Building a house is not for the faint of heart. Buying a neglected farm and building a house when you are retired is a short step from being declared mentally unstable, however, we took on this challenge almost 7 years ago. For decades, each time my dear hubby asked what I wanted for a holiday, I always gave the same answer, “a cabin in the woods.”
Seven years ago, several things came together to allow it to happen. Well, it is a cabin and we do have a few acres of woods around the edges, but the house sits in an open field. We found the property on a whim midway through our youngest son’s senior year of high school. I had retired as school counselor and was working part time for a non profit organization to cover the family health insurance. Hubby was reaching retirement age and trying to figure a way to retire from his law practice. We decided to research log homes and begin the planning stages of putting a house on the land.
In order to facilitate this, we decided to sell the home we had raised our children in, and again, on a whim, put out a FSBO sign on a day some neighbors were having a yard sale. We were painting inside as we really weren’t quite ready to sell yet, and much to our surprise, we got calls. Quickly, we designed a brochure, decided on a price and signed a contract with a FSBO organization that gets the listing on the web and in a weekly booklet and by the next weekend, had sold the house, just before the real estate market went south. This meant we had to move with no where to go and a 90 lb old dog to move with us. Apartments weren’t large enough for a 4 bedroom house of furniture and the dog. We lucked into a 3 bedroom rental house with a small yard, stored some stuff and moved in for a year. Once settled, we purchased a log home “kit,” hired a contractor, who turned out to be a loser, to do the log erection and rough carpentry, convinced our eldest son to move with his partner and their newborn son to the area where we were building to oversee the contractor, help make decisions and ultimately take on all of the finish carpentry and stone mason work. With monthly visits to select the house site, have the perk test done, hire a well driller and see the progress, we plodded through that year. As the year was ending, my part time job was going to have to become full time and I applied for a job in the county near our property, returning to a school counseling position to pay into the retirement system instead of drawing from it. This meant that I would be living near the house and could help with carpentry work or more often, babysitting so the kids could work. It also meant that hubby and I would be living 6 hours apart in separate apartments, me alone in the mountains, he with youngest son and dog on the coast. The new job was an all year position, not just during the school year, so moves were made, goodbyes said and we started what turned into a nearly 3 year long distance relationship until hubby put all the steps in place to leave his practice for retirement in the mountains with me. At this point, we had been moved into the new house for almost two years on a temporary certificate of occupancy.
After I moved in, along with son and his family, they continued to work on the house, building the interior doors, the upper kitchen cabinets, doing hand grading and stone mason work when the weather permitted. When hubby moved up, son and his family moved to an adjacent town for him to earn his Master’s degree at the local university, working on the house during holidays and summer time to finish the foundation stone work and last summer, getting the cistern system that the contractor put in improperly to actually work, continuing the fieldstone fireplace down into the basement in preparation for the contruction of the 4th bedroom and rec room that was in the planning stages. He and I also, finally finished the breezeway/utility room that joins the house to the garage.
While this work had been done with some labor on my part, the restoration of the fields to a condition that will allow for hay production and grazing of animals, has fallen to my hubby and me. The fields had become very overgrown with weeds, brambles, invasive shrubs and cedar trees. We purchased a tractor and a brush hog and commenced regular mowing of every inch the of 30 acres that we could take the tractor. Last summer, after our poorly constructed gravel driveway had reached a nearly impassable state, we hired a neighbor excavator contractor to take on regrading the property so that it would drain properly and reconstructing the driveway, this making several more acres mowable. While he was working in front of the house, son, partner, hubby and I were digging a trench hundreds of feet down the south slope, laying a water line from the cistern, installing a yard hydrant and recovering the trench without damaging the water line. This involved much hand shoveling, picking up and moving many tractor buckets of rock that we had uncovered.
Early in the mountain project, son and partner, put in a huge garden, but in later years of the project, the garden was not as totally utilized and 3 summers ago, I undertook to restore as much of it as I felt I could manage on my own. Son and family have since moved on several hours away to further continue education. Hubby loves the produce from the garden, but gardening is not one of his interests. I have boxed beds, dug weeds, tried to foil the deer with a temporary monofilament fence as of yesterday, with the aid of a neighbor friend, finally put an electric fence around the vegetable garden portion of the gardens. We also smoothed areas for safe working and mowability. Over the years, we have planted fruit trees, berry bushes, and grapevines. Last fall we finally landscaped the front. This winter, the basement project was completed. We are nearly to a maintenance phase, but with 30 acres and plans for raising some animals other than dogs, it will continue to be muscle taxing, bone weary work,…but there is a good night’s rest at the end of those days.