Finding Myself in the Country Chasing the Dream
Living the Dream
The Feeling Was Mutual
We were married for less than a year when we put our plan into motion. After a frank and open discussion, we realized that we wanted many of the same things. The question was how would we get what we wanted.
With a little help from mentors like Jim Rohn, Earl Nightingale and Ed Foreman, we set out to identify our five-year goals.
One thing we both wanted was to live in the country away from a crowded neighborhood with a barrage of other people's music. We wanted privacy, a big yard, and a safe place for our dogs without adjoining fences. I had watched the abusive treatment of a neighborhood dog and needed to distance myself.
Our idea was to find some acreage out of the city limits and build our own house. We called it the Plan of May 14th because that was the day everything changed for us
Find out exactly what you want. Identify specific goals and write them down.
Develop the skills needed to undertake the project.
Our plan began to form after we met some people who actually built their own house. They invited us out for dinner in the country and we shared an amazing sunset over the nearby lake.
As night slowly crept in and darkness transformed the sky into a carpet of glittering stars, we decided this was the life for us. Helping them with a construction project developed new skills and confidence. We began looking for a piece of land to buy.
Seek out what you want and you will find it. Conversely, if you don't look, you won't find it.
Sticking to a Budget
We spent a few weeks searching the rural areas before we found a ten-acre plot that had a lake view in the distance. We decided to build a pole barn on the property and live in that while we built the house.
Every Saturday morning, instead of sleeping in, we'd start the day early. We bought only as much lumber and materials as we could afford without going into debt. We brought our own food, filling our cooler with sodas, sandwiches and snacks before beginning our day of labor in the hot sun.
Determine a budget and stick to it without going into debt.
Checking the Blocks
Having shade was essential in surviving the blistering sun of the Texas summer. We rigged up a tarp with tent poles and drank a lot of water to avoid dehydration. Hosing ourselves down with a garden sprayer helped when we needed to cool down.
After a hard day's labor, we’d drive back to the city, put away our tools and talk about our progress. Office workers like us had little trouble falling asleep after a long day of manual labor.
Drilling the Holes to Anchor the Barn
Ask for help from friends and neighbors. You never know who might be inspired by you.
Building the Barn
Setting the poles for the barn made it clear what a monumental job we were undertaking. We rented a two-man auger and tried to drill three foot deep holes. The sixteen foot 4 x 4s needed to be set in concrete to support the structure. We asked our friends for help.
Raising the Roof
Working only on weekends was slow. We found a contractor that would build the exterior of the house and let us finish out the interior. Six months later, the basic structure was finished including sub-floor plumbing, septic tank and drainage field, skills we didn't have.
Identify sequential project tasks and dependencies
The project required buying new tools like an electric drill, a staple gun, a power painter, circular saw, auger, shovels, ladders, and more. Each job seemed to require another new tool and new skills to use them.
Many of the box stores offer specialized training like tiling, painting, plumbing and other household projects. Certain areas of specialized knowledge is best done by a professional like running electrical wiring.
Every job seemed to require something else before it could be done. Before we could insulate we had to run electrical wiring. Before the wiring, we ran conduit. That had to be completed before the drywall could go up. These are project dependencies.
Our family soon expanded with a stray dog that started hanging around while we worked. She was malnourished, full of ticks and other parasites and showed signs of abuse. She was the first of many strays who found their way to our front door.
On the first day of January 1990, we installed door locks and started building out the interior walls. Extension cords snaked through the house for electricity until we could run permanent wiring.
Our priority was to get a working bathroom with a toilet and sink. There were no interior walls. The winter was frigid with no heat or insulation and temperatures in the teens. We could see our own breath inside the house.
Wood Burning Stove
On the Memorial Day holiday, we rented a U-Haul and began moving into our unfinished shell of a house. Late in the day on Monday, we made the final trip with the remaining furniture and two very anxious dogs.
It was exciting to finally be living in our new house although there was no heat, no a/c, no finished kitchen and a whole lot left to be done.
We spent our first night on the hide-away couch in the living room, too tired to set up our bed. The next day, it was business as usual, back to work and we made our first commute into the city to our regular eight to five office jobs.
How To Insulate Walls
Be prepared to sacrifice some of the comforts for the moment. It will pay off in the long run.
That first winter in the house was the hardest. We had a wood burning stove but no central heat. We sealed off the second story with tarps and slept in the living room with the three dogs and a couple of space heaters. The water froze in the dog's dish and so did everything in the kitchen. Our groceries like bread, fruit and sodas went into the refrigerator to just keep them from freezing.
We used a microwave oven, an electric frying pan and a hot plate for cooking meals. It was a year before we could afford a range and oven. Our second-hand refrigerator, bought for $75 lasted for the first ten years.
Through the years, we've faced layoffs, medical issues and other setbacks that would have been devastating if we had a large mortgage. We've developed a keen appreciation for the peace and quiet we continue to enjoy in the country. We've lived here for the past 3 decades and remain truly grateful for our good fortune.
It's our dream come true.
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.
© 2012 Peg Cole