March 2017

At the beginning of 2017 my husband and I decided it was time for us to retire from farming and downsize. The goal for this year is to build a new homestead on the back of our farm. We hope to be resettled by Christmas.
Below is a running journal describing the actual planning and steps involved in the creation of a “Old Peoples’ Homestead” for this month.

MARCH  2017

Snow Storm House

Farmhouse After Snow Storm

Most of the month will be spent in front of a laptop and on the phone.

  • A listing real estate agent needs to be retained for the sale of the farmhouse, out buildings and about 10 acres. The sale of the farmhouse and outbuildings and acreage will provide the funds necessary to build.
  • All home repairs and deferred maintenance to the farmhouse will be attended to.
  • House plans for a new home and the estimated costs to build will need to be completed.
  • Bids for a new home and provisions to sub-divide and survey the farm will have to be made before the financial work and arrangements can begin.
    Planning Stage

    The Planning Stages

  • A new driveway will be planned. The working length at this point is between 800′-1500′.
  • A part of the high tensile electric fence will have to be reconfigured and relocated. It probably won’t be done this month. But it must be planned for because the new driveway runs straight through the middle of the pasture.
  • Calls to the electric and cable companies will need to be made. Both utility companies will have to send out engineers to examine the proposed building site before they will be able to provide a realistic estimate to run underground lines.
  • A new house will be designed and plans drawn up this month. It’s a formidable undertaking.
    The new home will be a 1 level open plan. The wood stove will be located in the living room. Unlike 2-story homes, a 1 story or ranch style home can be difficult to heat with wood. Ceiling fans will help move warm air during heating season. The kitchen and living room will have about 9 windows with a southern exposure to maximize passive solar heating during the winter months.The sleeping areas will have an eastern and northern exposure. Serious consideration must be given to shading the southern windows during the summer months so that excess heat indoors doesn’t become a problem.
  • Towards the end of this month the chore of going through each and every room, closet, drawer, and cupboard begins. I’m allowing myself about 3 weeks to either sell, throw out, give away or burn items that I don’t use or don’t care to move. I’ll move through the house from top to bottom. The disaster we call a cellar will be saved for last. Maybe by the end of the month the weather will turn warmer and I can open the cellar doors to work.

If for some reason the cost to build a new home is prohibitive, it will will be time to consider Plan B.
Plan B is to sell the entire farm and relocate.

Most of the day will be spent designing a new kitchen. As much as I have enjoyed a white kitchen I will not replicate one for my new home. I’m planning an eat-in kitchen with only 2 or 3 upper kitchen cabinets. A large walk-in pantry is planned. The bottom kitchen cabinets will be mostly pull-outs. Common sense tells me that it’s not a good idea for an older woman to be climbing on chairs and countertops to reach items located on the top shelves of upper cabinets. The new cabinets will be made by a local Amish cabinet maker. At present the price for red oak is low because it is so out of fashion. Pinterest abounds with people looking for ways to live with their “ugly oak kitchen cabinets and trim”.
Well guess what folks? I’m going to take advantage of that fact and do my cabinets, trim, floors, windows and doors out of red oak.

Met with an Amish builder to discuss home plans. I’m struggling with the question of building an extra chimney for my kitchen cookstove and moving it with me. The questions for today are, “How realistic is it for an 80 year-old woman to chop firewood?” ” Do I really want to continue cooking with a cookstove?” “How would life work without a cookstove?” “Can I afford to be set in my ways?”

Cook Stove

A Wood Fired Cook Stove

Because estimates for the construction of a home are being collected, I’d be a fool not to also get estimates for a modular home. The floor plan below is for a modular home. It comes in at around 1800 sq. ft. and is constructed with 2 large rectangular boxes. The 2 sections are united at a “marriage wall” that runs down the center of the house.

1800 Sq.Ft Modular Home Plan

1800 Sq.Ft Modular Home Plan

Modular home manufacture is a booming industry in Pennsylvania. A modular home and a manufactured/mobile home aren’t the same thing. It is impossible to tell the difference between a well designed modern modular home and a stick-built home. The advantage of modular built is mostly time. Stick-built homes take months to complete. Most modulars can be built in well under 6 weeks. The general story going around is that modulars are about 20% less to build than a standard stick-built home. But I’ve had more than one person tell me that modular homes aren’t always cheaper to build. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see. Bids should start coming back to me by the end of this week.

Today the excavator will be contacted regarding building a new driveway (which is really a road).
I’ll also contact the Amish builder I met with and let him know I’ve changed my mind about bringing my cookstove. I don’t want to waste his time drawing plans for an extra chimney or estimating cost. I’m giving up cooking with wood during the winter months.  In my new home I will most likely replace the Unique brand LP range that’s in my kitchen now and begin to transition to a more conventional American kitchen.

LP Range

Unique Brand LP Range

A Unique range uses bottled propane and has a 9 volt battery ignition. So there’s never a problem when the electricity goes out or screwy electronics. The oven always works without electricity unlike most gas ranges on the market today.
I sure will miss my Waterford Stanley.
But life changes are inevitable. It’s a good idea to ride a horse in the direction it’s going.

Our real estate agent has confidence that our home with 10 acres will sell quickly. I hope that it does. A problem that may be lurking right around the corner is that my husband and I could be “homeless” between the time that the farmhouse sells and our new house is ready. The plan at this point is to live in a camper if necessary while the home is completed. I sure hope it doesn’t come to that.

Geothermal heating and cooling is what’s on my mind today. Geothermal heating and cooling works by using the constant temperature of earth which is about 50˚- 60˚. It’s a more expensive HVAC system to install, but will potentially save thousands of dollars down the road.
The man who will drill my new well is also a geothermal contractor. If I choose a geothermal system it will be installed when the new well is dug.

Bids and prices at starting to come in. The numbers are crazy.
$25,000 – $30,000 for a foundation.
Driveway & septic $10,000 – and that’s using our own gravel and material here on the farm.
$30,000 for a well and geothermal system.
$120,000 for just the shell of the modular above. That’s no floors, trim, bathtubs, sinks, toilets, kitchen cabinets or doors.
$40,000- $55,000 for finishing
$20,000 for garage
$6,000 for a metal machine shed
I’m definitely starting to wonder if we’re doing the right thing by building. Sure building a new house in my own backyard has lots of benefits. But the truth is building instead of buying a used home is the most expensive way to put a roof over your head.

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