Welcome to Sow’s Ear Cottage! The cottage was jokingly named from the maxim, “Making a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.” Essentially, this means converting something into something else it was never intended to be. We named the land “Pearl Acre” and is so named as a nod to our daughter (Alice Pearl) and a few parables contained in The Gospels.
Why are you doing this?
When we moved to Oregon in 2016, we started really reducing our waste and making everything ourselves. We decided we wanted to be self-sustainable. We wanted enough land to grow/raise our own food and we wanted to have a solar powered home. We have been dreaming of having a homestead since then.
Ultimately, we do not want to have to rely on anyone other than ourselves for our well-being. 2020 really showed everyone that we can’t always rely on grocery stores to have things essential for living. We believe the only practical solution for the average person is to take steps to try to remove themselves from relying on the powers that be. For us, this means being debt-free, personally involved with growing/raising our food, and owning property. As of summer 2021, we have achieved these goals.
How did all of this come about?
At the end of March 2020, I was laid off from my job at a children’s theatre due to the COVID shutdowns. Harry was going to the university and his classes were all going to be moved online for the next semester. After watching the news, we knew the virus would be around for several months at the very least. So we decided it would be better to spend this time near/with family and an actual support system. So we put most of our belongings in storage and drove to Texas to spend the summer with my family. At the end of June 2020, we decided it was time to head back to Oregon soon. First, we wanted to spend a couple of weeks with Harry’s dad in Oklahoma. While in this tiny little town, Harry’s dad showed us around and he suggested we buy this old, dilapidated house down the street. The county owned it and would be auctioning it off (for like $700). He also mentioned that Harry’s uncle might be willing to sell his nearby property that had an old garage on it. We asked if he would sell it to us and he did! He was just storing his trailer in the garage but not really doing anything else with the land. So we decided that this might be a good opportunity to start a homestead (like I said, it’s something we’ve wanted to do for several years). In hindsight, it feels like it all just kind of happened or fell into our laps. But in reality, we made it happen for ourselves.
Who helped you?
When you watch an HGTV show, the DIYers/homeowners always seem to be related to someone who can help them with their house build because their Uncle Donald happens to be a plumber and doesn’t mind doing all the plumbing work for free; or their Cousin Sally happens to have an extra set of kitchen cabinets she’ll give them. I always thought, “We could never DIY a house because we don’t know any people like this.” Well, I was sort of wrong. Harry’s uncle owned the land we bought and he sold it to us for a fraction of its worth.
Harry’s dad just happens to have a workshop full of almost all the necessary tools we would need for this project. We couldn’t have done this project without those tools. Not having to buy tools saved us a TON of money. We probably wouldn’t have even considered doing this project without access to those tools. We also wouldn’t have been able to do this without Harry’s dad because he provided a ton of knowledge on how to build a house. He has built houses and buildings in the past so he knows the ins and outs to this kind of project.
Harry’s aunt just so happens to work at a countertop and cabinet store. Her boss had a storage unit full of extra cabinets. We planned to use random, mismatched cabinets in our kitchen but it turned out none would work in our space. So that didn’t actually help in the end, but Harry’s aunt did buy our cabinets and hardware for us, which helped immensely.
Harry’s dad has a plumber friend who gave us advice/consult about our bathroom plumbing setup.
And lastly, Harry’s family owns land in town with various things still there like our clawfoot tub, a big farmhouse sink, and fence posts. We’ve used various things from the farm in the cottage and on the property.
How did you pay for everything?
We didn’t get a loan. Every dime we spent on the cottage was just money we had saved up. So this means we don’t have to pay a mortgage, which is AWESOME.
Did you know what you were doing?
We really didn’t know a thing. I think I thought I’d be able to help with the entire process and that just wasn’t possible with a toddler. There was no one else to watch Alice so Harry ended up doing practically everything himself. His dad obviously helped too and guided Harry as best he could. Anything Harry’s dad didn’t know, Harry just looked it up on YouTube. Towards the end of the project, Harry was doing most everything by himself.
Now that the cottage is complete, what’s next?
I originally wrote this blog post shortly after we moved in and my answer was this:
We still have a couple of small things to do inside like putting handles on the sliding doors and hooking up the washer/dryer. After that, we’ll be planting seeds and preparing for chickens. We still have to install gates and build a chicken coop. Now that our kitchen is complete (with all the proper tools/gadgets), we’ll be really trying to reduce our waste even more by composting and making food from scratch. I’ll continue to share recipes and ways to reduce waste here on our website, so just keep following along on our journey as we figure everything out!
Now we’ve been living in the cottage for 7 months:
We have an abundant vegetable garden and have been pleasantly surprised by the various flowers we’ve grown. We’ve had chickens for about a month and they are fun little creatures that don’t require much attention or work. We are mostly busy in the garden since it is summertime. Harry plans to redo the concrete on our front walkway as the next big project but it may have to wait until the weather cools down.
So there you have it! That’s the story behind Pearl Acre and Sow’s Ear Cottage. It is a vision realized! I hope that you can also realize your visions!