I can’t say enough about Dorothy Ainsworth. And believe me I can talk.
Read her website, send her an email. She’s real. That property she had developed on a shoe string over the past thirty years is worth gold now. You will find, as I discovered, that Dorothy embodies the true meaning of persistence. There are songs about don’t back down and don’t give up but she was the original inspiration.
I first learned of Dorothy’s accomplishments while reading Backwoods Home Magazine. I read about how a single mother working as a waitress moved her two children to a better part of the country to start her own life. She wasn’t waiting for someone to rescue her or make her dreams come true. After settling in her new town she finally found ten acres that no one else wanted and started a thirty year journey to create a showplace. How many other women would have the courage to live in a tent with a dog and a shotgun when the kids were off at college while slowly building her dream? How many other single mothers would put dating on the back burner and spend half her monthly income on the land payment? Dorothy did. Her story chronicles the early days of securing water and remodeling the chicken coop to getting the skill set under her tool belt to cut down a log, peel the bark, drag it into place and drill and spike the thing vertically to create a wall in a music studio that she lovingly created for her son to use for his talent as a musician.
Read her work. You’ll find yourself pulled into the setting of a lone woman on a hill working slowly and methodically to build the studio, and later her dream home. She’s not the Amazon woman. Her petite pretty pictures will betray the powerful woman you will learn to love. You’ll smile with her when you read about the love of her life that stumbled across her path . Like me, you will have tears when you see the fire that destroyed her home but not her dream or her spirit. Finally you will cheer her through the finish line when the house goes back up.
Read her work. You’ll learn how to live happily. Thanks to her contributions I developed a whole new outlook on simple foods, simple living and self reliance. I learned not to envy what other people had, develop who you are and the rest of the story will fall into place. She’s a breathing example.
Building a house sounds so easy from the perspective of an armchair read. As another woman who is in the epicenter of her own build, I can tell you that reading and doing the thing are dramatically different.
I know what a log feels like when you need to move it to the other side of your property. I get it. I know a sixteen foot slice of 2 x 10 is a workout all by itself when moving it into place. I know that around every corner is a man trying to tell her how to do what he’s never done and she has completed. I know she had more critics than cheerleaders. I understand the math involved in designing stairs. I understand that nothing, absolutely nothing in construction is without some degree of straining muscles and mental horsepower to put it all together. Dorothy makes these tasks appear possible, and consistently inspires people like me to find the enjoyment in the project and eventually finish strong.
In a word, Ms. Ainsworth embodies the meaning of courage and tenacity. I seriously doubt she will ever grasp how much of an inspiration she has been to me and to others who are fortunate enough to have discovered her.
Read her work, you won’t regret it.
A real lady in Mississippi living her own self reliant dream.
From: Guy Fosse Subject: Inspirational Website
Date: January 21 , 2012 9:09:41 AM PST To: firstname.lastname@example.org
Just wanted to drop you a short note to let you know how much I thoroughly enjoyed reading through your website.
While researching solar and wind shallow well pumps to assist in maintaining a bird and duck pond on some land I am purchasing, I stumbled on a link to your article in "Backwoods Home Magazine" titled "Water Pumping Windmills".
Your informative and enjoyable writing style made me want to check out the other articles you had written for Backwoods.. Within a very short period of time I was "sucked in" to your adventures and felt almost as if I were sitting on a back porch somewhere listening to a friend describe their incredible quest to build not just a house but a place where they truly felt "at home" in every sense of the word.
The fact that you tackled your projects with much more persistence, sweat and ingenuity than with money made your story all the more interesting but when you add in your humor and romantic vision (along with your real life romance) the stories became much more than informative "how to" articles, they became chapters in a "can't put down" book.
Which is all to explain how a recent snowy afternoon in Northwest Montana went from a research day to a very enjoyable afternoon spent with Dorothy!
By the time evening rolled around and Eric's house was almost finished I felt like I had known you "a while".
And in some ways I do think I "know you" because in many ways I think we are alike. I too am one of those souls who love going out and scrounging for materials to build with. Not always because it is less expensive (think today's gas prices) but because a lumber mill cannot turn out fresh products that can compete with what Mother Nature can do over several decades (or longer). And "shopping" outside is much more enjoyable and satisfying than inside at Home Depot or Lowes. Nothing speaks to a successful day more than chainsaw bar oil on your clothes, wood chips in your hair, dirt from head to toe and a pick up load full of treasures.
So I try and work with reclaimed wood as much as possible and have been lucky enough over the years to get hired by some of the fat wallet folks that have places around here to make and install wood floors, ceilings, wall coverings, trim, stairs, mantles, doors and so forth. Hopefully below are a couple of photos showing the type of stuff I do. Just thought they might be a style that you would find interesting.
Well Dorothy, I have taken enough of your time. Thank You again for sharing your wonderful story of triumph, sad loss and "Unsinkable Molly Brown" style comeback triumph.
Your exploits will undoubtedly be an inspiration as I start on this next crazy project.
From: Wendell Durham Date: April 5, 2010 2:51 PM PDT
Hi. It's me. They guy you loaned the DVDs and CD to. The guy who dreams of one day building his own house of logs. The guy who also used to refer to you as Dorothy Ainsworth. Used to, until I saw the videos.
This e-mail won't address any of the techniques, plans, details, or questions of how you did this or did that type-of-stuff. I'm going to start off with just my first impressions, okay?
Here we go.
My mouth is still hanging open.
The articles in Backwoods Home and your own website, alone, just cannot convey what I saw in the videos.
I had absolutely no idea.
The Great Pyramids,
I'll keep going.
The entire national interstate highway system.
Not that it resembles an ark at all, but the staggering amount of work that I saw with my own eyes.)
I'm speechless. I don't know what to say. But I will keep trying.
I don't know anyone like you on so many levels. You are truly one of a kind.
Okay. Maybe not one of a kind. I'm sure in the 300-plus million in the US, I might be able to find enough people like you to, say, attempt the most-people-in-a-VW Beetle record.
I am in awe.
You need to understand who is saying this. I'm an average 40-something-year-old man, with, I like to think, average-something intelligence and drive and determ i nation.
The scope of your vision alone, your dream to have your own place, built with your own hands, that you don't owe a fortune to the bank for, is, in itself, awe-inspiring.
Then throw in the the fact that you actually carried it out, the way you did, is unimaginable to me.
I looked back in an earlier email you sent me and found this sentence: "The work doesn't have to be staggering ... just methodical and time-consuming." Dorothy, I am staggered.
A lot of people sit on soft chairs at work all day, drive their cars with soft seats home, and then take their spot on their soft recliners and couches, thinking they've had a "hard" day. They don't even have a beginning point, a basis, to understand what you have accomplished.
I've done just enough "work" a few days in my life to understand what I've seen.
Conversations like the following have actually happened in dens and porches across America.
"Do you remember that time we cut that big tree down in the back yard? Man, that was a big project. Took most of a weekend to get that cleaned up."
"And then do you remember how we had to drag the huge tree trunk to the front with a rope tied to the truck, just to be able to get to it to haul it off? Man, that was sure something. Can't believe we did that."
"Remember that time we thought we would try to patch the roof ourselves, or, build a deck, or, replace that broken window, etc.? Man, we sure bit off more than we could chew that time."
Those kind of events are what I call a "life event." It's something that stands out in our minds enough that it will be remembered.
You have lived a "life event" over and over, day after day. And then got up the next morning to do it again. You have had a life full of "life events."
I am so proud that you have a place of your own, unlike any other place, because you are unlike anyone else. You deserve every bit of happiness that has come your way and all future happiness yet to come.
Then when I think that you "had to" do all of this twice because of the fire .... I just don't know what to say.
But I bet can come up with something.
You didn't "have to." You didn't even "have to" do it once, but you did.
And then you did it again.
After the fire, after the tears, staying in a remodeled outbuilding, or staying in a travel trailer that was meant to be temporary, or having a trailer home moved in, would have certainly been understandable.
But you did it again.
Lady, you have my utmost respect and admiration.
On Jan 12, 2009, at 10:27 AM, Ken Pagliaro wrote:
Dorothy -(long pause while I virtually stare at you in awe)-,
I just spent the last two hours reading, looking at photos, laughing, and crying. You did a great job designing the website but the content, your life and creativity, is/are so remarkable and inspiring that I just couldn't stop exploring it. I love the way you write. I'm immediately locked in from the first few sentences. I feel like you are talking directly to me and what you're saying isn't boring or bullshit, it's exciting and real.
Also, I have the advantage of having met the live version of Dorothy Ainsworth so I can hear your wonderful voice in my head while I'm reading along. A plus. It's quite simply you telling your story and telling it well and the photos, so many beautiful photos, your stories could easily stand alone with no images but the fact that you have all of this wonderful imagery to go along with them satisfies my visual curiosities.
I love it! You are truly an inspiration and a hot mama too! Some of those pics of you building ... woo hoo!!
Also, I watched the videos of Eric practicing and you can see the music flowing from his body, down his arms and right out of his hands! Awesome! I'm actually listening to his Chopin A- Flat as I type this. I'd love to hear it live someday.
From: N. Lewis
Subject: It's all because of YOU!
Date: April 4, 2009 7:41 :40 PM PDT To: email@example.com
All because of you, my muscles are aching.
All because of you, I am getting ready to go outside and take another little step towards the removal of this huge boulder and tree with roots embedded in the boulder.
All because of you, I spend a lot of time covered with dirt and mud, moving rocks, digging holes, and will soon be removing trees.
All because of you, for the first time in a long time, I am beginning to start to feel a true sense of self-worth.
All because of you I am transforming myself from a hopeless, emotionally and verbally abused person with absolutely NO Self-Esteem into a person that is coming to realize that if I set my mind to it, I can do almost anything. That I can and will solve problems by thinking them through and handling them one at a time a little bitty step at a time, all the while transforming my body from unhealthy, overweight and weak, into a smaller one with much strength, endurance and a sort of cheer in my step with head now high and shoulders no longer drooping with despair.
All because of you I am taking ground that is not level, full of trees and rocks and boulders and roots, and turning it into a nice properly graded and smooth area with a portable storage building on it with no assistance whatsoever, (except possibly one person to put tension on rope while I fell a couple of large trees that need to fall in a specific area and are leaning in the wrong direction.) If I can do this entire project, considering my physical and mental condition at the beginning of it, I can do nearly anything!
One day, not long ago, while in a state of anguish so great that I was seriously considering the best way to take my own life, I had planted my large buttocks in front of my PC to surf and came upon one of your articles in "Backwoods Home" (piano studio) which led me to the rest of your articles (in chronological order) which was "Day One" of the beginning of what has already become a much, much better life for me and I have only scratched the surface and look forward eagerly to the rest of my Journey- All because of YOU!
Thank You Dorothy!
Subject: Kindred Spirit
From: Dayton's Designs Date: Tue, 4 Feb 2014 15:12:34 -0500 (EST)
I am on a journey, and not sure exactly where it will take me, but have been researching for a while online, how to start a homestead of my own, and looking at land with no utilities ... then I get intimidated, because I am after all, only a woman...
Then I stumbled upon your website after researching how to build a water storage tank, and as we would say in the south ... Lordy Mercy!
I just wanted to send you a quick e-mail. as l know you are probably bombarded with others, to say thanks so much for sharing your story. I have always been one that gets it done, whatever it takes, but something about taking this leap gave me pause. I now have more confidence that it can be done - even though I'm just one woman alone.
I laughed when reading your "how to" about building the water storage tank, and gunning your truck with a load of gravel, fish-tailing all the way up the hill. I have my own crazy lady stories about hauling huge things in my unconventional vehicle over the years. You are a gifted writer and I've decided you must have really been an architect that just happened to waitress for a living, as well as all the other wonderful things I've read that you have taken on. There is so much life on your website, I am inspired.
Don't want to write you a dry boring novel about my life and experiences, or what has caused me to want to abandon the conventional life, but just wanted to reach out to a kindred spirit to say bravo Dorothy, bravo! You have done well with your gifts and talents can't wait to read more about your next venture!
All the best,
From: Simone Thomas
Subject: You are my heroine
Date: March 21, 2011 8:55:12 AM PDT to: firstname.lastname@example.org
My name is Simone Thomas, and I am writing to you to thank you for sharing your stories with the world. You are a inspiration, motivation, and all around angel to me. As weird as that may sound it is true. I am 38 and all of my life I have had this dream of building my own home, I have envisioned a log cabin home somewhere on the side of a mountain, surrounded by trees with a view of a lake with a little boat dock where I could go out and fish, does that sound silly? Lol. My home would have a giant fireplace complete with a hearth and cooking hook to put a big cast iron pot where I could cook (which happens to be my other passion) home made soups and casseroles made fresh with vegetables I picked from my own organic garden in a free standing green house that I have built with my own two hands, I never in a million years thought it would be possible for me to build my own home the way I wanted until I read your story, and now I know that it is possible and I can do this. I have lived a very tough life but I would never let that stop me from living. I look forward to building those walls, and in the process tearing down others that have held me in one place for far to long, and when I think I can't go on I will tell myself" Is this something that would stop Dorothy Ainsworth?", and we all know the answer to that right, LOL.
Thank you once again,
From: Jane Berlin in Texas
Date: July 10, 2014 3:41:23 PM PDT
First let me say I'm sorry if this is annoying!
I have no idea why I feel the need to email you. Im sure you have better
things to do with your time than reading fan mail. So I'll make sure this
doesn't end as a three pager! Basically,
1) I stumbled onto your site by accident.
2) I read straight through the entire story from beginning to end.
3) 6 hours later my boyfriend walked in to me bawling and laughing hugging my laptop. It was the first time I felt alive since 2008. I can't describe accurately the immensity of experiencing a glimmer of hope through your story after fighting so hard grasping for even a sliver of hope anywhere in my reality.
Here's the facts:
1) I have a bad attitude
2) I was not raised like everyone else in the world. There isn't much that surprises me or impresses me.
3) I can't turn to faith or god when times get tough like most people, because I have believed more fervently then 85 percent of this country's pastors, priests, or preachers put together and weighed up against me. I have never met a person who knows the bible as well as I do. I could quote more chapters of the bible before I was 10 then most Christians have ever even read in the whole of their lives. I also am not stupid so of course by the time I turned 16 I had pretty much figured it all out and I felt stupid for being such a zealot of a blind believer throughout my childhood.
4) I'm the oldest of 8 siblings. We raised eachother and I can't say we did the best job of it.
5) in 2011 I started to give up. For the first time I couldn't pick myself back up from a particularly bad round of sucker punches life was (naturally) hitting me with.
Opps I'm sorry I'm babbling at you!!
What I guess I'm trying to say is that I respect you! So much! I'm in shock because I don't respect people. I can count with one hand the ones I do respect. I have never in my life respected an adult! I also never thought I'd find a ray of hope. You gave me that by telling your story.
From: Glen Weldon
Date: December 10, 2014
Subject: So impressed I don't really know what to say!
Well, that's not really true... I always have enough to say...er...write!
My name is Glen. I stumbled upon your website through the Forestry Forum. I own a portable band-saw mill and even though I'm 52, I have dreams of building a timber-framed building. I have never been one to shy away from work and will to this day attempt to do things that other folks tell me I should pay to get others to do them for me. I've never really had what I would call extra cash available. Even though I've had good jobs (I'm a manufacturing engineer without a bachelor's degree), I haven't always managed my money well so I didn't really have any. Like many folks, I lived paycheck to paycheck.... Anyway, I'm rambling. I've never really suffered from a lack of drive or determination and I get stuff done! That being said, I have to say that you have (had?) more drive and determination than anybody I've ever seen!
I don't think that even in my 30's I would have attempted to do what you have accomplished! The water tank alone...what an enormous job! The piano studio! I would be PROUD to have that structure on MY property! Oh, and the heartbreak of having to rebuild that magnificent barn home... I'm a strong-willed person but I don't really know if I would have been able to recover! The way you described it, with detailed personality, then to wind up with a jaw-dropping "then the rag spontaneously combusted and burned it all down..." left me in shock!
It appears that "muscle-man" (John's words) Kirt was an inspiration to you all the way around. I assume he isn't in the picture anymore. I would suspect that you both knew the age difference would not work long-term? I'm happy he was there for you. I can't really say enough about how impressed I am with your "drive". Women like you are rare and extraordinary! I give you all my respect. With that and a dollar, you can buy yourself a cup of coffee!
I believe you and I are kindred spirits and would have worked well together. After two failed marriages (the first one with two children who suffered greatly by the divorce), in 2007 I bought 60 acres of land in rural Alabama. It's beautiful land with hills and valleys and oaks, pine and hickory (and other trees). I started building a house similar to what you have done, but on a much smaller scale. Much of it is documented on my blog http://www.ultralightfun.blogspot.com . The first post concerning building the house is in July 2007 in the right-hand margin if you're interested. The house still doesn't have siding on it but it eventually will. I'm in the process of building a metal and wood barn so that I can stop using my house as a storage building and finish it! I've got this self-sufficient mentality going on myself. My house will eventually be supplied with a rainwater catchment system for drinking/washing/irrigation and a solar PV system for essential electricity. I work constantly on the homestead and it is hard, enjoyable, rewarding work.
Thank you so much for taking the time to chronicle your life. I greatly appreciate the lack of typos and the proper grammar. You are a great writer! Being the typical guy, I don't shed too many tears but your website certainly pulled a few from me. God bless you Dorothy...
Government big enough to supply everything you need is big enough to take everything you have ... "The course of history shows that as a government grows, liberty decreases." - Thomas Jefferson
Subject: Thank You
Date: January 14, 2015 8:26:03 PM PST
I first heard of you when I read your article about self-reliance some years ago on BWH's website. It resonated me and was one I'd read over and over when I needed a pick-me-up.
I had forgotten about BWH and for whatever reason visited the website today. I found myself re-reading your article. Over the last several months, I have come to realize that your quote is true: "I learned that if you can accept your mistakes, it will free you to take more risks. Trying until you get it right is how most people learn things. Perfectionism leads to procrastination and paralysis."
I've paralyzed myself for years with anxiety about not being good enough. Sometimes I feel abnormally anxious but reading that again today made me feel less alone and helped me remember that wallowing about my perfectionism is a waste of time.
I also noticed that you have a website and I took a look at that. As a web developer, I am very impressed with your website. It is beautiful! I have enjoyed catching up on your articles and seeing all of those lovely pictures.
Thank you for sharing your attitude and knowledge with the world. I see you as a role model for myself for self-reliance and empowerment.