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Homesteading and Livestock

Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.


Photos Showcase: Sustainable Materials and Support of Local Businesses in Our New Home

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.

For this post, we are sharing a few photos of our house, which is now 90 percent complete! After writing so many posts about sourcing our materials, we feel it is only fair to give the “real deal” some time to shine. We are also proud of working with so many local businesses, and only turning to big box stores near the end of our building process and when we didn't have any other alternatives within our budget. Our contractor, Jeff Wooster, chooses to work with trusted, local subcontractors as a rule of thumb, so it was totally natural to find people to work with that we felt good about supporting.

As a reference point, you can find more information about how we chose and sourced the materials (as well as our installers) that are shown in the photos below by reading some of the previous posts in our blog series:

A Closer Look at Recycled Countertops
Sourcing Sustainable Bamboo Flooring

Green Building Labels: Water Conservation and Energy Efficiency Made Easier
Which Windows Are Best for a Passive Solar Home?

First up: the kitchen. Tyler jokes that we are building this house so I can have my dream kitchen, and that just may be true. Our ability to support local businesses and installers with our purchases and find environmentally friendly materials were two of my “dream” requirements. We now have  lower cabinets built by Custom Wood Products; slate Paperstone countertops from The Countertop Shoppe; a large, white farmhouse sink; and Cali-Bamboo floors from Elements of Green. Jeff will be building some open shelving and a raised eating bar on the island soon.

Paperstone countertops and bamboo floors in kitchen

The next three shots are from our bathrooms. The first is of the guest bathroom countertop, which we picked up free at a Habitat ReStore and had cut and cleaned by The Countertop Shoppe. We designed the rest of the bathroom, including the glass vessel sink and bronze, low-flow, wall-mounted faucet, around the gold flecks in this reclaimed top. The next shot is of our recycled glass countertop in the master bathroom. This counter was from the “extras” at The Countertop Shoppe, so it represents a double upcycle. The faucets are low-flow, and the floors are tiles we scavenged at a Habitat ReStore. The final photo, while not as exciting, shows the standard dual-flush toilets, which we ended up purchasing at Home Depot. These toilets are comparable in price to a standard flush toilet.

Upcycled Habitat ReStore countertop and vessel sink

recycled glass countertop 

dual flush toilet 

Lastly, in our main room, we have all of our windows in place. The photo below shows the window arrangement on our south-facing wall, which is designed with passive-solar gain in mind. The top windows are controlled by an electric switch (fancy, fancy!) and will help us to vent the hot air that rises in summer out of the house. Jeff cut and stained all the trim throughout the house, including the thick trim that connects all of these windows into one visual set.

south-facing passive solar windows

Next week, we’ll go over how we’re tackling all the bare dirt from the construction, including how we’re approaching adding native grasses to the property in a semi-organized, yet unconventional, fashion.

Photos by Jennifer Kongs.

Next post: A Tale of a Four-Wheeler, a Harrow and Planting a ‘Cody’ Buffalo Grass Lawn
Previous post: Pressure Tank, Whole-House Water Filter and Water Softener: How Our Well Works, Part 2


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.