Saturday, April 14, 2012

A handmade home

Today was spent outside doing more work on the extension which at the moment means digging, breaking up rock, removing dirt and all things back breaking. Saturdays are generally like this, Dave spends the time outside coming in for lunch and I entertain the kids inside, popping outside with them to watch progress and give moral support; once I can't hold on to Scarlett anymore (there is no where to put her down that isn't dirt) I go back inside. Scarlett has two sleeps a day so when I get her to sleep Jonty and I get on the boots and race outside to do some work. I take the baby monitor with me so I can hear when Scarlett wakes but she is like clockwork... 45 minutes in the morning and an hour and a half in the afternoon. Jonty can be left to run around while I try to do as much as I can in this timeframe. I know that to many that this doesn't sound like fun but I LOVE it! I have always enjoyed hard labour outside. I absolutely love just going hard and pushing myself. I enjoy it even more when it is something as productive as building our own house and garden. It's my meditation. If I'm feeling stressed, unwell or overwhelmed an hour or so outside doing some work invigorates me and makes all well again. I don't know why this is, but it's just me and how I function.

Above shows what the ground is like here...rock! This is why it is taking months to get to the point of actually putting in footings and getting a building under way. The ground is unforgiving and the rock is relentless. But it is close to being done and then the really fun stuff starts!

Dave has been working for a while cutting the space out for the stairs that will join the old house with the new below. Today he finished that task which is a milestone.

I always like to fill my house with handmade things. If there is something that we need or want I prefer to find the solution with something that we can do ourselves or at least by using something recycled. By thinking outside the square and trying to do it ourselves we not only save a lot of money but create a house that has individuality. And the satisfaction is so far above what you get from just going to the shops and buying the product and putting it in your home. No amount of shopping can give you that satisfaction. We don't have a lot of money, and we will at some point soon run out of the money in the bank for this renovation but it doesn't matter. We are doing it ourselves so if we have to wait to save for a building product then we will save and just carry on with another part of the build. We are comfortable in our house and so there is no rush or urgent need to finish. Actually (and bear with me on this cause it may initially sound outrageous) I am happy that we don't have heaps of money. You see, by having to really think hard about where we spend our money it forces us to come up with clever solutions or at least to do a lot of research and get the same product for a lot less than just going to the appropriate shop and purchasing it. If we had all the money we needed, this build (and indeed our whole lifestyle) would cost a hell of a lot more for the same end product. As we go along with this build the forecast total cost is going down from what we thought it would be and that's because we are finding better solutions to just going out and purchasing what we need from the shops. And, not only does it feel good because it is all costing less, it feels good because you feel really clever! You feel that you are outsmarting the system; bucking the trends. So, I am glad that we don't have the money. It makes it more fun, more of a challenge and definitely more satisfying. It also makes my work more enjoyable because I can relate it clearly to what we gain. I sew a dress and then sell that to get the money to buy, for example, some timber. It is so simple and I like that. It gives reason to my work and keeps me motivated.

I know that we are lucky to be able to do this build because Dave has the skills but there is an awful lot that we are doing and have done in our renovation of the original house that were things neither one of us have done before. We research and generally back ourselves and just give it a go. So many people say to me "yeah but you guys know how to do all this....." and it really annoys me because there is so much that we have taught ourselves and basically just given it a go and kept on trying until we could do it.
I'm not just talking about the renovation and building here, but all sorts of things that I hear people wanting to do but just not giving it a go like making soap, vegetable gardening, pickling, sewing.... I wasn't born with an ability to do these things I just googled it and tried. Most of the time I haven't succeeded straight away but I have persisted and eventually worked it out. Life is short people, if there is something that you want to learn how to do then know that you can do it and just start the process of learning. It gives your life a new dimension, learning these handmade crafts. It gives freedom and satisfaction and changes perspective. All things that money can't buy!


  1. What a wonderful post, Theresa. Such wise words.
    We renovated a house in a similar way. When we came across something we couldn't do we would get a tradie to come and do the first bit and watch until we figured it out - then we'd carry on and do the rest ourselves. I think my husband was a pyramid builder in a previous life as he just managed to do everything and do it well. I also loved that feeling of satisfaction after accomplishing something difficult - putting in massive windows with a pulley system we rigged up or replacing the foundations or making a path around the entire garden with the bricks from a chimney we (unfortunately) had to demolish.
    The house we bought recently only needs a few things doing to it, but the budget is tight and I'm in a similar position of having to choose carefully what really needs to be done. In a previous post you talked about only having what you really need and not what others would expect you to have (keeping up with the Joneses, I guess) and that is so true. I have a dinky little kitchen that just needs some tweaking to make it perfect so I'm not going to buy a whole new one to fit in - a new bench top, oven and cooktop is all it needs. (Although I do love yours and have always had a hankering for a particular Ikea kitchen!)
    Sometimes you just have to look around you to see what you really have. Every day I think how lucky I am to have something glorious to look at out of my windows and I don't think I would swap that for the best house in the world if it didn't have that.
    The bit about hard work being like meditation is so true. This house has a garden that looks after itself, and while I'm happy to have that time to do other things, I do miss that feeling that comes with having spent a few hours of really hard work in the garden. I think it must be the negative ions coming out of the earth (or something like that). Eventually we will have a large courtyard at the back of the house - we're on a large sloping block, like you, so it will need it to be flattened first - and I'm planning a rose garden to go all around it - I can't wait to get started on it.
    The bit I loved the best in your post was how you make a dress and sell it to buy timber - that must feel so good. My mum used to make wedding cakes, leather handbags and/or preserves to supplement her income for when she needed to do something around the house - not a skill I inherited sadly, but I know it's certainly possible.
    My children are grow(ing)n up now and my youngest has just left the nest, but I remember those years of staying at home, renovating, making ends meet, digging and building and painting and making a home with so much fondness. It was such an adventure, so rich with experience, not always easy, but I feel like I could do it all again, easily!
    I am so enjoying following your journey and I wish you all the luck in the world with everything that you do.
    BTW - I'd like to send both daughters measurements to you once you get the 'made-to-measure' thing up and running as I'd love to give them both a beautiful dress for Xmas. I'm loving my floral top so much and having the 'connection' with you makes it so much better.
    Jane xx

  2. Jane, I really hope that you read this comment but think that I may have to send you a personal reply as well. Thankyou so much for all of your kind words and for taking the time to read all of this! I have just started the Rummage Style blog and transferred all of my posts from another blog that I was writing. I'm glad I did this because you got to read them! Sometimes I am writing away and wondering if the person on the other end gets what I am trying to say, well you seem to get me. It's lovely to connect with someone who is into the same things as me; gardening, renovating, home making, etc and so nice to hear that you were in a similar position as us when you had a young family. I think that if we had more money for our houses Jane, we wouldn't get the same amount of joy out of them! So, thankyou again for giving me motivation to keep on writing, knowing that there is someone out there who reads, understands and hopefully gets something out of my blog is enough for me. I will keep my blog updated on the shop progress but I am hoping for it to be open in the next week, just a few more dresses and photos to take! Theresa x