Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.
We’re done! In that we’ll-always-be-fiddling-and-fixing sort of way. How exciting! The window trim went on last week, the kale plant that we’ve tried to keep alive has decided to grow, and three bookcases worth of books help hold in the heat.
The simple act of watching the sun rise and set through the windows; of sharing the mundane tasks of sweeping, washing dishes, bringing in wood; of beginning and ending the day inside our cabin: each of these is a delight as we notice more details, learn something about the structure, see the same sight in a whole new perspective. We keep uttering the phrase, “Oh, our little house!”
Not all lines are straight, not all angles are square. There are some drafty corners that keep the air fresh, and some gaps between logs that require more oakum. There are imperfections that remind us of what we didn’t know; there is comfort and belonging that reminds of what we have created. While there were frustrations and challenges, there is now great satisfaction and contentment. There is a reoccurring thrill in living the accomplishment of an unusual endeavor.
Too, there is the reassurance and familiarity of family and friends woven into each nook and corner. As I write this, I am seated at the kitchen table from Ryan’s parents, the family table at which they ate for so many years. Beneath my feet is a Morrocan rug, a gift from my childhood neighbor. To light my paper and pencil, is an oil lamp from friends in Rumney, while on the wall is the artwork of a Thornton friend. Dinner is simmering in cast iron from Ryan’s great-grandmother, the cookstove is from a fellow yurt enthusiast, and the table is set with chopsticks from my “adopted grandfather.” And there’s more. Indeed, much of what we have bears the story of those we’re closest to.
As I hear Ryan outside, I look up and glance at the embroidered artwork by the door. It reads: “Dear House: You’re really very small - Just big enough for Love – That’s all.” First stitched by my great-grandmother, my mother finished it. It has hung inside each house my parents have shared. Given to Ryan and I, it now hangs inside our handmade home.
As the stitching says, the cabin is small. But in building the way we did, the freedoms we have gained are tremendous. With no contractors, no bills, a minimum of waste, and no debts, we have acquired much. We have a home, which is also a story. Our shared story, through which we gained skills, sore muscles, and understanding. We have reinforced our own courage and confidence, and validated our trust in ourselves. We chose to do something outrageous – build a home by hand! The joy of succeeding is, perhaps, best expressed in the quiet, simple satisfaction of sitting down to a meal cooked over the woodstove, together, and saying once again: “Oh, our little house!”
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