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Several months back, I asked you, dear readers, what you wanted to know more about, and one of the responses I got was, “What are you going to do now that the house is finished?”
My goodness if that isn’t a loaded question.
If you’re new to our adventure, my husband Mark and I just took 2 1/2 years to build our own off-grid cordwood house. This particular dream of ours was about 10 years in the making. Roughly three years of planning, physical labor, blood, sweat, and many tears finally led us to build a house we love. Although the house was partially unfinished, we finally moved into it in December 2017.
We’re coming up on one full year in our house and a LOT has changed in that time. I’ve had a lot of time to think about this particular question lately. What are we doing now that the house is “done”? And why is that such a loaded question?
First off, I laugh inside whenever anyone asks, “Ohhhh wow, how do you feel now that your house is done?”
Our house is anything BUT done! Eleven months later and there are many tasks we just haven’t completed.
The upstairs is still just bare subfloor. Heck, the upstairs is still only marginally unpacked! We haven’t done basically ANY of the trim around doors/windows/etc. There are three windows left that we want to replace with better ones (sometimes you should buy new and not get used ones in bulk on Craigslist…just sayin’). We haven’t built a step in front of our “real” front door.
In fact, I think we’re just “side door people” now.
Making a house a home
To our credit, there are a lot of tasks we HAVE completed. I think that’s one of the nice things about moving into an unfinished house. You can take the time to see how you’re really going to use a space before you dress it up.
When we first moved into our house, the kitchen was barely finished. We had no storage and minimal prep space. We were keeping our food in coolers and looking for ways to avoid refrigeration without having a pantry already stockpiled. After several months of trial and error, we managed to take it from this very sad, unfinished mess to something slightly more dignified.
We’ve crossed other small tasks off the list as well. We’ve added more spray foam insulation to some of the places that got missed by the contractor. We installed a propane refrigerator and got a better washing machine. Even adding little things like towel bars in the bathrooms and shelving up in the loft has done a lot to improve our day-to-day lives.
But what do you do once you reach “the goal”?
This question is simultaneously super easy and super difficult to answer. I mean yes, we achieved our goal of building a house with our own hands from scratch. Sometimes we look around and can’t believe we actually DID that.
But I also know that building a house was only the beginning of our adventure.
In the 3-4 years that it took us to go from looking for land to living in a house we built, we learned a lot about how we really want to live our lives. We started to really see the value of being less wasteful. Of growing more of our own food. Of creating a space that works with the Earth rather than against it in order to live abundantly.
I think we always had some of those tendencies. Even when we were broke college kids who still ate frozen pizzas and packaged ramen, we had a compost bin and a small garden. Once we got some “real jobs” we started doing things like making our own cleaners and mowing our grass with a reel mower to save money. It was only then that we realized that doing these things is as good for the environment as it is for our bank account. The same could be said of our adventures in cloth diapering once our little boy came along.
The way I see it, the house was really just one very big checkpoint on the larger path towards self-sufficiency.
The NEW Goals
1. Get the house more “finished”.
I haven’t done a homestead update post since the month we moved in. We’ve completed lots of little projects in that time, but we hadn’t done anything huge. Why??
WE WERE TIRED!!
Building a house wears you out. You reach your physical and mental limits in short order, and learn a new appreciation for the word “perseverance”. No matter how many times you just want to lay down, you have to keep going because that house isn’t going to build itself.
Once we got it finished enough to move in, we basically took a year to relax from doing any huge projects. Trim can wait. Flooring can wait. Our sanity is worth it.
Now that we’ve recovered a bit, we’re going to work on finishing up those larger projects.
2. Clean out and clean up.
I wrote when we first started this project that we got rid of half our stuff in order to prepare for the journey. And that is 100% true.
The problem is our concept of “enough” has downsized even more than when I wrote the original article. Our living space has changed. And now that we see all of our things from our old house in a new space, we realize that we still have TOO MUCH STUFF! So we’re cleaning out.
I figure if we didn’t miss it in the three years it’s been packed away, we don’t need it. Here’s a recent photo for accountability. Remember, for every pretty Instagram photo there are at least three instances of our house being a hot mess.
Ugh. It’s getting there.
3. Develop our land into a productive homestead.
This year we opted to do a container garden since we still had dump trucks and machinery rolling around on occasion, not to mention our soil is in poor shape from the build. Much of the land immediately around the house has no top soil because it was scraped to build the septic field.
Before I started this blog and got connected to other homestead bloggers, I had never really heard of permaculture. I didn’t know about Back to Eden gardening. I’d never even heard the words “swale” or “hugelkultur” before, and now I’m learning about a whole suite of methods to make our land more productive!
Mark also REALLY wants to get bees. He’s always wanted bees! We took a bee class together a few years before our son was even born, but living in a crowded subdivision wasn’t really conducive to beekeeping at the time. Now we have space and the resources, so that may be on the docket pretty soon. We’d also love to have chickens at some point (and so would all of our hawks and coyotes, I’m sure).
4. Continue working towards financial independence.
One of the big reasons a lot of people want to homestead is for the ability to rely on oneself for income rather than work a jobby job and run the rat race like everyone else. While I feel that each of us pursued degrees and careers that we find meaningful, we also know what it feels like to be held hostage by bills and a need to make money at the expense of your values and your sanity.
Running the rat race does that to you, and we have no desire to live that way.
So we’re taking the time to assess our finances, find our goals, and chart pathways to reach them. Creating this blog and networking with like-minded individuals has been a game-changer for me. It’s given me another way to create an income while also being able to stay home with my son and dive into the wide world of homeschooling.
Five years ago, I had no idea these possibilities even existed and now I’m living them each and every day. That isn’t to say it’s easy. It’s still a work in progress, but being able to work from home and live out some core values I always possessed is one of the biggest blessings of this whole project.
5. Continue to teach others about creating an abundant life via our homestead project.
You, like so many others, want to live a simpler life for so many different reasons. It’s been cool to connect with people from all across the world who are on a similar journey to us. Whether you write to me to ask about cordwood construction, or homestead finances, or anything else, one thing is crystal clear to me:
There is a growing movement of people who are tired of living the life we’ve been sold. They want to learn how to live a life of riches that revolves not around material wealth, but around self-sufficiency and good stewardship of our resources.
Are you on your own journey towards self-sufficiency? Are you trying to live a more naturally-based life in some way? Do you consider yourself a homesteader? Tell me about it in the comments below!
If you’re just joining us for the first time, take a moment to get caught up on our homestead project by getting the low-down here. Also take a moment to join our thriving group of like-minded friends on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.