Perfectly Imperfect

The group celebrates being done with straw!

This experience at CR has so far been stunningly amazing and incredibly challenging. For someone who had studied building but never worked in construction, I knew that it would be hard. I was prepared for physical toil and baking in the sun, but I was not prepared for many other things, like giving up my desire for perfection.


Setting up the foundation was perhaps the hardest part - not only preformed in mid summer with no shade, but it was the most crucial thing that we do right - it's what the whole house will sit on!


The thing is, there is no perfect in natural building, maybe even building in general. But especially with a 14” thick wall and straw bales that kind of stick out all over the place, your wall plaster will never be completely flat on top of those bales, and trying hard to make it so will probably be far more effort than it is worth.

Even though on those wavy walls it is obvious that perfection is impossible, this lesson has spread across every step in the building process, such as setting the sill plate, squaring the box beam, attaching the trusses (they’re mooostly 24” on center, an inch off here or there is no big, right?) leveling the floor, attaching drywall, and I’m sure it will continue to be obvious every step of the way.



Trying to make something totally perfect… well, it takes time. Sometimes more time than it is worth. People kept telling me “it’s just rough framing!” to remind me that it’s all going to be hidden. As long as it’s pretty close, the house is overly-engineered such that it’s still very structural even with an eighth off in a few places.

It’s just tough for me, because I come from a world of academics, where there is one right answer. This gave me high standards for my own work, and therefore for others’ work as well. Yet I found myself stuck in this space where I was taking a long time to accomplish anything, and I did a lot of double checking of final products.

I mean, in a way it is a strength of mine, to ensure quality, but I need to balance it. The amount of time and concentration it takes to get something within a 32nd… well, its not fast. Despite my love of accuracy, I also love efficiency, and I recognize that it is inefficient to strive for perfection. I need to learn what is “close enough” and move on.


It took me a while to realize that it wasn't as important that the floor was level as it was to be FLAT - and it's important to know that there is a difference between those two words!

It took me a while to realize that it wasn’t as important that the floor was level as it was to be FLAT – and it’s important to know that there is a difference between those two words!


It’s important to try to do your best, still. Before nailing something in with a nail gun, you better be 100% sure you’re aiming at the right spot, at the right angle, or else you could split your wood and have to take extra time to take out the nail. Taking the time to do something right can often save you time in the long run.

Because when you mess up… you have to fix it.


Tim and Tracy work on the bathroom form - having to brace against outside walls around the piles of dirt, while Melissa begins the compacted earth floor in the back left

Tim and Tracy work on the bathroom form – having to brace against outside walls around the piles of dirt, while Melissa begins the compacted earth floor in the back left


Thus we touch upon the other thing I was not prepared for… the amount of mistakes made. A team of 14 mostly inexperienced workers and it’s no surprise, really. But when it’s something that’s totally in place, and you’re coming into the situation later to accomplish something else, you have to find a solution. Luckily, a blessing of being surrounded by innovative and adaptable people, there is always a solution. Sometimes, that involves undoing what was done, but not often. We can usually find a way to work around it, and everything is fine again.

Recently I’m working on not freaking out when I make a mistake or discover a mistake, and simply assess the situation for how much it really matters, and if so, how I can fix it. (“Can we fix it?” “Yes, we can!”)


I could regale you with the story of how we had to completely re-do a corner... but I won't

Look at that beautifully cut corner! Can’t even see the cut part? Good.

Completed Interior Framing!

When putting up that main wall, it was too tall in the middle and didn’t fit – we hammered it in and it began to crack! We had to shave it down before trying again, and screwed the crack in the wood back together. Can’t tell, now!

Drywall & Floor

The floor in this room wasn’t done all at once, there was a huge edge wrapping all around, but it’s all okay because we connected the old with the new very thoroughly and hopefully won’t get cracks! *fingers crossed*

It doesn’t need to be 100% perfect to be a good house. As long as the mistakes we made don’t cause serious structural or aesthetic problems, it will be fine. The roof is made to last 400 years, and the wavy plaster will be a wonderful characteristic. The foundation and framing will be completely hidden, and the box beam won’t fall off the walls. I have to tell myself these things, remind myself that despite everything, it will all turn out okay.

The house is done, we can go home now!

WOW ITS LIKE A FINISHED HOUSE, okay time to go home *brushes off hands*

Paul glomps onto Angela while Karen dies of laughter and Justin and Ahmed stare on in wonder

My fellow crazy people ❤


I am so incredibly grateful to the instructors who have been patient with me and understand my strengths and weaknesses, and have helped encourage me in positive ways. I am so incredibly grateful for the peers that have put up with my painstaking perfection, and who have been there to help me through the emotional frustrations on my hardest days. You guys, all of you, are my family here and now, and I am so thankful.


A trim for the gable vent that I designed and cut with a jigsaw from 4 pieces of wood

I made this for the gable vent trim!

oh look its me :p



The whole team~

Anyway that’s my blog post, Happy Halloween!


Taken somewhere off of Potash Road, northwest of Moab

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