Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Our Homestead part 1 :From This to That

The Homestead as we found it, an original structure built in pioneer days that had been re-worked over the years to look like this little cottage…we called it 'our secret garden' believing we would bring beautiful things back to life on this piece of blessed land.
the Girls upstairs bedroom with window seat
Many people who know us have asked us to tell them about the past year's home building project. I wrote ages ago about finding our homestead lot (read about it Here) but then dropped out of the bloggosphere while we brought our ideas to reality.

I thought I'd send you the story in bits. I have more story in my head than I have pictures on our hard drive, so you'll have to get the 'home tour' bit by bit as I can tell  you how it all came to be.

After finding this lot and feeling so good about landing our family here, we set about the process of planning the house that would someday be ours. We enlisted my brother-in-law, Architect John Shirley, to draw our dream home. We had LOTS of ideas and notes. Living in so many cities and in so many homes had given us a good idea of the spaces we wanted to see in this home. I am a big fan of a 'not so big house'. One with enough space to gather people in but not so spacious that the quaintness of home is lost. We wanted a space where kids would feel safe and welcome. We wanted a space with a Rockin' awesome kitchen for John and I to cook in. We wanted a space where our kids would be drawn to each other instead of to their separate corners. And we wanted a space that would preserve the land it was set on, so we could learn how to enjoy that land and make it as productive and beautiful and special outside as we hoped the home would be on the inside.

We told him our wants, and he went to his drawing board.

It took several drafts for him to get it right, and it took some faith for us to see that this talented architect could deliver our dreams in a way we had not anticipated. Stairs stepping up so ceilings felt lower, a motor court type space so the garages were disguised, a smaller laundry area and a bigger gathering area were things Johnny the architect brought to us that we had not anticipated. We worked with him in the evenings. We asked our kids their thoughts, we spoke with others who had built homes from the ground up.

And we did all this in a hurry.

We are not 'take your time' people. One thing John and I have in common is the desire to get things over with. It isn't that we aren't patient. Its just that some things only deserve so much time. Time is precious. It matters how we spend it. We wanted our project done quickly so our time was spent as wisely as our money (and we traded our money to get our job done in a shorter amount of time).

So we worked hard and worked fast and came up with a plan that we were really happy with. It included shared bedrooms for our girls and an extra bedroom for our guests. It was less of an open floor plan and more of a plan with 'flow'. The direction you want to go in the house no matter what door you enter is right straight to the hearth of the home, quite literally, and we felt that this was appropriate. With the plan finalized we set about finding a builder who was willing to work with us under our time constraints. Most builders were quite surprised because most homes like ours are a year in the planning and another year in the building. We had no intention of giving that kind of time to this kind of project. While it is our dream house, it is still a house - a dead thing with no heart and soul but those who live within it. I felt it was better than I run hard for a year and then put the project behind us rather than pace the job and give a 'thing' my energy for two years or longer. Again I will stress we gave more money to have less time in the planning, but I'm so grateful that one year after the above photo was taken I am writing to you from our finished home. We LIVE in here now, and our energy goes to what we are doing with our children, how we are welcoming and loving our neighbors, and how we can share this space with others. We sprinted throughout the process, making decisions in a hurry, agonizing over some things but with most other things we kept a 'how much time is this decision worth, really?' attitude and put our minds at peace with making some choices fairly quickly.

In the end I have few regrets. There are a couple of spaces I should have agonized over more. And there are a few finish selections I am seeing were chosen a bit hastily…but I'm at peace with our overall project. I'm thankful we had the year of sprinting and thankful for the months we have enjoyed here at the Homestead, living. I look forward to learning more about how to live a happy contented life here. I look forward to learning how to make the homestead land beautiful and productive. I am happy I'm looking forward and not really looking back at what we could have done or should have done differently as we built.
The back of the property held a shed that was full of coal from many years back. It went down with the demolition. 

'The Cottage' is the original structure built first on this property. It is sitting above the root cellar, which still had shelves for canned goods or bins of potatoes. We have improved the integrity and usefulness of this structure and it is an integral part of the Homestead's back yard.

The pathway that led from the old home to the back yard was my favorite little walk to take with our little girls. This is where we thought we entered our 'secret garden'.  We found quail and squirrels back here, and lots of thorny bushes too! 

What to do with all the trees?! This was one of the decisions we agonized about for a very long time. Many of these huge tall trees were actually completely unhealthy and were called 'garbage trees' by the arborist I hired to come teach me about the property's trees. We took down several, which was a sad day for me! But we have since replaced them and added many more trees to the property thanks to my sister, Jessa, who planned the landscape of the Homestead. Our neighbors reacted in opposite attitude the days the trees came down. One nearly stood in front of the bulldozer, protesting the ruination of all the squirrel's homes and the exodus of animals that would surely follow the disruption to the property. The other was more happy than she had been in 25 years, saying she finally could see Mt. Olympus again with the garbage trees out of the way of her kitchen window view!

Next week I'll share several of the photos of the demolition of the pioneer house and the story of the fireplace. That story is a good one, you'll want to come back to hear it.

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