Category Archives: Building a Home

From planning to completion, here’s our journey in building our house on the homestead.

House update: septic system, phase 1

We are STILL waiting on the contractor to come and finish siding and roofing the house. So in the meantime, we’ve been working on the septic system. I posted last time about how I was trying to find the strength and willpower to get started on that project. Well, I am happy to report that phase 1 is just about finished!

Phase 1 = hooking up the sewer system from the house to the septic tank.

Phase 2 = the sewer system from the septic tank to the leach field. We haven’t even started this phase yet. It requires renting an excavator, etc.

But we are feeling accomplished at the progress we have made. Especially since we’ve been doing all the backfill, etc by hand. No machines. It takes a while, but it doesn’t cost money.

Ok, well, technically we’ve had to buy DG (decomposed granite, which is a type of sand) to surround the septic tank, but other than that, it’s been free. In fact, we got some other fill dirt for just the price of gas to go get it.

We did get some help on the septic trench. My nephew and his wife came to town and we put them to work!

Actually, they wanted to help. And now whenever we get to use our toilet, we’ll be able to thank them for helping. 😁

We have a sand pit on the property that we were initially mining sand from to bed the septic pipe in.

And it was working just fine, but it was a very slow process as we could only get small amounts of sand at a time. But it allowed us to start the process. And as we all know, starting is half the battle.

My helper

Test fitting

Raising strong a woman

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More sand, and another strong woman in the making

Not too long after the above pictures were taken, we decided we needed to move along a bit (or a lot) faster, so we decided to purchase sand to bed the pipe and surround the tank in.

Love, love, love Pajii’s dump trailer!

Gluing the pipe! It’s always an exciting time when you get to play- uh, I mean work, with glue!

I’d never worked with this particular type of sewer pipe before. It has a rubber gasket instead of using glue. It makes getting the pipes together a bit tricky. But ingenuity wins every time.

Once we got the pipe laid and inspected, and just before we started covering it, we took some measurements. This is very important if we ever have to dig that thing back up for any reason.

We passed the inspection with flying colors, and it was time for backfill!

But first…we had to clean out all the rocks and debris that had fallen in the pit over the winter. Oh, actually, we did that before the inspection. Forgot. Anyway, here we are cleaning up the pit.

Including this big rock. Waaay too big to get it out by hand.

Again, ingenuity to the rescue. We were able to use this system to get enough sand under it that we could roll it away from the tank and bury it.

Then it was sand, sand, sand.

And finally regular dirt on top.

And yes, that’s Princess Girl on crutches. She sprained her ankle. 😞

Filled in trench, which will eventually get another 1-2 feet of fill when we bring in dirt to raise the ground level up to slab level.

And an almost covered septic tank. We actually did even more after this picture was taken. It is now almost even with the top all the way around.

Right now as I write this post, I am down in town waiting for the trailer to be loaded with free fill dirt. I met a guy through Craiglist. He had good quality fill dirt he needed hauled away, and we have need of dirt we don’t have to pay for. Win-win.

We decided that we wanted to pay for only what we have to (because despite the saying, dirt ain’t cheap!), so we devised a system where we put the purchased DG sand in the first foot or so up against the tank, then outside of that, we put either our native soil, or this other fill dirt that is not as high a quality.

I’d say by the end of the week, the septic tank will be completely covered. Yay! That means we can finally bring in the needed dirt to raise the ground level all around the house up to what it’s supposed to be.

And that is just one step closer to done.

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Yes you can!

My hubby snapped a photo of me and it got me thinking.

(Ok, ok, so it’s slightly staged, but only because the shadows were creating problems.)

People, women in particular, sometimes tell me how amazing it is that I am the primary one building our house. It is usually followed up with a wistful, “I could never do that.”

I wish people, women in particular, would stop doing that. No, not telling me I’m awesome. You can keep doing that. (Kidding! I’m kidding!)

But seriously, Ladies (and guys, too, it if applies), stop selling yourself short. You could do this, if you really wanted to! You can learn to do anything you want to. Yes, it may be completely out of your skill set. For now. You may not be physically able to do it. Right now. But you can learn, and you can get in shape.

Now, I totally understand that there are some people for whom building a house with their own hands truly would be impossible. I have paraplegic brothers. I had several mentally disabled foster siblings while growing up. I have friends with severe chronic illnesses. Etc, etc, etc. I get it. But guess what, those are not the people bemoaning that they are incapable of doing the things I do.

Far and away, the women who have uttered to me, “I could never do that” are in fact fully capable of doing everything that I do. They just don’t know it.

Why do we sell ourselves short? Why do we buy into the lie that there are certain things we can’t, or shouldn’t, do? Why does anyone believe that there are things in life that are just too hard, to far out of their reach, or off limits?

It’s sad really. To see people settle for less than their dreams, just because they don’t believe they can ever achieve them.

Sure, I was taught how to build a house when I was a teenager and that gave me a foundation to believe that I can build my own house. I had that advantage, and I’m thankful for it. But you know what I never in my life had any experience with? Gardening and canning. I was not around it growing up at all, and in my teen years and early adulthood I couldn’t keep any green thing alive. But I had a dream to produce and preserve my own food. So I learned how. I never once thought that I wouldn’t be able to do it. In my mind, it was just a matter of learning new skills.

So maybe you don’t really even want to know how to build a house. That’s totally fine. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea. But don’t buy into the lie that you wouldn’t be able to do it if you really wanted to. Don’t spend your life wistfully saying, “I wish I could….” fill in the blank.

I guess that’s probably what it really comes down to. Desire. Do you really, truly want it – whatever “it” is? Then go out and get it!

You can do it!

House update: nothing really to report

You know that saying, “Use it or lose it”?

Yeah, I think I lost it.

After a whole winter of sitting on my butt, one hour, just one hour of shoveling kicked that butt.

Last summer/fall I did great. I could work, work, work all day, and get up and do it again the next day. Sure, it was hard and I was tired, but I could do it. I was actually amazed at my stamina.

But a few months of sitting around just…waiting, and I am so out of shape!

In my defense, the dirt I was shoveling was wet clay. You ever tried shoveling wet clay?

Let’s just say there are extra challenges!

I’ll tell you what I was working on in just a sec, but first, a picture of the progress on our house. Our should I say LACK of progress?

Yep, looks exactly like it did the last time I posted about it. We are still waiting on contractors. But I won’t go into all that. Because I’m trying to keep a Christian attitude. 😒

So, what was I working on today? As tempting as it was to work on Pajii’s garden boxes some more, I decided to finally start finishing one of our half finished projects: our septic system.

We dug the septic line trench from the house to the septic tank last fall when we had the backhoe, but were not able to get the pipe laid before winter came.

So all winter long the trench has sat there, slowly filling in with dirt and rocks. I’ve been avoiding getting back in that trench this spring because, dirt work. I would much rather be building walls, etc inside the house. But, well, I can’t right now. So, since we have a couple days of good weather, I decided to stop being an avoider.

And since I really didn’t want to do it, I told myself I only had to work on it for one hour.

One hour and I only cleaned up 10 feet of trench. And my body obviously thinks I put it through torture.

Yeah, this is going to be a fun spring while I whoop myself back into shape!

On the bright side, here’s the cuteness I got to spend time with while I shoveled.

This girl loves to play in the dirt. And the messier the better.

So tomorrow, I challenge myself to spend two hours on that trench, ’cause there’s only another 30 feet to go!

Oy.

Homestead Update: still waiting, but being productive

I didn’t realize it had been so long since I last did an update on the house progress until I posted about Pajii’s new garden beds and saw the half-sided house in the background.

So yeah, this picture was taken on January 26th. We haven’t seen our contractor since that day. Our house sits there, half sided, getting snowed on. We finally gave up on being able to get ahold of him and have found a new contactor to finish the job. They will start as soon as they can fit us into their schedule.

In the mean time, we’ve been keeping pretty busy around the homestead with other projects that needed doing.

We were blessed with unseasonably warm and dry weather for most of January and February.

Picnic lunch in the February sunshine

School outside in February?

We decided to take a Saturday and finish the concrete patio outside our completed well shed (I’m putting together a post on that, I promise). The existing concrete was leftovers from when we poured our house footers. We were hoping we’d have enough left over from the house slab pour, but the calculations on that were perfect. Not short, but no leftovers either. So we had to go buy bags of concrete to finish the well shed slab job.

Prepping the 4’x7′ section

IT’S ALIVE!!! This concrete mixer was my dad’s and has been sitting on this piece of land, completely unprotected, for at least 12 years. And it still worked!

Concrete work is dirty work.

We mixed 3 bags of concrete at a time in the mixer, then poured it into a bucket to schlep it into place.

It was actually really easy to move the concrete around such a small area with the bucket.

You can see the chicken wire we put down as an added strengthener. Every so often, we’d reach down and pull the wire up so it was floating in the slab rather than pressed down to the ground.

While Hubs mixed up another batch of concrete in the mixer, Pajii and I would scree the freshly poured stuff so it stayed level with our existing slab and the forms we built out of 2×4’s.

The finished slab. It makes getting into the well shed so much easier!

Another project we worked on was some driveway maintenance. We had put in a culvert last fall and it needed a bit of upkeep.

Adding and compacting more dirt over top of the culvert.

Hubby cleaning out some collected sediment inside the culvert.

There were a few gardening type things to do as well. Since I don’t plan to start a garden this year for myself, it was great to get some dirt under my fingernails, so to speak.

Spreading pine needles collected from our church’s landscaping. This area will eventually be our fenced in garden with raised beds, but right now it is a parking area. We thought it best to use decomposable material rather than gravel to combat the mud in this area. Besides, the pine needles were free and we were saving our church some money since they didn’t have to haul it all to the dump.

I had some flower bulbs I needed to get in the ground. So I made a couple new areas for flowers along the pathway going from the upper level down to the house pad.

This area eventually became a perennial flower bed. Once the spring bulbs come up, we’ll plant some more summer type perennials in this bed, too.

And, since I had gone a little crazy buying flower bulbs last fall, we had plenty left over to plant in other places as well, such as around our cherry trees.

Oh, and we finally finished the stairway that leads from the upper level down to the house pad.

These stairs are made from railroad ties that have been sitting on this property for over a decade.

And, if you’ll remember the panels that blew off the side of the hill?

We finally got them back up to the pad. All 29 of them.

Even Flower Girl was able to help once the panels were at the top of the hill. The panels are heavy for a 5 year old, but she’s strong and has a will to help.

This girl, even with a gimpy knee, was amazing in getting all those panels back to the top.

So even though we haven’t been able to work on the house, we have not been idle this winter. January and February we’re filled with a lot of time outside.

And then March blew in and winter finally settled in.

So, we’re back to being stuck inside and working on other projects.

But Spring is just around the corner. And our new contractor said it shouldn’t take much more than a week to finish the siding and roofing once they get started. Rest assured we’ll be shouting from the mountainside when that blessed event finally happens.

In the meantime, keep warm and busy friends.

Odd jobs

You know what?

Bronchitis sucks.

There, I said it. Now let’s move on.

And I’m so glad I can. Move on, that is. I think I’m finally over it. In fact, I felt good enough, I spent several hours working on the hillside behind the well shed.

The rocks stacked up against this hillside is a form of erosion control called riprap. When you have as many rocks as we do on our property, it only makes sense to use them when and where you can.

So riprapping a hillside is pretty easy. It’s kinda like a jigsaw puzzle putting all those rocks on there, only a lot easier because the rocks don’t have to fit together exactly. They just need to be placed in such a way that they are stable enough to walk on them. This usually just means finding the position that they lay on the ground and against the other rocks the best. It’s an easy but back straining job.

This is not a one afternoon type job. Or even a two or three afternoon job. We’ve already spent countless hours just getting it to this point. It’s not a sprint, it’s more of a marathon. This is one of those types of jobs that can seem overwhelming in the shear amount of time it will take. So, when I’m faced with a job like that, I just do a little bit each day and it eventually gets done.

And it is important to do it. If we don’t, this hillside will eventually spread itself all over our driveway through erosion. And since I can’t work on the house right now, I’m going to be keeping busy checking off smaller odd jobs from the to-do list while I can.

This is the reality of building a homestead on a piece of land from the ground up. Many, if not most, of the jobs are not glamorous or fun, but they have to get done. Just like cleaning out the chicken coop.

Which reminds me, that’s another job that needs to get done. *Sigh*

What simple but important jobs are on your to-do list?

Homestead Update: Happy New Year

Happy New Year!

I know it’s been a while since I’ve updated. Sorry about that. I kept hoping for the “big reveal” on our house, but, well, things keep happening to keep it from being done. And by done I mean dried in (meaning the siding and roof is on.)

So I guess for now, here’s our “big reveal”. We have the frame of a house!

We hired a contractor to put the structure up for us. He started the week after Thanksgiving and did pretty well getting to this point. But then his wife had a stroke, he had some equipment trouble, we’ve had some weather related delays, and the holidays rolled around, so there the frame sits.

One of those weather delays was a bad windstorm. It blew about 30 of our siding panels and some of our rolls of insulation off the house pad into the ravine. And then it promptly snowed. We were able to get them all stacked together with rocks on them so they don’t blow any more, but they are still down there. Hubs and I have been sick with bronchitis since before Christmas and haven’t been able to do much.

Lately though, I’ve been feeling a bit better and have been able to do a bit of work around the place. I cleaned out the chickens nest boxes and today I’m hoping to get our flocks rearranged. We have two roosters (technically I think they are both still cockerels) in one small flock and I want to get then separated before the younger, bigger one starts challenging the older, smaller one.

Besides, I want all the hens to be in with the correct rooster for when we start our breeding program. Nigel (pictured below with “Lizzie” two months ago) is our man man. He will be our breeding rooster, but right now, he’s the non dominant male in a flock of 12.

I am planning on moving Fritz (our frizzle Cochin bantam rooster) and a couple of his girls up to the upper coop and bringing a few of those girls down for Nigel. And I want to do that now while their egg laying is already disrupted by the winter.

Although, they have started picking up a bit!

We were only getting 4-6 eggs a day out of 30 hens for about 2 months. Our older flock went through their first molt and thus stopped laying. And the younger flock just hit maturity when the light faded for the winter (hens need approximately 14 or more hours of daylight to lay optimally.)

But we are past the solstice so the days are only getting longer now, the older flock is past their molt, and the younger flock is moving into their prime laying time (they lay the most eggs their first year of laying.) So now we are getting roughly 10 eggs a day. And it’s only gonna get better from here.

Lately we have been having some beautiful weather. While the rest of the country freezes, we’ve been wearing t-shirts and having picnics.

And doing crafts outdoors.

And going for walks in the hills above our house.

The weather is supposed to turn chilly and rainy, possibly with snow, this weekend.

And I heard from our contractor again today, and there’s been more unavoidable delays. So sometime in the future, hopefully sooner rather than later, we will have a roof and sides put on our house. But for now, it’s still pretty cool to walk out our trailer door and see that frame rising toward the sky.

And once it is “dried in”, we get to go to town finishing off the interior. That’s going to be a blast! And honestly that’s really the only thing on our resolution list for this year. Get. The. House. Finished!

For now, I’ll leave you with one more picture of our frame until we have more to report.

I’m Back in Action! (House update)

Oy, I haven’t been that sick in a long time. And honestly, I still have a lingering cough.

But the energy – oh, the blessed energy.

I have it back!

It feels good to be able to work for more than a couple minutes and not be exhausted.

So, while not much has gotten done on the house since the slab was poured, we have been doing smaller projects here and there and ramping up for the next big push.

We finally got our shower system built in our well shed (a whole new post about that will be coming soon – I hope).

We started carting all of our building materials from where they have been sitting for over a year to down on the housepad.

We didn’t finish with that yet, but the contactor we hired to erect the structure said that he can do the rest with his fork lift. That sounds good to us!

We got all the insulation which gets put up at the same time as the metal frame. This is only R-13, but we will add more when we build the wood frame walls inside the metal shell.

We carted all the rolls of insulation up our drive and to our cargo container. Hopefully in just about 2 weeks, we’ll have to cart it all down the the house pad. We don’t mind having to move it all twice if it means it’s going on the house next!

Of course, we had some Halloween fun. My costume took so much time to put together. Whatcha think? 😉

And we had another birthday party, this one for Princess Girl who turned 12 (how did that happen?!?) She totally made out in the money/gift card department. Which is good considering she needed clothes in a bad way.

We totally disassembled all the forms and cleaned up the pad in preparation for doing some more back fill.

I was completely dreading unscrewing all those forms. Every screw head was filled with concrete and had to be cleaned out before we could use the driver to back it out. After just one section my back hurt so badly from bending over that I could barely walk. Hubs got frustrated enough he wanted to just cut all the pieces apart with a circular saw and call it good. But we are going to need to use this wood one more time when we build the forms for our garage slab, so we needed to salvage as much as possible,

That’s where a little bit of preparation came in. As the old saying goes, “Work smarter, not harder.”

By putting the forms up on a table, I didn’t need to bend over nearly as much, thus saving my back.

And by using a little tool like a straw, the clean out of the screw heads went much smoother since I could really blow all the dust out once it got loosened.

Once we got the pad cleaned up, we needed to prep the slab itself to bring in more fill dirt to raise the ground level to slab height. In order to do that, we needed to finish wrapping the footers and slab edge in foam insulation. We had done the bottom 16 inches and then backfilled that months ago. So we had the final 16″ to do. Convenient since the 4’x8′ sheets of insulation have snap lines at 16″ sections (thus giving 3 sections that are 16″ x 8′ per sheet). Except that I forgot that each piece needed to be 14.5 inches because of a recessed lip on the edge of the concrete. which means we needed to cut the foam sheets rather than snap them on the pre-scored lines.

Oh, well, at least it is super easy to cut. I actually set the depth of the saw to not go all the way through the foam. That way, I could set the sheet of foam on the slab, make my cut line, then snap the last little bit. This was really good since the winds were blowing about 30mph that day. You can imagine what happens to lightweight foam in 30mph winds! Any time we set a piece down, it had to have something heavy on it to keep it from blowing clear away.

Once we got the foam on the sides of the slab, we could start having dirt trucked in.

Since we no longer have a backhoe or anything, we are doing all the spreading by hand. It takes a lot longer, obviously, but it’s free.

Hubs and I spent most of Saturday getting our water supply line hooked up so we can bury the connection. We also made a water run to my moms for fresh water (still don’t have a treatment system for our well water put together yet).

We are feeling very blessed at the mild weather we’ve had so far this Fall. We are hoping and praying it holds out for just a couple more weeks till we can get the structure dried in.

In the mean time, the girls have been having fun playing on the slab.