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Life is Horrible

by Tara

We are exhausted. Bone-achingly, depressingly exhausted. It feels impossible to have a full time job and build a house in time for winter, as Tyler is trying to do. It feels impossible to have a full time job building a house, as I am trying to do, when so many things require two sets of hands and more skills than I’m able to learn at one time.

I am weary of the bloodcurdling screams we've been hurling into the woods out of frustration and pure and utter desperation. I am tired of bickering. I am tired of yelling, not at each other but to each other, because "WHO ELSE IS THERE TO VENT TO!?" I am so over of the every-other-day complete and total freak-outs, where one of us totally loses their shit.

Once in awhile, when we feel we can spare a few hours of precious time, we leave our shit-hole of a camper. We go see friends, finding solace in their company. But then we come back. Back to the trailer that is freezing-ass cold (our heater is broken and neither of us can bear to fix it). Back to the 3-gallon water jug that always needs filling, back to the outdoor shower whose pump is currently broken and useless, back to the hand-pumped well that barely works.

There are shit buckets that need emptying into the compost bays, but I cannot bear to do it any longer, so instead I just buy more buckets. The mountain of things that need to be fixed is growing, and neither of us has the wherewithal to tackle their repairs. There is a pile of construction garbage around our house. It needs to be collected into bags and taken to the dump. The contractor bags we have are nowhere to be found.

The skylights we just installed leak when it rains, leaving four puddles on the floor under the windows. The main flashing kits go on in conjunction with the slate. Since we're not installing the slate until next year, there is little we can do but hope this intrusion of water won't rot away our insanely expensive SIP roof by next year.

I picked up our stove pipe, chimney and associated equipment yesterday in preparation for our wood stove installation. The excursion was met without joy. Instead, all I could think was:

Oh great, here's yet another big project we don’t know how to do! Here's more shit that needs to be put somewhere we don’t have space for. Here's more shit that needs to be kept dry. Here's more expensive crap we will probably ruin before we even get it installed.

I hate this. Tyler hates this.

I wish I could say that I am anxious to move in our house, but the reality is this: There are currently thousands of tiny insects the size of grains of sand hatching and escaping from our straw bale walls. They enter our house via the outlet boxes. They cluster in groups to keep warm, and the small masses writhe on the walls. When I poke a finger towards them, they all try to crawl on me for warmth. And then I crush them.

Apparently this is pretty normal. Apparently when the bales dry out after plastering, they will all die and never return. Until then, there are writhing bugs on the wall.

Maybe someday, when this is all over (if there ever is such a time), we will be able to step back and see the beauty in what we’ve built. But right now, all I see, besides mistakes, is loathing. This place is the embodiment of so much frustration. This project has stretched us so thin that it feels as though the people formerly known as Tara and Tyler have ceased to exist.

I want someone who knows what they are doing to show up, take the tools out of my quivering hands, and shoo us off to bed, or to death, or to Hawaii, and to come get us when this project is miraculously over. I want to be on one of those shows where a whole team comes in for a weekend, eliminates all unknowns, and fixes your house.

This is the hardest, most stressful thing I have ever done. I think the hardest part might be realizing that we got ourselves into this mess and we’re in so deep that it feels as though there’s no getting out. I suppose we could sell everything and move to Boston. But really, neither of us wants to do that. We do want to be here. I just wish we could skip the next five years of stress and building in these "early years" of our homestead. There’s nothing to be done but try to maintain perspective, and keep slogging.

Strawbale Cottage By Night
Previous Entry
Skylights, Part Two


Hi, I came across your journal a couple years ago because I was getting into bicycle touring. Really enjoyed reading about your adventures on the road, and I stuck around as you took on this different but equally ambitious project. Just wanted to reach out and say that I think you guys are doing something absolutely amazing, envisioning a home and slowly and painstakingly making it real. And I really appreciate you sharing the experience with your readers, including the frustrations. My reaction reading this entry was a mix of sympathy, admiration (for the project, your expressive writing, and your willingness to share), and appreciation for the valuable reminder that this is probably how most big things get done, by committing and then suffering through the hard times. Looking at the picture of your house, it's so incredible to me that you guys have built that. It's beautiful, in its present form and as a work in progress. Hope the days ahead are a bit easier and thank you so much for the inspiration.
Posted by Jonathan Miller on January 25th, 2015 at 2:51 PM

I've never commented on this blog before but I just wanted to let you know that there are thousands of people out here that are rooting for you and Tyler to complete this. Just focus on what you need to do to patch things up and make it through this winter. The rest will come with time.
Posted by Kyle Montgomery on January 25th, 2015 at 4:19 PM
Hey Tara! I hope that between when this was written and now that things are at least somewhat better. If not, I hope that they are soon. I know you probably don't have much (any) time to do so, but perhaps here is a good venue to vent. Typing is probably much less satisfying than yelling/cursing/etc. but if you need to vent and don't have anyone else, I'm sure you and your readers (myself included) and/or aspiring homesteaders would find this type of post useful. I do sincerely hope things look up soon.
Posted by Nick on January 26th, 2015 at 9:36 AM
I'm sure the last thing you had time for in October was writing blog posts. But I can't help wishing you had. Like the others above said, there are thousands of us cheering you on. Here's hoping that, by the time we read this in January, you are cozy and snug and bug-free and leak-free in your beautiful little home!
Posted by Jennifer on January 27th, 2015 at 1:13 PM
This post made me really sad for you guys and also want to never build a home:/
Tiny bugs!??! WTF?
I am hoping the present moment finds you happier and warmer.
44 more days until sun, fruity beverages and all sorts of sea creatures:)
Posted by Natasha on January 29th, 2015 at 7:49 PM
Hey guys.

Came a across your blog and decided that I have to comment. I built my own straw bale house in 2012 up north of the boarder in Quebec Canada, so can sympathize with the struggles and tribulations.

I just wanted to let you now that those tiny little bugs are called psocids. I had them too, as well as many others who have built straw bale houses. I know how hard it is to not imagine your straw bale walls rotting on the inside (but they are not). It highly likely that they are still around now and will be for about another year, but will significantly decrease in quantity slowly. They will shortly be replaced by these other bugs called pseudoscorpion (these are good as they eat the little psocids). Eventually there will be more of these pseudoscorpians than the little bugs and after that they too will die off because there will be no more food for them.

This was a cause of HUGE stress for me because I was convinced I had just wasted a ton of money and time and effort to have an infested house. I just want to reassure you that its not a permanent thing and it will pass. Also, the psocids do not bite or cause any harm (other than potential alergies from the dust - much like dust mites).

Please feel free to shoot me an e-mail if you need more information.

Ryan (rfletcher.environment@gmail.com)
Posted by Ryan on January 30th, 2015 at 6:38 AM
Hey guys,

We are sad to hear about your October challenges but we hope you've handled most of them by now. How hard it must be to not have a place of respite away from your work. You both live and breath the cottage and there is no time/place to recharge and recoup. We can't imagine how hard that is but your blog conveyed the message very effectively. We love you so and admire your courage and energy in facing the unknown adventures of your demanding hearts. But if you need to take a break from your dreams or develop a plan that is less DIY and more outsourcing of labor, that's ok too.

Please come visit us in Chicago for a weekend. You can stay with us and we'll go to the Art Institute, the aquarium, Eataly, or just walk the neighborhood drinking hot chocolate. This invitation expires never times infinity.

Ivica and Karina
Posted by Team Karivi on February 1st, 2015 at 1:32 PM
Jonathan, Kyle, Nick & Jennifer - Thank you, thank you, thank you for your kind, encouraging words! They made our day and are very much appreciated! We're so glad you're with us, following along and rooting for us.

You'll be pleased to know that life is (mercifully) so, so much better now. it involves many wonderful things, including but not limited to: baking scones in a lovely kitchen, warming our toes by the wood stove, and spending snow storms in the hot tub. :-) This journey has been incredibly trying and difficult, but we've come out on the other side at last, shaken but mostly unscathed.


Natasha - Tyler and I joke sometimes that "we wouldn't wish this experience on anyone we care about." It was so f-ing hard! That being said, life is SO much better now (really pretty sweet, actually), so I think it was all worth it. Oh, and the bugs are long gone, thank god. You guys will be fine. Plus Pete is a way more skilled builder than we were. Plus we'll come visit and lend a hand. We love you guys and we CANNOT WAIT 'TIL ROATAN!


Ryan - Thank you so much for taking the time to write to us! I cannot tell you what a relief it is to hear of your experience with the psodics. Thankfully, the insects seem to be gone now, and have been for awhile. For a little while, they seemed to be replaced by a slightly larger bug, darker in color. I looked up the pseudoscorpions, and that wasn’t them. I think it was just the nymph psocids all grown up. In any case, I am reassured by your story, so thank you for sharing it with us!

I was convinced I had just wasted a ton of money and time and effort to have an infested house.

I know how hard it is to not imagine your straw bale walls rotting on the inside (but they are not).

Yes! These were my fears exactly!


Team Karivi - Oh you guys, I love you so much. Thank you for thinking of us, and for leaving such a sweet, encouraging comment, and for your offer to come stay. Of course we'd LOVE to come for a weekend! I want to do ALL the fun Chicago things with you guys!

We love you so and admire your courage and energy in facing the unknown adventures of your demanding hearts. Damn, you guys are eloquent. I love that sentence. And *ahem* yes, our hearts have a tendency to be really damn demanding!

Just like your offer, our love for you guys expires never times infinity! <3
Posted by Tara Alan on February 5th, 2015 at 3:57 PM