Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Homestead objectives (part IV)

In my other blog (cedar-ridge-farm), I detail our house-building project. In moving to Kentucky, building our own home was -- and continues to be -- one of our homesteading objectives.

We lived in a nice, two-story, brick house we bought with Bank of America’s loaned money. It had a full basement, a large living room, and spacious bedrooms. There was a 2/3 acre lot that we bought with the house. This provided gardening area. We loved our red brick house, but we wanted to live in the country, not in the city with a busy interstate a stone’s throw away.

Somehow, several years ago I came across a book about building with straw bales. I don’t remember the title of the book, but I enjoyed reading it and began considering building a homestead house using straw bales someday. I also read The $50 Underground House and considered that option.

In looking for property, it wasn’t imperative for us to build a house on our homestead; it would’ve been fine if there was an existing house. But, we liked the idea of building, and not requiring a house on the property provided more options when looking for homestead property. We even thought it would be alright to live in a tent while building our house. I’m glad it didn’t work out that way. We’ve been living in “temporary” quarters for almost six years, thankfully, not a tent, just an old mobile home.

old cabin When we bought this property, there was an unfinished, one-bedroom cabin. We gave that to my parents, and they were quite glad to seize the opportunity to have it, remodel it, finish it, and live here with us. There was also an old log cabin constructed of hand-hewn poplar logs. I don’t know how long it had been standing there, but it was not in salvageable shape, although it was lived in sometime in the last 20 years or so. We pulled this cabin down in early spring 2007.

house site We selected a site for our new home that overlooks our garden area down in the bottom. It’s a great location with a southern exposure and pleasant shade in the afternoons. It also will afford a nice view toward one of our hay fields and wonderful views of our ridge on the other side of the garden. It’s near the location where the old cabin used to sit.

I thought we would build the house with load-bearing straw bale walls, but we changed that plan after doing some more reading. We settled on a timber frame house wrapped with straw bale walls. This would allow the frame to hold the roof, making any future repairs to the walls much easier (the aim is for repairs to never be necessary). We developed our own floor plans which changed several times, but we finally reached a plan that suits of well. It will have three bedrooms, two baths, a mudroom, a large great room, and a wrap around porch.

After purchasing 8x8s and 6x8s from a local saw mill, I began chiseling the joints for the frame. I decided to be a purist and use no metal joinery. It took about two and a half years to get the fraTimber Frame 013me ready to be raised. On Labor Day weekend 2007, several friends assisted us in raising the frame. That was an awesome experience. Since then, we’ve gotten the roof on and have begun working on the root cellar. We hope to complete a lot more work on it this year with the aim of being able to move in by Thanksgiving. God willing, I will be able to add a lot more to my blog on this house project.


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