Building Our Own Home Part One: Choosing the Land and Floor Plan

I come from a family of construction workers. My dad, his brothers, and my grandpa have all built their own homes. Additionally, my father-in-law has built a home and my husband helped build two houses while in Building Trades in high school. Because of this, we were fairly certain we would have the resources we needed to build our own house one day.

The opportunity to build came sooner than expected, right after we got the itch to move. We loved our little starter home but it was right on a busy highway and didn’t give us much room to breathe. I grew up on 20 acres that was passed down from my grandpa to my dad. It has a large hill for sledding in the winter, a pasture for the 4H dairy feeder calves we had when we were kids, and a beautiful woods. My dad started talking to us about buying 3 acres of the woods from him and suddenly the wheels were spinning.

We picked a lot of land in the back corner of my parent’s property that would be surrounded by trees, giving us the privacy we longed for. Our driveway would be around the corner from my parent’s on a quiet dirt road which was a dream come true. We could imagine setting up our greenhouse, a playground, and a chicken coop and we were sold.

Building our own home part one: choosing the land and the floor plan
Standing in my parent’s backyard, you can see the house through the trees. When summer comes and leaves are on the trees, we won’t be able to see it anymore.

It took several (almost 8) months for us to meet with enough professionals to decide for sure that we could build in the low, wet land we had wanted. My husband spent that time clearing land for us and I was focused on creating the perfect floor plan.

I started by browsing Pinterest for hours and hours to get ideas. We were planning for a house around 1800 square feet and we went back and forth between building a ranch with a basement or a two story home without a basement. After morphing and editing several plans we came up with this one.

Building our own home part one: choosing the land and the floor plan

It’s a 1915 square foot ranch with a full walk out basement. Here’s a break down of why we love it.

Bedrooms Close Together

One thing that was really important to me was that the master bedroom was near the other bedrooms because I wanted to be close to my little ones at night. So many floor plans are split, meaning the master bedroom and the other bedrooms are on opposite sides of the house. This automatically eliminated most of the options out there and helped me to focus in on a couple. This floor plan has three bedrooms on one side of the house which I love.

Three Bedrooms, Two Baths

At the very minimum we needed a three bedroom, two bathroom home with one of those bathrooms being in the master. Ideally, I wanted room to build more bedrooms as our family grows and with a big unfinished basement, we have that in this plan.

Building our own home part one: choosing the land and the floor plan
A sneak peek of our master bathroom almost complete!

Main Floor Laundry

I feel so spoiled with main floor laundry but as a cloth diapering mom who sucks at keeping up with laundry, I think this will make life a little easier. I’m so excited!

Mud Nook and Entry Nook

In our old home, we didn’t even have a coat closet where we or our guests could hang their coats and put their shoes. So having designated spaces for that was a huge priority for me. We are using the closet space by the garage as a “mud nook” for us and the space beside the front door as an “entry nook” for guests. I can’t wait to put those cozy corners together.

Play Room

I really wanted a space that was separate from the living room but still close by that was designated for the kids to play and hang out. I’m so excited to not have a living room taken over by toys. Eventually this room could become an office or we may close up the wall and make another bedroom. We will see!

Building our own home part one: choosing the land and the floor plan

Open Concept

Our living room, kitchen, dining and playroom are all open to each other. I love that I can stand at my kitchen island and see what my kids are doing in their playroom. It feels so cozy, connected and most of all, convenient.

Three Car Garage

My husband has lots of tools and he wants to buy even more. We need a place for him to store them as well as do the beautiful work that he’s always doing for us. In my mind, he can build anything we need and I’m thankful we have a place for him to stretch out and be creative.

An Unfinished Basement

We have a full, unfinished basement which gives us plenty of room to grow. At this point we will have one room used for workout equipment and one room used for storage. These both have the potential to be bedrooms one day if needed. Our ping pong table will be down there and we will also eventually have a bathroom, a small kitchen for canning, and another living space. I’m looking forward to that project but I am just fine taking a break from construction for right now.

Building our own home part one: choosing the land and the floor plan

Our floor plan was constantly being tweaked until the day we put in permanent walls. Even though it was somewhat stressful to keep thinking up changes, each suggestion made the home a tiny bit more functional. I can’t wait to get all settled in and really live out the benefits we built into this plan.

Building your own home is a ton of work and the mountain load of decisions you must make is truly overwhelming. However, the satisfaction of knowing you chose every little detail of your home is so worth it and every day I’m so thankful we have this opportunity.

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Schwartz Greenhouse 2018

Last year my husband paid close attention when I happened to casually say that owning a greenhouse would be fun someday. He took it to heart and surprised me with a 10×20 foot greenhouse soon after. We were so excited (albeit nervous and overwhelmed) when it arrived via FedEx and it was setup right away. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to anchor it down and that evening we had a giant windstorm. The entire structure blew into our neighbor’s yard and the poles were permanently damaged and unusable. We considered throwing in the towel right then but instead, chose to stick with it. My husband built new wooden poles to support it and while he was at it, he built 4 garden beds and shelves all around the perimeter. He did a great job! We built a raised garden outside of the greenhouse to accompany it and filled everything with dirt. We were ready to go!

I am low-key obsessed with gardening and watching the miracle of life unfold before my eyes. (I guess that’s partly why I’m a birth doula.) All winter long, I look forward to spring and anxiously plan everything out. That being said, I am still a definite amateur when it comes to the specifics of growing food and I’ve made (and will continue to make) many mistakes along the way. My biggest issue last year was one of patience. I started seeds indoors in February and within a few weeks I had tall, lanky, weak plants. Where I live, it simply doesn’t get warm enough to grow healthy plants without manipulating the temperature and lighting accurately. Unfortunately, this meant quite a bit of my seeds died in vain. We got enough of a harvest to look forward to trying again, however.

Here in 2018, we still aren’t ready to pay for heat in the greenhouse so this year I forced myself to be patient. I waited and waited and waited some more. I had seeds on my Christmas list and bought more again in March but I wanted to wait until the danger of frost was over and we could start everything in the greenhouse. Top that off with first-trimester of pregnancy exhaustion, a late spring, and an intolerance of being out in the cold and it felt like forever until I could plant. Finally, things warmed up the last week of April so I started by pulling everything out of the garden shed and washing all my pots and trays in hot, soapy, vinegar water to kill any diseases that may be lingering from last year. It was a long and boring process but we were all so happy to be outside that it didn’t matter too much.

I spent the first two weeks in May starting my seeds. In trays, I planted the following:

Fruits/Vegetables

Cucumbers

Tomatoes

Green Beans

Zucchini

Watermelon

Sugar Snap Peas

Green Peppers

Jalapeño Peppers

Banana Peppers

Herbs

Sage

Coriander/Cilantro

Rosemary

Lavender

Basil

Chives

Dill

Parsley

Thyme

Oregano

Flowers

Impatients

Marigold

Phlox

House Plants (just for fun)

Lucky Bamboo

Philodendron

Bonzai

In my greenhouse beds, I planted Red Potatoes, Onions, and Garlic.

And finally, I planted Radishes, Kohlrabi, and Strawberries directly in my raised garden outside of the greenhouse.

It was a lot of work but I was lucky enough to have my sister-in-law come over and play with my toddler for awhile and I also happened to have an unexpected day off of work a few days later. Furthermore, I had help from my husband and some “help” from my 2 year old and with all of that, we got it done! Besides, it was so good for me to be outside in the sun and fresh air. It makes me feel so fully alive!

By the end of those two weeks, my cucumbers, zucchini, watermelon, tomatoes, green beans, snap peas, potatoes and marigolds were growing healthily. Additionally, my basil and dill and jalapeño peppers were just starting to sprout. I’ve also had to move my green beans out to the garden because they were outgrowing their trays. I just need to keep my dogs and my toddler away from them and I am definitely going to have to invest in some sort of pesticide as the ants are already making their way into my plants. Let me know if you have any suggestions!

We’ve also bought a thermometer to keep out there and we found out that on a sunny day we can achieve a 30 degree temperature difference or more. This has meant that on a 75 degree day, it’s gotten to be 110 degrees inside of the greenhouse! I guess I was kind of clueless as to how hot it really gets in there. To make sure this isn’t a problem, I’m trying to stay diligent in opening windows when needed and closing them on cooler days.

While I know that most likely, some things will simply not grow for me this year, I love celebrating the little victories we do have. I continue to be amazed at what great things can come from such tiny seeds. It’s always a reminder to me to stay faithful and full of wonder. I can’t wait to see how things turn out this year.

What are you growing this year?? Let me know in the comments!

Homemade Bone Broth and Garlic Onion Tea

Bone broth is one of the most delicious ways to boost your immune system, it’s so easy to make, and it’s way better for you than store bought broth. It’s a wonderful replacement for morning coffee or evening tea and it makes soups that much more nourishing. Bone broth is also a great first food for babies as it’s so good for their gut health. I started taking broth when I was pregnant and couldn’t take other medicine but it works so well that it’s always my first option now. Whenever I start to feel the tiniest bit sick I drink a cup or two a day and my symptoms just quietly slip away. I love it!

You can make bone broth with chicken, turkey, beef or really any animal bones. I personally think turkey gives the best flavor but today I used chicken. I start by cooking a whole chicken in a crock pot with salt, pepper, and garlic powder. You can omit these if you’re cooking for a baby. I usually start this around noon so the chicken is ready for supper.

While that’s cooking I prepare my vegetables. First, I wash whole carrots and celery but I only use the carrot peels and the celery tops in my broth. I then cut them up and put them on a sheet pan to save for dinner.

Then I cut an onion in half but I leave as much of the peel on as I can, as long as it looks healthy. I treat the garlic bulb similarly although it can be a little tricky to cut in half so if you have issues you can cut each clove in half instead but again, leave the peel on. There’s so many vitamins in vegetable peels that will then be in your broth.

About twenty minutes before the chicken is ready I put olive oil, salt, pepper, and garlic powder on the carrots and celery I reserved and roast them in the oven at 375 degrees.

Once the chicken is cooked through I take it out of the crock pot, leaving all of the juices inside the pot. After it rests a bit I start to take it off the bone. I will be honest, if you want a nice tutorial on how to beautifully carve the chicken, you’re going to have to look at someone else’s blog. I haven’t mastered that so I just cut and pull as much off as I can. I use about half of it mixed in with my roasted veggies for dinner and the other half I use throughout the week for chicken salad, soup, or casseroles.

All the bones and the entire chicken carcass go back into the crockpot with the juices and the celery tops, carrot peels, onion, and garlic go on top. You may add more salt if desired. Then I fill my crock pot the rest of the way with water and turn on low for the next 12-24 hours. Personally, I think it fills my house with a nourishing aroma although I know some do not enjoy the smell. Hopefully you do!

Whenever I have a convenient time in that 12-24 hour window I turn off the crockpot and strain the broth. I like to store my broth in a variety of different sized mason jars so I have the right amount for whatever I’m making. I even put some in ice cube trays for when I just want to add in flavor or for feeding a baby. The majority, however, goes in pint jars because I think it’s the perfect size for a drink. This batch made a total of 15 cups! The jars can then go in the freezer pretty much indefinitely.

Ideally you would then thaw your broth in the fridge but I never think that far ahead of time so instead, I fill the sink with hot water and place a jar in it just until it’s thawed enough to pour out into a sauce pan to heat on the stove. Get it just to the point of boiling and then turn the heat off. Do not microwave your broth. That destroys most of the vitamins and nutrients in it, leaving it basically useless.
You can drink your broth just like that but I often like to take it a step further and make what I call Garlic Onion Tea. When my husband’s Amish family gets sick, they boil onions in water, call it onion tea, and drink it. I couldn’t quite stomach this idea when I was pregnant but then I read about garlic lemonade in Aviva Jill Romm’s The Natural Pregnancy Book and she suggested boiling garlic and a bouillon cube in water to make drinking it more palatable. I thought that was brilliant so I combined homemade bone broth, garlic, and onions in one drink to make a kick arse, illness fighting solution and honestly I think it’s delicious (although my husband refuses to put garlic in his). I just mince garlic and onions and put them in the broth as it’s heating up. Sometimes I even add a few red pepper flakes to really combat congestion. Then I drink it down garlic, onions, and all and within a couple days I find that my congestion never turned into an actual head cold or other illness and my runny nose goes away rather than lingering for weeks. It so amazing what the human body can do! I so hope you enjoy this as much as I do!

Cleaning Charts for Happy Homemaking

The other day I was vacuuming my floors {yet again} and thinking about how Mom life consists of doing the same things over and over with no real idea of how much I’m actually doing. Some days I wrestle with the fear that I’m not doing enough while other days I fall into the trap of self pity, wishing all my hard work would be noticed and rewarded. And while there’s nothing I would rather be than a stay-at-home Mom, I do sometimes miss having structure and assignments and deadlines.

Always take breaks from mopping for duck faces

So an idea popped into my head. Why don’t I just make a cleaning chart? It would sort chores based on how often they need done and then I could just mark the date I did it. How easy!

Now don’t get me wrong, in other stages of life I probably would have gagged myself at an idea like this but in this stage of life cleaning charts are perfect and beautiful and I love them. I can easily see what needs done and I don’t have to gross myself out wondering how long it’s been since certain areas of my house have been cleaned. It adds structure and clarity to my role as a homemaker in the midst of chaotic days and I don’t have to constantly be writing “mop kitchen” on my to-do list. Best of all I get to open my cute binder, check things off with a cool pen and realize that I have actually done a lot of important things to keep my house running. It’s the little things.

So I have two charts, one for things that need done almost daily and one for chores I do anywhere from once a week to once a year. Every time I do a chore I write down the date in the corresponding box. For chores that need done more often than once a month, I write every single date I do that chore in the box. These charts are still new in my house so I will be editing them as I see fit over the next couple months.

Every family and every house is different so this specific chart may need altering to meet your needs. However, if you find my chart matches your cleaning schedule fairly closely, feel free to copy it! I hope this brings simplicity and joy into your home like it has mine! Happy homemaking!