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Looking just like we imagined

A few times a week we have a babysitter come and look after the kids for a few hours so Isaac and I can work together on the house. We rack up a list of two-person jobs to conquer during these precious chunks of time, working as efficiently as possible. Last week the most exciting item on that list was taking down the scaffolding that has surrounded the house for several months while we finished the exterior. We had finished securing the fascia and soffit boards to the edges of the roof, and we’d framed the plywood seams of the exterior with batten boards – we were ready to see what this thing looked like without a big wooden frame around it.

Within a few hours the scaffold was down and we had stacked the wood neatly under the deck for other projects (I’m overjoyed at how much wood we have!). We stood back and looked at this house we had designed a year and a half ago at our dining room table in San Francisco. “Does it look like you imagined?” Isaac asked. “Exactly,” I said.

In fact, it looks better than I could have imagined, knowing all the sweat that we have put into it and al the moments when I wondered how on earth we would make this thing happen. It’s been 14 months since we started working on clearing the land, and we once thought we’d build this house in six months. It seems miraculous to me now that we’ve made it this far at all.

With rain in the forecast, we hurried to get the gutter up on the rear of the roof so we could fill up our water tank with the run-off. Our early Christmas present to ourselves was a portable hot tub we plan to put on the deck as soon as it arrives, and the storm raining down on us now as I write this is plenty to fill the tub. We’ve had months to monitor the output of the solar panels we installed earlier this year, and calculated there is plenty of power to run the heater on a hot tub whenever the sun is out. I never thought I’d be living off the grid and coming home from the beach or from a surf to jump in a hot tub.

Getting the hot tub inspired us to design an outdoor shower at the side of the house. Not only will it be handy for rinsing off sand and washing off wetsuits, but it means we could move in this December without finishing the indoor tub and bathroom. In summer months we swim almost every day, and a quick rinse off outside is all we and the kids really need out here. We constantly talk about a concept we call “minimum viable house”, which is a list of things we need to have done in order to live in the house. Hot water? Yes, part of minimum viable house. An indoor bathroom? Nope. We can brush our teeth in the kitchen.

Even without the pressure of finishing the bathroom before we move in, we’re running a tight timeline to get in by Christmas. We have a few little bits and bobs left on the outside of the house, and then we’ll tackle the inside. As summer approaches, the sun roasts down through the ozone hole over our heads. I’ll be very happy to be working indoors over these coming summer months.

(The boys were overjoyed to have the deck clear to play on for the first time ever, and went right to work building a bike ramp from the scraps.)

When we first moved here we imagined staying for a year or two. That doesn’t seem like long enough now, and even though we continue to research places in New Zealand where we’d want to settle down and get the kids going in school, that feels so far off right now. “I just want to live in the house a while,” I said to Isaac recently, to which he responded, “I just hope we can just relax a little once it’s done.” We’ve been working harder than we did back when we lived in San Francisco, working right through the weekends, taking turns looking after the kids.

Meanwhile Isaac got a longline we are dying to go fishing with, and we bought a secondhand kayak that has been stashed down at the beach waiting for us to go exploring in. We’ve gotten a few surfs in here and there, but otherwise life is pretty full-on with building in this last stretch. Once summer hits and we’re living in our “minimum viable house”, it may be a while before we get that bathroom done.

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