About Me

marine family foto 2013Welcome to Simplify, Live, Love – a blog about sustainable living in Eastern Iowa.

I’m Michelle.

I’m been married to Dan for over 16 years and together we have four kids, two cats, one Great Pyrenees puppy, two {make that} five bunnies, an assortment of fish, and chickens are coming in Spring of 2014. {And I want a goat, a cow, and piggies…but don’t tell Dan!}

Simplify, Live, Love is a blog about building a sustainable homestead in Eastern Iowa. A blog about a self-employed family trying to make it by themselves. A blog about a frugal, green family. And a blog that shares down to earth tips for the thoughtful mama {or daddy – I don’t discriminate}. A blog that shares recipes – made with real food, a lot of it grown in my very own garden.

Dan is building our forever home – a house that is being built to the German Passive House standards which means it will rely on passive solar, massive amounts of insulation, and our own activities to heat and cool. It will use 90% less energy than the typical American home. Out here in Iowa, we try hard to live a sustainable and ecologically friendly life. We work to balance wants and needs {a first grade lesson that sadly, many Americans seem to have forgotten}, and we strive to be frugal without being cheap. I garden and can and garden some more. But we also like our modern conveniences, too, and unlike some homesteaders, I don’t want to drive my car for 250,000 miles. I like new cars. So Simplify, Live, Love is a homesteading blog with a modern twist. We save money so we can spend money on things we like. Like anniversary trips to Paris. To that end, I blog. I love sharing my pictures and the foibles of our journey with you.

I started Simplify, Live, Love in 2010 to share frugal tips  {specifically eating well on a tight budget} with my friends. After my husband separated from Active Duty Air Force in 2006 and we became self employed Home Builders, we had to resort to some pretty frugal living to stay out of debt. I don’t know if you remember the little housing market collapse of 2007, but we are only too familiar with its effects. All we knew when we moved from Colorado to Iowa in 2006 was that we wanted to live near family, be self-employed, and enjoy a clean, rural farm life with our children. We had no idea how hard each of those goals would be!

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I learned a couple years after we moved to Iowa that our area isn’t as “clean” as I thought, and to say I was disheartened puts it mildly. I have always been a tree-hugger of sorts {I blame my uber-liberal upbringing in Germany} and dream of a pollutant-free world for my kids. Iowa sounds pretty clean doesn’t it? I mean really, who lives here??? Not many people, honestly. But there’s plenty of GMOs and Round-Up to go around {thankyouverymuch, Iowa}.

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So I learned pretty quickly that Iowa’s not the clean place I thought it was. First, we learned that our rural Iowa county has the dirtiest air quality in all of Iowa {often with dirtier air than some of the largest cities in the US}. Then we learned that the well water on our 5 acres is so polluted with nitrates that we can’t drink it. The icing on the cake came in 2012 though, when we learned that the local utility company had purchased a large amount of land 7 miles from us and intended to build a nuclear power plant there. At that point, I told my husband we needed to move. No way, no how, did I want to live near a nuclear power plant and add nuclear waste to an already alarming list of pollutants in our area.

It wasn’t that simple, though.

free barnIn addition to having spent years building our home building / remodeling business, we had bought 5 acres of gorgeous land in 2008 on which we planned to build our forever house. In 2009, we saved a barn from being burned to the ground and moved it to our property. My husband and our home-building crew spent years rebuilding the barn and finally finished in 2011. We were excited to finally have permanent office space for our home building/remodeling company. The housing market slowly came back and our company grew. We dreamed of building our forever house out near our barn. But the nuclear power plant bothered me to the point of delaying our home building project.

free barn in Eastern Iowa

In 2013, the utility company dropped the plans for the nuclear power plant and sold their land. I breathed a huge sigh of relief, and we decided once and for all to build the passive house we spent two years designing. In July of 2013, we moved the construction company out of the barn and us in. And in August 2013, we finally broke ground on our house! 

passive-aggressive houseAnd there it is – our passive house that we have affectionately named The Passive-Aggressive House. We  designed it to look like a 200+ year old European stone cottage and I think we succeeded! We hope to be finished and living in it in August 2014.

Thank you for being here! I’m so flattered that you spent your precious time reading about us.  Our story continues in my blog posts…

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