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On July 5th, we celebrated our one year anniversary.

During the rest of July, I quietly celebrated and pondered our one year anniversary in this little farm house.


Here were just a few of my concerns before we moved in:

  • No dishwasher
  • No garbage disposal
  • No central air
  • No central heat
  • No water softener
  • No insulation (Yes, that’s right – no insulation in the Dakotas)
  • Only two windows open, the rest were painted shut decades ago
  • 6 inch slope in the floors in two rooms
  • Full of family possessions
  • No farm-family separation
  • No guest bedroom
  • No closets
  • No ventilation in the bathroom

Does this remind you of your first house? Your grandparent’s first house? In the past year, I’ve talked to lots of folks who can relate! 

At the beginning of this stage of life, I felt that I was the only 20-something woman in America who faced this unique situation.

Of course, that’s never true. There are plenty of women who have a similar story.

I’d like to tell you that I loved every minute of living in this house, but I haven’t.

I’d like to tell you that we’ve been warm & cozy and I didn’t mind hand washing dishes, but that is not true either.

Even though I know these are special days we will look back on and cherish, sometimes I can’t wait to move out!

A few “horror stories” 

One way of coping with a less-than-ideal situation is humor. And, what I call, swapping horror stories.

Some old folks just love to do this, “When I was a kid, it was uphill both ways to school…in the snow…and my shoes had holes.”

So, because it is warm and I can laugh about it now (no promises next December)…here are a few of my favorite old farm house horror stories from the past year. Someday, I’ll tell these to my grandchildren while they roll their eyes:

  • On December 23, we hosted Christmas with John’s family after working the cows. After opening presents around our very first tree, we began discussing how cold the house gets. John has a laser thermometer, so just for fun…we showed our guests just how cold our little bedroom can get. I believe the pillows came up at about 35 degrees and the back wall registered at 25 degrees. (Is it any surprise that we are expecting a baby this fall? No.)
  • Record low temperature? 17 degrees in one corner of the living room, I cried.
  • After working in my office one windy afternoon, I grew tired of the howling. I shoved a towel into the space in between the two window panes. That stopped the howling, but not the gentle breeze. Thinking I was insane, I got a lighter from the kitchen and took it into the bathroom. I was determined to find the leaky spot. Yes, indeed, there is enough of a breeze in one corner to BLOW OUT a lighter.
  • Our house is so close to the main barnyard, I’d have more privacy in a New York City high rise. Do not for one minute image that because I live in a state with less than 800,000 people that I feel any sense of isolation or personal privacy. I’ve never lived in a less-private place.
  • (As a side note, we are installing one more electric heater in our bedroom this summer. So, hopefully we’ll be a little warmer in the coming winter. Also, please don’t worry about the baby. The studio/nursery is the warmest room in the house. The crib is in a nice & toasty spot. All is well.)

Poetry makes it better

Around this one year + one month anniversary, my best friend Lucy happened to give me a very, very fitting birthday gift. She too lives in a chilly, small farm house with plenty of quirks. The framed poem, which has already become my new mantra reads:

Love grows best in little houses with fewer walls to separate.

Where you eat and sleep so close together, you can’t help but communicate.

And if we had more room between us, think of all we’d miss.

Love grows best in little houses

just like this.

 Your stories?

Anyone else have a funny, old house “horror story”? Please share!

What are the quirks of your newlywed living situation?

If you’re out of this stage of life, what do you miss most about your first fixer-upper?


  1. Katie

    HAHAHA! This post was the best! My old house horror stories:

    1) We’ve had 2 bats…and we still haven’t found the second one.
    2) The foundation is so bad that a tiny tree grew in a basement crack last fall
    3) Our water is super hard because the pipes are so old. Our tap water sort of tastes like metal. It stripped the highlights from my hair and clogs our portable humidifier WEEKLY with calcium build-up in the winter.
    4) The foundation shifts so bad that in the summer, our back door is basically permanently jammed shut. Our landlord shaved an inch off the bottom of the door to make it functional this past weekend.

    Do you have a heated blanket!? My girlfriend plugs hers in by the couch which is absolutely genius!

    • Sierra Shea

      Katie! I thought of you while I wrote this a little bit, I had just read about your bats. That’s one thing I’ve never had to deal with. At least you get to enjoy pretty hardwood floors in your old house, haha – a poor consolation when there’s a bat haunting your imagination. We do have a salamander problem in the basement and sometimes they make a really creapy ticking sound, I thought it was bats for about six months.

      Heated blanked = genius! I will put that on my Christmas list. Maybe, my black friday shopping list!

      I love that you had to have part of the door shaved off! That’s funny!

  2. Viola

    One of the old houses we rented when the children were young was so cold the fish in the fish bowl froze, but somehow they survived, so the kids were happy!

    • Sierra Shea

      Oh my Viola! Frozen fish in the fish bowl, no THAT is exciting! Thanks for sharing 🙂

  3. Abby

    Haha. Oh the joys of living on the farm hub in an old, not-so-charming, farm house :). We have lived in ours for just over a year as well. We battle bugs and rodents constantly. Last fall during harvest, we had an entire little family of mice hunker down behind our kitchen cupboards…so that was fun. About 15 mouse traps, 5 steel wool hole fillers, and 10 gray hairs later, we had gotten rid of most of them. I would assume we’ll have the same fun when harvest rolls around this year. I am just thankful we haven’t had a rat. I may not survive if that happens.

    I can empathize with the lack of privacy as well. While it’s nice to see the farming crew and always have something going on, when you work from home it can be a bit overwhelming at times. But, like you said, you have to start somewhere and certain things just come with living on the farmplace. Just like you, I try to embrace the imperfections of the house and the location with humor. I told Lucas our limit here is 6 years or three kiddos…whichever comes first 🙂

    • Sierra Shea

      Oh! My! That is a lot of mice girl! We have 5-6 cats and so we have gotten lucky on the mice problem so far. I am betting you are wise in expecting more this coming winter. Can you get a cat?

      I didn’t realize that you lived in a farm house, but I knew you worked from home! Our daily lives are more similar than I realized 🙂

      I like your limit: 6 years or three kiddos. I think our MAX limit is 2 kids and one on the way. It really ought to be 1 kid and one on the way! I have no idea where we would put a toddler bed in this house. Maybe the living room? I guess I could try squeezing one in this nursery, but then they’d be waking each other up all the time I would think…

  4. Amber

    Your poem is actually part if the lyrics to one of my favorite songs!! It is “love grows best in little houses” by Doug stone. I used to sing it to myself every time I thought our first house was just too little!

    • Sierra Shea

      Huh! I had no idea, I’ll have to listen to this song…

  5. Julie

    Our first house was a little square house with the bathroom in the basement! If you were in the bedroom you had to walk across the house into the porch, down the steps across the basement on the cement floor to the corner to the bathroom!!! And guess who had to go to the bathroom in the middle of almost everynight??? You guessed it ME It will get better:)

    • Sierra Shea

      Hi Julie – So glad we got to meet the other day! I felt like I was meeting a pen pal or something 🙂 I love your story about the house & the bathroom. I’m thankful ours is on the main level!

  6. Nancy Overstreet

    Oh Sierra, you are so right – we all have a story to tell – life is not always perfect and not what we planned. I am thinking of the lyrics to a Frankie Ballard song (new country artist) that say “the bad times make the good times better.” So, I really believe this because I feel like after 47 years of life I can say I have lived through plenty of bad times, but the good times are better because the bad times have taught me to not take anything for granted and to appreciate things even more. And certainly once our girls were born somehow many things were not as important as I once thought they should be. Enjoy your little house. We raised our kids in a small house and I always knew where they were and we could hear each other speak no matter if we were in different rooms and I never missed a late night cry because they were a few steps from our bedroom. I really believe kids place much more importance on a big yard to play in than a big house to live in. We can’t wait for your baby to arrive. We are so excited for your whole family!!!

    • Sierra Shea

      Hi Nancy – I never thought about the big back yard verses the big house idea – that’s a great point! And, I think I will always be able to hear our kids/john/tv in every room of this house 🙂

  7. Kristen

    Oh, I can completely relate Sierra. Our first house was a 1897 “good year” farmhouse. Meaning, in good years, the original owners built on or made improvements to the house. We had many breezy non-opening windows, original creaky interior doors and hardware, rats and mice, sloped floors, a nasty sewage mishap in the stone-laden mud floor basement (crawl space), a leaky roof, many “frozen sheets” upon climbing into bed in the winter, and no indoor plumbing upon initially moving in after our honeymoon. On the flip side, we had a beautiful horse barn and shed (my dream come true), a fenced pasture, and a cute walking trail around the property. (We also had a dishwasher–go figure?!) As expressed in the poem you shared, I truly wouldn’t trade our experience in our old farmhouse for anything. We shared a lot of love in that little house. And I have to admit that I found an unusual comfort in the familiarity of the creaks and squeaks of the floors, and weak spots to avoid on the steep steps leading upstairs. There was also a pride in upkeep and improvements we made to the home that made it “ours”…and the knowledge Mike gained from the many planned and unplanned home improvement projects was immeasurable.

  8. Ginger

    Such a great post, and I second the heated blanket idea!


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Hey, I’m Sierra Shea! I am so glad you are here. 

Where do I start with writing to introduce this blog? At the beginning, I suppose: I’ve been writing on various platforms online since 2013. I started blogging shortly after moving to South Dakota.

I am a mother and a maker at heart. I’m so grateful to be married to John and mother of three: Joslyn, J.D. and Jesse.

I am a self-taught decorator and designer. I am a brand new shepherdess and a Spiritual Director.

I love living in South Dakota, even though the winters & the wind can be a near-daily struggle.

Blogging is a grounding force in my life and it helps get me out of my head, unstuck and moving in the directions I always hoped I’d be going!