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by Tara

I recently unearthed this gem from our stack of filed journal entries. I wrote it a little over a year ago, in May of 2014, but we never published it, instead posting a very abridged version. I think it was, as my brother would say, "too real" for us at the time. Or perhaps we were simply too tired, and weary of hearing ourselves complain. Whatever the case, here it is for posterity. I am so thankful that time has passed!

It's a miserable, cold and rainy day. The dampness of the world is seeping into my bones, threatening to take up permanent residence. It's been the same shade of dark, silvery grey since we woke up. I can hardly tell what time it is.

Tyler is in the solar shed with our electrician friend, Mark, wiring up our solar panels. Meanwhile, I've been painting 12-foot sheets of drywall in the relatively weather-proof shelter of our workshop. The drywall is for the roof of our little house, to be laid over the rafters, and under the Timberline SIP panels which will be arriving in about two weeks. It isn't the best idea to be painting on such a wet day, but I'm doing it anyway.

When I'm finished with the final coat of paint, I tromp through our woods, back to the solar shed to check out the progress. Instead of giving me the tour of our solar equipment, Tyler looks outside and nods his head in the direction of our timber frame. "Check it out," he says dismally. I follow his nod, and there, up on the ridge, our little house is naked and vulnerable, being pummeled by rain.

The tarps, which we so carefully attached to protect our home, are now flapping about like sails, halfway blown off the roof. I sigh, weary of our many failed attempts to keep our belongings dry. "I'm sure it will be fine," I say, resigned. "I'm not too worried about it. The roof will go on soon. It won't be exposed for long." Besides, I think, what could we possibly do about it? It's far too windy and rainy to even consider going up there to fix it.

Still, we go up to check on the tarps. Tyler wants to rectify the situation, but he's becoming increasingly upset trying to do so. Mark drove two hours to be here to help him install solar panels, and every second that he's up here, he's missing out on learning about the process. After trying unsuccessfully for five minutes or so, Tyler gives up, saying, "I can't... I can't deal with this right now. You fix it!"

Then, he hurries down the muddy slope, back to our solar shed.

I feel as though a leaden weight has landed on my chest. Looking at this building, this little frame we've worked so hard on, our enormous tarps flapping on the ground uselessly, pooling with water… it's hopeless. As cold rain stabs my face in sharp pricks, and as the ugly leafless trees which surround our house flail about, buffeted by the wind, all I can think is, how in god's name am I going to fix this?

I am not Tyler, who can somehow force inanimate objects to do his bidding. I can't scamper along ridge beams barefoot, or shimmy up rafters like they're barely there. It takes me five minutes to get up and down our scaffolding! I have to make sure of every foothold, quavering as I find a way to step from the scaffolding to our loft, all the while clinging to anything stable for support.

With an icy finality, the reality of the situation hits me like a ton of bricks: I can't do anything about this.

Tarp Failure on Timber Frame Cottage

The realization of my helplessness, combined with the pouring rain, cold wind, and oppressive darkness is overwhelming. I worked so hard to cut and sand and stain this frame. The house which will save us from our god-forsaken camper is being destroyed before my very eyes, and I am powerless to save it.

I begin to weep uncontrollably, as I've never wept before. My stomach clenches, and I double over, cupping a hand over my mouth in horror as I watch water pooling under our posts, rain spraying the beams as if from a hose. I cry in fits and starts, unable to control the squeaks and wails that escape my light-headed hyperventilating breaths.

It feels like everything I am and all I've worked for is being systematically destroyed by the universe.

Timber Frame Cottage Getting Rained On

Why do we even bother trying? I think. We might as well just light the fucking thing on fire and finish the job nature is doing so well. It's going to rot anyway. Everything will be destroyed in the end. Why the fuck do we even bother TRYING?

I imagine for a moment what it would be like to sell this place, to burn all of our belongings and move to Mexico. It's briefly appealing, and then I remember how much work it would take to disentangle ourselves from our life here, and then I weep even harder when I realize that the only way out of this mess is by going through it. My fate is sealed. I must go onward, cold, wet and without a real place to call home, until I die.

Timber Frame Cottage Getting Rained On

Eventually, Mark and Tyler finish wiring the solar panels, and Mark heads north, towards home. (Thank you for all of your help, Mark!) Emerging from the solar shed, Tyler hears my hyperventilating and squeaking over the roaring winds and comes running up the slope to wrap me in his arms. We both stand there, getting wetter and wetter.

"I can't... do it" I confess between heaving sobs. In response, Tyler swoops up the scaffolding, leaps onto a tie beam, then walks straight up the rafters, looking like he is wearing a giant pair of skis. And then, we attempt to get the little house tarped. Tyler is like a sailor in a storm, the flapping tarps our sails. He's at his wit's end, too, I can tell, all rational sense washed away with the rain. He's shivering uncontrollably.

He heaves the tarp back up, pulling it like rigging. "I NEED YOUR HELP" he shouts. "I WANT TO HELP, but what can I DO!?" I shout back. The tarp is far too high in the air for me to reach it. By now he's pulled the tarp up so high that he's covered by it and he can't what he's doing. Acting as his eyes, I shout directions, trying to help him maneuver the tarp successfully.

Suddenly, a small hole in the tarp catches on one of our curved rafter tails. STOP! I yell, but it's too late. As Tyler keeping hoisting the tarp, the hole tears further and further until there's a massive gash in the supposedly protective covering. I SAID, WAIT A SECOND!! There's a hole in the tarp, HANG ON!!

HURRY UP! I AM SO FUCKING COLD! he shouts. He's shaking, soaked through.

I AM TRYING TO HURRY, DAMMIT! With fumbling fingers, I attempt to free the tearing tarp from the rafter, lifting it with a long spare 2x4. It takes a minute, but eventually I'm successful, and Tyler continues pulling and dragging the tarp with such fierce determination, he's like a robot, hell-bent on a successful mission.

This is stupid. This is so, so stupid I say, over and over again. At this point, I am empty and numb, through caring anymore about the house. Let it rot away, or burn in hell. Right now, all that matters is getting my husband down from the slippery timber frame before he loses his last shred of sense and freezes or falls to his death.


It takes four attempts to get the tarp securely attached to the frame. Four times of raised and then dashed hopes. Four times of sweet relief and then mounting despair as the wind gusts right before we can put the final bungee on, and our entire effort is completely unraveled before our very eyes. The four attempts take a good two hours. By this time, we're hanging on, barely, by a thread. We're exhausted from weeping. Yelling. Cursing.

Us (Hating the World)

Dazed and shaking, we head into the camper, our infernal camper. Now I'm numb to the insanity. Fuck it. I don't care any more. The dishes I used to make a hot lunch for Mark and Tyler are piled up, awful and crusted and needing to be washed. Shit is everywhere. The floor is wet and boot-marked and full of leaves.

Awful Messy Camper Awful Messy Camper

We grab some grab some clothes and the coconut tres leches cake I baked yesterday. It looks beautiful, all coconut-sprinkled and served on a beautiful wooden serving board. I'm glad I took the time to make it yesterday, for there's no way I'd be making anything now. In a daze, we drive over to Becky and Charlie's for supper.

Once there, we are swept into warmth and cheer. We are plied with drinks and fed guacamole and chips and salsa. We are ushered up to take showers, and life begins again with a clean slate. I cannot even describe how amazing it feels to have good friends and neighbors here. How necessary it is. How without them, this homesteading project would surely break us.

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In the Woods


In a social media world where only nice and beautiful things exist and even building a house somewhere in the woods looks fairly easy, this is a wonderful post. You are real go getters!
Posted by mvm on August 11th, 2015 at 3:51 AM
This is beautiful. So real. The end brought me to tears.
Posted by Noel on September 1st, 2015 at 8:16 AM
Thank you for posting this. It was so sad and painful to read, but I am glad it is in posterity. I saw your finished home, so everything is okay....and, there are really tough times in our life that have been and will be again. Thanks for sharing.
Posted by Radha on September 2nd, 2015 at 1:29 AM