Aaron and I say this to each other with regularity and have ever since we signed the paperwork for the land in September of 2012. Prior to then, we pretty much spent our evenings whiling away the time by watching the equivalent of "Ow My Balls" on YouTube and our weekends were spent in the leisure or hedonistic activity of our choice. For quite a while, we were feeling sedentary and complacent and neither of us was comfortable with that feeling at all. Part of the impetus of starting this homesteading project was to get us off our soft asses and into a more active lifestyle. Necessity, we knew, would be the only driver to properly motivate us, and necessity is bred from a more simplistic lifestyle.
Now I say "simplistic lifestyle" because that is the common nomenclature for a back to basics existence, but in truth, back to basics is ANYTHING BUT SIMPLE. The way of life we know now. . . . THAT'S simple. Having to live with awareness and consciousness every minute is no longer the norm. Water comes easy. Electricity comes easy. Food comes easy. Take away the easy and you have anything but a simplistic existence. You have a lifestyle wherein everything comes with a modicum of thought and effort and, yes, hard work.
Hard work is what we are into now. We thought the shed had elicited some hard work from us, but we now know that we'd seen nothing yet.
Having determined that we were going to move the workshop up higher in the field, we laid out the rough dimensions and broke ground in early March. Our friend, Ben, came out with some heavy machinery and helped us immensely by digging a three foot deep trench for the distance from the electricity pole to the corner of shop, just under 200 feet. This would have taken us months of pain and frustration had we done it by hand, so we are VERY grateful for that assistance. This trench became the housing for the electrical PVC conduit wherein we will eventually run wire to the shop.
|Trench, ready for the PVC pipe to be kicked in it.|
|Trailer laden with initial workshop materials. Aaron with a beer.|
|The electrical conduit sitting in seeping water, even after we've bailed it out.|
|Aaron sets the first upright next to the electrical pipe. This is one hole we did not have to dig by hand.|
1) Prepare to become intimate with these implements.
2) Using implements, dig a hole through rock and clay that is roughly half the size of your body
4) Pull a helluva lot of gravel from the hoop house and put some in the hole. Tamp.
5) Place 6x6 in the hole and add more gravel until it's a couple of inches below the rebar. Tamp some more.
6) Mix some cement in your wheel barrow.
7) Shovel cement into the hole until it covers the rebar by an inch or so.
8) Dig another hole or harvest more gravel while cement is drying.
9) Shovel gravel over cured cement.
10) Repeat until you want to die and then repeat some more until you have 8 sturdy uprights.
I won't lie. We got the west uprights completed by hand in a day. It sucked. When we came out to do the east uprights on another weekend, we rented an augur. Even then, there was a LOT of stopping to dig and clear rocks by hand, but the wear and tear on our bodies was significantly less on the second weekend.
We were so exhausted by the time the uprights were done that I, at least, could barely function. But even through the fatigue, seeing the footprint of the shop made me extremely giddy. This space, this single area that we were carving out for ourselves, would be our next dwelling, and it would be our own doing. I wish I could properly express what that feels like. It is a feeling that I'm sure many of our ancestors understood all too well, but it is one that our modern, convenience-centered lifestyle has robbed us of. It is a feeling of great accomplishment in even the smallest of tasks. It is the knowledge that every grueling step of the journey is a step toward something wholly of your creation, something that brings you closer to security, accomplishment and home.
Home. . . . .that one, for me, is a huge thing. I'm going to digress and wax sentimental, for a moment so that you might understand the significance.
"Home" to me is a symbol of something that, in my 40 years on this planet, I've never really felt I had. My childhood was nomadic, which instilled within me a very dominant sense that there is no such thing as permanence. I've never lived in a place that I felt was mine or that I felt I could go back to after I had left it. I have no childhood home. I'm not really FROM anywhere. Houses are places to park yourself for a while. Even when I bought a house in Des Moines, I never had a sense that it would last or that it was fully mine. It was a transition to something else, and I've never been extremely sad to leave a place behind. People, maybe, but not places. I've even often found myself making up songs about coming home, all the while knowing that I have no place that aptly fits that sentiment.
But here, on this 12 acres, standing amidst 8 pillars erected by the grace of our own sweat, blood and many flung profanities, I feel a stirring of something the likes of which I've never known before. There is a profound love and pride eked into everything we do here. Combine that with a deep seated feeling of cooperation and love for each other, and I know that what we are creating, here, is the place we will go back to again and again. It is the place we will call our haven and our refuge. And even without a permanent dwelling as yet, it is, in fact, my first true home.