Last October, during a vacation in Vermont with Tara's family, we all stayed at a beautiful house in rural Bennington. When it came time to leave, we serendipitously crossed paths with its caretaker and builder, Rick Carroll. We hit it off immediately, and after a long conversation during which we shared with him our homesteading plans, he offered to come see our land.
Several hours and a visit to his beautiful timber frame home later, he agreed to help us with our project this spring. Over the past three months, we've kept in touch and Rick has been (and continues to be) an invaluable resource as we plan our homestead—we can hardly believe our luck at having met someone so friendly and helpful!
A week or two ago, I called Rick to see if he knew anyone who could plow our driveway. My brother-in-law Paul is going to install a snowplow on our truck this spring, but until that happens, we'll need someone to do it for us. Today, as we were heading east, Rick called to say that he stopped by our place to see how things were looking, and he had some serious news to report.
In December, a severe windstorm hit the Bennington area, felling trees all over the county. Our property was among those affected—there are several down along and across our driveway, and tons more on the property itself. Some are half fallen "widow-makers", tangled in nearby trees. All told, we have at least 30 that need to be cleared. Many were there before the storm, but plenty are recent developments. As if all of those obstacles weren't enough, portions of our drive are ankle-deep in water and mud.
Rick doesn't think we'll be able to get our camper up the drive, so he's kindly offered to let us park at his place until we can deal with the situation. It sounds like the driveway is going to need some major work to make it reliably useful, and I'm guessing it won't be cheap. Depending on how bad this turns out to be, it may set our project back a year. We can't afford to do everything at once, adding road-repair to the list of things we need to complete before summer just isn't feasible.
There is a saying in construction projects, something along the lines of: they'll cost three times as much as you think they will, and take three times as long. We haven't even started and it's already happening!
After the initial shock of the news wore off, Tara and I had a long conversation about how we're going to deal with these unforeseen obstacles. The short conclusion to our long discussion is simple: we need to slow down. Rushing to get our reed collecting finished this winter so we can build our house this summer is stressing us both out. If we don't have the reeds, we can't do the roof, and if we can't do the roof, we may as well not raise the frame.
So, rather than killing ourselves to make this happen in a single season, we've decided to stretch out the plan and focus on infrastructure for the first year. At the moment, we think that looks like this:
We need a usable road with a turn-around and parking area.
We need a working water source (ie: pump for our well).
We need a small solar/battery array for electricity.
We (probably) need a septic system.
We need to clear the downed trees from our land.
We need to start a huge wood pile.
We need to decide on a homesite.
These goals will likely exhaust our resources—both time and financial—for at least a year. Not only is that okay, we're both feeling better about the project than we have in weeks. As long as we're progressing towards our dream steadily, it really doesn't matter how long it takes. We know full well that it's the journey that makes life interesting and rewarding, not the destination.