Friday, June 24, 2005

building our own house

How to Overthrow the System: brew your own beer, kick in your Tee Vee, kill your own beef, build your own cabin, and piss off the front porch whenever you bloody well feel like it. --Edward Abbey

I've done the brewing thing before, and I need to get back into it. I could almost do without the TV, but the kids would object and I would miss my Northern Exposure and Beverly Hillbillies DVD's once in a while. Beef, well not yet, but we've got 50+ chickens to put in the freezer by the end of summer. We built the cabin, now we're going for the big time: our own house.

How many people can say they've designed and built their own house these days? I mean actually built, with their own sweat and labor, not "we told the architect what we wanted and paid a contractor to build it", in the sense that "designing" and "building" are so often used. To quote from Beverly Hillbillies:

Mr Drysdale: John Barrymore built this place.

Jed Clampett: And he's a right fair stonemason to boot!

Around here, even a new house built on-site is a rare thing; manufactured homes are the norm. And although they try to look different, they all tend to look pathetically the same.

When we took the plunge and moved here, with three kids, we had three options: haul in a manufactured home, add on significantly to the existing cabin, or build a completely new house ourselves. Actually, #1 wasn't really an option, mostly for the reason that most designs didn't allow for doing what we wanted, like heating with wood or even orienting house and window for maximum passive solar heat gain. Plus, they all tend to look pathetically the same.

Adding on to an existing place that wasn't really designed to be added on to presents its own challenges, and would likely end up costing as much or more than building new. I didn't want to significantly alter the character of our cabin either. Some day I envision it to be a nice little guest house/writing/music studio. We did add on a room just to spare our sanity this last winter.

So we went with the third option, and with any luck we'll be moving in this fall. No, I should say we WILL be moving in this fall. It's our dream, it's what I live for, and we will find a way to do it. I'm guessing it will be a work in progress for quite some time, but as long as we've got a (steel) roof over our heads, insulation in the walls, windows to let in light, a fire in the woodstove, and a pantry full of canned (and bottled) goods, I will be thankful. Thankful for the beginning of living a life that shows what we believe in.

And as for the front porch, although three year old Joe is getting quite skilled at that art, I prefer to do my business a little bit further away from the house.


Dan Trabue said...

Great quotes (both Abbey and Clampett) and an inspiring story. Are you both working full time? How'd you manage to find the time to actually build the place?

More power to you. It's an option we're considering but have not reached yet.

May the Tribe of Deb grow in to a mighty nation.

Deb said...

Yes and no. I mean, we're both working full time, his job just happens to be building the house, tending chickens and horses and kids, and everything else that needs to be done to keep the home fires burning (sometimes literally!) The simple life is everything but simple. I think I have it easy, going to my job 5 days a week. I don't think we'd have the time to be doing this if he was working full time. We built the cabin mostly on weekends and days off, and it took a long time. I'll have to post that story some day!

lené said...

Congratulations on the your new home. Would love to read the story some day.

the dharma bum said...

Beautiful and nothing short of inspiring.

Gave me lots to think and dream about.

Erich said...

I’m glad your dreams are coming true.

That would be awesome to have a guest cabin/art studio. I hope to do the same thing some day for tying flies and writing. It seems so distant for us so it’s inspiring to know that with determination the modern family can still achieve its goals.

Your husband reminds me of Henry Miller, except without the misogynistic tendencies.

Walter Jeffries said...

More power to you! We're doing the same. We've designed and are building our new house entirely ourselves. It is a whole family project and very rewarding. Keep on keeping!