Friday, May 30, 2008

First truckload

We, I should say Todd, Josie and Dad filled a 22' U-Haul with mostly totes and tubs I had packed. It was hot and muggy and sprinkled on and off all day. The children weren't too excited about packing but when the truck got here they moved quickly carrying lots of boxes into it.

The basement is starting to empty, but there is hardly a dent in upstairs. That will happen tomorrow.

I promise to compete the history leading up to the move later. Now I need to get some rest.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Spring melt

As the weather began to break we began thinking, hoping and praying that we would sell our home and be able to start building. We also knew that even if we didn't sell our house we would want to spend more time there, so we wanted to make part of the barn a place we could stay overnight without dealing with the tents. So we decided to make part of the barn into living space. The first thing to do was to finish cleaning out the north half of the barn and set some support posts. Todd started this work in early April.

The following is from an email I sent on April 5.

"We now have a moving water feature at the property.
I spent the majority of today digging ditches. If I did it for a living I'd be in much better shape--right now everything hurts.

It was so wet --not as wet as we had been warned, but lots of places that we completely dry in the fall were under water now-- in the normal parking area that Todd got the red van stuck this morning. We had talked about some drainage and today seemed to be a good day to work outside. It couldn't have been nicer weather.

The spring thaw and some rain made property wet While Todd worked in the barn and the children explored I tried to get some of the wet places to drain into the existing drainage ditches. The main one flowed north almost to the barn then turned west northwest toward the front edge of the property. There is a river just north of the property that it finally drains into.

I started at the garage door bridge where the ditch turns and using a spade dug a 8-18" wide trench or drainage ditch to where the big oil drums that are soldered together sit. It is about a foot deep in most places. I have a few branch lines (per Daniel), but tried to keep the main ditch along the tree line.

Sophie (neighbor dog) was very interested in what I was digging up and even helped a bit. I have some roots that need cut out of the "river" but we didn't have the appropriate tools with us.
Daniel is responsible for these pictures. He loved the project, although didn't help much. He said it was like "a railroad track only for boats."

Before we left the waterline on the barrels had dropped almost 2 inches. We are going back tomorrow with more concrete for setting the rest of the center posts. (Todd didn't get the holes dug for the north wall posts because the ground is still frozen.) I am very interested to see how much the water drains. If I can move tomorrow I will work draining on the fire pit area which is also underwater.

We got home bathed everyone--not everyone got bathed in warm water-- and I ran off to Wal-mart to buy myself some boots like the children all have so my feet won't be wet again all day like they were today.

The children went to sleep with amazing ease tonight. They all had fun splashing in puddles and enjoying the warm sun, finally. Natalie didn't whine too much and found things to occupy herself better than ever. Tabitha loved the puddles and wondered away from me to go see what the older children were doing more than I liked, but it shows how she is growing up. Josie would wander off and I could see her just sitting in the sun in. The big hit was finding frogs in the "pond" (aka the double wide site). Mary kept up with the big kids until the late afternoon and then she was just too tired. She rested in Josie's "apartment" (aka chicken stall of the barn) on the bed Josie had made out of scraps.

I hope everyone else enjoyed the first beautiful day of the spring.
Becky "
(end of email)

Sunday we went back and water marks showed that the water level had dropped more than 2 inches. I continued my ditch, with sore muscles from the previous days work, north past the drive. I got stuck in an area where there used to be a corn crib--the roots were thicker and there was not an obvious path for the water to drain. My drain remains even though the area is dry how. Hopefully next spring that area won't get so wet.

I hope that was coherent. I cut and pasted a couple things together. I just was telling Natalie, go to bed if you try to work on your project this late you will make more mistakes. Guess I'd better heed my own advice. We are starting to move things out tomorrow so I will need my energy.


Our first time to spend more than a few minutes at the property was when Todd's college friend was in MI for business March 13. Andy was excited to see the property, check out the deer trails and help Todd find THE spot for a deer blind.

There was snow on the ground, but it was warm enough for shirt sleeves in the sun. We had a nice picnic dinner (pizza) and enjoyed seeing all sorts of animal tracks in the melting snow--Turkey, deer, rabbit and one I couldn't identify and didn't get a picture of.

Josie thought about working on her fort, but instead decided to make a raft and float down the drainage ditch. Having water at the property was new to us since it had been a dry summer last year. That game lasted until she fell off and the raft sunk--it is still at the bottom.

Tabitha didn't like walking in the snow. She cheered briefly when I share the chocolates Andy brought for me (What a guy!) but when she left half of the goody on her face she was sad again.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008


We considered taking the house off the market for the winter just to have a break, but it didn't work out that way. We had one showing right before we left for our Christmas trip to IN one the day after we got home at midnight (we didn't unpack) and one a couple days later.

We stopped to check on the property on News Year's Day. It was covered with snow and oh so beautiful. So much snow that the under carriage of the van scrapped the snow all the way down the driveway.

We continued to have showings fairly regularly throughout the winter. But the yard was too small or on a corner or the master bed room was too small or the house was too big or the porch was too hot or too cold.

Dedication 8/25/07

This post is a bit out of order, but I did want to include it.

After we purchased the property we wanted to have a ceremony (for lack of better word) to dedicate the property and our use of it to the LORD. I know people have prayed over their houses and we have seen results of that, so we wanted to start out our time on this piece of land with Thanksgiving and purpose.

We invited our closest friends to join us for worship and prayer. The Blaylocks provided some music for us

and we prayed

and we fellowshipped

then we played

It was a good time.

Fall at the property

The BEFORE picture:

All fall long we spent as many Saturdays as possible cleaning up and fixing up the barn. The ends only had rough framing. Todd wanted to get the ends completed before winter. The porch fiasco slowed us down a bit, but Thanksgiving weekend Todd and his brother put the last piece of steel siding on.

My dad came to help a couple of weekends including an October weekend that had a high around 85 degrees--very very unusual for us.

I couldn't find any pictures of them sweating but here they appreciated the cool day in late November. Three generations working together!

We had friends come help. The largest work party was in early November when Steve, Joe and some of his children and Jim and some of his children came to help.

Josie also had her birthday party at the property. We had dinner over the fire and the girls got to experience the woods in the dark--some did better than others. Then they came home to not sleep at our house.

We enjoyed the beautiful fall at the property on Saturdays, during the week we tried to keep the house clean, but there was always weeping and gnashing of teeth when the calls came from the real estate office. It seemed we had about 3 showings a month, maybe more.

The offer gone bad--October 2007

We had showings often enough in the fall to keep the house cleaner than normal but no bites Until October. Let me see if I can cut an paste email updates...OK maybe not so you will get the Reader's Digest version here.

We had a showing. When we got home they were just leaving with smiles on their faces. While I was fixing dinner they were parked on the side street. I was getting bothered, they were obviously looking at my house. So I asked if they had any questions. They were still glowing and said they were just waiting for their agent to get done with another appointment so they could go write an offer. They just loved the house for all sorts of reasons. So got the offer, settled on a price fairly quickly. Then the inspection...

They had been by the house a few times...I recognized the car. But When they left after the inspection something was obviously wrong. They rug on the sun porch had been pulled back revealing a crack in the tile floor. We knew it was there, but the tiles were right on top of a concrete slab so we weren't worried. The crack was also just inside where there is a ventilation duck that helps with temperature control so those spots were naturally weaker.

They wanted to back out at first, then we said we would do what we could. They seemed open to us fixing a few things. So we started, we got our contractor out to look at it. Their inspector, the children dubbed him Inspector Javert form Les Miserables--he is doing his job but is still the bad guy. Anyhow he was convinced that there were cracks in the foundation. My initial response was no way are we going to spend hours digging up our yard to prove you are wrong. Well that is just what we ended up doing when Todd got home from work he started digging. We finally finished at about 11 PM. We dug 2 feet out and 3 feet down to reveal the entire footings of the 30 wide sun room. In the dark we saw no cracks.

The next day we had the Township building inspector come check it out and he saw nothing to be alarmed about. One tiny crack right around a ventilation duct. But we never got the buyers to come back and see. It was a very long emotional week.

So now we had our yard and sun porch torn up and we had no buyer.

After deciding the best way to fix the problem Todd and friends put a new raised wood floor over the tile. Then we covered the concrete brick wall with panelling to match the inside wall. All in all I really like the improvement, but the emotional cost wasn't really worth it.

Here you can see how lovely it turned out.
Thanksgiving weekend with Cousin Grace

I will get better at making these look good as I go along. It's time for bed now.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

more pictures

From our first visit to the property with Randy W.


Fordney road is a dead deal. We knew that Friday, I don't know if that got passed on.

We are meeting Randy W. at the Ring road property tomorrow to get his input. Todd is not excited about the lack of trees. But we don't have a lot of options. I like the land because is has history--the old barn. The driveway may be too expensive.

[Note: I didn't include some information about this peice of property. It is behind a house we looked at a few years ago, but we knew we couldn't afford the property also so we didn't look. We didn't think the hous ewould work for us and was overprice. Any how Todd insisted we stop to look at it on a trip to the Fordney Road property. He liked it. I thought it was too expensive--$30K more than the other peice--and we didn't need 20 acres]

The negotiation process is still going on the land, but looks good. Todd is so good at that stuff...not me we'd pay full price for everything if I had to do it. We will still need to have the health department do their thing to see if we can do a septic, but since there is already one there, though ancient, that shouldn't be an issue.

Our offer on the 20 acres on Ring Road was accepted today. Now we have to get a Perc test done and ensure there are no wetland issues. The price was more than we initially wanted to spend, but the land is so much more suited to our desires for our family: there is already a decent barn, not too big with 3 animal stalls, a clearing for the house yard and a good size garden, a perfect place for a 1/2 acre pond for skating, swimming and fishing, about 7-8 acres of woods and another 7-8 acres that appears to have been tilled at some point but is now shrubs and small trees. We are praying that the rest of this transaction would be smooth.

Our current house was shown for the third time in the month that it has been on the market. Not enough to be very encouraging, but some interest. As soon as the land deal is confirmed we will lower the price a little and see what happens. We are praying that the sellers come forward soon. And that finding temporary housing will be easy to find.

6/1/07 and 6/14/07

We went to the land again tonight with Randy and Becky. Becky has been tagging along with Randy to "get out of the house and visit". Tonight we stood in my "kitchen" (well about where it will be) and talked while the guys walked around looking for property lines. We still need to figure out some details and get more solid numbers from Randy but it is looking good. The big complication is the DEQ's restrictions. We have to fit within a small area. We can almost do it, but the pond will be out of the area and we have to justify where it is.

Last night we were out late also. Randy had that 10 acres on Townline to show us. We were unimpressed. The lot is 100 feet narrower than the Fordney rd one and had just as much wet land, although it is not where the house would go so there wouldn't be DEQ issues.

Randy also wanted to show us a foreclosure just down the road. The outside was very impressive with a stone front. It was huge! Actually it is not much bigger than the floor plan I drew, but the closets are huge, it has 1.5 more bathrooms, the ceilings are higher, no wood floors and has a more interesting layout with nooks and crannies and fancy roof lines and a neat balcony over the great room. The basement has water issues (I guess the sump pump failed) and it has mold on all of the dry wall in the stairwell and up the stairs. The kids of course loved it and said it was a mansion. It also did not have a pond or a real fireplace. The carpet in most of the house was a funny blue/green swirly pattern that neither of us liked.

So the plan now is to go back to the Fordney Road people and tell them the Perc test was unacceptable and we are waiting on the DEQ to see if we can adjust to make it acceptable (in other words can we build a pond). If they don't want to wait we are going back to square one. Todd can't talk to the DEQ lady until Friday. We keep wondering why this is being so difficult. Is it God waiting to show us something better or is it Satan getting in the way.


More roller coaster…
First where I left off. Randy B. said his associates thought the house might be priced a little high, but it is a lot of house. They also couldn’t believe that 6 children live here. We haven’t had any showings as a result, yet. We are going to give the price 30 days then reevaluate.

Today the inspectors went to the property. The septic inspector guy didn’t have any problems or surprises. But the DEQ lady gave Todd disappointing news. Most of the site we wanted to build on is wetlands so we can’t build there. They walked off areas that are not, but Todd did not feel we could build in that amount of area. It would be an area about the size of a subdivision lot. Could we get a pond, big garden and big house with some yard on that size of land? It didn’t seem like it.

Last night after our meeting with Randy to go over the contract and the plans I felt grateful that we have Christian builders, not only that but homeschooling, God serving, walking the walk Christian builders who we can work with and communicate well with. I also felt one with Todd. Everything seems to be clicking between us—ideas, dreams, reality. It feels good to be on the same page. I know communication is not always clear, but we try to get it clear if it is muddy. I pray that this stressful experience will draw us closer.

So back to the roller coaster. Just before bedtime Josie and Gabbi figured out that it didn’t look like we could build and both were in tears. Our Bible Story time was Romans 4 it is about faith. We are justified by faith. Not by finding the right house or the right land, but by faith. How appropriate.

As Todd was putting them to bed I looked for other pieces of land or houses online. I found nothing, nothing that perked our interest or fit our pocketbook. When Todd came out I told him “We need to get the children off the roller coaster.” He agreed. He is feeling the roller coaster intensely also.

Todd talked to Randy W. and he didn’t offer any clear cut solutions, but did provide some wise council. And I hope prayer support. It felt like it at least.

So after finding no real options online we looked at Todd’s drawings and notes from today and before. We played with where to put the house and the other stuff—pond, septic, etc. I finally got out graph paper and sketched the “dry” site and house to scale. We would build close to the property line. Not ideal, but doable especially with a berm and/or row of fast growing pines. I think I offered a perspective Todd didn’t have and assurance that maybe it could work. Each time he goes to the land he likes it more and more. Tonight he found some trails in the back of the property. For the price of the land I think we can make it work.

So everything is still up in the air. Todd needs to get the sketch of the site plan to the DEQ lady and see what she says. The deadline to decline the purchase agreement due to inspection is drawing near so next week we will have something for sure. My prayer is for clarity and ease with the whole project. Although things worth doing right aren’t always easy, but I can still pray for it.


Todd talked to all the "experts" (DEQ, health dept. and Randy W) and no one was concerned about the water table. Randy said he wants to be there with the health dept. guy (whose last name is Ellis, my maiden name) and that we will just build higher than we first thought and get a "daylight basement" out of the deal. That's fine with me, then the basement will be more user friendly. But the house will look huge.

So we meet With Randy W. tomorrow night. Thursday Todd meets with the DEQ person and Randy meets with the health department person. Oh yeah, tomorrow morning Randy B. brings his realtor friends to see the house. Hopefully we will get more showings after that. The people who saw our house Saturday liked it 2nd best--the back yard, or rather lack there of was the major issue. They opted for a less expensive house. We may be dropping our price, we will see what Randy B's friends say.

The beginning of the house adventure

I will cut an past some journal entries I made last year to get you up to speed on the beginning of our adventure:

We went to the property today to dig holes for the perc test and stake out the house site. It was a disappointing trip. Todd hit water at about 3 feet in each hole. There needs to be 3 about 50 ft apart 4-5 feet deep. W e figured that we couldn’t have a septic filed let alone a basement with the water table that high. Todd and I were both very disappointed and the girls also—they started grumping and slamming things as we packed up the stuff we had taken to the property. But we stopped at the Blaylock’s on the way home and they said the water table is about the same at their place and they have a basement. So maybe all is not lost. Todd put a call in to Randy W. when we got home and hopefully he will have some insight.

Back to the beginning…

We have been seriously looking for a house since March. We looked at 4 and found one we liked so we got busy on getting our home ready to sell. Even the house we liked so much was at the top of our price range and we’d have to finish the basement and add on very soon after moving in, plus it was in Midland—out of our familiar locale. Then we found one we wanted to go see, but between the time we made the appointment to see it and the actual appointment time it got an offer on it. Then we looked at a house with 10 wooded acres for $100k. We even took Randy W. out to see about adding on to it. We made our offer that night, but were a few hours too late. Someone made a mysteriously similar offer only hours before us. So it was not meant to be. All though this we have been praying for clarity and that the desires on our heart—especially my faithful Todd’s heart—would be met.

Todd came to me not too long after this and said "What about building?" I was shocked. Whenever I had mentioned building before Todd was not interested at all—too much work. But it is supposed to be a buyers housing market right now…and we still can’t find a home that we want to buy. I have been interested in building for a long time. I think it would be fun and great to have things the way we want them. I got excited about the prospect.

So we started looking at land. One of the first pieces is right down the road form the Blaylocks—some dear friends. It is ten wooded acres 1.5 miles south of them on the same road.

I started “building houses” with a computer program I have had for a long time. I had looked many house plans on line and pulled ideas form my favorites. I shared my favorites with Todd and we chose one that we both liked and was simple. It has 2 stories so we could finish the main level first then as time and money allow finish the children’s bedrooms upstairs. One last time Todd and I (and Josie and Tabitha) went to the land to see if it had dried a bit since we were there last and to look at one more house—friends of the Blaylocks. We walked into the house and I thought “Oh no Todd Is going to want this”—it was beautiful: Wood siding, beautiful setting with a pond, log cabin styling, great room with pine paneling all over. But then we saw the bedrooms, there was no way we would fit; two very small bedrooms upstairs and a master bedroom no bigger than our current one and no real good way to make space for more. It was another clear signal.

We took the plans to Randy Winterstein (He is a builder we know from church and homeschool circles and I scrapbook with his wife) and asked him to give us a rough estimate. He made a few suggestions and we left him to price it out before we made any offers on land. His rough estimate came back right in the middle of the range we were thinking it would. We had looked at another piece of 20 acres also near the Blaylocks. With Randy’s numbers it was clear that the smaller piece of land was a better economic fit for us. We made an offer on the 10 acres and after a short negotiation we agreed on $45.5K.

Things and emotions just kept getting clearer that this was the land and this was the house and this was God’s time for us. I haven’t been as excited or as convinced of God’s will since Todd proposed marriage to me.

The Blaylocks and the girls have added to the momentum with enthusiasm for the prospect of being neighbors.

Many have warned that it will be HARD work and take longer than we expect and more money than we expect. So we are trying to be careful with budget—which causes some marital issues. Todd counters every suggestion with “remember the budget” or “that would be too expensive” or the like. He has backed off a little on that since I told him that it hurt for not to even listen to my desires without telling me it can’t be done because it might cost too much. But in general we seem to be very like minded on the whole project.

Update: we have an accepted PA on a piece of land that is questionable to build what we want where we want. We understand how new construction loans work and about what we can afford to spend. We have a house plan that I think is final (I still need to share it with Randy). We are working on a contract with Randall Winterstein Builders. And our current home is on the market. Next time I will write about our first showing, but right now I am too tired.