The Shoffice Beside My House

The Shoffice Beside My House

I stole my home office from my daughter. 

I suppose that makes me a bad father but when I found her cleaning out the garden shed beside our garage a few years ago – her plan was a clubhouse – I immediately saw the potential for my own home office,  a quiet repose from the upstairs echoes of our basement.  Because it was a shed and is now an office I’ve taken to calling it the shoffice.  I suppose a more exotic name may be in order but it is a quiet place to work and write and read. I had once dreamed of building a strawbale office, but this was less costly and more expedient.

It has been a step by step journey toward completion.  Each successive year I’ve done a bit more to make it an efficient and comfortable space.  At just over five feet wide and nine feet long, it is not an overly spacious office, but as someone who generally works from home four days a week it has been increasingly the right office.   

I plug the shoffice into the house electricity with an extension cord.  This adequately runs the lights, my computer and a space heater in winter.  I installed a small window air conditioner this past summer making year round work a reality.  I’m still working to finish out the ceiling, the trim work and a standing desk.  Next summer I hope to refurbish the exterior as well and add a small portico over the front door to prevent rain from running down the front door, between the crack and onto the floor.  I’d like to add a window or skylight in order to let in more natural light as well but we’ll see.

The shoffice is the place I go to work.  My family is far too fun to work inside anymore. With two high schoolers studying at home, the distracting temptation to join in the conversations is just too much and so I escape out to my little shoffice beside the garage for much of the day.  It’s my place to get things done.

Painted Floors

IMG_2646When we moved into Grandma and Grandpa Deckert’s house back in March, we knew we would have a bit of work before us to get the home into the kind of place we would want to live.

We began slowly to make it our own, a not so easy process as in every change there was a bit of nostalgia, a piece of Grandma and Grandpa that would go with it.

We hung onto the living room carpet – circa 1966 – a bit too long though and after pulling it out wished we had removed it and the 47 years of dust and debris and decomposed padding that came up with it.

In keeping with Grandma and Grandpa’s spirit of frugality we opted to do something different with our floors that would save us some money and yet allow us to add a bit of our own Bohemian, earthy sensibilities.

And so we painted them.

The Living room sub-floor painted a deep brown.

The pattern in the hall.

Consuelo used a home-made stencil for this pattern.

The living room floor before the Turkish rugs.

Beautiful sub-floors – who would have thought?

The hall turned out fantastic.  Several coats of paint followed by three coats of an oil based sealer.

The living room will probably need to be redone next summer.  We used two coats of brown (should have done three) and decided to forgo the fumes and use a water based sealer (two coats) instead of the more smelly oil based.

The oil based is so much harder and thicker.  It’s bomb proof.

Our living room brown is already beginning to chip in places though – two active kids do little to help that.

It’s character I guess and will be an easy fix next summer.

Artisan Envelopes: The Ledger Series


I have always been a bit of a dumpster diver, finding crazy cool treasures that others have thrown away.

My wife is thankfully thankful for this unique skill of mine and quickly embraces most of what I bring home (except for that rug in Turkey).

The town of Freeman has a self-recycling center where people bring their recyclables to drop off.

This is a regular source of new magazines to read and on occasion, supplies craft supplies for the kids.

A few months ago I glanced into the paper receptacle and saw a two inch stack of interesting looking paper.

Each sheet was a bit longer and wider than an extra long legal pad of paper and there must have been three hundred sheets in the stack.

Upon further inspection, this new treasure turned out to be an old ledger from a land lord in the small town of Scotland, South Dakota – 30 miles from Freeman.

On it were the monthly accountings of rent paid in and bills paid out – from the 1960’s.

Rent was around $60 per apartment!


Last week as we put together an Etsy shop to sell my wife’s artisan envelopes and considered adding more to the collection, this paper came to her mind.

And so as of today, we now have two lines of artisan sewn envelopes and are adding to our cobbled together income stream.

Like The Wildflower Series, The Ledger Series comes with eight envelopes and ten pieces of stationary and you can order them for $10 per set at the Cobbled Together Home Etsy shop.

Here are some more pictures:

The Ledger Series of hand made envelopes.

Perfect for sending a unique letter to an old friend or as a gift for your “type A” personality friends or family members.

Each envelope is unique with it’s own bit of history recorded in numeric fashion across the lines of each ledger page.

Visit the Cobbled Together Home Etsy Shop

Each envelope is completely unique.

What I wouldn’t do for $66.00 rent!

Use the ledger pattern to create your own patterns with colored pencils.



Visit the Cobbled Together Home Etsy Shop

Patio Pallet Table


I completed my first piece of furniture using a recycled pallet and I am pleased with how it turned out.

I learned a few things about pallets and now have a better understanding of how to work with them and have hopes for completing a set of benches for our back patio as well.

I need to find a few more pallets though.

I did pick up 10 small pallets from the Marion landfill this weekend – all of them solid oak and weathered a bit.

I’m excited to figure out what we can do with them and to find out just how difficult they are to work with – oak is very hard wood after all.

Anyway, here are a few pictures of the table I built.





Of Pallets and DIY Projects

Wooden Pallets.

I have of late become interested in using discarded packing pallets – those ubiquitous wooden piles you see behind most every store – to build things.

I’ve seen a fair share of ideas online and have pallets for the taking – as we all do.

Two projects have wandered in for now.

The first will be to turn a very clean, nice pallet that I found on the farm into a coffee table of sorts for our back patio.

Our future table for the back patio.
Our future table for the back patio.

The second stack of pallets is set aside to become the future home of a small rabbit, a pet for the kids.  I had a rabbit when I was young and now they want one too.

I think I have enough wood in the three pallets to build a good sized hutch for the four footed future family pet.

We’ve done some research, looked at what others have built online and have a fairly good idea of what we want to build.

Malachi insists on a living roof so I think we will grow alfalfa up on top, an easy snack for a hungry hare.

I’ll post more pictures as the projects come together.  Right now we are deconstructing the pallets, probably the most difficult job, but not nearly as difficult as some would make out.

All in all it has been a fun project to work on with my son.  And that makes it worth it no matter what the end result looks like.

Next up, a home office.   image credit

August 2012 Second Hand Year Report

In my quest to live without buying anything new this year, I’ve decided to document my purchases as much as possible with end of the month round-ups.  This will be the first.

August has been a full month.  The first week found us at a nice debriefing program for expats returning to the states.  It was a great week and really helpful but it was also I think the only time that I broke down and bought anything new for the entire month.  I can’t remember anything else anyway.

The rest of August has been spent back on the farm, recieving the visitations of great friends and now beginning the resettling process.  We’ve made weekly trips to town for food and to visit the library (free books!!!) but I haven’t needed to buy anything really as of yet.

We did start homeschooling the kids and so my wife bought some supplies to get us off the ground.  We also still need to find a place to live but other than that, all is well.

Anyway.  Here is what August looked like as I try and live a second hand life this year.

New Purchases

  • $90.00 worth of books.  Everyone of them has been worth it so far, but had we waited a bit we could have found or ordered used versions of them all I suppose.  Books may be a weakness of mine.  I recently wrote a review of The Lazarus Life which was one of these books.

Second Hand or Free

  • A cell phone.  My mom had an old trac phone which she kindly reformated with a South Dakota number and gave to us for free.  I’ll be working to use it like it’s 1985!
  • TNIV Noteworthy Bible:  $11.00 plus shipping.  I wanted to get a new Bible to start a new season in life and saw someone else’s Bible that had enough space for writing notes and decided I had to have one.  I got this one used from Amazon.  I assume it was purchased and returned or something like that but I ” I’ll see as it’s still on its way.

That is all that I can think for now.  Again, this is just my purchases – it’s my experiment, not my wife and kids.

Anyway, you can see a full run down of the year to date at the Second Hand Year page above.

[some of the links above are affiliate links]

Thinking About A Home Office

As we begin the journey toward settling down here in South Dakota, I realize that if I am to make my online ventures a reality and if I am be able to carve out the time to write regularly, I am going to need to find a better space to work.

Two years of working from cafes and from the IKEA cafeteria near our kids’ school in Istanbul have taught me to put distraction out of mind, but since I’ll have the space and since two kids and four cousins are a bit more distracting than the regular customers stopping through for a bite to eat or a cup of tea, I’d like to take some time to construct a home office.

As is fitting to this time and place in life, I’ll work to cobble together this structure from second-hand and natural materials that I can find around the surrounding countryside.  My desire is to build a small straw-bale structure that will be an energy-efficient, extremely low cost, creative and environmentally friendly.  Much of this depends on where we settle of course, but we hope to figure that out in the next few weeks.

Strawbale is something I have been reading about for a long time now and so building this will be a great little project to explore this building medium.  It is a fantastic idea and if you’d like to read a bit more about it be sure and visit Building With Strawbales, Straw Bale, or House of Straw.   I’ll also try and document each step of the building process.

What does this mean?

  • Strawbale Insulated Walls
  • Earthen Floor
  • Recycled windows and doors
  • Living roof
  • Low impact foundation
  • Minimal use of concrete
  • Natural plaster finish
  • Recycled wood or trees from the surrounding countryside

A Few Pictures

In all of this, I really have a loose dream of what I want to build.  Hobbit House is the description that I most quickly gravitate toward, but in reality, the materials that I am able or unable to procure will probably impact building decisions more than any other factor.  In the end, I’ll leave it to “We’ll see how it goes,” get started and adjust as I go.

Here are a few pictures I’ve found online, along with the picture at the top of the post, that have inspired me in this pursuit.

Recycled Living in a Second Hand Year

I began to work toward a new goal yesterday.  It’s a loose goal, one I’ll set before me as an aspiration for my life rather than the hard and fast sort of goals that make me feel guilty when I miss the mark and it won’t be anywhere near a central goal in life.

It’ll be aside gig, a sort of experiment.

The Second Hand Year

For the next year, I’ll try to live without buying anything new.  This excludes food of course, and unless we stay at a slew of hotels in the coming months, toiletries as well.  We’ll see.  And it’s my little gig, not my wife or my kids.

I am an impulse buyer.  Not bad, but it’s in me.  I see something I like and want (not need) and I feel the impulse to buy it.  Too often I do.

Buying things isn’t bad of course.  There is much we need to live here in our corner of the globe – where ever that may be.  But I guess I want to live with more discipline, more intentionality in this area.

And there are other things that I want too, things that cost money.  I want to return to Turkey – four tickets cost a lot of money, money that can be saved if I’m not buying loads of other stuff.

I want to develop a business.  Robert Lewis Stevenson famously advised: “Earn a little and spend a little less.”  I’ll be earning a little for a while.  It’s growing but it’s not their yet and so I’ll need to spend a little less.

And so I want to try to buy everything second-hand, to recycle what others have discarded and use it well.  One man’s junk is another man’s treasure and in today’s world, most junk is pretty well treasure all around.

My wife is wearing a pair of $80.00 Chaco sandals that our sister-in-law found at the thrift store for $10.00.  Her last pair of Chacos are into their thirteenth year and still going.  Chacos aren’t junk.

Yesterday, we bought a 2002 Pontiac Montana minivan.  We have our reasons for buying a minivan, reasons we feel good about.  It’s a good van, clean, well taken care of and we were able to pay cash for it.  No debt is right where I want to remain.


Reason 1:  It forces me to live more intentionally, to think through what I really need and grow in patience.  It’s a character thing.

Reason 2:  It allows me to depend on God and others more, to live in community, to share and to be the recipient of  God’s generosity and the sharing of friends.  (Though not the town mooch)

Reason 3: It forces me to spend less money on me so I can spend more money on the important things in life.

Reason 4:  It will allow me to complete some of my dreams – like build a straw bale home office and return to Turkey with my family.

Reason 5: It will dramatically reduce my ecological footprint.  I am a Christian environmentalist I guess.  I think the earth as on of God’s creations should be taken care of and tended, not exploited for our own pleasures.

I suppose there are other reasons.  Maybe it just gives me something to work toward within the framework of my efforts to cobble together an income back in the states.  Maybe I just like to be different.  Regardless, I’ll give it a go, do the best I can, live graciously and honestly with myself and others and have fun with it.

We’ll see how it goes.

I am in no way the first to do this.  I saw a sign recently that said, “What we call organic, our grandparent’s called food.”  It highlights the fact that there is much that has changed in the last 100 years.  Many in the “good ole days” rarely bought anything new.   And Jess over at Nothing New, Nothing Wasted spent an entire year as a family working to buy nothing new.

And with resources like Freecycle, it may be easier than I think.