Like a lot of people who approach middle age, I started to wish for a simpler life based on the quiet of the country. So a few years ago, my friends, Jon and Roger, and I, started to look for a suitable place, either an old house to fix up or some raw land to build on. Eventually we found Neil Shelton’s site at OzarkLand.com and we bought six acres with a pond at Origanna Woods, 17 miles from Lebanon in Laclede County. That was October of 1998.
We bought that first parcel sight unseen and the next March, we finally went down to look at it. Even in the gray of early spring, I could see how nice it was, and as luck would have it, Neil had 6 more acres across the lane for sale, so we bought that too. The new parcel came complete with an electric pole, an outhouse and shed and the log frame of a pole barn courtesy of the previous owner. All this was set in a nice shady clearing and we decided that this was where we would build our house. That old pole frame made a dandy arbor and we set up camp there with a nice fire ring and a few comforts and we started to make our plans and begin our improvements.
This journal is meant to be a record of our plans and adventures and I hope to add to it as we go along, and the house grows and improves.
In August of 1999, we made our first improvement. We bought an 8 x 12 wooden garden shed from Mr Green up in Waynesville. He has a huge selection of well built sheds and he will deliver them to your site. He brought ours on a huge flat bed truck and in less than 30 minutes it was all set up next to our electric pole and 30 feet or so from our pole arbor. It wasnt very big but it gave us plenty of space to store our equipment and it gave us a warm dry place to sleep if the weather went bad.
In October, we added a 12 x 20 pole shed across the front of that little shed and by snowfly, it was closed in. This gave us a big room to use as a kitchen and living room and the shed became a sleeping room when we added a window on one end and a built-in bed. These two rooms would become the nucleus of our house.
That original structure is what you see in the pictures on this page. In the summer of 2000, we finally got electricity hooked up and run into the cottage. You cant imagine what a boon that was. NO MORE rented generator or building with hand tools. I kinda miss the lantern light and we still use a lot of candles, but now we could have a refrigerator and a real stove to cook on. We added some new windows and a side door and installed some old kitchen cabinets. Before we knew it, the cottage was too small again, and we started to think about adding more space. Yeah I know, there’s a motif there; so we made a concerted effort NOT to over-design and build. I spent that winter planning the final addition.
Thomas Jefferson once wrote, “Architecture is my delight, and putting up and pulling down one, of my favorite amusements.”
I couldn’t agree more. In fact, if I were more mathematically inclined, I would probably be an architect and not a librarian. For years I have scribbled on reams of paper and built castles in the air, but my 12 acres in Missouri gave me the first opportunity to really build something I had designed. For months I made drawings and models, trying to design something I liked that we could afford to build. I wanted something relatively simple in plan and facade, suitable to the area, but with a touch of whimsy. The drawings on this page show a couple of my ideas. The one constant in all the designs was that the basic frame would be a pole structure of one sort or another.
Even the most un-skilled carpenter can manage to cob together some sort of pole building, improve it bit by bit, into a comfortable and suitable home. Pole buildings are extremely flexible and forgiving of small errors in the laying out and general construction.
Once we bought the shed and built that first addition, the plans began to shape themselves around the existing building. I discovered that I wasn’t allowed to build under the power lines, which meant I couldn’t build to the south. All through the winter of 2000, I worked on variations of one l shaped plan that would give us 3 good bedrooms, a dining room, as well as a great room for living and entertaining. I also wanted to put the bathroom and kitchen in one area to save on plumbing. I intended to heat the whole place with fireplaces . There were also provisions for a guest building, a drive through loggia (a sort of glorified car port), and a separate room for all my dogs.
Eventually I narrowed it down to four plans. They were all variations on the same theme, but each plan had some unique features and some flaws as well. Number one above had all the bedrooms along the side of the house with the best view, the south side. This left the living rooms without the view toward the ravine in back. It also meant you entered the living space directly, no mud room. Number two shared the view with two bedrooms and the great room and gave us an entrance hall, but it was the largest plan of all. Number four we rejected because it had too many rooflines and would have been the hardest to build. So, we chose number three. Basically, its a long pole building, 20 feet by 58 feet attached to a smaller wing, roughly 24 feet by 26 feet, which joins the main wing to the existing rooms. The yellow rooms are the existing kitchen and sleeping room. The light blue rooms are bedrooms and the purple rooms are the dining room and great room. The dark blue areas are the front hall and the drive through loggia. The green area is the future site of the laundry room, dog room, and bathroom. We are also thinking about putting a second floor over the lower half of the main wing to give us three more rooms over the loggia and guest room area. That depends on the height of the poles we can get. You can see a more detailed plan on the next page.
THE FINAL PLAN AND FACADES
This is the plan we are working with now. Its not engraved in stone, but the finished house won’t be too different. We did get one surprise when we came to lay it out: there was one tree in the way, a really nice big oak that is, unfortunately, right in the loggia area. After a little head scratching , we decided to be a bit unorthodox and just build around the tree. When we get around to building the loggia wing next year, that tree will continue grow where it is, undisturbed. We will loose a bit of the space in the upper story, but it does create a neat sort of hanging hallway lined with windows. We figure the tree can serve double duty as a sort of fire escape for those upper story guest rooms. The great room will be about 12 feet tall and, pretty much, lined with windows. We designed that big corner bay so we would have a place to put a huge Christmas tree that could be seen from the road, not that Sappington Lane gets much traffic. The public rooms will have sun most of the day and the dining room and kitchen will stay fairly cool on the north side. The courtyard formed by the two wings is shaded by two big oak trees and leads to the old log pole arbor. There’s also a handy little wood room so we don’t have to go out in the winter.
We tried to cut down as few trees as possible and since the previous owner had left us with a pretty large open site, it was only necessary to cut down 4 trees. The power company had pretty much cleared out all the brush for us, which left us with a small open meadow toward the road. Roger and Jon are working on getting this area cleared out so that maybe the grass will grow and we will probably throw down a bit of wildflower seed to help it along. Nearer the house, we want to have some more formal garden spaces and a nice vegetable garden with raised beds. Our soil here isn’t very good so we figured raised beds, filled with imported soil, would solve that problem. All that is in the future. Right now we are anxious to get the poles in the ground and frame up and close in the middle wing before the end of the summer. That way we will have two bedrooms and the dining room to use while we work on the main wing this winter and next year. Wish us luck.
JULY 5, 2001, THURSDAY
Jon and I left this morning at 8:15 and headed down to Missouri. Took Wheeza and Toby along. This is Toby’s first long car trip but he handled it well. Nice weather, light traffic, and we didn’t miss the infamous bypass around St. Louis. We arrived about 3 p.m. And met with Jeff and Adriana and discovered our first problems. The biggest mess is that the lumber has not arrived and won’t arrive until the weekend or possibly Monday.
Arggggghhhh!!!!!! So much for prior planning! It seems our roof metal is not a stock color at Yucky Lumber, and it has to be shipped from Rolla. Of course, they’ve had the order for a week and Rolla is barely an hour away. I don’t think I’m gonna like this company, but we will see. A few days delay won’t kill me though I’m dying to get started. Also, Jeff got the day of the demolition derby wrong. It’s this coming Monday, so, he’s a bit pre-occupied. All in all, I suspect nothing will get started much before Tuesday, but Jeff says that’s plenty of time. NB: remember this is the South and no one hurries. Spent the evening tidying the house and early to bed.
JULY 6, 2001, FRIDAY
Woke early to start the day. Figure I will get the meadow and building area clear so we can start work ASAP. Adriana visited us with a basket of fresh eggs and news that the lumber and roofing won’t arrive until Monday. Sigh!!!!!! Back to raking, and clearing, and other odd jobs. Its about 90 degrees out and they are predicting the same all weekend with a heat index of 105. I’m taking it slow and easy. Spent the afternoon in town doing yard sales and putting about. Bought 10 puonds of peaches for $6.00 from a roadside farm stand. Juicy, ripe, and delicious! Quiet evening at home with Jon. Early to bed with a clear sky and moon huge and bright.