To Build a Home

The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.

~Maya Angelou


The abandoned house on our land

Let’s play catch up.  We bought our land in the Appalachian Mountains in 2015 while on our cross country trip from my previous duty station in California, to my final command in Norfolk, VA.  We had spent years (2.5) living in a camper to pay off debt and save for a home prior to moving.  We found a piece of land with a hell of a view, a finished home, and a dilapidated house that had been abandoned for nearly 20 years.

I officially started my “terminal” leave from the Navy in September, 2018.  ROAD TRIP TIME!!!

Hurricane Michael had other plans.  Hurricane Michael made a devastating landfall on October 10th, 2018.  Within 3 days Christine and I were down in Southport Florida trying to rebuild her family home and help in any way we could.  It was a grueling two months of sweat and filth and long days, blistered hands and feet, and some seriously trying times.  Times we saw the best and worst of human behavior.  (see our previous posts for more details).

A look down Christines home road, about 8 days after Michael.

We finished the rebuild of “Grandmas House” in early December and retreated to the Homestead in TN.


We had not lived in our own home for more than a week at a time in the 3.5 years we had owned it.  It was a time of relaxation and really the first time in our lives we had the chance to sit and think about what we WANTED to do.

I have very fond memories of this month of solitude on the mountain.  We pulled the mattress off the bed and laid it in front of the fireplace.  We would sleep warm next to the crackle of the wood stove at night.  Drink hot chocolate, read until our eyes drooped with exhaustion, then cuddle up again for a long night sleep.


If you know me or Christine you know we don’t sit still long.  My mother had been living with my sister in VA, but was longing for the country.  She took one look at the rotted shell of a house here on the mountain and said “I could live there”…  Which meant we needed to get back to work!

I will spare the details for the most part.  I know I’ve probably pretty much tapped the attention level already.

We began building on the house the way you do, by tearing down.  We gutted it completely and found an entire wall of framing rotted out, as well as some of the floor joists and sill plates.  We built a support wall about eight feet inside and completely removed the exterior wall.  Then rebuilt from the ground up.

We did everything ourselves with the slight experience I had from my time in the military and our work on “Grandmas House” in FL.  We framed, installed windows, siding, roofing, drywall, lights… the works.

Mom has since moved into the house (prior to having running water by the way).  She has made it into a home.  She has planted flowers, put up a clothesline and can usually be found working in the yard or sitting outside watching the birds and doing some carving.

It is an inspiring sight for us to see.  To think that from a shell of a house you can, with your own two hands and a bit of elbow grease, create a loving home… it’s truly something we will never forget.

Although the house is not officially “finished” (I still need to finish plumbing and one more kitchen cabinet) Mom is loving it and I don’t think you could bait her out for any amount of money.  So, here are a couple “after” pictures.  More coming in the next few days as I finish cabinetry.  Thanks again for reading if you’ve made it this far!



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