and that during the winter, more than half its heating needs would be provided by the sun.
The Myrabos planned to furnish the other half of the required heat by the use of fireplaces and wood-burning stoves throughout the house. Lest potential buyers be discouraged by the thought of continually lugging logs to feed the fireplaces and all the wood-burning stoves, a gas-fired, forced-air furnace is in place as a back-up heating system.
The Myrabos themselves had hoped to use the furnace only rarely, if at all, because of their commitment to alternative energy sources.
Further evidence of this commitment was their plan to install a 1.5-kilowatt windmill on the roof, which was strengthened to support the load.
The Myrabos incorporated renewable resources into the construction of their house. The turreted portions are built not from stone like the castles of old but from pine. Huge stones from the property were used, however, to build the fireplaces as well as the massive retaining walls around various portions of the exterior.
Wind Mist Farm occupies only two acres, but it adjoins 25 acres of conservation woodlands and fields where black-angus cattle graze. And though the farm is relatively small, the Myrabos had big plans for it.
Besides poultry, a small area was to be planted to provide grazing for the few goats and sheep which the Myrabos had planned to acquire. The animals would furnish milk for making cheese as well as wool, which the Myrabos would spin to help fill some of their clothing needs.
The Myrabos also planned to grow their own fruits and vegetables, eating what they needed in season, and preserving the rest in the root cellar for consumption during the winter months.
Among planned acquisitions was a draft horse to help plow the gardens, carry stones, and serve as an alternate energy-transportation resource.
In addition, a temporary pond on the property was to be expanded to create a wildlife/farm pond. Aquatic plants would be added to provide food and shelter for waterfowl, and the deeper portion of the pond was to be stocked with fish.
The Myrabos had planned to cook in the Dutch oven built into the living-room fireplace and to dry their home-grown herbs on the mantle for use as spices and to make natural dyes.
It would seem that with so much work to be done, there would be little time left to simply enjoy the home, an edifice as fascinating on the inside as on the outside.
Scattered throughout the many levels of the circular turrets are bedrooms with sleeping lofts, a children's play area (accessible only via a 2-foot-high arched hole in the wall), cooking areas, eating areas, dressing rooms, reading nooks, and a sewing-spinning alcove. There is even a small suite whimsically labeled ''Nanny's Quarters'' by Robert Pedersen, the Waltham, Mass., real estate agent who has the exclusive responsibility for trying to find buyers for the Myrabos' dreamhouse.
There is still work to be done. While rough plumbing and wiring already have been installed, none of the walls has been plastered, the floors are unfinished, and there are no kitchen and bathroom fixtures.
Wind Mist Farm is a dream waiting to come true.