Blog

Update

Chicken-Coop

Hello Everyone! Sorry, we have not been able to update the blog in a while due to projects here on the homestead. We have been busy building a chicken coop getting ready for our chicks to arrive. We also have been preparing for our fruit trees arrival. In addition, we had to build a wood shed because we had a crap ton of cut wood all over the property. In between that, we had to prepare for the arrival of our new additions to the family and the homestead, our boys lgd puppies Duke and Einstein. Last but not least, we had to prepare the garden. My husband was kind enough to bring home two truck loads of cow manure for my garden. We will be back to our regularly scheduled programming in a few days. Keep your eyes open and ear to the ground and a big thanks to all that follow us. God Bless!

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You Can’t Do That

Sanded-Floor

With the stairs completed, this gave us the ability to start on our loft and gave us extra motivation to get the floor joists completed in a couple days. After the floor joists were completed, this left us with a dilemma. What flooring do we want? We had the idea of this old rustic look. So we took a little trip to the lumber store. Once we talked with the guys there, they suggested that we put down a sub-floor, then put down whatever flooring we wanted. We paid for the materials and rushed back to the grain bin house to wait for the supplies to arrive. The sub-floor flooring arrived about 30 minutes later.

With the sub-floor unloaded, we then carried a couple sheets of 4X8 advanced sub-flooring up to the loft. After laying these pieces on the floor, we soon realized that it did not make sense to put down a sub-floor, then a finished flooring on top of that. We also realized that this was not the vision and a total waste of money and time to put down a sub-floor and then a wood floor on top of that. Not to mention, the floor would be heavier this way. We discussed it for several minutes, and came up with using hemlock fir 2X12’s for the floor. We called the lumber guys to see if we could return the sub-flooring and then purchase 2X12 hemlock fir boards instead. They said we could. We then told them what we wanted to do. They replied, “You can’t do that!” “Why not?” we asked. Then a long pause. Well I guess you can, I don’t see why you can’t.

Without any hassle, 15 minutes before close on a Saturday, they picked up the 4×8 sheets and delivered our 2X12’s. We were relieved and excited that they were able to make this happen, otherwise we were dead in the water for an entire weekend. Granted, we had things to do on the outside, but all of those things were not important at the moment and could wait. We figured out the floor pattern and got our first few planks down. At that moment, I look at my husband and he looks at me, and we gave each other the nod of approval. Now this was our vision and we saved a lot of money!

Wood-Plank-Flooring
Start of our beautiful wood floor

This example is one of the many decisions we made that was not conventional but very cost effective. By thinking of unconventional ways to get the same or better results, this allowed us to put even more money towards operation quit job. At this point, we were so amped up about the floor we were rocking and rolling, and were able to get the floor laid over the weekend.

One of the other priorities for us was to make sure that we were able to have a garden so that we could capitalize on saving money on food by canning and eating fresh vegetables. We had to make time in our busy building schedule to find a spot and dig up a plot for the garden. So, it was time to rent a skid loader. Since, we did not have a truck at the time, my husband had to drive the skid loader 2 miles to the property.  My husband is like a kid in a candy store when he gets on the machine, and always seems to find more projects that we didn’t even have planned. What a nutcase, I have to make him get off the machine to eat and use the restroom. He seems to think that now we need to buy one, I think he just wants it to play.While my husband was digging up the garden plot, I was continuing the work on clearing the land. By days end, we had the garden plot prepared and few more meaningless projects that my husband created. Ok not meaningless, but they just needed to be done at a later date. But you only live once right?!?

In the meantime, I was kinda starting to itch here and there and didn’t think about it much. As day turned into evening, I started to itch a little more. That’s when a light bulb came on and I remembered that we had poison ivy on the property. By bedtime, I was itching uncontrollably. Needless to say, I did not get much sleep, not sure my husband did either. But lucky him, he’s not allergic to the stuff, and can probably roll around in it, lucky dog. In the AM, I had never been so enthusiastic to go to work. I couldn’t wait to get there so that my doctor could give me a shot. Unfortunately, it was so bad, the shot did very little to relieve the itching. The doctor gave me a prescription cream and some sample products to try. It’s kinda hard to work when the only thing you can think about is scratching yourself to death. By day end, it had spread to my arms, legs, and stomach. I vowed to never, ever get poison ivy again. I must be a glutton for punishment because months later while helping clear the land, I got poison ivy again.

This time, it was not my fault! I wore extra clothes even in the heat of summer gloves, hat, jeans, long sleeves over a t-shirt, and boots.Now the problem was, I think that I got the poison ivy when I was taking off my work clothes but not getting in the shower right away. Doing this, doing that… maybe it was was my husband- he touched the poison ivy and spread it to me. I’m just going to blame it on him, yeah it was him. This was so tragic. I mean really. It was worse this time than the last time. I got another shot, more prescription medicine, more samples, and any other home remedy we could think of. I thought I was truly going to lose my mind, all I could think about was scratching. After this episode, I informed my husband that I resign my position of helping clear the land, effective immediately. After all, it was his idea to by this poison ivy infested place anyway, so he should have to clear it. But, I must say, he was a good sport and ran around town to get different medicines. After I got over the poison ivy enough to concentrate, it was time to tackle wiring.

 

$15,000

Exposed-Duct-Work

Like we stated before, we had no prior building experience, but we were so determined to change our lifestyle that we took a leap of faith. We were not willing to let anything stand in our way and there were lots of obstacles along the way. We were thinking outside of the box, but people with building experience always refused or could not wrap their heads around what we were trying to do nor were they sure why we were trying to build a house out of a grain bin.

So without us having building experience, this created one of the biggest obstacles that we had to face. With very few people in the construction industry able to offer information, we fell back into line on doing things traditionally with contractors doing the work. This was short lived after we received a $15,000 bid for the heating and cooling system. Keep in mind, they were going to use part of our plans and our idea of exposed duct work for installing the system. This situation reinvigorated the do for self mentality. I know, a lot of people are going to say, “I’ve never done a certain thing so I cannot do it and it will not be right. I need a professional to do it.” This is so far from the truth. We are all capable of so much more than we give ourselves credit for or are willing to take a risk on. After doing research, we came up with our own idea of how the duct work should be installed and look. Of course, there are basic principles with sizing a system, cfm flow rates, etc., but we were able to design and install a system for a fraction of the cost, and I mean a fraction.

By deciding to continue to do things ourselves, we were able to save more money for operation quit job. The goal of the entire project was still to live a simple stress-free existence. Everyone’s idea of a stress free or less stress lifestyle is different. For us, it means being debt free and not a slave to lenders, to not have to work 50+ hours each week, to not sacrifice our personal time and family time, to own fewer things, and setting up our own little homestead for self sustainability. I know this concept seems far out to a lot of people, as it was to us once upon a time, but a lot of these ideas started to come into fruition with each project that we conquered. Although each project we conquered was fulfilling and was a step closer to our ultimate goal, we also had setbacks like trying to build curved stairs to our loft.

This was highly difficult because no one could tell us nor could we find information on building curved steps on a curved wall. So we had to call for back up AKA my dad. We told him we needed to build curved stairs. His reply was, “I know how to build regular stairs, but not curved stairs.” So much for the backup. It was up to us to figure this thing out because we had planned on having a loft, which kinda requires stairs, well unless you can fly. We tossed around several ideas for a week or so between working on other projects. It took my math brain and my husbands pure genius, per him he’s not the sharpest tool in the shed, to come up with an idea that would work.

Curved-Stairs
Curved stairs on a curved wall

My Husband Shot Me

Framing-Grain-Bin-House

At this point, the budget got even tighter. We put even more money into saving, or bought things that we knew we would need for the house in the future. At the same time, we were still preparing to deploy operation quit job.

Everything was on us now. We were the general contractor, the contractor, the builder, the electrician, the HVAC, and the plumber. Our approach was that you never know what you are capable of unless you try, and if you fail, there is always someone that can fix it. Now it may cost you more to fix it, but on the flip side, when you succeed you start to realize how much more you are capable of doing in this dependent society. If you do a crappy job, you only have yourself to blame and have to live with what you’ve done. But if you hire someone and they do a crappy job, you have to live with what they’ve done and this could leave a bad taste in your mouth. We had already experienced this in different situations, so that’s how we came to the conclusion that we needed to do this ourselves.

We strapped on our boots, and yes my husband made me buy real work boots, which I wear everyday on the job (stickler). After working 10 hours, I drove straight to the job site AKA the grain bin house and started framing. It took a while to figure things out, but once we did we got into this amazing groove and knocked out a good portion of the framing. At 1AM, we decided that it was probably time to call it a day because work (the real jobs) were going to come fairly soon.We were hungry and beat down tired, but we had this sense of accomplishment energy that made us even more confident that we could do this. So this was the routine for the next week. Everything was moving smoothly and uneventful until the tragedy. Ok, maybe not a tragedy, but it seemed like one at the time. Our first job site accident.  As we were framing, my husband just happened to put a nail through 2 of my fingers while I was holding a couple boards for him. Well actually, it came out the side of the board and went through my fingers. I must say I was a super trooper. I did not cry, but I wanted to. I was sidelined for most of the evening, but later on, I was able to help out a little bit. After the incident, we were very aware of the power that the nail gun possessed and were very aware of where hands should and should not be placed. Safety first!

Finger-Injury
Work site tragedy

So we kept trucking along, and things started to get really interesting. Walls went up, walls came down. We cut 2X4’s the size of our couch, chairs, etc. and placed them on the floor to see if we liked the layout and how flexible it would or could be before we put up walls. Even though it was frustrating at times, it was so much fun because nothing was or had to be set in stone. So many things were done on the fly and the most creative things were simply not planned. But also, when doing things on the fly, you still need to have a vision of the final product.

The Big Day

Grain-Bin-Raising

The big day has finally arrived. The contractors started preparations for pouring the concrete slab. This was a particularly stressful time due to the fact that we are geniuses who thought it was a great idea to have concrete poured in the middle of winter. But then again, I guess we were just being ambitious. Any who, we had a few bumps in the road. The contractors were able to get the concrete footers poured, then the bad weather set in. Goodbye window of opportunity.

It seemed like things were going nowhere fast, but in hindsight, it gave us an opportunity to make changes and double check plans, and to make sure that contractors were on the same page. So we thought, but my husband, being the perfectionist that his is, he discovered that the were problems with the rough in plumbing.This is a particularly bad situation because had we not caught it our stairs wouldn’t have fit where they were supposed to go, our bathroom would have ended up in our hallway, we would not have had a kitchen sink in our island, the bathroom vent pipe would have ended up on the outside of the grain bin house, and nothing would have drained properly because there was not enough slope with the plumbing. Once these things were fixed, some by us I might add, we were finally ready for concrete. At this point, we had such low confidence in the contractors ability thus far, we were just praying that things would turn out ok. So much so that I called in to work on the day of the pour to supervise. Not so sure they enjoyed reporting to a woman though. It got dark and we had puppies at the time, so I fired up the rocket mass heater we had built and played with the puppies, but at 10PM I was exhausted and left for home while they continued to float the concrete by headlights.

This was a learning experience for us as to knowing when to fire a contractor or when someone else does not have the same vision that you have. We were building something that was not common so having a contractor that saw the project the same way we did was extremely important, to ensure that we were able to build as planned. Looking back, this is something we wished we would not have been afraid to do, but it makes it harder when it is a friend. Lesson learned, friend or no friend, if you need to change  contractors, do not be afraid to do so and don’t drag your feet, things will not get better.

After the concrete was poured, we had bad weather move in, which delayed our ability to have our grain bin put up. We were able to get it on the books for the first day of  good weather. This just so happened to be a beautiful Saturday morning. Well maybe a little cold, but beautiful in the fact that we were having the grain bin house raised. Due to our experience with our previous contractor, we were quite nervous about the grain bin install. Six men showed in two big trucks with trailers at sunrise. The pulled into our drive and we thought that the carnival was coming to town. But let me tell you, these guys were super professional. It was like watching ants work. All 6 guys on the team knew exactly where they should, what they should be doing, and how they should be doing it. There was never a moment that they were out of sync. We were totally impressed and this wiped the bad taste out of our mouth from the previous incident.

At the end of the day we had this round, tall, metal, echoey grain bin that we were going to call home. This was daunting because we knew that we had a monumental task in front of us and we couldn’t believe that we decided to build this.

Empty-Grain-Bin
Empty Grain Bin at the end of the day

Hello Chaos

Perfect-Tree

Homeless. Homeless. Homeless. Ok, maybe not really homeless, but we were actually homeless for about two hours. We had all of our personal possessions in a U-Haul waiting to meet our landlord and get keys to our apartment. We finally have a home again, then it was a mad rush to get everything into our apartment with only 5 hours of daylight left because it was just us two moving. All of our friends bailed, I mean they were busy, at the last minute. So being that we had to work on the land the next day, we thought it was a great idea to get everything organized and put away that night. Needless to say, staying up until 3 A.M. was not our brightest moment. No one said we were the sharpest tools in the shed. The morning rolled around rather quickly. We were awakened by noisy neighbors, which was a new experience for us and might I add awesome?!?

But on a positive note, we got up, and went out to the disastrous land to begin clearing trees. We still did not have a clue about where this grain bin house was going to go. The placement of the grain bin house was contingent upon where the septic tank could go due to the rules and regulations imposed by the county code. We started to determine which trees needed to be removed. We started up the chainsaw, and began to cut down trees, drag them into piles, and started bonfires, which was awesome. After working until dark with bonfires still blazing, we had to shut it down in preparation for the everyday grind that we all have to endure.

So begins our new “normal”. Get up, work 10 hour days, come home, eat dinner AKA gas station food, work on the land until there was absolutely no daylight left, and go to bed. In the meantime, we were able to get approval on our septic tank, which enabled us to determine where to put the grain bin house. On the land, we have lots of 50+ feet tall oak trees. There was one particular tree that was perfect in every way. It was probably 70 feet tall, with a perfect trunk, no lower limbs, and as you get to the top of the tree the foliage formed a perfect dome shape for a great shade tree. But the tree happened to be in the perfect spot to place the grain bin house, which was slightly behind a wooded rolling hill. We spent a couple weeks trying to figure out another location for the grain bin house, but we soon realized that this was just the “perfect” spot. So the beautiful tree had to go, which was saddening.

Meanwhile, we were continuing to work the disastrous land and waiting for the contractors to show up to pour the concrete slab. At this point, we were not quite sure if the contractor would actually show up, due to the fact that they seemed shocked and kinda unsure if we were serious about pouring a circle slab for a grain bin house, but said they could pour a circle. At the time we told them our idea, they thought we were rather crazy just like others.

Get Out

Perfect landscaped yard

30 days…to get out!

As we packed, we discovered that we had excessive amounts of stuff that we hardly ever, or for that matter, never even used. We started to think about, how much stuff  do you actually need to live? That question coupled with moving from a house to an apartment spawned this crazy idea of only keeping what we actually used. Ok, maybe this idea is not crazy, but in today’s society does not seem to be very practical. Or is it?

Operation: Give Away. So we started to get rid of everything that we hadn’t used in forever. Lucky for us, we had the sweetest two old ladies that lived next door that we gave quite a bit to. It was a good feeling because they were in need of items we were getting rid of; they were so thankful and it was a win-win situation for both of us. We were also able sell a few items and donate the rest. So, we didn’t throw everything away because we had not decided on our future space, but we did get rid of quite a bit of stuff. As we packed and gave stuff away, the house actually started to look better and feel better because there was just less stuff. Less to trip over, less to clean, less clutter, and more space. This pushed the notion of how far can we take this minimalistic approach?…TINY HOUSE. So with our newfound approach, we jumped feet first into the tiny house movement idea. But, after some research and the realization that we love each other very much and spend quite a bit of time together, this was not going to work. Tiny house idea… DONE. After researching other structures, we both became stuck on the grain bin house idea.

So we started to take measurements of our current living space and really started to figure out what we wanted and didn’t want in our new home.And boy let me tell you, the old excessive giant really kicked into gear.I wanted this, he wanted that.  We were going to put everything in this house! Then, reality kicked in. We didn’t have THAT kind of money. So, we had to settle for the must haves. At the same time, we had to think about growing old in the house. Wider doors, bigger showers, and necessities accessible on one level for possible wheelchair access and/or old age. As we started to draw the floor plans and narrow down what we had to have in the grain bin house, we also had to consider long term costs; like maintenance, taxes, repairs, etc. As we drew up the floor plan and got things organized for building a house and moving, this minimalistic, more self sufficient, stress free lifestyle change was fast approaching.

30 days were up and it was goodbye to the “perfect” little life that we had created. It was a bittersweet and might I add, scary moment.