Wednesday, December 5, 2012

our homestead: set the trail

Morning coffee on Fish Lake near Leavenworth, WA. Photo credit: Rachel Nickel

There are a lot of exciting things happening in my life right now. One of the big ones: as mentioned a few blog posts ago, my husband and I made the big decision (and risk) to jump on affordable recession prices and buy 2.17 acres of woods near a small, bass-fishing lake about 20 minutes north of the Swan Slough. We've been busy researching house plans, sustainable building materials and systems and all of the legwork we're going to need to accomplish in order to start construction. Our current plan is to build an energy-efficient 500-800 square foot home with a cabin-aesthetic. We really only need one bathroom and two bedrooms and an open living and dining area. I'd settle for a lofted bedroom for one of the those rooms (yes, please!). Though the house we currently live in (which we do not own) is somewhat large...some might even consider it small...we barely use any of the space, save for the main lofted living area we lovingly refer to as the 70s room (wood paneling and brown shag). The funny thing is that the 70s room, our favorite room in the house, is similar in proportion to many of the smaller house plans we've been considering at 12x24 feet. We plan to build something around 20x30 or more with lots of windows, a well thought out floor plan, and a large deck for outdoor entertaining in the summer. I could totally live happily in this amount of space.  By keeping our home small and energy-efficient, we hope to enjoy many benefits:
1. Building small with sustainable materials will keep our ecological footprint down. We will also be able to preserve the majority of the big, beautiful cedars on our property for this reason.
2. We will live without a looming mortgage by choosing to forgo a larger house, freeing up our income for continuing education, family trips and experiences.
3. We will have cheaper utility bills especially if we can use alternative methods like solar panels, which actually work very well in the Pacific Northwest. No more big, cold, expensive house!
4. We will have to have less clutter and things as everything we own will need to earn its keep. Quality over quantity.
5.We should have quicker cleanup and easier maintenance. (This appeals to my hidden German neat freak)
I've always been drawn to smaller homes as I've found them to be more practical and cosier. In larger homes, people can shy away in their rooms and might choose yelling as their main form of communication rather than speak to each other face to face. I visited my family in Europe and they seemed to get along quite well in smaller abodes. It's really how the rest of the world lives. I know there will definitely be challenges in living in a smaller home, but the benefits will outweigh these challenges, especially since my husband and I will be living within our value system. It's not for everyone, but it's our dream.
Anyway, my husband and I are beyond fortunate to have friends with various skill sets: a plumber, a framer, an electrician, as well as friends who already use alternative methods such as solar panels, generators and composting toilets within the operation of their homes. We are even friends with a couple who built their own tiny house. We plan to hire friends to help us as much as possible. I love when I can support those I care about.
This little house in the woods could be ours. Image via Apartment Therapy.
Anyway, I'll write more about our dreams on a different day. I wanted to write about some changes I've decided to make to my blog to accommodate my evolving life and interests. I have thoroughly enjoyed writing about my baby backyard homestead on the Swan Slough, and I plan to continue writing about my gardening and livestock rearing interests, especially since we'll be building our own little as-far-off-the-grid-as-we-can-manage home and starting a woodland garden in the near future, which is totally homestead. However, I want to include other topics which I find fascinating or inspiring. For instance, from the time that I started attending farmers markets with my mom as a child, I've always admired self-starters and entrepreneurs. I dream of one day running my own business, but until that day comes, I would love to start featuring more posts about those with the bootstrap-business ethic. Those who take chances and start their own little businesses. I also want to feature more young couples like my husband and I who are forgoing the large-house American dream and building small...tiny...houses. These are my budding interests. Along with these features, I want to write straightforward DIY tutorials for unique skills like homebrewing mead, catching, prepping and cooking mountain trout on a camping trip, or canning tomatoes.
Since my blog will be expanding its focus and we will be moving from the Swan Slough within a year or so, I think it's time I change my blog's name. I tried to think of a name that would incorporate my themes of cultivating a little homestead of our own, supporting those who go against the grain and start their own dream businesses or decide to build their own tiny homes, and a championing of the DIY spirit. I found it. This blog will now become Set the Trail.


  1. This is an awesome blog Cat! I love your ideas and your view of a smaller home mentality and quality over quantity. I have had the experience of living in both a small and large home and agree that with a bigger home comes more yelling instead of talking to communicate and it really is a TON of housework to upkeep a larger home when really the point of having a HOME is to socialize with family and have more meaningful and deeper connections and relationships. I look forward to reading your blog. And I hope you and Joe have great success in your endeavors and dreams! Your loving cousin,

  2. Aww Hans! You're so sweet. Thanks for reading my blog and leaving a comment. Yeah, I would rather see my family constantly than be hidden in a big lonely house. Joe and I are always in the 70s room when we're home. I suppose there are some folks who need more space but I have always preferred minimal cosy living. I'd live in a hobbit hole if I could haha!

  3. So excited you're still blogging! I was your anonymous commenter on your last post :) We've moving to a place with a giant land for a garden and a ridiculously huge compost bin. We're a family of 3 (we have a 2 year old!) and we're looking to reduce our way of living in a drastic way; live simply, spend less, get rid of more, eat more slow food and grow our own, and see how a small family with young kids can live on less by choice. Anyway, I find your blog inspiring and I can't wait to see what you decide to build!

  4. Hello Kate,
    I'm excited you were still able to find me with my name switch over. I am also very happy for you and your family that you'll have some land to work soon. I'm sure your 2-year-old will love playing in the dirt right along side you. Thank you for much for your kind words. Glad there are folks like you out there. (o: