It has been quite a journey since we’ve moved onto the 18 acres we have been tending for the past three and half years. Some of the biggest changes are taking place as we’re endeavoring to build ourselves a home. It seems like every lesson, hardship and observation has led us to this point and we’re ready to dive in.
The phrase “building a house” does not begin to describe the extremely large undertaking involved in such a process. A house is not the sum of parts (lumber, stone, insulation etc..), but rather an extension of the humans that inhabit it. Many natural building enthusiasts refer to the house as a thirds skin (the second being our clothing). Making home does entail building a house, but extends beyond the physical details and includes how the building / inhabitant integrate into the landscape.
In line with our ethics, we have yet to take a drastic approach to changing the landscape. Small and slow has been our way.
For years we both envisioned building our own natural own, both independently and then in partnership. The dreaming, hands-on time, designing, scheming, considering, researching, sourcing, planning and sketching phases have brought us to a point where we are calling in BIG changes. With these changes also come tough decisions. In preparation for this we have walked throughout our land countless times at different seasons, observed the patterns of the sun and moon and taken notes on plant communities and soil conditions. Now that we’ve settled on a location, we are ready to break ground.
Inviting large equipment onto our land has been a difficult decision to make. We dig all the excavation for all prior buildings by hand, and value this low impact method. It is accessible, sustainable and free. In considering the scale and scope of this build and the importance of a solid foundation systems and proper drainage we called around and found the best heavy equipment operator in the area.
Neither of us have endeavored such an undertaking and it is a little nerve racking to see it beginning.
We both love to natural building; the materials, the process and of course the final result. Some of the most comfortable human spaces we’ve inhabited have been build in alignment with the Earth from site selection, materials used to the construction process. But what does it look like for us to be guiding a major building process?
This past week we’ve seen what 20 hours of heavy equipment can get done. We said goodbye to a beautiful red oak (while it was in decline, it’s still hard to kill such a large tree). We’re been sick to our stomachs at the destruction we’ve seen as the house site is being prepared. Overwhelmed, stressed, nervous… Yes and also elated and joyful. We are making the biggest changes to the landscape yet, and while we feel it’s warranted to ensure our house stands strong as long as possible (hopefully well over 100 years) it’s still a lot to be responsible for.
This is just the first step, and as the equipments operator mentioned as we rolled off site late last Friday evening, “Now the hard work begins”. In some ways I agree as from now on it will be almost exclusively hand labor, but there’s also a joy and connection to the place and materials that heavy equipment does not afford.