Hannah Crabtree and Jessie Frost named their home the Rough Draft Farmstead because, Hannah says, “A farm is a constant evolution of ideas, whims, and mistakes.” They hope to use draft animals at some point, but even more to the point, “We’re both artists willing to embrace the idea that nothing is ever perfect…it’s all a draft for what’s next.” When they named their farm, they had no idea how appropriate the name would become: After a misunderstanding, they had to move off their first land and start over.
Jessie says he first became interested in homesteading after working as a chef in New York City.
“I wanted to learn to grow food,” he said. “I wanted to eat better. I wanted to stop consuming so much non-renewable, non-recyclable, unidentifiable everything. I wanted to make my own wines and be closer to my family in Kentucky. Farming seemed like the only logical action.” But because he’d never farmed a day in his life, he started out as an intern on someone else’s farm, where he was introduced to Hannah. “While picking kale, carrots, and collards, I proposed to her,” he said, “in the gardens where we met and fell in love.”
Now, they’re building their own off-the-grid cabin and starting their own farm together near Danville, Kentucky. Here are a few of their thoughts on the process:
How did you decide to start building a cabin?
We have always had a fondness for small houses. A smaller house forces you to utilize the space well and think hard about any purchases you make. Our cabin is just under 600 square feet, so I don’t know that it totally qualifies as tiny, but we would happily live in something smaller.
How did you come up with the design?
We hired a man named Steve Yancey to help us with the “drying in” process. He loves building cabins and helped a few friends build theirs, so we described to him what we were looking for and he designed the frame. He was able to look at our budget and show us how to get the most square footage for the least amount of money. The location was basically the only space on our property that was not completely overgrown or in the woods.
Had you worked with construction before?
We had almost no construction experience. This is another reason we hired Steve. We didn’t want to learn to build a cabin on our own cabin. Steve, having local connections, sourced the materials for us from local mills, and a lot of the finishing materials like windows and doors were salvaged.
What were some of the biggest challenges you faced?
Hanging the drywall was actually the most difficult element for us. We have really high ceilings above the living room, and standing on small boards trying to balance drywall long enough to put screws in it was far and away the biggest challenge we faced. The insulation was difficult, but insulation is light. Drywall is heavy and awkward.
Were there any surprises?
We happened to be in the cabin one day when it started to rain and we noticed a small leak in the ceiling from where the gabled part of our house met the salt box. Had we not been there that day, we might have sealed it in with insulation and drywall, which could have been a mess later on. We were lucky to have caught it.
What was the most fun part of the process?
We really enjoyed mudding the drywall. We decided to roll it on with a textured paint roller, and loved how it turned out, plus it saved us a lot of work trying to smooth the drywall!
Were there any big oops moments?
We wish we hadn’t put the stove under the loft where we sleep. That seemed smart at the time, and we wanted the kitchen below the loft, but ultimately it gets too hot in our room when the fire is going. If we did it again, we’d put the stovepipe and kitchen where the living room is now, but it’s hard to see that before you’ve lived in the house.
How have you found cabin living?
We have officially lived in the house full-time for just over a year–we moved in immediately after finishing the drywall. We figured that the best way to truly finish the house was to be here full time. We have great neighbors so that keeps the loneliness down. And we always say that it’s as hard as it is fulfilling. So long as you’re willing to live with little and not expect everything to work perfectly the first time.
Do you have any other comments you want to share about the whole process?
Had it not been for hiring Steve, and if we had tried to build it all on our own, we would probably not yet live in our house. If you don’t have a lot of carpentry experience, hiring a professional is a great way to get a little experience, and to guarantee yourself a safe and well-built structure. It cost a little more, obviously, but he built the frame and put a roof on it, allowed us to help, and then we did the rest, which was still an exceptional amount of enough work. Still is.
Weekend Cabin isn’t necessarily about the weekend, or cabins. It’s about the longing for a sense of place, for shelter set in a landscape…for something that speaks to refuge and distance from the everyday. Nostalgic and wistful, it’s about how people create structure in ways to consider the earth and sky and their place in them. It’s not concerned with ownership or real estate, but what people build to fulfill their dreams of escape. The very time-shortened notion of “weekend” reminds that it’s a temporary respite.