I was invited by Urban Compass to participate in their Starter Home project - basically, they ask bloggers to tell the story of their first house/apartment and how they made it into a home by fixing it up, improving it, and adapting it to the needs of their family. I decided to jump in, thinking that a summary of our home saga could make an interesting story.
Back to 2008: we're planning our wedding and looking up and down for places to rent. The clock is ticking - there's only about a month to go until the wedding, and still we have no idea where we're going to live. We nearly purchased a lovely wooden mobile home which was affordable, but we'd need a plot of land to put it on, and that was a problem. Eventually we expanded our search to include the settlements of the Shomron, in which area we reside to this day.
The first home we ended up renting was a trailer-type temporary home which was, frankly, in awful condition. I remember once in the middle of the night the toilet flooded for no obvious reason, and there we were in our night clothes, trying to fix it. There was no air conditioning and it got boiling hot in the summer. Luckily we knew we wouldn't have to stay there for more than 6 months, so we didn't really invest much in the place. We didn't even have a proper bed at that point: we slept on air mattresses thrown right on the floor. By the time we moved I was midway through my first pregnancy, and the mattress didn't provide adequate support for my back. Getting our bed was a huge relief.
Then there was our second home, of which I will always have fond memories because our first two children were born there (well, not technically there - they were born in the hospital - but they were brought to that home when they were a few days old). We bought it outright, with no mortgage, and there was a great deal to be done to fix it up. Unfortunately, after the purchase we didn't have any money left for fixer-uppering, so we kept delaying that. We lived there for 3 years and didn't even paint the walls once. We did, however, build our first little chicken coop there, which began our Great Chicken Adventure that goes on to this day.
Before we managed to save for fixing up our home, an opportunity came up to move to a place which we fell in love with when we first saw it. From a typical little house on a street full of other little houses exactly like it, we began living out our dream: moved to a stand-alone house on a hillside and became integrated into a small community of an outpost. The space all around us was a huge luxury - from neighbours next door, to no visible neighbours at all. Since that home was rented, we didn't do much in the way of improvement either, but we built a nicer and bigger chicken coop which also served as a goat shed (animals are addictive!). There was a large and lovely balcony with a breathtaking view, and a river that flowed during the rainy season.
After three wonderful years, we felt it was time to move on. We let our landlord know we wouldn't be prolonging the lease and, about three months ago, moved to the house where we currently live. Here we are, for the first time, doing what I can call major renovations, such as covering the wall paneling afresh. We only started that after we've built a chicken coop, of course. :o) And hopefully other animals will come again too, in their time. My husband loves to surprise. Today he called in the middle of the day and just asked out of the blue whether I'd like a couple of donkeys (donkeys?!). I'm fully prepared for the possibility that I might wake up one day and find an alpaca or two grazing in the yard.
In this home, we've faced some new challenges, such as dealing with the local wildlife (scorpions, giant yellow centipedes and lots of rodents). There's also an irregular water and electricity supply, which brings out some obsessive tendencies in me, such as washing every dish as soon as it's dirty and running the washing machine in the middle of the night (because then it's less likely everybody else is running their appliances, and so you have less chances of the electricity suddenly fluking out).
Trite as it sounds, I've come to realize that it's the people who make a home. No matter where we are, when we all sit together around the Shabbat table it feels like home. It's a privilege to have such a lovely place of our own, though. I only hope it will all be fixed up, ready, orderly and clean by the time the baby comes.