Adventures in homebuilding
For many years, I have been ready to take my habitat to a new level — and it’s finally happening. My husband and I are building a home in the woods.
I didn’t get to this decision overnight and people who’ve known me a long time might be surprised to learn this native city girl is ready for off-the-grid “lite.”
I was born and raised in metropolitan areas, but have since lived in depressed economies, weird suburban-ish neighborhoods trying and failing to be urban, and rural small towns. It has all led me to this point, ready to flee into the woods.
I never thought I’d crave solitary surroundings — preferring convenience, community and uninterrupted Internet service to silence and stillness — but actually, it makes sense. Not only am I tired of looking into my neighbors’ windows and having their pets lounge on my porch furniture, but I’ve always embraced the natural environment be it beaches, mountains, forests or deserts. I’ve traveled and traversed those landscapes and waters many times in many ways.
I want room to breathe, to look out any window and merely see trees in all their natural glory. In exchange for that elbowroom, I will trade nearby grocery shopping and a gym membership. I’ll swap out a dozen cats that aren’t mine for a couple of bears and bucks. I’ll gladly manage my water consumption more conservatively with a well system than unthinkingly wasting the city water that readily fuels my pipes.
I know I’m on the right track because every time I’m on my property, I feel unbridled happiness. True contentment. Inner peace. A rightness I can’t describe.
Building the house itself is an adventure, one I’ve never experienced. I’ve been through some remodels in my parent’s homes — but have a vague memory of the inconvenience. I have lived through a major renovation of the 135-year-old home I currently inhabit. I remember the day I first saw the house, being worked on by a friend of a friend (who is now my husband). I think I said, “This is so cool!” How charmingly naïve.
For the record, restoring an old queen seems much more challenging than constructing a new one. But I could still just be too gullible to know for sure.
My husband and I have been fleshing out the project since we found our property. Some parts of the process are easy. Living in a house that doesn’t have the features you need or want gives you a direct expressway to knowing what you’d do differently if you had the chance.
I’m impressed by how jaded I’ve become to estimates costing thousands of dollars. Everything costs thousands of dollars. I just laugh to myself and take it in stride.
With a new home in the woods, we have to start from scratch. We need a road, driveway, foundation, well, septic system, power, the home itself and a garage.
We are building a log home, something my husband has always wanted. What’s nifty about that type of house is once you have your plans approved and foundation poured, the log home company will bring the home in pieces and assemble it on-site in about two weeks. We still need to finish the framing and get it under roof, but in relatively short order, the entire structure will be enclosed so the inside can be completed.
They say building a home is one of the biggest marriage stressors there is. So far, this seems like a piece of cake compared to our 25-year “this old house” remodeling project that never actually got finished (and where the finished stuff starts breaking or cracking it’s now so old) or served our family the way we would have liked.
Not that I’m complaining. I feel blessed for all of my living experiences from growing up in the Oakland hills where lifelong friendships were made, to experiencing life during my apartment-dwelling years in vibrant San Francisco, to living a block from the beach along Florida’s Space Coast, to exploring the diverse history available by having a hub in Northern Virginia for half a dozen years, to the friendly community I’ve experienced through home ownership in Charles Town.
I look forward to my next abode and living mode. I can feel the chi shifting already.
This column aired in The Journal on Sunday, February 12, 2017.
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