The Weekly Digs #49

by Becky

I have so much to update for this week! I got to harvest something exciting from my garden and if you’ve been following along with our homestead hunting, I have a story about that too!

We recently got back from a trip to Idaho over Christmas. We visited Cameron’s family and some of my sisters! We don’t get much snow here in Arkansas so our whole family got to enjoy some serious snow. They had almost two feet on the ground by the time we left. 

I grew up in upstate New York and Cam is from Idaho so we do miss the snow sometimes. It was really nice to get my fix and then come home to where it was 20ºF warmer 🙂

When we got home our first ever homegrown Meyer lemon was ready! We can’t keep them outdoors year round here because it gets too cold so I grew it in a pot all summer and brought it in before our first frost. I was very excited when I sliced it open and it looked perfect.

We made lemonade so we could taste it and it was incredibly delicious. Just like all other fresh homegrown food it was more sweet and flavorful than commercial lemons from the grocery store.

Over Christmas break, Cameron and I decided to see if anything new had been added to the MLS listings in our area with the specs we were looking for. I saw a new property outside of the boundary of where we had been looking.

It is 60 acres with a lot of trees and about 6 or 7 acres cleared. The home is down in a valley, has a creek running through the property, a pool, and is “off-grid” according to the listing. Which I’m not sure meant much other than it doesn’t have air conditioning. It clearly had electric but no solar panels or wind turbines anywhere. 

We made an appointment with our realtor to go see it the next week and then next day I looked at the listing again. I noticed that under the “construction” tab it said, “straw bale”. Oh boy. Sure enough this was a home that was partially built from straw bales. We could tell just from looking at the pictures and the thickness of the window .

The house itself was really beautiful inside but on the outside it had stucco on the base of the home, which immediately was a red flag for me because everyone has told me stucco isn’t a good choice for a very wet and humid areas like Arkansas. 

Cameron and I did some quick research on straw bale homes and found out that they usually last only 100 years before needing to be redone. The other thing we learned was that it is difficult to get a loan for straw bale homes.

But what took it over the top for me as far as nixing this property we thought we loved, was that it said online the most important part of a straw bale home was to keep the bales dry. Usually you have straw bales, wire mesh, a few wood beam supports, and then a thick stucco seals the straw in so it doesn’t decompose. 

On the photo the front of the house clearly had moist looking stucco and I decided no way was I going to risk getting into a place like that.  It was already worrying about it and it wasn’t even our house yet! I wish I could put some of the listing photos on here so you could see but I’m overly cautious about following copyright laws so you’ll just have to imagine 🙂

Instead of completely cancelling our appointment with the realtor we thought maybe we could look at another house instead. At this point there isn’t much on the market except for one house that we kept passing over because the price was high compared to other homes with similar specifications and the pictures on the listing were terrible.

However, it is the area we wanted. So Cam and I went to go look at it. The whole house is dark with lots of wood but we figured out that a little white paint would really brighten the place up. The land isn’t perfect but already had a lot of fencing for livestock and had 20 acres. 

Some of the land at the new house. It’s so rocky! That is normal for our part of Arkansas.

Neither of us were “in love” with it. And yet, it did check off almost every box on our must-have list. We have been praying and actively searching to find a place for so long, both Cameron and I said to each other that we were expecting more of a strong feeling that “this is it!”. But we didn’t get it right away at this house.

However, after sitting on it for a few days and talking through some of the things that were hanging us up, we think it definitely has the potential to become a dream homestead. We did start to feel more excited about it too.

The best thing his homestead has going for it is location. It’s close enough to where we live now, both the kids and Cam and I could see our friends often and not feel like we moved to a different state 🙂 We are going to look at it again next weekend with our kids and possibly a friend who will help us to see if there would be any potential problems.

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