Building Our Upland Dream Home
(Part 1)

Dateline: 28 January 2017 a.d.

Robert E. Lee Kimball (my middle son) stopped by last week during our January thaw. He brought his two dogs and a gun. The objective being to tramp the land hereabouts and see if maybe he could scare up a rabbit. I was splitting firewood beside the house and we struck up a conversation.

At one point I told Robert about my hope to build a retirement home for his mother and me. A place all on one level, with an attached garage. A place that will accommodate us better as we get older. And a place where it will be easier for Marlene to live after I'm dead and gone. A man starts to think about these things more as the years pile up.

After I told Robert what I was hoping to do (but not sure if I ever actually will) he told me that if he had a lot of money, he would buy my dream home for me.

When he said those two words, "dream home," my mind immediately flashed back to nearly 40 years ago, back before Marlene and I even got married. And I replied, pointing to the house I now live in...

"If I ever build a retirement home it will not be my dream home. This right here is my dream home."

It was kind of a funny thing to say, considering that I was pointing to the west side of our house, which, after 33 years, is still covered with tar paper. It is a humble home. But it's truly a dream home...

Marlene and I dated for five years before we married in 1980. Our dream was to get married, buy a small piece of land in the country, build our own debt-free house, and make it a home. And that's what happened. And I'm going to tell you the story. Better yet, I'm going to show you some old, fading pictures of our dream home as it became a reality.

The picture above shows the land we bought in 1982. It was the lower end of a field. 1.5 acres in all, most of it wooded (on the south and west sides).  Lots of privacy. Only one neighbor in sight, up the road aways. 

The land we bought was never up for sale. It was in a place we liked and I knew the man who owned it. I asked him one day if he would be interested in selling. He said he might, and before long he did. We paid $2,500 for the 1.5 acres.

My high school friend, Art Dillon, surveyed the property. He hand-drew the survey map. That's the way surveyors still made their maps back then. And I'll never forget Art telling me that the soil here was really good because it always grew nice alfalfa. Art lived on a farm down the road. Farmers look at fields (especially their neighbor's fields), and they notice things that your average person does not. But I digress.

Marlene and I lived in a two-room apartment in town after we were married. We both worked. She, as a receptionist for a doctor, and me as a carpenter's helper. We lived cheap and saved our money. According to an online inflation calculator, $2,500 in 1982 had the same buying power as $6,024 today, reflecting a 141% cumulative rate of inflation. A person might be able to buy a 1.5 acre rural building lot for $6,000 around here these days. But I think you would have to spend more like $10,000 to $15,000 now.

Since we had no money for a house (and I was dead-set against going to a bank to get money) we did the best we could with what we had. We built a shed. It was a nice shed. Here are some old pictures of the shed we built...

As you might imagine, that shed was special to us. We considered living in it, but it soon filled up with a collection of tools and other things for our homestead (we went to auctions a lot back then, looking for things we might need).  

Our land was six miles from our apartment. We were up there every weekend when the weather was good. Part of the reason we were up there was because, almost immediately after purchasing the land, we put in a garden...

That big TroyBilt Horse was a prized homestead tool. Bought it brand new. Back when TroyBilt was in Troy, New York, and they made a remarkably good tiller. 

I kept the tiller in the shed. We also bought an AllAmerican canner, and we learned to can food from the garden on a little stove in our apartment.

We were working hard, and livin' the good life.

That shed also served us well when we eventually got to building our dream home. This next picture of the shed was taken when we were building the house. You can see some rolls of tar paper on the right...

The girl on the picnic table is my little sister. She was around 14 years old and into gymnastics back then. These days she has multiple sclerosis and can hardly walk.  The girl in the hammock is Theresa Wilmot. Her father was the pastor of a church in Whitney Point, NY that Marlene and I attended back then. I have no idea what became of Theresa.

In Part 2 of this series I will show you pictures of our dream home, as we started to build it back in 1983.


to go to Part 2 of this series


  1. This is really awesome. First of all, congratulations to you and your wife for still being married. Divorce takes a monetary and emotional toll and you have avoided both--what a blessing. So wise of you to borrow money to build a house! I believe we can all do more than we think we are capable of. Sorry about your sister, we never know what the future holds, but we have to march forward. I think that garden area is in the same place as you have now? Next to the road? Wow, think how much good eating came out of that dirt! Your shed looks very similar to a shed my brother built on his undeveloped property. For his kitchen sink, he had a 5 gallon plastic bucket underneath the drain that he would empty. He said he never had to call a plumber. ;) That photo of you and your wife in front of the shed reminds me of how when you are young you think you have zillions of years ahead of you and you'll never get old... ha! Looking forward to the next installment.

  2. I meant NOT to borrow money...

  3. Elizabeth L. Johnson said,
    Very romantic story! Better than a $2404.36/month mortgage.

  4. to hear your stories.
    Pam B.

  5. Very inspiring. Marriage works out great when both spouses have the same values and goals. Working together, building, gardening and canning brought you closer together than pursuing separate careers. Blessings.