I have bought land and moved to north of Springfield, MO area. Hoping to meet others in the Permie life, and really in need of local help with a problem I’m having. Short version (so you can decide if you want to keep reading) is I’m trying to build a house (not “natural building”) and having a hard time finding local contractors who understand alternative construction. Other half of this is I’d LOVE to meet people in the area, I know there are others here, I haven’t tripped over them yet, and would love to connect!
On to the long version...
Me and my mom bought 4 acres, in a small town, and are going to build a house that we can live in for the rest of our lives. We love the little town, we haven’t met many people yet due to being very busy doing all of this, but we like who we have met. We love the property, it has a LOT of potential, and want badly to be living there. Currently in a rental that is basically nice, but NOT what we need or want at all. We both have health issues, me more than her, and the way this house works just makes us nuts. There isn’t enough room in the kitchen to cook the way we like to, there are steps that hurt us, we feel like we are living out of suitcases as most of our possessions are packed, etc. We want our own house!!
So we have designed one, that does what we want, and should be easy to build. And are running into walls. If you take Paul Wheaton’s Eco-Scale Wheaton Eco Scale and apply it to human nature in general you see a pattern I call “a half step past familiar.” Most people are only comfortable if something is familiar, or within a half step of that. For example, food. If you have eaten nothing but chicken and beef your whole life, and you are given alligator, it’s quite often too unfamiliar for your mind to accept as food. If, however, you have eaten venison, and crab, and rabbit, alligator isn’t as far of a step, and you are more likely to consider eating it. Now look at house construction. If all you have ever met is 2x4 walls and vinyl siding, a house that’s designed to be mostly passively heated and has odd air and water systems to account for the microclimate on the property is quite possibly more than a half step past familiar, and you won’t like the idea.
“It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.” - Upton Sinclair
So we need excavators, and concrete guys. Who want to do what they are familiar with, because it’s easy and fast and they can make quick money doing it. And I want the foundations of the house to be what I need to work with the house design, with proper thermal breaks, good water control etc. So I’m wondering if anyone knows of people who can do the work I can’t do myself, if I could physically pour my own basement walls, I would. I WILL do the French drains, and the radiant heat piping etc, I can do that, but me and my itty bitty Kubota are not going to excavate a basement easily, no matter how hard I am willing to try. I’d LOVE to know of concrete guys who have worked on passive houses, excavators who don’t charge an arm and a leg, and hirable help who enjoy this kind of project. I KNOW there are people who have done this kind of thing, I know there are people who enjoy this kind of thing, I suspect there are Permies who know those people... Introduce me, please!!
Other parts of the problem are 1) I’m not using a general contractor, couldn’t find one who wanted to build what we wanted built, within our budget, and the % they charge is high enough to make our project unaffordable. I’m pretty sure I can do this within budget if we aren’t paying 12-15% off the top to someone I just have to argue with. 2) I’m not from this area, and am not part of the local social networks. 3) I’m female. 4) I’m a female with an IQ who knows what she wants, and have enough construction skills that it’s hard to bullshit me too deep.
This is not a complex project, I have deliberately made it easy: rectangular house, walk out basement, no weird corners or anything. The walls and roof are to be steel SIPs, like wood SIPs, only instead of the panel being OSB<foam>OSB it’s steel<foam>steel. Structural panels, they should go up easily, and I’m looking for only general help with them, not for contractors on that (unless you know someone who has built with them, would LOVE to talk to them.) Most of the odd custom stuff in it is things I’m doing myself, the cabinetry and air systems etc.
The part that frustrates me is that it isn’t complex. I can’t imagine how messy this would be if it was complex, as well as alternative style. I read about people who build the awesome cutting edge houses, and I wonder, how do they find people who can and will do the work? And how much does it cost them? The main expenses on this house are the SIPs and the concrete. The rest is more creatively acquired, a lot of second hand and scrounged bits. I’m doing a lot of the work myself, mom is doing what she can, this is how we are affording a house that’s more than we should be able to. To be stalled on the basic parts is frustrating.
As far as meeting people, I’m a weird mix of brown and purple permaculture, I love beautiful flowers, but know all the root depths, drainage requirements etc of the pretty flowers. I dream big dreams, and have the hand skills to make a lot of them happen. We are into alternative medicine, and I hope to have a lot of medicinals growing soon. I currently have a cat and a few chickens (to eat the bugs) want goats once we have a house, putting a cheese aging cave into the basement. Hope to be growing a large percentage of our food soon, not much going yet, until the house is built I’m not putting in swales etc, so the major planting won’t be done until after that. I don’t want to do things first, then find out the house botched up my design functions, or the construction chaos damaged it. So more dreams than reality in my life right now, LOTS of plans!!
So if you know people I should meet for work or fun, please PM me, I want to build a niche in this part of the world I fit into, and find people who are in similar niches :) And I don’t like to put my exact location out publicly, been stalked before, but if you drive down East Main in your town, and see a grubby lady in camo pants, tank top and a sun hat with an itty bitty Kubota, with chickens underfoot, who is sheet mulching large areas, stop and say hi! :D
Hi Pearl. I'm in Nevada, MO. Around a hundred miles from Springfield. I'm from Lamar. About how far are you from Lamar? You can PM me if you want. I know some contractors, but you may be a little too far away.
Thanks for replying. PM sent with my location, you are probably out of range for contractors, unless there was one who really enjoys this kind of construction enough to consider it more fun than work, and worth the drive.
As for the rest: Codes: ugh, yes. That was the ONLY thing I hated about the property I bought, I'm technically within city limits, actually my hedgerow IS city limits, I have wished many times I was on the other side of that fence. Tried to get it shifted to county before I bought, couldn't be done for stupid reasons (can only be requested by someone who has lived on the property for 3 years, can't live on the property in an RV or something while we build, so by the time I can live there, I'll have the house built, and will have had my brawl with codes.) ICC-IRC-2009 enforced by someone who does inspections part time (has a full time job) who doesn't have time or inclination to learn alternative construction. UGH. After too much work, the steel panels have been approved, but I am on his radar for "probably an issue" so I suspect there will be more problems. I'm basically a Libertarian type and want to just be left alone. This clash is being educational, to say the least. In the course of things so far I have read and re-read the 2009, 2012, and 2015 codes several times, and can recite large chunks of it. At 800-1200 pages each, that gets old. People who have been watching this say "you could be the codes inspector!" Enforcing rules I don't agree with is my idea of hell, I hope I never get hungry enough to take that job :P
I have seen your posts, sounds like you have all kinds of fun going on there! When I get the house built, and am ready to plant, I'd love to see if you have excess plants that want to move here! The climate here is unfamiliar to me (I came in out of the desert) so although I have gardened all my life, the climate change is being a fun learning curve. The soil here is SO nice though! I'm baffled by the locals who say "oh, this isn't good soil" I have gardened for over 30 years in soil worse than the subsoil here! I LOVE the soil here! If you don't plant something in a spot, something comes up anyway, wow. I'm used to bare, hard, dry soil. This is awesome!
Some of the learning curve has been interesting though. We moved here, got the UHaul unloaded, then it rained. My second day in MO I was working at the property, was turning the truck around again, about 10 feet off where I had been doing so all morning, got the truck stuck up to the hubcaps in mud. Called the guy who had brushcut for me, "Hey, told you I'd pay you when I was in town, I'm here, if you want to come by and get paid, and, um, can you bring chains?" In the desert, if you have grass, it's deep rooted, solid stuff. So if you have grass, you have traction. The grass here, in such massive quantities, is shallow rooted, and no traction at all. Good lesson. The guy laughed, pulled me out, I offered to pay him, he said the price was I had to carry my chains and pull others out as needed. (My payback pull was a Mennonite guy, who looked really startled at having a female stop.) I carry my chains now :D
And I have learned about Johnson grass. Lost all my irises I had so carefully moved. :( I saw the roots when I was putting the irises in, had no idea they were a problem. Irises didn't have a chance. Digging it to plant spread the grass, and it overran and killed my transplant shocked flowers. Dammit. My grandma had bought me the first of those purple irises, and I had been breeding them for years. :( If anyone has excess irises, I need new stock when I have a good place to put them.
Another shock thing is in the desert, trees are scarce and difficult to grow. You DON'T kill trees! Here they are weeds! The idea of pulling baby maple trees stuns me. The idea of burning excess wood appalls me, the stuff I see in burning brush piles would fetch a good price in the desert, here it's trash. Wow. Culture shock. And I had honeysuckle and trumpet vine there that I babied to make it grow well. They are invasive weeds! I have had to remove some in bad places. And I brought seeds off my wisteria vines, don't think I'm planting them, they ran amok in the desert, I think they'd eat my property here.
So I'm learning a lot, but I love it. I have spent my life wanting to be challenged by school (and the world) always hoped "this year the classes will be interesting and challenging!" only to be sorely disappointed. This whole move, and building, and codes, and learning curve has been interesting and challenging :) The best 3D puzzle I have ever done! I love it!!
Pearl, I am willing to bet you are too far south for me to be of much realistic help but I am just north of Warsaw. I know of a few contractors I could recommend up here but again, doubt I can be of much help. There are plenty of us here in MO and welcome!
And if anyone knows someone in the area with an open gantry laser cutter, I'd LOVE to meet them...
My tractor was stolen, (there's a thread on it in the homesteading/gear forum) if I have to buy another, that is the money I have hopefully budgeted for a laser cutter.
I do not know a lot about Steel SIP's though I find them interesting to say the least. I was wondering if you could use a large skillsaw fitted with a cutoff wheel to cut through them maybe? That is how I cut steel roofing. A firefighting chainsaw might also work as they cut through steel.
Now I say all this in 100% ignorance and stupidity, but was hoping maybe you could explain why a laser gantry was required. It sounds expensive.
But again I know nothing about Steel SIP's, but so many times in my life I have been thinking about this or that and someone says, "why don't you just do it this way", and I am dumbfounded because I did not think of the simple solution. If I knew just what the device did, maybe I could think of something that might work. I am pretty dumb, but I KNOW STEEL. (Retired welder who built US Navy Destroyers)
Oh, sorry. Two different trains of thought. Steel SIPs for the walls of the house, and yeah, you can cut them with a circular saw, or a hmm, I forget the name, roof cutting power saw basically, or with sheet metal shears and a wire.
Open gantry laser is for my artwork, and for the house decor, not related to construction. It's just if I can't buy one because I have to buy a new tractor, I'd love to meet someone local I could maybe barter with to borrow theirs, or they do my cuts for me.
Scattered thoughts :)
I made a pair of threads in the projects forum about what I'm doing, they get into what the plan is! Check them out! If you know anyone local who would be interested, pass them on please! :D
Maison du Bricolage Gardens In My Mind
The route up to Kansas City isn't all that far, so I'm going to invite you to join our Kansas City facebook group. Many of our members are as close to you as they are to Kansas City. I keep telling people that Missouri is the new mecca for permies.
Dan: Thank you for the thought! I don't do Facebook though, as I am NOT a fan of being data mined.
Do you have any of it anyplace else? I'd LOVE to be part, just not on FB...
I do run up to KC sometimes, I have family up there, part of why we moved to this area, mom wanted to be by her family (I wanted good garden soil!!)
There is an Ozark thread and a Missouri thread here in Permies. However, we don't see much traffic there. It's kind of why we formed a FB group. But, no matter. If events or happenings or other things show up in the group, I'll look to send you a purple moosage (private message) here on the Permies site.
The Kansas Permaculture Institute is offering a spring certification course in Perry, Kansas. This was posted in our FB group, but I'll drop it here for you to see.
Through this course, students will learn how to create and maintain productive, self-sustaining, edible ecosystems to address current environmental, social and economic challenges. The first part of this course consists of 48 hours of lecture, video and field work covering topics including food security, permaculture principles and ethics, ecological principles, systems design, sustainable soils, food production, earth works and construction of human habitats. The second part of the course consists of four, 6 hour practicum sessions that emphasize hands-on experience in land assessment, planning, and system design and includes developing skills in agroforestry management, creating plant guilds, constructing earthworks and using sustainable building technology. In addition, students are required to complete a design project that demonstrates their understanding of the principals taught in the class. Successful completion of the design project and all class and practicum sessions will earn an internationally recognized Permaculture Design Certificate (PDC) from the Kansas Permaculture Institute.
Another thought: how can we increase the traffic in the Ozarks forum on Permies? I have never thought about it... I love that this is a moderated forum, saves SO MUCH crap! I really like being here, would love more local stuff here.
I realize I'm late to the discussion. But, here in central Missouri there are many "earth sheltered homes", basically a south facing walk out basement without the upper stories. This might be the half step closer to the home you want to build. Go looking for one of those contractors and you might find someone you can work with.
Alex Riddle: Thank you for showing up the party, even late, there's still cookies! :)
The world has gotten messier, and weirder. No "contractor" will be involved. I'm doing as much as I can by myself, and will get things like concrete guys in as I need to. I gave up on contractors that wanted too much money to not build what we want.
Still looking for friends in the area and helpers for building. Not looking for contractors anymore. The designs are in the threads in my signature below, it is a basic walk out, but it walks out north, fact of the land I bought. South facing slopes are expensive. :) Check the design out, it's neat! and easy building.
Edit: Oh,wow, I hadn't read this thread in a while. I thought it was a different one I had done, looking for a general contractor :) My reply doesn't make much sense in the context of this thread! So. Let me try again:
Yes, someone who does that sort of work is who I am looking for!
The problem lies in " Go looking for one of those contractors and you might find someone you can work with." WHERE do you look? That's what I'm asking, does anyone know any? Because the ones I have found are not interested in this at all.
Also since then, my Kubota got stolen, I now have an 47 hp International Harvester tractor, that might have enough oomph to excavate! We'll see what happens. I really DON'T want random construction guys trashing my property as they "do it they way they always do" which is the type I have found.
I am looking for a guy or two to work with me and do everything that we can, and get the big guys in for the absolute minimum. Just assume they are not useful for anything but the concrete flatwork, etc.
Hey Pearl. Brand new to the permies site here so I’m not sure exactly how this works. I’d be happy to dm you my phone number and would love to meet up and discuss your building needs. I live in pleasant hope and I’m still learning about a lot of alternative building options and permaculture itself. I do have some construction knowledge so maybe that could be helpful to you. I’m also just excited to meet local people in the SPRINGFIELD area that are learning about regenerative agriculture.
Hi Dustin! Welcome to Permies!
I sent you a PM. Tell me if you don't know how to retrieve it etc. Basically click where it says My Purple Messages, and has a yellow 1 next to it :)
Great to meet you!
I curtsy nicely at you :)