Our First Week: Early Days on the Diagonal, Part 2

(If you’re just joining this series, may I suggest you start here.)

July 2, 1979: We arrive at what will be our forever home around mid-afternoon. We’ve not seen it since things turned green. What a surprise to be greeted by acres of my favorite flower, wild daisies.

We hop out of the car and sit on the ground to take in the beauty that surrounds us. And what do we discover? Scrumptious little wild strawberries—so much sweeter than the hybrids you find in the grocery store or even in a well-tended garden. We’re in heaven!


Wild strawberries!

It’s almost impossible to comprehend that we’re able to sit among these flowers and berries in a giant meadow against the backdrop of the Blue Ridge Mountains able to say, “It’s ours!” Butterflies dance through the air from one wildflower to another, fluttering around us as if we’re not here.

We set up our 8×8′ canvas tent. Punkin and Cuddlebug thrive in the adventure of it: being outdoors in pajamas, cooking over an open fire, teasing each other when the wind changes direction about whether smoke follows beauty or weirdness.


Punkin (red) and Cuddlebug (blue) investigate smoke in front of our first home on the diagonal

We get the lay of the land, set up outdoor toilet facilities, check out our creek and spring, and generally adjust to living in the wild.


Our creek in the woods is too far away to hear its burbling but it will become a crucial part of our new lifestyle.

It rains almost every day. We’re soaked, the tent’s soaked, our sleeping bags are soaked. It takes a trip to the laundromat half an hour away to dry them—over and over again.


Soppy kid; soppy tent (upper right), soppy soil

There’s lightning, too. When that happens, the only safe place for us is inside the steamy car.

We’ve been here barely a week, and already we have to reprioritize. We need more protection from the weather, and fast. Instead of clearing land for the house, we have to do it for our temporary living quarters, which we dub “the shed.” But boy, oh boy, does it have to be simple: just 8×12′, plywood floor, studs, and rafters—all to be covered in nothing more than plastic. Barely a shelter at all, but cheap, quick, and off the ground.


Cuddlebug tries his hand at digging post holes.


“Hold that post steady, Punkin.”


With posts and joists in place, it’s time for the floor.

All this work is with human-powered tools; we have no electricity. And we’ve just discovered that the site for our septic tank must be approved before we can get a temporary power pole installed. We schedule the inspector for next week.


Ready to move in.

In Retrospect, 2017: In general, we’re not big risk-takers, but this risk turned out to be a life lesson about what’s possible—not just for us, but also to our children. They got to see creativity in action, how to make do, and how to forge ahead, unafraid, in the face of the unknown. 

(Stay tuned to see what happens next in Early Days on the Diagonal.)

4 thoughts on “Our First Week: Early Days on the Diagonal, Part 2

  1. Pingback: Here’s to What We Don’t Know – Living on the Diagonal

  2. Pingback: Early Days on the Diagonal: Part One – Living on the Diagonal

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