Onward with the Roof

A new beam was added Saturday to create the porch off the guesthouse bath. Leaning up against the building is my painted plywood of a few days ago -- it dried and the paint stuck, despite the painting in cold experience.

Rafters notched and ready to go up.


Really Cold!

Today the temperature is in the mid twenties and our Whidbey world is white with frost. The leaves of the Rhododendrons and other broad leaf shrubs are distorted with the cold. I need to paint the underside of the plywood that goes on the guest house roof. Under the overhangs it will be visible. My prospects of painting look slim. I will try to catch an hour or two of painting time during the middle of the day. Far from ideal, but...

Later: I did get the plywood painted, despite the cold, so who knows if the paint will stick or even dry. It was an interesting juggling act. I leaned the painted boards up against a ladder to dry, but the ladder tipped over after I'd finished. There I was holding five sheets of plywood, covered with wet paint, and at the same time I was trying to right the ladder. No help in sight as I struggled to manage the heavy, slippery, finger pinching mess.

Vegetable Garden

Here come the fence posts for our vegetable garden. Dick & Mary generously donated their no-longer-needed orchard fence to us for our garden. Although we encourage wildlife to visit, there are places where that doesn't work and the vegetable garden is number one. We will be fencing a corner of our property to keep out both deer and rabbits.



A new word came my way -- thanks Diane! It is dingle meaning a deep narrow wooded valley. Although the Grace Lane property we purchased had been mostly cleared prior to our purchase, it had been, before clearing, a dingle. Our home on Saratoga Road was dingle property too. I seem to have a love affair with dingles, seeking them out, unintentionally. Since the once wooded part of our deep narrow valley is being partially restored to wooded, is our new home's name Grace Dingle, Dingle Grace? Hum...


Purlines on the Rafters

Today Ben and Brad worked at adding purlins to the rafters on the guesthouse. Erin cleaned the wood in preparation for turning it into purlins. Once again, as with the barn, the wood is recycled from the Tacoma warehouse. The southeast corner of this building will have large corner windows, looking out over the pond-to-be.


Ed spent the afternoon putting conduit in place, in preparation for pouring the slab in the main living building.

Rearranging the Garden

Today plants got rearranged and replanted to start shaping the new garden. Before we sold our Saratoga home we moved some plants over to Grace Lane. We created a spot for their storage, and our pleasure, until landscaping in earnest began. Now, as we begin developing our new garden we can steal those plants from the "nursery".



We had thought it would be dry today until yesterday's late-in-the-day revised weather forecast. We had plans for finishing the roof, getting the electrical conduit in the main living done, working in the garden, painting, cleaning wood, and being productive in a million ways (never mind how unrealistic the list) -- all leading toward a finished project. When none of that was possible discontentment popped up. A most unwelcome visitor.

Some days it feels like we're waiting for the future. I think perhaps this is the big trap in building a new home. Despite all proclamations of living day-to-day, life does get put on hold. We'll have dinner guests when we have our new home; we'll have more free time once we have completed our building project; we'll take a vacation when we have time again; we'll get back to more biking, walking, talking, visiting, community work, and so forth, once we have a "normal" life again.

And, then, like today, it rains and rains and rains. All the work scheduled for today was cancelled. Ben and Brad worked for two hours before they threw in the towel. Ed barely got started with electrical before the rain won. And me, I'm just spinning my wheels. You'd think, after living in the NW for so many years, I'd have this weather thing figured out, and mostly I do. But still, from time-to-time, it controls the head.

The good thing is my mood will change, as will the weather, and the building project will progress as it always has --at its own speed -- with a rhythm and the beat of a good life, for which I am hugely grateful. I mostly wouldn't change any of it, except for the weather today.

The must-take photo...

This photo, with Brad on the top, is becoming the must-take photo. The on-the-top scene from the barn was common -- Brad on the top of the barn's framing, rafters, roof -- and now it is becoming the favorite shot of the guesthouse as well. It's the feel-good shot at the end of a hard day's work. Both Ben and Brad were sick for several days so now they are working as quickly as they can to get the roof up. Creating another dry space to work is becoming a strong goal with the relentless January rains.

Preparing for the Guesthouse Roof

Brad and Ben extend the rafters on the guesthouse for the east side overhang.

West View

East View

North view, showing window seat window on the right.

Landscaping as we go...

As the grading takes place, the mud and swampy areas go away. The site is taking shape with mounded planting beds and pathways, plus a small lawn area.


Saturday Visitors

Jeff, MaryAnn and Nancy drop by the site to see what's happening.


Rearranging Boulders

Brad, Kent & Ben struggle to get the boulders "fine tuned".

Guesthouse Rafters

The guesthouse is a bedroom and bath, plus between the bedroom and the bath, there will be a wide hallway lined with bookshelves. We call this hallway our library. The north end of the hallway dead ends at a window seat, with the other end running onto the bridge that connects the guest wing to the main living wing.

Brad on the top


Brad, Ben and Kent put up plywood.


New Year Reflections

Our lot early on...

What a journey we've been on since we first decided to sell our home on Saratoga Road and purchase a lot in Langley. Numerous reasons drove our decision -- living in town to have walkable or bike able services; being on a reliable bus route; leaving a too-busy road; finding a sunnier location for growing our food and heating our home with solar; opening up the possibility of giving up our automobile; having more neighbors; and, in general, wanting to walk our talk. The walk-our-talk was living smaller and more sustainably -- closer to the earth. Being green! How could we live a life less harsh on the earth? How could we shop locally, eat locally, and although we've shrugged off much of the speed and need of this modern consuming life, could we shrug off even more?

It was with excitement that we found the perfect lot to build on. Great land contours; southern exposure; dead end road; in the city limits; and with all utilities set up for servicing our new home. Bonus: great neighbors.

Next came the design of our home. Naturally our architectually-educated son was our first choice for the design work. He already understood us and our needs and desires plus he has his own personal commitment to building small, efficient, green homes. Then we began the long design process -- a year for us -- to come up with a design that would, we hoped, fit our needs, our site, our budget and our aesthetic desires. We pretty much stayed on the same program throughout the process but the concept, although unchanged, led us down many roads of what about this? or this? or...?

Less efficient, but critical for privacy when living small, was our desire for our living spaces to reside under separate roofs. Also, necessary, in our minds for our life style, was to create lots of outdoor covered space so we could enjoy being outdoors even in the NW's frequent rainy weather. We needed space for hobbies, household building and repair tasks, storage for recreational equipment, two offices, entertaining and gathering spots, guest facilities -- all under 1000 sq. ft.

Naturally budget was a factor, as were escalating prices. Time wasn't necessarily our friend, but neither would moving too quickly. Dissatisfaction with the result was not an option. Finding a balance between moving steadily forward, but not too fast, yet enjoying each day as it unfolded was our challenge. Another challenge was to provide the love and respect between all family members so we all felt heard, important, satisfied and pleased with not only the end product but with our relationships with one another along the way. After all, if the relationships are destroyed what good is a lovely new home.

The Barn

The barn is complete so we're now more than one third of the way finished (more if you count design). The other two buildings are well on their way, with framing of the guesthouse happening this week. As we witness what we're creating we can't help but reflect on the fact that this is no ordinary house. We will need to live differently. Collecting too much stuff is not an option! We've designed so the house can expand or shrink as needed but, naturally the question, despite all our planning, is will the spaces work as hoped? Will each individual space meet the multiple uses we intend? Will the big spaces (that are actually quite small) be big enough to accommodate larger groups? Will the kitchen, unlike any other I've ever seen, function well? The answers will unfold, along with our changing life styles to meet the challenges of this new home.

But, through it all the process remains, with the exception of an occasional meltdown, wonderful. Despite the absence of any desire to build a new home, or create the "dream" home, we've found that engaging in building our own unique living space is exciting. It is further enhanced by the creativity of working with a designer who is able to step outside the typical home design. It will be our pleasure to live in these uniquely special spaces.


The Rake: Bringing Order to the Site

After much raking and gravel moving the north side of the barn is looking quite civilized. This area in the photo is where, for months, we've been risking life and limb crossing a 2x8 bridge over an open utility ditch. The main living building, in the far left hand corner, now has a heat sink full of compacted sand. Plus, the exterior grade coming up on the south and west sides settles the building on the site.

Ed and I spent some time yesterday, New Year's Day 2008, marking out the location of our vegetable garden and cold frame. I've been reading Barbara Kingsolver's book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, plus Steve Solomon's Gardening When it Counts, both unsettling yet inspiring for growing our own food and eating locally. We'd love to have our site completely without fencing but the deer are thick in this neighborhood so fencing the vegetable garden is a must. We're placing the vegetable garden centrally for the best sun but also for social reasons as it will be close to Fred and Laurie and Judy, for community sharing and visiting. Gates will help to create the garden's communal intent.