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Neither Stewart nor myself had ever built anything of significance before we moved to the land. I’d watched my Dad, brothers, and Step Dad build homes and garages and additions ever since I was a little girl. In fact, the very first house I lived in until I was seven years old was built by my Father.

But we were trained in computers and chemistry labs and as such had no practical life experience or training in homesteading or building a house. I was blessed to grow up watching my parents and brothers just do the things that needed to be done and I figured we’d just do the same, even if it was a steep learning curve. When we stopped to visit family on our trek across the country to our new home they asked Does Stewart know how to build a house? to which I responded I’m sure he’ll figure it out.

IMG_3896 IMG_3911 IMG_3933 IMG_4011And he did. He built the cabin addition to the camper which he affectionately called the wooden tent. Both of our baby girls were born in that wooden tent and it saw us through for nearly three years. Over and over again I heard him say that if he had to do it over again, he would do it differently. He learned a lot from throwing something together with little resources and time as winter approached and his third child was on the way. The gems were in the process.

IMG_3363 IMG_3379 IMG_3495 IMG_1598 IMG_1625Like almost every other aspect of homesteading, our plans changed with time and resources and health. What was just a roof line to catch water became a 400 square foot cabin that we moved into last year. The kitchen addition originally planned for winter was completed this spring and I promptly spread my kitchen wares and messes over its 40 feet of counter space. I was a little misty-eyed those first few days in the new kitchen when I wasn’t struggling for just a foot of counter space three meals a day.

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This morning I watched the children throw a tennis ball around from the new screen door. I thought of the days we poured the foundation for the sleeping quarters – the boys bringing water, my father-in-law mixing much of the concrete when Stewart was exhausted with adrenal fatigue. One night it was getting late and we needed to finish so I put down the dish towel and helped mix the concrete while Stewart poured it. Ruthie was born just a couple months later when all that there was of this new cabin were a floor and a roof.

My Step Dad and Stewart put the insulation in the ceiling not long before we moved in early last summer. Annabelle helped Stewart with the J-bolts on the new kitchen while I looked on with Ruthie in my arms. My Dad stood alongside Stewart and the boys as they put together the walls of the kitchen and then raised them up along with our neighbor. I remember my brothers and I swinging hammers with my Dad at that age and now he was working the screw gun with my own sons.

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During the girls’ naps I stood on a ladder and held windows while Stewart installed them. When the work was louder, he nearly always stopped to let his girls sleep in their beds just 20 feet beyond the cabin door.

Stewart and I tried to get most of our deadlines out of the way ahead of time this spring when my Mom and Step Dad came. I’d seen him build the cabinets in my childhood home and Stewart knew he could learn a lot from him. So Stewart picked his brain and let him take the lead and within a couple of days they had the skeleton of the 13 cabinets in place. After they left he had learned so much that he was able to finish them, add two drawers, and then craft two more hanging cabinets that now hold dishes and foods and herbs and supplements.


Most of the materials we used were the least expensive option. The painting was a little less than ideal with so many little hands involved. We threw up bedroom walls and an office the day before we had family staying on the land with us for several days. Most of it was built incrementally – as we had the money, the ability, and the knowledge to at least take a crack at it.


Besides the more dangerous aspects of the construction, I can’t think of a single thing that our families or the children – even Annie – weren’t a part of. While not a single thing about this house is what we had originally envisioned four years ago, the process of building – paying as we go, working together – is exactly what we’d hoped for.

And that’s been the very best part.


Gravity-fed water means one of two things: either our house goes down or the water tank goes up. In our case, the water tank had to come up. IMG_7735

On flat ground, everyone got into the action – even little Ruthie who somehow became the one-shoe wonder at some point. (Stewart is on the other side of the tank, ensuring that nothing gets out of hand.)



When the uphill climb took place, Stewart and the boys were able to push it up side-by-side. IMG_7762

I often wonder how much of this they’ll remember, these days of working alongside their Mama and Papa, life and work and family inextricably intertwined. I would have never dreamed a six-year-old could do much of what they often find their way to but then again, why not?


Flipping the 1500 gallon tank proved to be the trickiest part so the boys stood back on another hill to watch while the tank was flipped, slid, and then pushed back up into place.


Once settled into place the inspectors came in to make sure all was in order.


We then filled the tank part-way with water from a lower tank using a solar-powered pump. Rain not long after everything was hooked up topped things off and we had a supply of water running into the new kitchen sink, laundry sinks, and bathtub.

I can’t believe I just said bathtub, but there it is: we have a bathtub. Again, I am dizzied by all that is new and making our days just a bit smoother and more doable. Water running into the house is bringing everything together, it seems. Washing laundry by hand with a toddler at my feet is happening more and trips to the laundromat are happening less. Kitchen tasks are streamlined so that more fermentation and preservation are now an option alongside those three meals from scratch every day.

Bathing and washing hands and helping little ones when they are sick and brushing teeth and soaking laundry and filling the water filters and all of those tasks requiring water from somewhere that we so often take for granted… well, I can’t help but notice that things seem a bit more sustainable around here, in every sense of the word.