Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.
When we started with our grand plan to build a barndominium on property we owned in Texas (while still living in Australia), our focus was on things we could do in finite "chunks" while we were in the U.S. We also focused on doing things that family could supervise if they were discrete projects like coordinating with the power company on the location of the transformer.
Steps to Build Our 'Barndominium'
To recap the stages:
- We acquired some acreage adjacent to our daughter and family.
- We arranged for key utilities like power and a well while still in Australia
- We consulted with the firm to build a large metal "barn"
- We coordinated with an architect friend to create the details for the interior of the house, including detailed electrical drawings and other details
- We had a roadway cleared and reinforced from the main road down to the construction area
Three years ago (hardly seems that long now) the metal barn was built and I flew in from Australia, joined by a son from California and a week later, Julie joined us from Australia. In one week, we enclosed the exterior of the "house" portion of the barn (we don't have steel on the house area below 10' from the floor). The following week, we finished the siding, windows, doors, parked our travel trailer in the large garage/shop area of the barndominium, locked everything up and flew back to Australia.
The following 2 years were slow progress - mostly during our return trips each year. The rough framing of the house was done and most of the electrical rough wiring were completed. We had some lessons learned in this process:
- People don't do what you expect. They do what you inspect. If you want quality work, be there.
- Things cost more to get done when you aren't doing the buying
- Doing as much of your own work as you can saves money and increases quality.
A bit over a year ago, I returned, leaving Julie in Australia while I worked very long days (often with key helpers) for 75 days to take the raw frame of a house and turn it into a livable house. Since Julie does much of her work from a home office, she can't work in a construction zone and while her company does have an office in the area, it's 30 miles away with significant traffic and no real advantage for work other than a faster network than we can afford at home.
Here's an internal view of the house when I returned:
And here are a few shots of what we were able to accomplish in about 75 days:
The large picnic tables on the outdoor patio were built by me and my oldest grand daughter who visited for a couple of weeks. They were built from wood we re-purposed from the many pallets we received materials on and from some leftover 2"x 6" construction grade wood.
So was it all worth the time and exceptional effort? Absolutely! Were there times when I felt completely overwhelmed by the thousands of things that needed to be done? Of course. Is there still a lot to do? Every day!
So what's on the list of things to do in the short term? Cultivating the garden, building a second house on the property for Julie's mother (we'll do a manufactured house to save time) and developing various areas on the property for chickens, bees, animals and a water feature or small pond.
When we first envisioned the property, we had a two year vision from the time we arrived back in the US. I think now it's more like a 4-5 year project. Things take a bit longer than I thought to get done (a perpetual optimist), we've added things we would like to do now that we've been here awhile and (maybe most important) we've learned that not everything needs to be done tomorrow. Sometimes it's nice to take a deep breath, relax for a few days and enjoy the place for what it is - a beautiful work in progress, developed on land where nothing had been grown or developed before.