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Taking Down the House…..

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Today marked the end of another testament to our craziness.  I cannot believe that I did not take any photos of us driving the two trucks and trailers from West Virginia to Minnesota to start our life here.  All I could find was a photo of Dave in the old trailer that we bought down from Alaska to West Virginia and lived in for three months.  We packed everything in the front and had a bed in the back.  When we dismantled that trailer, we felt a little bit sad.  We called it, the ‘hobo home’.  We kind of missed the freedom, the feeling of not being tied down, not belonging anywhere.

This time around, it was very different.  This time when we took the trailer box apart, it was more of a celebration.  We built the box on a utility trailer and packed as mch as we could inside.  We had to rent another Uhaul to get everything up here.  We used our old door from the house in West Virginia as the trailer door.  We actually even used the hardware and some of the wood from the Alaska trailer, so part of this trailer came with us all the way here from Alaska eight years ago!  The last three years were rough on it, the roof was leaking, mold was taking over.  We decided it could be repurposed as a wood shed for the time being, but that meant pulling all the nails in the floor and somehow getting it off the utility trailer (enter the tractor).  Dave drilled a couple of holes in the sides, ran chain through, and attached the chain to the bucket of the tractor.  Up went the bucket, up went the box- sort of.  After a few snafus, I drove the trailer out from under the hanging box and Dave set it down not-so-gently on the ground.  I am not sure that it will be able to be moved again without falling apart, but it will do for semi-dry wood storage this winter (or a large mouse house, anyway).

It was nice to look out the front and not see the ugly box anymore.  Now we can use the trailer for more exciting things, like picking up old telephone poles to use for a bridge across the creek!  And this time, I am NOT looking back nostalgically at our time camping in the field.  I am TOTALLY fine to be living in a house, with a foundation, that cannot be driven away!

 

One Day at a Time

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We were laying in bed last night, talking, and I started looking around at our room.  I expressed my continual amazement to my husband that he has built every inch of our house with his own two hands.  He dug the forms for the slab.  He did the foundation.  He built the walls, wired the house, plumbed the house.  He did the drywall, gas lines, lights.  Every single thing that my eyes stop on, he did.  I have a memory of each and every inch,  every added comfort, every moment in time that our lives improved with some added form or function.  Many people have a house built, but not many people build a house.  When you hire a crew, things get done quickly and in the proper order.  Our house has been one upgrade at a time, which has made us appreciate each and every thing that most people take for granted.

When we moved here, we had no comforts.  Life was about as basic as it could ever be.  We washed our clothes in a bucket with a hand plunger-washer.  We upgraded to the laundromat, and now, after almost three years, we have our own washing machine.  We ate in a tent and kept our food in a cooler.  Our laps were the dining room table.  When we moved into the house, we were able to have a card table to eat at.  It took another year to get a proper table and chairs, and eighteen months to get a refrigerator.  After more than two years we upgraded to a proper kitchen sink and kitchen cabinets.  We began our journey with a solar shower, ‘bathroom tent’, and a bucket.  A year and a half in, we took our first showers in the bathroom with a makeshift hot water heater and flushed the toilet for the first time.  We just upgraded to a permanent hot water heater and no longer have to heat the kids bath water on the stove.     We have upgraded based on necessity.  When I could no longer make myself use a cooler as a fridge, we got the power running and received a gift of a fridge.  When we found ourselves tiring of emptying the water bucket and hauling water, we were finally able to get the water running and hook up the plumbing.  It almost seemed as if God gave us the financial resources and means to complete a particular project just as we were reaching the breaking point.  I know that there are going to be amazing lessons in all of this as we continue to look back and remember.  Each and every thing that we have been able to do has not only increased our comfort exponentially, but because it came at a time when we were feeling overwhelmed, we appreciate each step all the more.  We were blessed with a gift of carpet just as I began to worry about the baby having to crawl on subfloor.  I made just enough extra at work to get the washing machine, right when I was feeling like I could not bear the laundromat even one more time.  When our third child was born, I could not stand the thought of coming home to no power or running water.  My husband turned the water on 9 days after she was born, and the power came on a week later.

We are nearing the end of Phase One, and have found ourselves looking back on our journey on a regular basis.  We are both amazed and awed by what we have done here, and how God’s provision has allowed us to not only endure amazing hardship, but use that hardship to appreciate everything that we have.  Sitting on a couch, washing dishes in a sink, keeping food in a fridge, playing with the kids on a carpeted floor, closing a door to separate us from everyone else….these are things we do not take for granted.  We remember each and every painful step to comfort, and it has taught us so much.

The progression of the kitchen and bathroom……..

The living space metamorphoses…….

The kid zone…….

Laundry Day……

We are almost there.  The flooring is waiting to be installed.  The last two doors are on order.  The trim and upstairs carpet will hopefully follow, and then we can begin on the finishing touches to turn it into our home- photos, paintings, bed frame, medicine cabinet, towel rack.  Hopefully we can get finished up just in time for……the addition!

It is hard to believe sometimes that three years have passed.  At the same time, it feels like it has been the longest three years of my life.  As this chapter comes to a close, though, I know that God has been and is with us every step of the way- guiding us, providing for us, and preparing us for the journey ahead.

The Long, Dark Night

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I have had a difficult time writing for the blog lately.  Admittedly, we have had a long, hard winter and I felt burned out.  What is there to say when you cannot say anything positive?  I did not even realize that I was feeling pretty down until about a month ago.  We were offered a crazy opportunity to go out West to a 30,000 acre ranch  and manage the property.  In some ways, it felt like a dream come true, but the timing was terrible.  We have spent almost three years building this place.  To abandon it now seemed almost criminal.  What this opportunity did, though, was start the process of unthawing our hearts from the long winter and made us really reflect on what it is we are doing here, why we came here, and what we want moving forward.  It has been hard to see any of that because we have gotten so caught up in the details of finishing this place that we got a little bit lost.  When we moved here, it felt very intentional.  It felt like God was leading us here for something really amazing.  We felt driven.  Over  the last three years, we have really felt like we were lost in the wilderness, so to speak.  We felt like God was really silent, which made all of our struggle seem even more challenging.  In the last few weeks, in addition to really finding our center again, we have also been renewing our resolve to live ‘the good life’ as described by Scott and Helen Nearing.  That is how all of this started.  My husband and read their book years ago, and shared it with me when we were still in Alaska.  We became convinced that a better life consisted of a life that involved growing our own food, spending more time outdoors than in, and raising our family around God.  We wanted to utilize technology, but not be slaves to it.

As we begin to unthaw, and the dawn begins to break, we have begun to have hope and purpose again.  I have been reflecting on our journey here, and everywhere I look, I see the progression of our house, and feel such a sense of pride and accomplishment.  Tomorrow we will finish installing the hot water heater and washing machine.  The flooring is on order.  The last two doors are soon to be installed.  We are beginning to wrap up Phase One of Project Homestead.

You have realized by now, I am sure, that I like to reflect.  It helps me to see where we have been, where we are, and where we are going.  I have been reflecting as we prepare to install the washing machine, and thinking about how our lives and comforts have progressed.  I find it interesting that it is now that we are becoming burned out, instead of at any of the other points in the last three years when we have been so much less comfortable.  When we started here, in July of 2014, we were bathing with a solar shower, washing clothes in a bucket, cooking on a camp stove, and doing dishes in a portable camp sink.  We upgraded slowly, VERY slowly.  One year later, we were living in a travel trailer (relative luxury), going to the laundromat, and eating, cooking, and cleaning in the camper.  It took  one-and-a-half years to get indoor plumbing and electricity.  It took two years to get a proper kitchen.  Now, after three years, I am done with the laundromat, done with boiling water on the stove for the kids’ bathwater.

There is almost no evidence left of the way we lived, and what we suffered through to be here now.  The memories linger, however; and make me thankful- every time I take a shower, every time I make a meal, every time I grab something out of the fridge, every time I  sit and watch a movie.  I am thankful for what God has given us, and that he has made us work for every little bit of it in order to give us REAL perspective.  It is so easy to be complacent and just plod along in life – especially now with cellphones, Internet, and technology all around us.  As we come to an end of what has been, for us, a long, cold dark night, I look forward to the coming dawn and all that God has in store for us!

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What If?

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What if we are the kind of people that are always waiting for the next adventure?

What if we are always wondering what is JUST over that next hill?  Around that next bend?

What if we get settled and become uneasy?

What if we stop moving, just for a moment?  What will happen? What will we find?

People ask where we are from and we tell them where we grew up.  But answering the question of where we are from makes us uncomfortable.

People ask how we ended up HERE of all places.  I do not know quite what to say.

What made you go to Alaska, they ask.  What brought you to West Virginia?  How did you pick Northern Minnesota?

So many normal questions that have no easy answers.  We often wonder what makes us different.  What makes us leave, or stay, or pick what adventure will come next?

Why are we not satisfied with the status quo?  Why do we shiver and cringe at the stabililty and normal life that most people have?

Why did God place a Gypsy Spirit in our hearts?  A Wanderlust?  An ability to have a dream, a wish, a desire, and the motivation to make it happen- without getting caught up in the anxiety, mental blocks, and fear that keep most people from moving forward?

Sometimes I WANT to be that person.  But I am not.  And I wonder why.  I wonder what God was thinking about when he made the Dave and Megan molds?  I am not sorry, not for a second.  I just sometimes wonder…..What if?

The Date and Rediscovering Ourselves

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We had an extremely rare opportunity yesterday to spend an entire day without the three kids.  It was like discovering a new, exciting world that we forgot even existed.  The weather was amazing so we made the hour drive to a local State Park and hiked out into the woods.  We set up a spot for a campfire and sat for almost two hours just talking, snacking, drinking tea, and warming ourselves by the fire while we watched the sunset.  We hiked back out at dusk and headed into town for a nice dinner.  I was struck by the strangest feeling while sitting there in the woods.  It felt so foreign, yet so familiar, to be sitting there, enjoying the silence and scenery with my husband.  The silence struck me most of all, because our days are never silent now, interrupted constantly by the whims and whines of three children. I remembered what it felt like to just have the two of us.  Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE our kids, but there are things I miss for certain.  It was so amazing to experience some of the things I miss and remember why I am so blessed to have found my best friend and be spending my life with him.  It gave us time to reflect on our life, our dreams, and what we are hoping for in coming here and starting our homestead.  It allowed us to talk about what things are important for us to pass on to our children.  We reminisced on our own childhoods and the outdoor experiences that we had that helped to shape who we are today.  It was a wonderful time and I feel so blessed to have had it.

Turning Form Into Function

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When we finished the sheds in the Fall, we were totally burned out and overwhelmed.  We decided that we would take the winter off and not work on the house.  We needed to recharge.  In typical Dave and Megan fashion, though, we cannot sit still and let life go one while we sit idle.  We have done a few small projects that have ended up having a big impact on our happiness.  It seems like it is finally time for our form to turn into functionality.   We have built the house and still have some major projects (flooring, trim, a bit of drywall, etc) but this winter has found us looking around to finish projects that make the space more useable and enjoyable.  Today we moved the kid table downstairs and did a bit of rearranging.  The boys needed a space downstairs to do projects, paint, do schoolwork.  We all have a tendency to sprawl about on the dining room table and with five people, it can get a bit crazy.  This way, the boys can have a kid zone.

We installed the door a few days ago and today I attempted to put one coat of paint on the jamb.  I still need to do a second coat and then tackle the door itself, but finding time for that with three little ones around is proving to be a challenge.  I kept asking for the door to be installed and Dave was dragging his feet a bit.  He kept thinking that it would not make that much of a difference in such a small house, especially since we had been in such close quarters for so long.  We both agree that it has made a definite difference, though!  It is quieter in the morning when the kids wake up and play.  We can close the door on naptime or in the evening, when we want to watch a show.  It also seems to be good for the kids, because now they have a more defined space that is their own.  They spent a good hour the first day knocking on the door and letting each other in!

Last, but definitely not least, we have finally installed the shelving and rod for hanging our clothes properly in the closet!  Now I have to find a place for the mass of bins that we had piled in the closet, but that is for another day.  It seems that with each small project we are exponentially increasing our happiness and finally getting the opportunity to enjoy the space that we have created.  We also have a new coat rack that has replaced the mountain of coats piled in the corner!   As we turn this form into something functional, we are learning a great deal about ourselves, about each other, and about what each of us needs, wants, and can do without.  It has been really exciting to watch this place transform and become a warm, cozy little abode that the five of us call home.

Making New Memories

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My last post probably seemed a little bit on the negative side of things.  In typical Megan fashion, I have to follow-up with a brighter message, because, thank goodness, that is how my heart works!  I had a wonderful thought tonight while laying in the pop-up hunting blind tent in the boys’ room.  We were up there telling stories by fake candlelight and I just felt super happy and warm in my tummy.  We had roasted hot dogs and marshmallows on the woodstove, gone out for a night hike, and were now getting settled in for a camping adventure in their bedroom.   A few days prior, I had been having severe doubts about our life, our isolation, and whether it was good for us, the kids, etc.  As I sat in between the kiddos, telling camping stories, I realized that we were making memories.  SO much of who I have become was shaped by the memories that my parents made with us.  We camped, we hiked, we had adventure upon adventure, we were read to, and sung to, and loved beyond belief.  It does not really matter where we grew up or what our experiences were, because we were loved, we were surrounded by people that wanted what was best for us, and we had parents that believed in making memories.  I am certain that it was not as fun and exciting for my parents as it seemed for us.  I have so much more respect for my parents now, as we attempt to make these memories for our own kiddos.  It is hard work, and not always very gratifying.  I questioned my sanity at 10:45pm when the kids were still squirreling around in their tent whispering to each other.  But I know that no matter what happens, no matter where we are, or what we are doing, we will be making memories with our kids, and they will be memories that help shape the people that they will become.

 

 

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