Beyond the Year of Discovery

(by Alys)

When we embarked on our Year of Discovery 10 months ago, we were seeking, first and foremost, liberation from the busyness of our hectic lives in Washington DC.  As I wrote in my first post on this blog, Danny and I saw the kids growing up right in front of us, but we were hardly able to find time to enjoy the journey with them.  There was a lot of noise in our life, from two high-pressure jobs, four separate social calendars, school, sports, church, etc etc.

The first four or five months of our YoD, we practiced extreme unplugging from the noise of this world. We sought the most remote spots we could find, steeped ourselves in the natural world, and circled inward to focus on our little family.  The rewards from this have been utterly life-changing for the four of us. We’ve fallen in love with each other on a much deeper level, felt the awesomeness of God and Creation in new and beautiful ways, and reconnected with friends and family that we were previously ‘too busy’ to visit.

It wasn’t easy, but we tried our best to  let go of worrying about the details of our future – things like where we would live or work next – and instead tried to trust in the knowledge that our future is always walking toward us. Along the way, we dreamed and visioned together about the way we wanted to live. We came up with a list of elements we wanted in our new house and life. It was a decently long wish list, and admittedly a tall order. We wanted 1/2 acre of land, a house we could renovate to recycle as much energy as possible, permissive zoning laws, a location that was bikeable to most places we need to go, space for short and longer-term guests – and all of this in the right price range. At one point, as the darkness of winter enveloped us, we started to think it was too much to ask, and that maybe we’d need to just scrap it and settle for three or four of the elements. Luckily, with the encouragement of our friends, we didn’t.

All this to say that, last week, the future that was always walking toward us came into clear view. We bought a house in Athens, Georgia, that we will be renovating in partnership with Danny’s brother Andrew, and the company, Character Built, that he runs with his partner Zach Brendel. I’ve set up a new site,, where I will be posting blogs as we learn from our own trial and error, setting up our house and the surrounding land using sustainable building practices and permaculture principles. (Permaculture is one of our new passions, and we are both getting certified in design this spring).

You may remember that Danny swore he would not cut his beard until we found a new home. So, in a matter of 15 minutes, he went from this to this:

And now for the house. As you will quickly discern, it is the very definition of a fixer-upper, so you have to use your imagination, but below is a brief, virtual tour.

First, the view from the street, below. You can see four of the at least five pecan trees we get to care for and harvest from.


Next, the guest space (where you can stay when you visit!)  and garage.


In between the two, we have the site of our future outdoor kitchen. Imagine a brick/adobe oven, a rocket stove, and grill.


And now for the inside of the house. Again, use your imagination. Here is the living room seen from the kitchen. Just to Nico’s right is the front door, but you can use the side door when you come (to Nico’s left).


And here are two rooms that we haven’t designated yet – probably for the boys.

Here is our future bedroom, bath and closet. Imagine it with the roof lifted so that an average-sized adult could walk around in there. (Right now it kinda looks like the 5 1/2 floor from Being John Malcovich). We’ll likely fit another small bedroom up there too.


The house was built in 1960, so it’s got a great cellar, to store all the food that we will preserve.


Finally, don’t even get me started on the backyard. Soon, we will be walking the land to see what we’ve got growing there. I’ll be posting a lot about that on the new site,


Can’t wait to have y’all come visit!