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One of the coolest things about sharing our story through our blog has been meeting other people who are on the same kind of path as us. I wanted to share some other perspectives on homesteading, home building, and what living a self-sufficient life really looks like. Over the next several weeks, we’ll be looking at the cool things that our readers are striving for in their homestead journeys.
This week, we’re looking at Mark and Bailey from If You Give a Couple a Cabin. What happens when you give a couple a cabin? They’ll probably want to live in it. So they’ll move, but then…
1. Tell us a bit about yourselves!
Hello! We are Mark and Bailey from If You Give a Couple a Cabin. We met in college and were married in 2015. Together we love to make things, make things better, make things beautiful—from woodworking to watercolor to trying that recipe for Lemon Whey Pie. We love to go the library and learn about whatever catches our attention, read a bunch of books (Mark nonfiction, Bailey fiction), and dream about all the ways we could create. Most of all, we enjoy doing all this together.
2. How did you come about getting your land and your home?
We got our land because Mark started poking around realty websites and couldn’t stop! Well, that’s only partially true. It really began because we wanted more privacy from our too-close neighbors which led to us talking about moving, then about the possibility of designing the house and building it ourselves, to shopping around for land that we both loved, to finally making an offer.
We purchased an 11.5 acre strip of land while still living in town with the idea that we’d eventually sell our house, move to the country, save our money and plan, plan, plan to build the house we wanted a few years down the road.
3. Why did you decide to move out to the country?
Moving to the country appealed to both of us from the get-go for a lot of reasons, some of which are:
- the privacy
- space and opportunities to do what we wanted with our land
- freedom from city rules
- being surrounded by trees
- the ability to plant orchards
- have farm animals
- grow large gardens
All those aside, the biggest reason why we decided to move out to the country was because we noticed how much we consumed—both material things and entertainment—while living in town, and wanted a life that was more about creating than consuming.
3. How was life different once you got out to your property?
The land we purchased had a rustic little cabin on it that had no utilities. We had thought that we’d sell our house and move into the cabin with a plan to get electricity and running water before winter. Our house didn’t sell as quickly as we expected and we didn’t take it off the market when the seasons changed so…it sold in the middle of winter! With the help of our friends and family, we moved into the cabin on December 31, 2016 in the dead cold of a northern Minnesota winter. They said we were crazy…and we were!
After we moved, we:
- had candlelight dinners every night
- went to bed a lot earlier because it was dark
- showered once a week or less
- learned to heat our house with a woodstove
- cooked on a small butane camping stove
- got our hot water by heating a kettle on the stove
- had the hardest part about going anywhere getting in or out of our driveway
- spent less time on our electronic devices that we couldn’t charge without going to the library or starting a small generator
- had a blue cooler for a refrigerator
- went to the grocery store almost every other day
- had to haul in all of our water
- and unsuccessfully tried to convince our family and friends that using a compost toilet wasn’t a big deal once you got the hang of it
It was a world of difference from our ultra-convenient in-town living! Thankfully, life has improved since then, but those “upgrades” took a lot longer than we had anticipated. In fact, we just got running water last week! We lived without electricity for nine months and without running water for just over a year and a half—and it was an experience.
It’s difficult to capture in one paragraph all the things that made life so different because our living situation forced us to live and think in new ways.
4. What are your goals for your homestead?
We never set out to become homesteaders but some homestead-like goals that we have are: building a strawbale house, having lots of useful animals, planting an orchard, gardening, using Permaculture to cultivate our land to be more beautiful, and spending more of our time making and creating rather than consuming.
5. Where are you at in your home building journey right now?
Our first goal in the grand scheme was to bring our cabin up to a modern standard of living (i.e. electricity, running water, and a bathroom) and we’re almost done with that! We’re just putting the finishing touches on our new bathroom. We still have dreams of building a strawbale house and when we do our cabin will become a guest house. We’re still in the beginning stages of planning and dreaming for our future house.
6. What advice do you have for anyone else who wants to move to the country and live a simpler life?
Simpler?! Are you kidding? Just because you have less technology doesn’t mean your life is simpler, in fact, in a lot of ways it’s more complex. We’d say don’t expect simpler and be prepared to work for basic conveniences and simple pleasures.
Living without utilities and living in the country are not the same—for people who want to move to the country to build their own house, we’d advise you figure out electricity and water because they’ll take longer than you think. Also, just because you’re in the country it doesn’t mean that zoning regulations won’t prevent you from doing what you want—pursue your permits early or even talk to your local building officials before purchasing the property.
7. Any final words of wisdom to share?
Moving to a new place doesn’t change who you are. You bring you with you wherever you go! If you want a different life, like we wanted a life of more creating than consuming, it takes a willingness to change, time to change, and choosing the hard and the good over the comfortable and the easy.
If you’re new to our homesteading project, click here to learn exactly what went into every part of building our cordwood home from scratch.
And if you’re thinking of starting your own homebuilding journey but don’t know how to start, download this free checklist to see how ready you really are.