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Trying to build a house on our land while also teaching full-time, taking on side gigs, and raising a child keeps us more than busy. What are the realities of working while you’re trying to build your homestead? And how can we manage our time effectively to make sure we get the house done without damaging ourselves in the process?
Question: If you want to build a home, but don’t know if you can do it when you and your partner both have to work, how can you deal with it?
I hope I can help answer that question for you throughout this post. You see, I was going through some old posts on my blog from last year and saw this one that REALLY sounded like what I’m going through again this year.
You see, I’m a high school music teacher. My husband is a college professor. We are teachers and it is AUGUST, which means that once again we are going through the massive amount of preparation that is necessary to have a good school year.
As much as I wish I could spend every waking moment out at the property working on the house, or sitting here writing to all of you dear readers, I can’t. My students are precious and I want to do them justice. I want them to have the most excellent experience they can in my classroom. I don’t want to short-change them just because I happen to have a life too! This is that glorious time of year for me where work/life balance goes out the window, at least for a little while.
In fact, I told myself I wasn’t allowed to write this blog post until I’d finished all of my lesson planning and made my supplemental materials for the week. It’s like I have this little mom voice in the back of my head telling me I can’t go outside and play until I finish my homework.
So ever since that last day of summer freedom before I had to don REAL PANTS and head to professional development, I haven’t posted anything. I haven’t written on the blog, shared progress shots on Instagram or Facebook, or interacted with basically anyone since I’ve had to reprise my role of educator. I’ve had to get my brain in a totally different mode for a few weeks and I just now feel like I’m getting back to that point where I could juggle a few things.
The problem is, now we have this house with half-finished walls that absolutely need to be finished before the first frost.
Why first frost? Because the mortar can’t set correctly if it freezes or gets close to freezing. While it happens to be 90 degrees with waves of tropical moisture surging overhead NOW, any homesteader knows that THIS is when you prep for winter. First frost in my area is around October 25. That is only 70 days away from today, which would be fine if neither of us had to work! But we do, so the clock is ticking much faster for us. We had been hoping to be done with this already, but the walls take a LOT longer to build than we’d anticipated.
After the walls are complete, there will still be LOTS of work to do, but we can breathe a little easier.
After we finish the walls, we will enclose the soffits and finish the cedar lap siding on the gable ends. Then, we can:
- Have our excavator finish the septic leach field and dig the hole for the cistern (to be fair, we can do this during the walls)
- Install the cistern
- Frame and put up cedar siding on the mudroom (not cordwood walls)
- Start the interior wall framing
- Install the stairs to the loft and put down the subfloor
The next inspection will be the framing inspection. Once we get that finished, we can really dive into the big stuff that we have solid experience with from our previous house, including:
- Finishing the plumbing
- Running the electrical wiring
And then the thing I’m really looking forward to:
- Installing our solar/wind off-grid system
I have no illusions that any of this will take place in a timely manner. As I’ve said before, the biggest thing to know about building your own home is that IT TAKES TIME.
It especially takes time when you’re doing it paying with cash as you go. Ever since our big outlay of cash for the concrete work and framing materials in June, the bank account doesn’t look as exciting. That said, these same jobs that take us away from the homestead project during the day are the same ones that allow us to build with cash. There’s a steady, reliable flow for now that I can plug into a spreadsheet to determine what we can do and when. But like I said, we’re teachers…this isn’t the biggest cash flow ever, but we make it work.
So what can we do to keep ourselves on track?
In times like this, I tend to reach into my teacher “toolbox” for ideas:
1. Sync up with each other via Google Calendar, Docs, and Sheets
My school is great about collaboration and minimizing printed documents by sharing via Google apps. Our secretary keeps a Google Calendar with all pertinent school functions that I have synced to my phone. I use the same calendar to sync my own personal reminders and can also use it to sync up with Mark’s calendar so that we don’t have to question who will be able to do what and when. This makes marking potential work days on the property easier!
We also keep a running Google Doc (like Word) and Google Sheet (like Excel) for collaboration on the house. For example, we have a rough to-do list and idea sheet where either of us can jot down ideas. The Google Sheet is specifically for planning out our building expenses and how to allocate future income in the best way possible.
Of course, you need a Google account for this to work, so if you don’t you can sign up HERE.
2. Make more time to actually sit and TALK to get on the “same page”.
Some nights I’ll have pep band, or he’ll have a gig. Some nights we’re absolutely exhausted. In these busy times, more than ever, it’s important to keep each other in the loop and hash things out together. We’re building this house as a united team and it’s important to converse like one. Online collaboration helps when we’re apart during the day, but real conversations are what keep the ball rolling.
Taking the time regularly to talk not only about the house but about finances is something I really advocate for in this post:
3. Enlist some more friendly help for the house items that are on “deadlines”.
Like I said, the walls need to be finished before we start getting frosts. As averse as I have been in the past month or so to having friends come and help (I maintain that setting trusses is the scariest thing and I’d hate to put friends in dangerous situations again) I think it will be an important part of getting this done. I don’t like feeling like I’m taking advantage of people, though at least this part of the job is much safer than swinging 30 ft. trusses through the air with a crane. Heck, if the Amish can do community barn raisings, this really isn’t that different! So hey, if any of you local readers want to try your hand at building a cordwood wall, let me know!
My hope is that if you are someone who is looking at building a home or starting a homestead while maintaining a full-time job, that our experiences can show you some of the ups and downs. It isn’t impossible, but it does take a lot of planning and patience. If you’re thinking of tackling a project of this scope, approach it realistically and evaluate YOUR specific options.
If you’re just joining us, check out our cordwood homestead specs here! There are lots more posts about our journey with building our cordwood home here too.
And of course, be sure to join the party on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest! We’d love to have you join us.
Thanks for reading!