Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.
The Small Home, Big Decisions series follows Jennifer and her husband, Tyler, as they build a self-reliant homestead on a piece of country property in northeastern Kansas. The series will delve into questions that arise during their building process and the decisions they make along the way. The posts are a work in progress, written as their home-building adventure unfolds.
We have been living in our new country home for a little longer than a week. Despite the boxes, dust, routine changes and constantly feeling like we can’t relax until everything is “just so,” living on our property outside of town makes us both more satisfied than we could have ever known it would. The sunrise each morning over the hill, followed by later sitting on our back porch to watch the sunset display its full-horizon force over the valley below (see photo above), seem to be gifted moments created for us each day. We notice the birds flitting in the pasture pre-dawn, listen for the owls hooting back and forth as the day comes to a close, and are greeted often by deer standing guard on our driveway when we return from a day at work. That all sounds really lovely and relaxing, I know, but, honestly, those are only moments of wonder we have sprinkled into the hectic mix of moving and settling into a new place.
We are lucky enough to live close to supportive families and friends, so our move went as smoothly as anyone could ask. We spent about three hours physically moving items on both Saturday and Sunday, and had a total of about 60 willing hands. We had packed and organized our belongings beforehand into already used moving boxes that we’d saved from friends for a couple of months in anticipation. This made the move smooth, saved us a ton on buying boxes, and most of the boxes and items even ended up in the right rooms. A couple of additional friends and family members volunteered to bring food for the masses, so we “paid” our volunteer crew with sandwiches, brownies and ice-cold beer. We couldn’t be more grateful for how smoothly that part of the process went. For us, the day was, like, fun! I don’t think that’s a normal move-in day sentiment, so we must have done something right (or we just know the right people).
After everything was moved in, we began the long slog of opening and unpacking all the boxes. We wish we had taken the time before we brought our belongings in to give the house a complete once-over with a dust rag, map and some good scrubbing. But, we’ve dedicated every spare moment to cleaning, organizing, unpacking and then — the hardest part for us after paying for a whole new home— buying the random hardware and odds and ends we need to fill out the spaces.
Some finishing touches are still needed on the house. We didn’t have a refrigerator until two days ago (who knew modern conveniences were so valuable to a MOTHER EARTH NEWS-er?), and are waiting for some shelves to be built (we wanted custom work done for these), and need our woodstove installed (winter is coming). Oh yeah, we could also use a couch and maybe a rug or two. But, those all seem minor in the grand scheme of things.
Also, many of the nitty-gritty details remained, and some are ongoing. We had to finish up the work post-inspection in order to close the sale, we needed to cancel cable and water service, set up trash pick-up (we do get it here, which is nice), find an Internet provider (probably worth a post on its own), change our electricity billing, and transfer our mailing address (easy to do online with the USPS, although not so fast to contact everyone who mails you — think banks, employer, doctor, etc.).
Our only advice, really: Plan for the move, organize as much as you can ahead of time, try to clean the new space thoroughly before moving (you’ll have to clean more afterward no matter what, but wiping dust off walls would be better before you have to maneuver around furniture), and just keep plugging away. Having peace of mind in a new space is well worth the effort. Make lists — we’re big fans of the daily task lists. OK, I'm a really big fan of the daily task lists. I may be guilty of making a spreadsheet or two to be sure we didn’t lose anything in the mix, and then storing it on Google Drive so both Tyler and I could access it and keep updated on the progress of tasks. So, yeah. Staying organized is a big one in my book.
Oh, and be sure to take at least a few moments to break and enjoy the nature around you — that is part of why to move to the country, after all!
So, with some things not quite finished, you may wonder why we moved when we did. We have four answers: Shock and Awe, Doug and Brutus — our recently arrived and incredibly adorable American Guinea Hogs. We’ll write more about why we chose to start our homestead with hogs next week.
Photo of the sunset from the new back porch by Jennifer Kongs.
Jennifer Kongs is the Managing Editor at MOTHER EARTH NEWS magazine. When she’s not working at the magazine, she’s likely in her garden, on the local running trails or in her kitchen instead. You can connect directly with Jennifer by leaving a comment below.