Most people who say they want to build their own home really mean they want to hire an architect and a contractor to have a house built for them. But not my mom!
For years she talked about building her own house, and she meant it. She dreamt of building it all with her own two hands.
Ten years ago, when she was 58, she actually started it!
With no partner to help, very little money, and no friends in her new town, she bought three acres and moved into this nasty 7ft x 10ft straw bale shed, with the mice, at 9,000 feet altitude, in the Colorado Rockies.
She had a porta-potty for a toilet and a solar camping shower; her drinking water came from the spring on her property.
What she lacked in tangible assets though, she made up for with dreams, guts, and determination.
This is what she has now:
She had the foundation professionally done, and has hired a neighbor to help here and there, for things like putting the windows in, some of which are over seven-feet wide; but that’s about it.
Everything else she’s done on her own, or with help from friends and family when she can get it. I think it’s fair to say that my mom is a badass!
There have been terrifying moments, like the day I picked up my phone, only to see that she’d texted me an hour earlier, “Could you please call my neighbor? I’m stuck on the roof.”
And inconvenient times; before the stairs were finished we had to climb three different ladders to get from the front door to the kitchen.
And amazing times, like the first Christmas all of us could stay with her.
To a passer-by this place may not look like much because the siding isn’t on yet. But inside there are four-stories and two lofts housing three private bedrooms and a bunk room; two of the bedrooms are large suites with attached jacuzzi-tub bathrooms. The uppermost loft is the bunk room for the grand-kids with five twin beds.
The entire house has in-floor heating, spectacular views, and great custom details: as well as a million things that are unfinished.
The question when visiting is never “Will we work on a project?” but always “What project will we work on?” During our 2018 Christmas visit we helped finish the living room floor by laying the in-floor heating and participating in the concrete pour.
It was the very last floor to be finished — no more dirt!
When I arrived five days ago I discovered that this time the project was a hot tub. YAY! And cutting a hole for a door through her bedroom wall to get to the hot tub. Did I mention that her walls are really thick concrete covered with foam?
This hot tub was another one of her dreams. She’d started talking about it the day her bedroom became habitable. The plan had always been to have a hot tub she could access from her room's en suite shower.
Two months ago, the inspiration that whispers to all of us, said it was time. She was minding her own business when the thought came to her, “What am I waiting for?” She went on Craigslist and sure enough, there was a free hot tub that was everything she'd hoped for!
She found a friend to help pick it up from the owner; and they built a shed for it to sit on, making the bottom of the hot tub 7-feet in the air! As luck would have it, her friend also knew someone with a backhoe who was willing to lift it onto the shed.
All that work, and she didn't even know if it would run! She left the sides open so she could replace components as needed.
My kids and I arrived for the moment of truth, after we gave it a thorough scrubbing and Mom finished wiring the electric, she filled it just enough to cover the water intake.
“Ok, here it goes!” She said.
I had my doubts, this thing had been sitting unused for two years, was it actually going to work?
“Score!” Mom said, throwing both hands in the air as water started spitting out of the jets. Ha!
And yes, the heater worked too! By the next morning we were climbing the ladder to jump in and enjoy the view.
Next, came the door. After a day and a half of hard labor, with help from her brother:
And my son (Yes, he’s smashing concrete barefoot. Hmm.)
Using a cement saw, chisels, and a sledge hammer, the makings of a doorway emerged.
Now, we can walk The Plank, nine-feet off the ground, at a 30 degree angle, to get in the tub instead of using the ladder.
How long will it be before there’s an actual door? Let’s just say I know what I’m doing after I finish writing this.
Living like this isn't everyone’s cup of tea!
Many would have chosen to work “a normal job” for ten years and then paid someone else to do the construction.
Many would have been uncomfortable living in a house that was still under construction.
Many would have never even attempted such things and just died without trying.
Many feel free to express their opinions to my mom about all the things she should or shouldn’t have done.
But that’s the thing about inspiration, it doesn’t care what other people think, or what most people would do. So the question is...