We bought 20 acres of farm land in August 2013. Right away we started thinking about the kind of house we want to build. Both my husband and I know that a cookie-cutter home is not what we want. It just doesn’t fit with our personality…
We also kept hearing a little voice whispering to us: build it yourself, you can do it... But to build a house when you have your own young business, three kids under the age of 4, and not one family member within 6000 miles is a completely crazy idea and a disaster waiting to happen. So we ignored it.
We started looking around for something that we both liked. We looked at steel homes, we looked at log homes, we looked into a custom stick built home…. But something was missing.
Aside from the personal connection we were looking for, those homes were all so expensive! We started asking ourselves… Do we really want to pay so much for a house? How many years will it take to pay the mortgage? And when will we have enough saved to start the building process? It almost seemed impossible, and the damn voice will mot go away!
We started looking for ways to build an affordable home. We looked into purchasing a repossessed manufactured home. You can get a 2000sqf home for less than $50,000, and with a bit of fixing they are not bad at all. I thought it will be a good idea. It will allow us to move into the land quickly and it’s cheap, which means we will have money to invest in developing the land because homesteading and farming isn’t cheap, if you know what I mean.
But my husband did not like those homes. He wanted something as sturdy as a rock… Something that will last forever, as firm as the awful clay we deal with when gardening! Wait…. Clay? We have 20 acres of it!
I am not sure how we got to this realization, but suddenly it just hit us on the head. We can build a house of clay. We have so much of it anyway. And we might, just might be able to do it ourselves.
We started to research, and the more we learned the more we fell in love with the idea. It is natural, sustainable, cheaper than a regular home, insulation is phenomenal which means less money spent on heating and cooling bills for the rest of our lives, it will last forever and we can be so creative and artistic. The list of benefits kept getting longer and longer.
In order to use our natural resources smartly and build a strong yet affordable home we need to get to know our land better. Where is the sun coming up from? How the land ‘behaves’ when it is rainy? Or windy? How far do we want the house from the road? And so on. In order to really get to know all those things we need to live there.
So we figured, with our zero experience in green building, our desire to minimize and hopefully eliminate a mortgage, and the need to study the land we better start small.
We will start by building a small cottage from straw bales and cob. This will give us the opportunity to practice. We aim for this building to cost no more than $10,000. We will need a good tractor, one that we will be able to use for farming and for building the larger house later. A tractor will cost an additional $10,000. We will also need money for utility set up like well, septic, and electricity.
Once we move to this cottage we will (preferably) rent our current house or sell it. We plan to pay cash for the cottage so we won’t have any mortgage payment. This will allow us to save more every month to pay for building the bigger house. Down the road, when we move to the bigger house the cottage will become a guest house or a rental cabin. Or maybe a house for one of our kids when they grow up.
Short Term To-Do List:
- We have to make sure we are saving as much as we can every month.
- We have to keep learning. We started by reading Building Green: A Complete How-To Guide to Alternative Building Methods. What an amazing book! Overwhelming at times… It’s got all the information one needs to build a green home. From planning, laying the foundation, mixing mud and piling straw bales, to building a roof and everything in between. Everything is explained simply and with lots of colorful photos.
- We want to meet people who’ve done it, hear their stories and ask questions. The internet is a great place for that. There are many great sites and YouTube videos.
- Plan. We might buy a floor plan or draw our own. Anyway, we decide to go, we have to create a material list and break down the budget.
- Last but not least: get muddy! We are planning to attend the Mother Earth News Fair in Asheville, NC in April. They have few green building workshops and a big mud pit where you can practice building with mud.
This is the beginning of a very exciting road. Is it going to happen? Are we getting in way over our heads? I really don’t know… I hope you’ll stick around to find out.
Here is a link to my Cob Home – Inspiration Pinterest board. You are welcome to follow. But more than that I would love if you’ll help me pin some more great articles and photos to it regarding green, natural building. If you would like to join me please let me know in a comment or send me an email and I will add you to the board so you can pin to it too. Maybe one day it will be of use to you too.