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Reclaiming the Homestead: Renovation Reality 101

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Reclaiming the Homestead: Renovation Reality 101

Devon No Comments

Reclaiming our homestead from years of neglect & terrible previous “fixes” makes for a harsh renovation reality check, but moments of great hope and joy.

Folks, this ain’t no HGTV show.  I depart for the theme of my standard homestead-y, herbal-ly, and wild foodie content to bring you a slice of my life as we reclaim our newly purchased homestead from the clutches of neglect and abandonment.  Let me tell you, there is no well-coifed designer, no cheesy outtakes, no well lit but intense discussion about shiplap or granite surfaces (actually there is no light because still no electricity) — just the nitty gritty renovation reality — this stuff is hard.

While last month was all about optimism, hope and a hefty dose of demolition work – this month was all about renovation reality.  The cold hard facts of renovating a nearly 100-year-old home are getting uncomfortably real my friends.  We are reclaiming the homestead one renovation reality at a time.  Here’s a rundown of the good, the bad, and the OH-SO-VERY-UGLY.

Renovation Reality #1: Water is life and it comes at a price

I left you last month at the cusp of the well being drilled.  Our new homestead’s previous well was laughable joke – producing a mere 1.25 gallons/minute.  Due to various concerns, our only viable option was to drill the new well just a few feet from the former.  It was a risk that paid off – this well produces a whopping 15 gallons/minute of really nice, clear, clean water.

So what is the problem here?

The bill. That’s the problem.  Let this be a cautionary tale of always reading the fine print before you sign.  This particular well driller had seven-day payment terms, instead of the industry standard in our area of 30 days.  We are not simply sitting on a bank account of construction funds –instead, it is an arduous task of submitting receipts and waiting for reimbursement from the construction lender.  This led to some heated exchanges and fancy financial footwork to keep our project moving forward and the bill collector off our back.  Lesson learned: save yourself a headache, read everything, even when you are told not to bother.

Renovation Reality #2: Pest and dry rot inspections don’t tell you everything

upstairs framing & rot repair

Our house seemed mostly sound – with a snag here and a bit of rot there.  Nothing alarming for a house of its age.  Except that there was more than met the trained eye. I will spare you the list of my troubles. Suffice to say that there was enough rot to triple our framing/reframing budget and enough termite and carpenter ant damage send in the pest control guy.  Please don’t even get me started about how upsetting the pesticide use is to me – this is my renovation reality, which isn’t aware of my principles.  Lesson learned: Assume the worst, it is always uglier than meets the eye.

Renovation Reality #3: Never trust a previous renovation

Nook framing & rot repair

Let’s just say that person that was in charge of the last renovation had a really complicated relationship with structural integrity.  From studs being turned the wrong way to accommodate a bathtub, joists being cut to accommodate whatever (a door, a fixture, some wiring), missing headers, and the poorest window framing job done in the world – it is no small wonder that my house is upright and mostly level.  I swear this house was being held together by fading hopes and shattered dreams.  This circles us back to the framing budget.  Lesson learned: Assume that everything was done wrong.

Renovation Reality #4: Manage your expectations

new siding

A good renovation plan is going to have some padding, a contingency fund to absorb the expenses that inevitably arise during the renovation process.  The terms of our renovation loan required a 20% contingency fund.  That contingency fund is not a playground from your quartz countertops and luxury shower heads.  That money is there to spare you the ugliest of renovation realities – not being able to finish your construction due to unforeseen expenses.  Our contingency money is currently funding framing and insulation expenses, and my front entry addition is officially on the cutting room floor.  So long coat closet and sliding barn-style door to contain the clutter…  Lesson learned: Don’t mentally spend the contingency fund until the finish line is in sight.

Renovation Reality #5: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times

Reclaiming our homestead from years of neglect & terrible previous "fixes" makes for a harsh renovation reality check, but moments of great hope and joy.

I never knew that my husband and I could have angry fights about closets, window styles, and door placements.  We were warned.  We were told things could get ugly.  Names have been called, eyes have been rolled.

Apologies have been made.

But here is the greatest lesson that we have learned – reclaiming this homestead is our dream.  We have fought for every bit of it.  Every bit of it is ours.  Every nail, screw, and 2×4.  Now that the siding and windows are in, the house is becoming a home, and every hard lesson and heartache are worth it.  This homestead is where the heart is and this is the best renovation reality of them all.

Reclaiming our homestead from years of neglect & terrible previous "fixes" makes for a harsh renovation reality check, but moments of great hope and joy.


Devon is a writer and author on subjects of holistic and sustainable living. She has a degree in Complementary and Alternative Medicine from the American College of Healthcare Sciences, and her first book, The Backyard Herbal Apothecary, was published by Page Street Publishing in Spring 2019. Devon's work outside of can be seen at,,, and in the magazine The Backwoods Home. Devon's second book, The Herbalist's Healing Kitchen, will be published Fall 2019.

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About Me

About Me

Meet the Nitty Gritty Mama, Devon!

I am an herbalist, farmer, cook, and forager. I get my hands dirty and am not afraid to do things the "hard way". Sharing my Nitty Gritty Life with you! Read More



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