Building a shoestring so far….

I can honestly say that building has been eventful so far and I do fill a little alone, as the one with the past history of having lived in the country before.  This isn’t helped though by the fact that I moved off to college at 18 and have lived in a populated area ever since….  Things to deal with that I have to get used to are sun, dirt, mice, bugs, and the whole different ways of doing things. We are still plodding on though.

Our plans are pretty simple: to build on the farm that my family has been at since I entered second grade.  My parents bought part of the farm from a distant cousin and the part we are building on was purchased from another cousin years later.  The land is the land that my ancestors lived on and more recently my grandmother Mildred Eldridge Richter’s brother Ernest Eldridge had his house on and then his son James Eldridge.  My father buried the house for my great Uncle Ernest in the 80s.  – I have to admit I don’t remember ever being in the house, but I’m sure I was at one point or another while we live just down the road. Currently I’ve been picking up blocks and bricks from the dirt and adding them to a pile with a plan to reuse them in some way.

In the woods behind where we are building is a pig barn.  To make it more fun for my youngest, I’ve been calling it a secret hideaway, and it is very secret.   Years ago that area had pigs and horses – and I’m sure lots of other livestock running around, so it’s no surprise that there is still an old barn hidden in the woods.  Currently we have found a fold up chair sitting in it, and it looks like at some point someone has run some lighting out to the barn.  It doesn’t look immensely secure, but as a kids playhouse/hideaway out in the country it does look fun!  It makes me a little excited to imagine all the possibilities to explore with our youngest and his friends once we get moved in!

Getting a construction loan worked out was a little complicated, but we do have it set up.  Our plan is still to sell our house in Kentucky and pay off the construction loan, so we are juggling budgets.  The loan is worked out though, but to save money we haven’t surveyed anything. So as long as we can work out selling our current home before the construction loan reaches a year, we are find.   The tough part doing it this way is that we are so reliant on everything timing out well, and so far it’s really stressful!  Having a son that has autism makes for a little more need for structure and makes change a little tougher. We have been preparing him for the time that we will retire to Illinois for his whole live, so he isn’t having too hard a time with it – but moving and leaving his friends is tough anyway.  So we are trying to stick as closely as possible to the timeline to make life less stressful.

On the spot where we plan to build, a cousin previously had a trailer.  It was last occupied in the 80s or early 90s and is now just a home for what got left behind – and a lot of mice, ants and other wildlife.  The wheels that were previously under it have no way of being used anymore and my father had the county drop a huge pile of dirt in from the of trailer also so that no one could get in from of the frame even if it was possible.  All the copper, lines, furnace and anything useful had been removed from the trailer, so my mothers preference was to just light it on fire and then move the frame that was left.  Some friends were willing to come and cut the frame pieces off to have them recycled, and the frame would be all that was left – with a plan to cut it up later also…   It ended up with only the frame pushed up into the woods by the spot that a shed is being stored until the house is delivered.

To store some of our items, we did get a shed delivered. Other than the house down payment, house insurance and the amount for the loan , it was one of the first purchases.  The shed has two lofts, a metal roof and windows the open besides a door that locks.  It was probably an extravagance, but so far it seems worth it.

We have also had a friend excavate some area for driveway and had some large rock hauled in for a driveway base.  It isn’t great to drive on, but at least we have something.  Soon we need to have a smaller crushed rock added on top of the large rock.

Foundation :

Our modular includes the foundation – 4 blocks high, so the company was to do the foundation. Getting the date and time for when though was tough!  We ended up with the foundation contractor coming a week after the house had been promised to arrive.  Kind of discouraging when you are trying to stick to a timeline for a special needs child.  They did finally show up with any a few snafus. The person from the home sales place had originally told us that they would arrive about 3 hours later than when they actually showed up and that they would call when they got close – instead they arrived before we got there and were parked on an old well.  They did get the foundation footers poured – with the cement truck almost driving into the old septic tank!  They showed up later to do the foundation walls after I had already headed back to our house in Kentucky.

The foundation has a drain in the corner, a vapor barrier, insulation, vents, and pea gravel covering. We ended up with it two blocks under ground on one end and one block deep at the other end.  The also spread dirt out… They will use the dirt to backfill the foundation later. – Which they did just show up this week to put insulation board in and boards across the top of the foundation walls. They have backfilled, but we haven’t seen what it looks like yet, since we weren’t there at the time.

The Well:
In our area a bored well seemed the way to go. There were previous wells, but they weren’t of high quality, or we couldn’t find them.  Water is pretty important.  I’m not completely sure how my husband is going to do with the well, but first we had to get a well.  Drilled wells were a lot cheaper, but had a lot less chance of being productive.  Ultimately I decided to break down and spend the money for a bored well.  We found that many of the well known well drillers in the area wouldn’t return phone calls.  I was able to find the local well map and called a few of the recent well drillers and went will a company that had done some recent wells and seemed to be really responsive to questions.
At first while drilling it seemed we were hitting a dry well, but after giving it some time to sit we found that it was filling with water.  It appears to be filling at .7 gpm – fast enough! our next step on the well will be to get the pump and storage tanks hooked up.

For septic, we were going to use the old system.  We had located an old 750 gallon tank, but ugh, it turned out to have pipes that were busted when the foundation went in, so now we are going to have to price a tank and plan a leach field… Next Step. We are looking at a chamber system for the leach field.


For the electric, we’ve been lucky to have an electrical engineer in the family – so I’m really hoping that the house arrives in time to get help hooking power up to the house.  Right now our fingers are crossed!

The modular company though wasn’t able to tell us anything about the plumbing for the house until the last minute when they let us know that the plumbing needs completed under the house.  It would have been great to know ahead of time to plan, but at least we found out before we moved in!


Finally for the gas/propane, we have arranged for a company to come hook that up.  They are just waiting for the house to arrive. Finally something simple!

Schools and Moving

There are a lot of scary things going on right now with schools for sure ! We’ve looked at the small school district that

I’ve been seeing a story about an isolation room in a classroom in Loudin County that was  captured by a special needs students iPad.  It’s not the school we are looking at moving to – not even close, but seeing things like that is pretty scary when you are in a really good school and you are moving to a new school.

Seeing this story always reminds me of a boy  that was in my 5th grade class – in the 70s, really he was in my K- 8 at least…. The teacher  actually took tall bookcases and made a cage for him and put them around his desk at the back of the classroom. I don’t think it went on for several weeks, but I remember it going on for a little while…. The teacher finally made a deal with the student that he could goof off for a short time each day if he behaved the rest as something they both could live with. So I remember the first day of the ‘truce’ being the boy wheeling the teacher’s chair up and down the rows of desks and singing Row Row Row my boat… Thinking back I wonder what the parents would have thought of what was going on in our classroom. I know my mother tried to get that teacher elected when he ran for office years later, ‘to get him out of the classroom’… but I’m fairly certain that had to do with all the other years.

For me I remember that particular teacher as helping with a few things I needed help with.  I was ahead in math in 5th grade and he let me work ahead, which really meant in 6th grade when I had to go back to material I already knew I pretty much gave up on math.  5th grade was the year I learned how to do 8th grade math, binary arithmetic and really enjoyed math.  He was also our science teacher for 6th grade and when he caught my best friend, Iva and I with a dictionary we had made with our own secret language – he gave us time during class to work on it.

So I have to admit I have good and bad memories from growing up in a small town school as the geeky misfit kid. So is it best to move to a small town where every knows each other and there is more chance for the teachers to know everyone.  That same environment also means though that the small cliques that form tend to be more lifetime cliques.   I’ve only seen the larger schools through each of my children’s experiences.  For high school the large school battled us on everything from not allowing our exchange student attend to not allowing a schedule change mistake to be fixed until the second week because they were too busy with the freshmen.  Then there was the year my oldest had class in the cafeteria which also met in the entryway of the high school at one point.  He and two other students got forgotten for a special freshman award their freshman year because they were advanced and placed in with the upper classroom during the time period that the other students were pulled out for the award.  We’ve also had them accidently schedule kids for the classes and their pre-reqs for their same semester, and even better, send truancy notices for not sending letters explaining that we were called to pick them up from school when they got sick and had to sign them out of the high school.

The grade school I attended is no longer open, it was actually two buildings spread over two towns.  Muncie Fithian….  Muncie is now considered unsafe and is used for storage, Fithian is used for a private home.  At Muncie my cousin Olive Richter was the aid to the 1st grade teacher, my cousin Charlie Mitchill was the principal for the first two years, and my cousin Randy was the janitor.  At Fithian, my Aunt Ethel was in the office!  It was great seeing my aunt everyday.  I also would take the bus over to Muncie and participate in things at the church at Muncie Baptist despite not being a congregation member myself and being Catholic, they always let me participate (bible school and choir)…  I would practice after school with the choir and then my cousin Olive would drive me home.  I remember getting the chance to walk from Muncie school to the church with Iva and enjoying the freedom of wandering the town – and with Muncie that is pretty much the entire town.

Moving to Oakwood, we will be going to the new school, but right around the corner is the ‘new’ ice cream shop and a library.  I can already picture school pick up next year involving a chance to stop at the library and then get ice cream on the way home before fixing dinner.  The ice cream shop has pizza too!  I forsee a lot of pizza dinner nights in our future.



Building on a Shoestring

Building on a Shoestring

We are getting ready to move home.  The plan had been to build in another year and a half, but we are looking at going ahead and moving a year early.   I had been looking at what we wanted to do for a while, pricing houses and looking at options.  To retire, we want to be debt free.  We already have all our cars paid off and are doing well in that way.  We do have one younger son, and two in college, but other than that we are doing pretty well.

The tough spot being 1. downsizing – it’s amazing what we have collected and 2. selling our current home.  But our plan is to build with the equity in our current home.  I’ve looked at stick built, manufactured, modular, and buying in other locations….  Buying a home was eliminated pretty quickly with our time frame because there isn’t anything available that meets what we want in a school district that we want right now. – Part of the issue of retiring with a child still in elementary school.  Modular seem to rank higher than manufactured and have more options, so they are a little higher on the list.  In my price range many of the builders pretty much turned up their noses at me.  I did find one that is willing to build for the price that we want to spend.  So we must choose from one stick built builder and a modular home.

The stick built design in the price range we want is about 6 to 700 sq feet smaller than the modular we are looking at in the same price range and isn’t as turn key.  Turn key being we can walk in and it’s done.  That being said, as the stick built is being completed, we would have more options to make changes… but those would most likely come at a cost.  The builder would be willing to work with us.  We could do some work ourselves to save money, but we also would have to do some work ourselves – and it’s not that easy for us to just run up and finish something quickly…

To budget everything, I’ve also tried to get in touch with contractors that do well and septic systems.  What I’ve found so far, is that most don’t like to return phone calls.  I’m not sure if it’s because of me being and individual calling or if it’s because they just have too much work to do, but I gave up on one well company  after leaving many messages.  Another septic company, I left several messages, including one explaining I would be in town that weekend.  They only returned a call after I called back the next week to leave a message that it was too late.  I gave them a second chance and they didn’t show up or call for that either.  I’ve finally cut ties with that contractor under the assumption that if they can’t handle returning calls or showing up when they say they will – or even at least keeping people up to date they aren’t going to service their products.  The bonus of one of the modular builders is that they will act as general contractor for no cost and handle getting septic and well completed.

Even with my plan of building on a small budget though, I do want to keep from skimping on a few things.  We don’t want to cut corners on things like our septic tank and then have toilets or sinks that back up constantly and need visits to be cleaned out.

Living out in the country though will be a ‘new’ experience, despite growing up there. I moved to the city to go to college, over 30 years ago and haven’t lived at home since.  – That was more than half my life ago…  living on the farm again will bring back silence (if you count crickets all night and dogs barking as they chase raccoons as silence), neighbors not being next door, mice everywhere (that’s a constant battle), possums in the trash, coyotes in the yard, and even deer walking past randomly.

Right now we are watching the weather to decide if we can visit, and plan out the next step….

It’s time for a new adventure!

50th – not a funny story though I try….

Yep, it was just my 50th….  I have to say it was a lot more disappointing than I expected.  I actually love birthdays. I try to plan them out for the boys….  Once for my husbands 40th I invited people for a surprise (even my grandmother was there!) and then had a cake with 40 candles.  What I did find was 40 candles creates a small fire warm enough to catch about anything on fire. A friend also snuck into his department office another year and hung a what happened the year you were born on the wall – no name, just the year.

My husband is great and has done things, I just thought there would be something special for my 50th.  Instead, due to everything going wrong, there wasn’t even a cake or a Happy Birthday song.  My family doesn’t even realize they forgot it all. The day before we went to a restaurant I chose for a Birthday/Christmas family dinner – yep birthday by a holiday really sucks your whole life.   The place was packed and took forever, it also took forever to get there due to my mother’s door lock breaking that day.   My birthday was mentioned as the check came and the server did say Happy Birthday.  Having a family that doesn’t care about birthdays they don’t realize that I’m the only one that’s never gotten the free birthday dessert, the restaurant singing happy birthday to me because I don’t feel I should be the one to tell myself.

For my birthday I had it planned to go eat at Indy and see the Children’s museum , but the lock was still broke… So by the time we left and they gave up on the lock it was late.  We arrived at the museum having not had lunch, 2 hours before the museum closed and right after their food court closed.  We ran through as fast as we could…. and then had a late lunch/dinner at a cracker barrel as fast as we could on the way home, arriving late at home.

The next day I did run out to get and eat a free cupcake from Gigi’s while my husband was on lunch break.  My family had already told me they didn’t want any so I ate it in the car before coming home….

Having a birthday at a holiday is pretty disappointing, every year growing up the school would plan the school program on my birthday, friends would be busy with their family, family my family hadn’t seen all year would be coming into town – and it always seemed that they would arrive on my birthday… with my mother saying isn’t it nice they are here for your school program, birthday whatever…. Nope, I just wanted one year that it was a day I wasn’t told that people had to rush off because so and so were coming, or were tired or whatever because they just arrived.  And the whole here’s your birthday/Christmas gift.  What they are really saying is, this time of year is busy and expensive and so we can cut corners on you, so we did….  We couldn’t even splurge for birthday paper.  I didn’t even realize you could get birthday wrapping paper until I had my own kids.

Yep, right now I’m a little sad, and it’s not that I’m 50…  I actually do feel like I’ve done a lot ….  I’m a farmer’s daughter that got a Master’s degree and worked through school as a computer programmer!  I’ve been certified in GIS (map making) and Floodplain management.  I have my name on a lot of published papers….. I’ve coordinated both a state robotics championship (FLL) and an international conference (Environmental Informatics). Now I have a business that isn’t doing horribly and to top it all off I have a great husband and three amazing boys.


A Visit Home for the 4th.

For the Fourth this year we decided to hang out at Oakwood.  We are getting excited about moving home and had to head up and spend the holiday checking out all the fun things we could do. Living out in the country is totally different from living in a subdivision… everything from the lack of neighbors, the lack of constant noise, and a to do list a mile long… oh and internet and services being spotty.  Groceries and food being a drive away…  Even the fact that cable is not an option.

Eating at the Old House

We started by picking up pizza on the way out and taking it to house.  We proceeded to eat at the house I grew up in.  My brother has been redoing it and it looks completely different.  If you have read my stories though, my whole childhood was my parents redoing the house, so the changes are not really anything different from the constant state of flux my parents had the house in.  My brother has done a great job so far though.  He’s doing everything himself and it looks pretty amazing.   My brother has a huge dog (St Bernard) that my youngest hasn’t adjusted to, so we are still working on that one…


We have had a swing for a while and hadn’t had a chance to hang it.  This trip my brother finally helped, and it is hung!  It holds 600 pounds and everyone kept taking turns to swing out in the yard.  It’s got a great view also, so we had a great time out on the swing – in the shade too!







I had to mention the toads though!  They were everywhere.  There favorite spot though is at the garage door. At one point we were seeing 7 or 8 toads hopping around right inside the garage….  I’m not sure what the thrill was with the garage but the toads seem to have found it.  There were also squirrels making a racket – to me they sounded like toads, but my mother was convinced it was squirrels.  We were seeing deer everywhere too. Out in the country we don’t hear the constant sound of cars, lawn mowers, and people, but the animals are always there….

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Going to the Pancakes, Parade and Fireworks

Oakwood has a pancake breakfast at the firehouse on the 4th first thing in the morning.  We HAD to head out to that.  The parking is a mess, but we did it.  We were there early enough that we were able to head back to the farm and get our wagon and ice for the parade before heading back out.  Parades in a small town include candy, people you know are on floats and kids are everywhere.  My mother’s goal is to collect as much as she could, but it was fun!  Despite the way to hot weather this year, we had a good time.

I tried to record the fireworks.  I’m still not sure how such a small town can have such a big fireworks display…. but they do.  I managed to catch all but the final set.  It was odd not having our own fireworks, but I’m sure it was much more safer.  We did make up for it, but shooting off my dad’s canon before though.

Clearing the Pond

Shooting the Canon

My father built this canon many years ago.  My brother and I have never tried to load it ourselves, but it was time to get a video of it going off.  To load it, we use a Dixie cup of gun powder (I said mix flour in like my dad did sometimes), a fuse, and some paper.  Shooting something out of it seemed a bad idea.

We loaded the canon, got it lit… and of course the first try didn’t go off. We then had to test the gunpowder, and then try to relight it.  My middle son managed to catch it all on camera.

My father had built the canon with a special order barrel and it’s now been shot many times, including at the  grand reopening of the bar the Little Nugget.  It’s been stolen and returned, and it’s a family legacy to pass on….

Driving the Tractor

Finally we got my little one to sit on the tractor with my mother. It won’t be much longer until we can get him to drive it!



Gardens, Strawberries, and Poison Ivy, oh My!

We’ve tried to make our own garden. – My favorite is strawberry plants.  Some of our plants are wild strawberries and some are domestic.

Strawberry Plants

Growing up, we would go pick wild strawberries wherever we found them.  I remember a few times even ending up with poison ivy in a few interesting places from picking strawberries.   The wild strawberries are much smaller and have less flavor.   We currently have both wild and domestic strawberry plants growing in our back yard.

Poison Ivy

Poison Ivy is leaves of three let it be.  I don’t remember how many times I ended up with poison ivy growing up, but my dad had some inventive ways of getting rid of it.   I remember days of soaking in the pool – because the chlorine bleach water will dry out poison ivy and dad’s favorite being putting gasoline on the spots.  Being a farm we had the big gasoline tanks in the yard to fill the farm equipment, so going out to the tanks, we could just get a little gas and use it to dry up the poison ivy.  My dad seemed to be immune to poison ivy, but he would use the gas for other things – like washing grease off his hands.  He did teach us that you don’t use gasoline to start a fire though – for that you use diesel fuel!   I’ve heard stories recently about people eating poison ivy to make themselves immune… warning: this can kill you.  Apparently some animals eat poison ivy and there are some people that do.  A report in a medical journal though found that it can not be ingested for immunity and most people that try will end up with severe rashes in their mouth resulting in the need for medical care.