Remember when I mentioned those winter storms the other week? Well, they arrived with a vengeance and turned my garage photo studio into a large and lovingly furnished icebox, so I don’t have any recipes to share with you today. But that’s a good thing! Because it’s the motivation I needed to sit down and update you about the flurry of activity that’s been going on at the homestead since I last wrote you about it in September. At that time the loan was freshly approved, and the earth had just began to be peeled back in an effort to make the foundation of our home. In short, it was the start of a big hole in the ground. One that has…turned into an actual basement! Yes reader, there’s concrete and insulation down there and everything. I can hardly believe my eyes when I look around the place. After years of pushing a rock up a hill only to have it roll back down to the starting point, these past few months have seen it practically fly over the hump. Our builder Philip wanted to have the roof on and the windows in by the end of 2023, and he pretty much accomplished it. So without further delay, let’s pick up from where we left off!
I don’t know much of anything about engineering, and never put much thought into how houses were built with basements. But I got a firsthand look at it August through September as they dug truckloads of earth out of the ground and patted the bottom of the hole into a nice smooth shape, covered it with gravel, and poured concrete into it. Well, there were definitely more steps than that, but as a layman observer that’s the jist of it. What was really interesting during this process was the absolutely CRAZY array of different rocks and minerals that were in the soil at the home site. The house is in the Columbia River Gorge, whose soil is basically one big landslide deposit from the Missoula Floods 12,000-15,000 years ago. That basically means that you can stand in one spot that’s 100% clay, and then take 20 steps and be standing on wonderfully composted + fertile dark brown soil. It’s a real crapshoot. But it also means that you can come across random bits of minerals that were brought from hundreds of miles away. And there were a TON of bits of this blue rock embedded in the soil, (I think it might be celadonite but I’m not sure). I loved them so much that I started picking out all the blue and pink and orange rocks and put them in jars with the intention to make watercolor pigment with them at some point.
But once the basement’s foundation/walls were poured and set, the soil was pushed back against them and my minerals went back to their rightful hiding spot. It was also really crazy to walk around the basement with the walls in place and get a feel for the space down there. Strangely enough, it felt so much bigger after the walls were up! I feel like the human mind has a hard time envisioning a space based on the shape of the floor alone, because as soon as the walls went up on each floor, it made each space feel so much roomier. And after that the timber framing began, and it started with the basement ceiling, which was also the floor of the main floor. Walking around the footprint of the living room and kitchen was in a word, surreal. I’d looked at the plans over and over and over again for the past 3 years, but to finally see the physical space take shape was just so profoundly satisfying. A lot of things have been hard the past few years, and not all of them have yielded results despite our efforts, so being able to actually stand in our future home meant a whole whole lot.
As the walls went up, we also got to see what the windows were like. This is one thing to see as a measurement on a page or an outline in a sketch, and an entirely other thing to see and experience with your own eyes. I’ve always loved the view from this land, and it was what initially drew us to this place back in 2018 when we found it. But seeing those views framed in the windows is like looking at a living breathing work of art—one that took millions of years and the steady hand of nature to create. The most profound thanks to our architect Dylan for thoughtfully designing such a wonderful home with such special views. We did make one adjustment to the pantry window, and nudged the height down a bit after framing so that I could see out of it a bit better since I’m very short, but that’s the great thing about the framing process. It gives you a feel for the space and you still have time to make some adjustments before the actual windows are put in and everything.
Then in November, the second floor started going up and that’s when it really started looking like our house. You could really see the shape of it from the outside, even when it was just in the framing stage and didn’t have the wall covers on yet. The first time we went up to the second floor, the stairs weren’t built yet so we had to climb up the scaffolding ladder (which I white-knuckled my way through, heights really freak me out) and it was positively wild standing in our future bedroom, looking out the window, and knowing that we’d wake up out there everyday in a year’s time. Jeremy held me and we stared at the view, and I knew we were really and truly home.
And as of last month, the roof got installed, and some of the windows have been installed, too! We ended up going with Andersen 100-series windows (not sponsored, just being transparent) because they have a good u-value (.24 to be exact), which in “insulation-speak” means that they prevent heat from leaking out of your home in the winter, and also prevent the sun from overheating it in the summer. Andersen makes other fancier window series that have more custom finishes, but this was a budget decision we had to make to get the cost of the house down. And while I would have loved a wood-finish on the windows’ interior, that wasn’t in the numbers. So a black or white finish it was! We ended up choosing black with Strucksured’s encouragement, because with the white finish you can see the black seams more easily, whereas with the black you don’t really see them at all.
That was just one of many changes we had to make to get the budget right for the loan amount, and I’ll dive into all the design changes we had to make for budget reasons in the next blog post. It will be interesting to talk through what we had to adjust and why—there’s SO many things that I had no idea would be expensive in the building process that very much ARE. This whole thing has been a huge learning process to say the least! And if you ever want to build a home or do some remodeling, it’s helpful to know where to look to reign costs into the realm of feasibility. And on that note, dear reader, I will leave you to pour myself a hot cup of tea and dive back into the pile of yarn I’m attempting to turn into a sweater. Wishing you a beautiful rest of your week + I’ll be back again soon, with a new recipe in tow!