Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Storage Shed Part 2...and New Plans

In this post I will make a note of our last trip in the fall and what our new plans are now.

Late October 2014, we managed to make another trip up to our land to work on our storage shed. 
The weather continued to be beautiful and we enjoyed as much time outside as possible.

We brought up some pine and diamond willow coat racks that my sons built for me.
They are SO much better than a pile of jackets!

Steve, Jeremy and I worked together and managed to get the shed up, the roof tinned and the exterior wrapped.

Having the shed on the yard helped define it more and gave us a great sense of accomplishment.

Our little place ready to close up for winter.

The front of the shed has a 6x5 opening for a quad or tractor door.
And that is how we left it at the end of the season.

February 2015
The biggest obstacle to us moving has been the sale of Steve's larger woodworking equipment. At the beginning of this month, those tools sold with the flexible condition that Steve could finish the jobs he had lined up before the tools were moved. We were so thankful!

That sale brought all our plans into reality with concrete dates attached. And as reality melded with our plans, they became more defined and in some cases had to change. 

We quickly realized that our time and money would not stretch far enough to build an addition on our cabin in the first season. I know that our ancestors lived through cold northern winters in one room cabins, but we are not eager to replicate the feat. Our solution was to re-purpose our storage shed into a bunk house. It will need some more windows added but as it is not finished inside, we are free to make the changes we need. 

The four oldest children will have their beds out in this bunkhouse. The building is 12x20 feet. Two girls will be up in the loft which will be 12'x8' and will be accessed by a ladder. Another daughter and our oldest son will have built-in bunk beds on the main floor that will have privacy curtains, shelves, lights and their bed (almost like a tiny bedroom). We will build a change room with a composting toilet. There will be clothing locker-units beside the bunks for each child as well.

The rest of the bunkhouse will an open living-room area with books/games shelves, a hide-a-bed for visitors (like our older kids), and a place for toys like Legos and Playmobile for winter sanity. The bunkhouse will be heated by a wall mounted propane heater which we felt would be safer for the kids than a wood stove. It will give us somewhere to send noisy, energetic kids on winter afternoons!

This extra sleeping space will allow us to finish the upstairs bedroom for Steve and I in the main cabin. That means we can move our present bedroom out of the future bathroom and work on finishing the indoor bathroom (probably next winter). The two youngest kids will sleep in the main cabin. They will claim the large, sunny loft area at the top of the stairs that is about 6'x12'. 

The only addition we are still hoping to do on the main cabin before next winter is an entryway. It will probably be 6'x8' in the south side of the cabin. This will keep cold drafts and  muddy boots out of the main cabin area.

We will build a smaller, simple storage shed to replace the re-purposed bunkhouse. The other main priorities this summer are the solar shed and equipment, the propane tank and hook-up, and a fire wood shed built and filled for next winter. I will also start a garden and hope to get chickens.

At this time, we are planning on moving the end of March, but of course that is weather dependant
 We are encouraged that two families have moved within a few miles of our place. They are both Christian families with kids and both home-school. There is also our niece and her husband who live five miles away....and within days they will have a new baby! They are all attending a small but growing church nearby, so we will not be isolated or alone by any means!

Monday, February 16, 2015

Storage Shed

Early fall 2014, we decided that a storage shed would be our next build. With a small house, it is important for us to have somewhere to store off-season items, keep a deep freeze, and  tools out of the weather. 
Steve and our 16 yr old son began levelling places for cement blocks for treated beams to sit on.

The weather was unseasonably warm for September which was wonderful....but we were all hot and sweaty after working. We have rustic bathing facilities (ie. rubber made tub) but it is very mobile. So on the nice evenings, we had bathtime in the deck. With swimsuits on (just in case we had company) we took turns bathing in the great outdoors.  

The floor was done and the walls built.

We ran out of time and energy so we stacked the walls on the finished floor and stapled house wrap 
over the whole thing. It would have to wait for the next trip.

Packing up to go home.

The kids enjoying a natural playground in our pasture. 

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Accidentally-On-Purpose Minimalists

How It Started
My husband Steve and I did not start out to be minimalist, off-grid, simple-living advocates: it just happened. Life shaped us this way. There were of course many factors and influences involved in our evolution into this lifestyle: economy, desire to stay out of debt, available resources, and having a large family are some of those factors. We are not really stuck on any one definition on what being a minimalist means, we have simply tried to learn what would work for us in the situations we were in.

We've Always Lived and Worked Small
I suppose we have been living this lifestyle for a long time. We have only lived in smaller homes. Steve has only had small shops to run his business out of. That has forced us to learn to make small spaces do big things for us.
 When we were first married and up until we had three children, we lived in a 890 square foot house without a basement. We then moved into a small, older home for just one year which was maybe a little smaller, but had a basement that was partially finished. That gave us more storage, laundry facilities downstairs, and an office and sewing space. From there we moved into the house we have rented for over 14 years. It is 930 square feet. The basement was almost totally unfinished when we moved in, but with an agreement with our landlady, we have finished the basement over the years. We also had five more children over those years. That makes us 10 people in our little house....with often many friends over on the weekends! It is busy, loud and fun. The only way to survive with sanity is to have limited stuff.

I stress that point: Limited Stuff (aka: Crap).

As our family grew, I learned how to cut back and deal with limited space. It was indeed a process. While in some ways we were forced into simple living by our circumstances, it is something that we have embraced and delighted in along the journey: thus, Accidentally-On-Purpose Minimalists.

Now We Are Moving To A Real Small Home
That process is what has enabled me to take this next step without it feeling like the end of the world. In fact, I welcome it! I would also add that the incredibly long time it has taken us to build this little house, has added to the feeling of anticipation for us all! Our plan right now is to move early this spring (2015). Our two oldest kids, ages 20 and 18 will stay here and keep renting our present house. The remaining 8 of us will move into our tiny, 500 square foot (plus loft), size home. We will be adding on another 500 or so square feet with another partial loft area. It will have two bedrooms, one bathroom (with a double out-house outside), large kitchen, cozy living and dining areas, and two fireplaces for heating. While it will require creativity to manage with one bathroom, and limited space, it will be more than sufficient for our needs.

How We Ended Up Off-Grid
Our choice to go with solar power was also an accidental choice. We have always been intrigued by solar, but would have probably just brought power in anyway. However, the quoted price to bring power onto our land ended up being so high, that we thought we would pursue solar after all since the initial cost will be the same.
Wood heat was a natural choice since our new house is in the middle of timber country.
Propane over natural gas was a big debate for us. We finally settled on propane. The initial cost of getting propane set up is much less than bringing in natural gas. It would take a lot of consumption to neutralize this difference.
Lastly, water is a problem where our land is located. Most folks either a dugout for water with a water filtration system, or a cistern that you have to fill from a water station (there is one just 5 miles away). We plan on going with the cistern. The dugout is a lot of work and money to get set up, and there is regular maintenance required. Thy cistern will be fairly demanding as well as we will either have to get a trailer and tank to fill it ourselves, or pay someone with a water truck to come fill it. However, the initial cost is much less and we felt it would be the better choice since there is talk of a water line being installed down our road within the next five years.

We are looking forward to seeing how this all works out...and I've started packing to move!


Friday, June 27, 2014

Our Building Story Part 9 - Last Trip For 2013 And First For 2014

 In November, Steve and I made another trip with just the two of us. We had bought engineered hardwood flooring for the main floor of the house and we wanted to bring it up so it could "acclimatize".
We just stayed a few days and we planned to be back by the end of the month for hunting with the boys and to put the flooring in.

I would still go on my early morning walks...I enjoy coming back to the cabin to see smoke coming out of the chimney and anticipate the warmth within.  

This turned out blurry, but there were FANTASTIC northern lights one of the first nights. 

Steve went out a couple afternoons to hunt deer. He saw some, but not big enough to shoot. 

Cosy and warm. :) 

We put some LED lights under the cabinets which really helped. Until we get solar power in, we are using propane lighting and they are so load and inconvenient to light.  The LED lights were motion sensitive - you just waved below them to turn them on and they had an auto-shut-off after 30 min. 

The third day we were there is snowed overnight. The forecast was calling for more so we decided to get home right away. We had very treacherous driving until we got south of Edmonton. 

The last tree living out of four I transplanted into our yard. It is such a funny, gangly thing. I was going to cut it off, but I felt too sorry for it. 

So we went home, but our plans to be back in a couple weeks changed. We got a call from friends asking if we wanted to go to Cuba with them - they had found a GREAT sale.
This is just what we hoped to do after turning up the cruise last year so jumped at it. 
We had a wonderful 8 days in Cuba!
It was a perfect 20th anniversary trip!

The winter of 2013/2014 was very cold with heavy snowfall. That hampered us getting back up to our land that winter. But Steve was not idle. He made me this beautiful table for a kitchen island. The legs are out of the diamond willow we harvested on our land and the top is a pine slab. 

 That ends our 2013 season. We did not make nearly as many trips as the year before and to be honest, we felt a little discouraged about ever being able to move to our land. 
Steve had a man interested in buying his business, but that fell through. 
Our kids were less and less excited about leaving our church family and their jobs.
We were renting our current house, renting Steve's wood shop, paying utilities on both, plus trying to build our own place without going in debt....very stretching indeed!


Mid May 2014, we were able to make a family trip up to the house to do some finishing. Our oldest daughter stayed home because of work, but the rest of piled into the van, loaded the cargo trailer and headed north. 
We were not sure if the field would be dry enough to get in with our van and I was anticipating parking at the neighbours and carrying our stuff in. However, when we arrived, we were delighted to find it wet but firm enough to get in and out easily! YEA!
Everything was in order and just the way we left it the fall before.

The first few evenings, we were treated to the amazing spectacle of a Sandhill Crane migration! The huge birds flew over in groups of thousands, filling the air with their calls. They would fly in lines like this and then form up in a cloud that would turn and twist on itself. Truly an amazing sight! 

Another evening, our young son saw a little muskrat scoot under our trailer. 
The kids enjoyed watching him for a while. 

Our main job was putting in the hardwood flooring we had brought up last fall. Our oldest son, our one daughter, Steven and myself worked together on it and I found it to be a really fun job. 
The flooring is engineered hardwood (basically a tongue and groove plywood with 5-7mm of hardwood on top). We chose to go with engineered because with wood heat and a crawl-space under the house, we were concerned that the changed in temperature and moisture may cause regular hardwood to warp. We love the warmth and beauty of wood, so engineered seemed the best choice.
We ended up getting a dark stained oak with some blond streaks in it. It also has saw chatter and other marks in it - making it a good match with the modern-rustic finishing we already had. 

Steve cut a plywood form around the fireplace in an abstract wave. 
We have decided to go with small-medium sized river rock around the fire place and pebbles on the floor. The abstract pattern will be reminiscent of a shore-line.

Looking into the kitchen area - with my island now in place. :)

Steve was in his element on this part of the project! He loves finishing and details and he had fun working on his own project for a change. 

Looking down from the landing.

We also brought up the finished fir doors that Steve and our son worked on over the winter.
Steve had all the jamb and moulding pre-finished.

From the other side of that door - with the closet door beside it. I LOVE THIS CORNER!

Steve had enough time to put in the first of the stair rails - the one between the landing and the kitchen.
This stopped my little ones from their nasty habit of stepping from the landing onto my kitchen counter!!!

Island in place! I just love the colours and the different woods. 

Railings from the stair side. 

My littlest sweetie having her bath in a Rubbermade. :)

She enjoys the windows upstairs - I'm not sure I like her standing up there!!!

One of the last things I did was hang a bird-feeder outside my kitchen window. 
Somehow this speaks "Home" to me. 

Well, it is late June 2014 when I am writing this and we have heard that the caterpillars are back at our place,  but less than half as many as last year. That is good news. 

We are also seriously perusing moving this season. Not sure where that will lead us yet...but we are trying.

I am now officially caught up posting to where our building process is at present. 
From now on, I'll be branching out into different aspects of our journey. Choosing simple can get very complicated! We are always course-correcting and re-evaluating our choices along the way. 
I hope to share next how we came to make the choices we have and why we are going the direction we are.