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The Project


In January 2006, on a holiday visit home, we discovered that this tiny house, just south of my hometown in small town, Arkansas and next door to my mother’s place, was for sale. Without any real fore or afterthought, we bought it and the 16 acres it sits on. Then we went back to grad school, one state away.

In December of that year, D finished his degree, got a job at the University of Arkansas, and moved back to work there and in the house, which was then outfitted with one fireplace for heat, lots of dark paneling, a cast iron wood cook stove and no refrigerator. Very posh accommodations. He installed new copper plumbing, and enough wiring for a few outlets. He found snakes inside the house at night.

In June, I moved back to Arkansas, too. We took out some walls, painted everything white, and tried to make the most of a glorified lean-to addition that became our temporary multipurpose room. We installed central heat and air. The snakes stopped showing up.

Then I got pregnant. Our DIY renovations slowed down, and dreams for more large-scale changes sped up. In April of 2008, Jack came home with us.

We hired an architect who sat cross-legged on our living room floor and said our ideas “didn’t scare” him and really got us.

We’re still working on the rest.

The short version:

  • January 2006 – We buy a 1930s native stone cottage in the Ozarks with about 900 livable square feet.
  • May 2006-July 2007 – Somewhere during visits home, plumbing and wiring becomes operable. We get air conditioning, and heat! We squeeze a bed, laundry machines, and stuff that would go in a closet into a shallow room (formerly porch).
  • August 2007 – After painting walls, refinishing floors, and making the kitchen big enough for both a stove AND a refrigerator, we move in. We discover I am pregnant. I lament over my recent proximity to a lot of paint and polyurethane, and I stop making home improvements and start dreaming of home construction.
  • November 2007 – We see first version of plans for an addition to include everything but living space in two parts – the kitchen, over a crawlspace, and the bunkhouse, on a slab.
  • March 2008 – We appoint ourselves contractors. We look for reliable people to hire.
  • May 2008 – The chainsaw massacre: We tear down the multipurpose room and move into the living room.
  • June 2009 – Lots and lots of rebar and concrete.
  • July 2009 – Framing start to finish.
  • August 2009 – The new roof is decked and shingled. Siding and windows go up and in.
  • September 2009 – Rain. New soffits on the old house. Rain, rain, rain. Window trim. Rain.
  • October 2009 – Wiring, plumbing, insulation; paint outside. Thank goodness for in-laws! No Tom Sawyering necessary.
  • November 2009 – October continues. We finally move out. We get a second central heat and air system to merge with the former. The husband plumbs inside in 20-degree weather.
  • December 2009 – What’s left of the old house is gutted for new wiring, insulation and sheetrock.
  • January 2010 – For two weeks straight, it is something like 5 degrees outside and in. We give us a break.
  • February 2010 – Yet more plumbing and wiring, and reconfiguration of old walls – the former kitchen will now be living space.
  • March 2010 – drywall!
  • April 2010 – paint!
  • Summer 2010 – painting and more painting. More wiring, more plumbing.
  • August 2010 – Sinks, toilets, floors! We move back in.

And since then, as everyone warned, our progress has slowed. We let our stuff get in the way and ourselves get back to life, to being busy with other things, to spending weekends – at least one here or there – taking Jack to the zoo, or to play with other children (are those different things?). We each found great new (similar, and even better!) jobs. So we’re still juggling, still wantingstill waitingstill painting; still keeping the home fires burning; still stirring up the dust and watching it settle.

Sometimes I just get tired of working on it.

Sometimes there are more important places to be.

Someday, it’ll be sort of finished.





6 Comments leave one →
  1. February 12, 2010 9:47 pm

    Wow, this project is so cool! And I love your pictures–they’re beautiful.

  2. becky permalink
    April 22, 2010 2:19 pm

    Wow, this is inspiring. You have to finish it now that it’s on the internet. 🙂

  3. May 22, 2010 1:31 am

    LOVE the side by side painting picture…really precious. The house looks amazing. We ‘just’ renovated our old house in NY when we moved in four years ago and that was stressful enough. I can’t imagine taking on the huge building project you’ve done. Kudos to you!

    Great pictures, great blog. Just found it through Terrys blog (first day of the rest of my life) and Motherese. It is fun to find other writing moms out there in the online world.

    I grew up in MO (columbia) and worked at Kanakuk Kamps on the Arkansas border when I was in college. We’ve driven through Arkansas many times, as we drove to my grandmother”s house in TX. We’ve since lived in NH (where hubby is from), D.C., Utah and now New York but I still have the midwest in my heart. It’s a beautiful, under rated place. 🙂

    Thanks for the great blog!


  4. June 8, 2010 4:04 am

    I just saw the latest exterior shot and the one of your future kitchen for the first time. It looks like it’s going to be fabulous!


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