Thursday, September 29, 2011

Is it done yet?

I'll let Jenna add the commentary. I've been relegated to just posting pictures.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Don't Blink

Holy. Moly. I'm still (almost) out of words. Less than two weeks after the foundation was poured, there's now a house standing. Shoot - I was knocked over the day the electric lines were installed so you can only imagine how I'm acting right now. Since driving up to this view tonight around 5pm, I haven't stopped clapping, giggling and jumping up and down. Right there in the middle of a sentence, I just lose control and start clapping. It's a fabulous kind of ridiculous.

Somehow the stars aligned and everything's moved faster than the original schedule. I'm sure some of this has to do with our builder's planning, and some to do with the framers being available sooner, and some to do with the universe smiling down and patting us on the head saying, "You had a real craptastic year. Here is a bone I will throw you." Whatever it may be exactly that caused the beautiful walls of this beautiful place to rise so quickly we say thank you thank you thank you.

And to our patient friends/family/readers who listened to the saga: Thank you.

Yea, yea, yea...I get that we don't have keys in hand and this is almost the beginning of a LOT of work on our parts to get the house finished. But, meh, I'm feeling pretty giddy right now. At this rate, I see spring goats in our future.....

View of living room/kitchen

Yep. That's a 26' ceiling in the living room. Who gets dibs on painting that wall? And that's a lot of large windows.

Proof: Jenna is dwarfed by gigantaur living room windows. Jenna is shocked.

Jenna delegates tasks: "Ma, you'll need to tile that wall, paint the ceiling, install light switches, and attach the sink. Thanks, you're awesome."

Thursday, September 22, 2011


Fresh out of commentary. Totally speechless. Here's the beginning of the house drawn on a napkin. So far - she cleans up pretty nice.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

And then there was concrete...

Saturday morning started LOUD, with a lot of engines, sputtering generator for the spotlight, and the coffeemaker. (God bless coffee.)

We stayed at the property Friday night along with the builders who have their own trailer parked on the land. Before retiring to our respective trailers, they warned us that the show would start no later than 4am and trying to sleep through the chaos would be pointless. Go to bed now - they said - before they themselves went to sleep at 8pm. Although we planned to come out eventually and watch the action, neither of us actually made plans to step outside in such wee hours. But there was no sleeping through the engines of the first three (of 14) concrete trucks, idling outside the door.

We pulled ourselves out of bed, fumbled around the coffee pot until some of the precious liquid was brewing, and stumbled out the front door onto a scene that I can only imagine is equivalent to a movie set. Huge lights shone a spotlight onto our little building spot while a pump truck, countless diesel engined machines, and several concrete trucks lined the front yard.

Men crawled over equipment and the home site like angry ants swarming when their hill's been poked with a stick. It seemed ridiculous, in a way. This little house we're building causing so much drama and labor. The early start time added to the heightened sense of drama but is necessary when so much concrete's poured in such high heat. You pour it when the sun shines and things crack before they've dried.

Jer captured a series of shots before the camera we've had for years pooped out - right there during the most noteworthy moment of our lives to date.

After a day that seemed not to end; it finally ended. This morning we woke up and took our first steps on the porch. The porch.

We managed to scratch a note in the slab before it dried completely. I was planning on the 'ol initials and date route, as people are so inclined to scratch their own letters into something that will last beyond themselves. But Jer thought it was better to keep things anonymous and maybe more meaningful.

So there you go. Just a little reminder that Five Year Plans won't always wait five years, even if waiting is safe. And responsible. Maybe life's a little too short for safe and responsible when what you're dreaming about's got a for sale sign and a fire sale price and is covered in weeds and junk that just aren't enough to scare you. Here's to Five Year Plans, and to changing them.

Friday, September 16, 2011


4am tomorrow morning the crew pours concrete all over this mother. From here on out I'll just be standing around the edges of the foundation with my mouth agape. A week ago this was dirt, now this pre-poured slab, and one week from now??

Right now my entire life is trim samples, concrete sealant quality, railing colors, wall texture choices, etc. So there's really no room for eating, sleeping, or concentrating. Please excuse the forthcoming total lack of farm updates. Bear with us.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Fire Safety

Building started with a bang. By Day 3 we ran into two major issues involving underestimates about the height of the foundation and issues with the floor plan. Turns out the "slope" on which the house will be built is more like a "steep mountain" when grades were shot with a laser. At its highest corner the house will stand almost 8 feet off the ground, making it almost level with the treetops in the front yard. The living room will be a room with a view, indeed. Putting the house up high keeps us from having to dig it into the ground; something that would require retaining walls and the loss of a huge chunk of forest behind us - not an option - in my opinion. Why build a house in a forest, and then cut down the forest?

Blank slate - after builder's cleared.

We're not even a week in and already overwhelmed - BUT - we're building!! And anyone who says "Oh- building is fun!" is a complete liar, so we were prepared for total chaos when the process got started.

First of 45 loads of road base for foundation

The beginning of foundation forms!

Of course, the best news of all is that we were spared from the horrific fires in Bastrop, just south of the property. Had the weekend winds blown in the opposite direction, then our story might be ending just as it begins. Less than 20 miles separates us from the fire, and, as of this morning, the fire has grown to that size (or larger) in length and width. The magnificent Lost Pines forest is gone, apparently, not to mention hundreds of homes and farms. We're sad, and lucky.

So lucky, in fact, that when a fire started in our neighborhood in Austin yesterday afternoon, the firemen got it out quickly enough that it never spread out of control. In my panic, I started grabbing "essential" items and stuffed them into a bag in case of evacuation. Unpacking the bag last night, I found my choices baffling. Inside the bag I'd crammed a few crumpled credit card statements, my expired passport, a "Congrats - you graduated from college!" card from my parents, a ring, one sports bra, and my new pair of cowboy boots. You know - all of the items necessary to pick-up-the-pieces in case of a devastating fire. Probably, this means we need to come up with a list of what to grab and what to leave in case of a quick exit since I clearly exhibit poor decision-making skills. This morning the air is filled with smoke; from the east, from the west, from the south. But after four solid months of 100 + degree weather, at least it's finally cool - and that's something.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Because it's Good

Driving back from the print shop just now, I did something for the first time. I had ordered the required 4 copies of large scale floor plan drawings, and they're needed on the job site today. It cost $48 for the bundle of papers. I didn't bat at an eye at the cost since $48 is relatively cheap when most costs in our life at the moment are followed by several zeroes. I paid and pointed the car home. At the intersection was a scene that's become increasingly ubiquitous these months and years since the recession began. In Austin, at least, the number of young homeless individuals rivals the number of Vietnam vets that we're used to see standing on street corners. On the left side of my car stood a young man carrying a large sign. He held it in front of his chest and up high so that the top was resting just beneath his nose. Only his eyes were visible above the top of the cardboard. His eyes...

I'm not a side-of-the-road-money-giver. There are many reasons for this decision, one I made long ago. It has a little to do with my own professional background working in direct service at non-profit organizations, and a little to do with my public policy training and government work, and a little to do with my general knowledge of economics and this economy. My "giving" decisions are grounded in self-proclaimed "reason" and are a mixture of Friedman's boot-straps theory and some confidence in means-tested, government programs. I don't claim these reasons are effective or correct.

Today, I saw a man carrying a sign covered in carefully chosen words, beginning with the sentence, "I am humiliated to be standing here." And those eyes pierced me, deep and black, beneath a furrowed brow. Without thinking I reached for my wallet which, on this rare occasion, contained a little cash. Pulled out a $5 bill. Rolled down the window. He sprinted over and grasped my hand. His face broke into an expression of absolute gratitude and anguish, and I mumbled "Good luck to you," before driving off.

This blog is never meant as a platform for anything beyond sharing a personal journey from one distinct life into another. That's it. I offer this anecdote today as nothing more than an observation that's important to make. The news this morning reported 0% job growth numbers for the first time since the 1940's, just two weeks after my employer threw me a lifeline - and offered a 6 month extension. Driving away from the print shop, carrying four rolled copies of plans for what will be an extraordinary home, I want to record this morning. Just a reminder. In this time of scarce resources: jobs, stability, and water - we have so much. We have so much.

Ordinarily I'd develop a quick and logical argument against extending a hand like that. It's so counter to my fundamental belief in the "teach a man to fish" ideology. Maybe I did it more for me than him. Now I can pat my own back and write it down here. Maybe I did it because I honestly believed he'd use the money for food and not cigarettes. Maybe I did it because it could just as easily be me standing on the corner. Maybe I just did it because it's good. And sometimes that's the best reason.