Jeremy and Kelly Dybdahl build their dream home


Used with permission from Jeremy Dybdahl

Jeremy and Kelly Dybdahl build their dream home on 40 acres of land in the Santa Cruz mountains.

Calvin Zhou, Staffer

The night the “bomb cyclone” storm hit, the Dybdahls were caught off guard. The fierce winds and heavy rain battered their property, sending their temporary structures and storage tents flying. Books, games and furniture were left drenched and destroyed. The family scrambled to keep everything in place, but their efforts were futile. Despite the chaos, they managed to fix what they could and found comfort in their safety together. As they took shelter in their trailers, listening to the howling winds outside, they knew that this was just another challenge to overcome on their journey to building their dream home.

‘Two dreamers with 40 acres” perfectly describes math teacher Jeremy Dybdahl and his wife, Kelly Dybdahl. The couple purchased 40 acres of land, or The Ridge, as they call it, in the Santa Cruz mountains in the fall of 2022, planning to build the home of their dreams. The couple has since moved onto the property and plans to build a one-story home on the land as well as other outdoor spaces, such as a soccer field, a lap pool and a fire pit. By utilizing all the land, from the forest trails to grass fields, they hope to create a peaceful environment to live in and enjoy.

“For a long time, I have always wanted to build my own house,” Dybdahl said. “It has been a dream and I am not getting any younger, so we decided to just go ahead and do it.”

When the couple initially began looking for land to build their dream home, they wanted a location closer to Santa Cruz but were unable to find any suitable spaces. They ventured farther outside of the city and found a plot of land sitting on a mountain ridge for sale, providing them with more land than they anticipated and an additional perk of extra privacy. However, the location has not come without any challenges.

“I am four miles to the nearest grocery store and gas station,” Dybdahl said. “To get to work, it is about a 55-minute drive.”

Yet for Dybdahl, who now lives on the property, the commute is not the biggest concern. Rather, it has been more difficult to adjust to a drastically different way of living and a smaller environment. Dybdahl’s family of four lives on two trailers on the land alongside temporary structures for storage. They often have to squeeze past each other in trailer hallways, and even two trailers, one for the parents and one for the children, are still difficult to adjust to. 

Before starting the home’s construction, the couple is preparing the property for trailer life. They purchased a skid steer and excavator and dug an 1100-foot water line to connect the water tank to the trailers, along with installing a septic system. To make accessing the property easier, they have started working on flattening a quarter-mile dirt driveway instead of immediately paving it permanently.

When the ‘bomb cyclone’ storm hit the entire state, the Dybdahls found themselves in a tough situation. The temporary tents and garage-type spaces they set up were blown into pieces in the 65 mph winds. At one point, they were up in the middle of the night fixing them in the rain and succeeded, but the winds blew them away again during the day.

“I think if we made it through the worst storm we have ever experienced, we can definitely make it through the next few years just fine until we start building,” Dybdahl said.

Furthermore, the heavy rain resulted in ruts on the driveway that needed water diverters to be installed to prevent future recurrence. Around 40 fallen trees needed to be cleared, many of which blocked the path out of the property. However, the Dybdahls plan to repurpose the trees using a portable timber mill and use the timber on other parts of the property, such as for firewood.

A few weeks later, the Dybdahls woke up to The Ridge all covered in snow from a rare winter storm. The trailers and property were blanketed in a sheet of white and the Dybdahls’ dog, Brownie, had a blast running through the snow for the first time.

Despite all the unexpected situations, the couple has found the process rewarding. They frequently upload videos and Q&As onto their Youtube channel and Instagram account, 2dreamerswith40acres, and answer followers’ questions through the video series ‘Sunrise Chats on The Ridge.’ From a timelapse of rescuing a car that slid off a road to a compilation of animals that cross through the property, the Dybdahls enjoy sharing the fun and excitement building their home. Their supporters also share their advice on building a home from the ground up.

While the couple has faced challenges in building their dream home, they remain optimistic about the future. Their commitment to bringing their vision to life gives them the motivation to continue to make progress every day.

“My plan currently is to hopefully be done with the build for the house in six years,” Dybdahl said. “I love to sit outside by the fire pit, look up at the stars and it is just peaceful.”