Homesteading on the West Coast of Canada (BC) - from scratch

Discussion in 'Homestead Construction' started by melli, May 11, 2016.

  1. melli

    melli Otiose Endomorph

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    HI All,

    Didn't know of this forum until a week ago. I would post certain aspects of my work on other sites. This site encapsulates everything I am doing.

    Short Story: as a wee one, I have always been enthralled with the idea of living off the land. Someone gave me book about being a survivalists in the great outdoors. How to build shelter, find edible plants, and snare food. Well, time passes by, and passing middle age, I found my postage stamp. 5 acres of heaven on Sunshine Coast of BC. Very rural, spotted with small towns. I actually found the property by trolling the neighborhood, and figuring out where I'd like to be. I wanted a vacant lot, untouched by humans. Well, it really came down to money. A vacant acreage lot was the most I could afford. And since I had lived up here for while on a 1/2 acre lot, I got to know the neighbors. While chit chatting one day, a neighbor mentioned a lot down the road used to be for sale, but the market tanked, and it sat. Well, I'll have to take a peek. I was sold on the driveway.

    View attachment GEDC3309 (Large).jpg

    The driveway was blasted in several decades prior, and then time took over. I don't think a car ever went up it for all those years. At the top, the forest took over. There was one game trail, but it was a slog getting around. Having been logged in 1950's (guess), it was a mixture of old and new. But the bulk of property was on top of hill (lots of light, and private).
    I hustled to the local muni hall, and ask for owners info. I call up owner and ask if he is interested in selling. He was, but there was a catch. I had to sell my place to purchase his...and the market was anemic to say the least. So, I had a lawyer draw up a contract, and I paid the owner a grand to hold it until I sold my place. It took almost two years to sell my place. What a waiting game. I almost gave up, resigned my fate to having weekend warriors partying on their deck, 30ft from my deck (1/2 acre lots were 60ft wide). At any rate, I finally sold, and moved all crap in a shipping container I bought (wise move!). Plopped it on my new piece of heaven and rented out a cottage nearby.
     
  2. melli

    melli Otiose Endomorph

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    These are a few pics...first one is at top of driveway.
    View attachment GEDC3314.jpg

    The game trail

    View attachment GEDC3316.jpg

    And the only clearing on lot (at very top). It was here, I thought, would be perfect for a home. Could get the most light and survey my estate from inside the house or on the porch. As you can see property is a mess of varying trees, and deadfall. One thing I never fully appreciated, was that I was on rock, and nothing but rock (the moss sure made it look nice though). Would require many many truckloads of dirt to make it viable, as I wanted a lawn, garden and fruit trees.
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  3. painterswife

    painterswife Sock puppet reinstated Supporter

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    Curious where on the coast you are located? My brother lives in Gibsons. I spent all my summers in high school in Pender Harbour. That looks like it is maybe at the north end
     
  4. melli

    melli Otiose Endomorph

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    Your good....lol
    North Side of Pender.
     
  5. melli

    melli Otiose Endomorph

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    So, after purchase, I plop my shipping container on property.
    Oddly, my insurance company wanted pictures of it. Getting insurance for a vacant lot with stuff on it was a hassle and it cost more than my previous home, which had a house on it (a new one).
    They call these containers, 'one trippers', in that they were made in China, filled full of crap and shipped to our shores, then emptied and sold to me. Was $4500 $CDN delivered. Tad pricey, but virtually a new box. It has been sitting in the same spot in a rain-forest for 4 yrs, full of my worldly possessions, and no leaks, nor moisture. I was going to put in some desiccant, but never got around to it.
    View attachment 2012-03-09 14.51.16 (Large).jpg
     
  6. melli

    melli Otiose Endomorph

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    Next on the agenda was clearing the land. I had a mini skid steer from my other place, and figured it might do the job. The first tree I run into was a 4" fir. I came to an abrupt halt, tires spinning. Was rather jarring, as I took a run at it.
    View attachment APDC0461.jpg

    Well, that wasn't going cut it, so I sell the SS, and seek out more suitable land clearing equipment. I found this guy (aka Bobby);
    View attachment APDC0573.jpg
     
  7. melli

    melli Otiose Endomorph

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    Now Bobby is the real deal...don't honestly know what I would have done without him. I'd still be hand picking the 5th stump....
    Note: if you shop wisely, you can pretty much sell your machine for what you paid for it, as they do hold their value fairly well, especially in homesteading country. Bobby is a 2003 331D, a mini excavator. He has power to burn with a 2l Kubota engine. The thumb is so important in rocky or forested terrain.

    So, I start clearing. Initially, I just put in a few hours a week, whenever I get the chance. I would chainsaw down trees and use Bobby to haul the pieces to either a log pile or the slash pile. After a while, I realized chainsawing is dangerous work. Why not just get Bobby to fell them, and when they are laying on the ground, dice them up (root ball, log, top). Much safer chainsawing when they are horizontal.
    View attachment 2012-04-10 14.22.25.jpg
     
  8. melli

    melli Otiose Endomorph

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    Should note the technique for felling trees with Bobby (since he isn't a heavyweight that can topple trees with a push - albeit, he can rip 4" trees right out, root and all, 6" - 12" he can topple, then rip out root ball, but anything more, requires root digging on one side (thumb comes in handy), then he can topple and more root digging ensues).
    Douglas Fir has a root pan, so the roots extend outward. They are a pain. Cedar has more of a root ball (easier to fell). Arbutus are just plain dangerous, but roots easy to rip out. The problem with Arbutus is they have no bark like firs, so they are really slippery, and the trunk goes up at odd angles, so felling placement is difficult. Since they are slippery, I cannot haul a big chunk as they slip from my grasp and I got limbs of tree wanting to bust a hydraulic hose or windscreen.
    View attachment 2013-04-29 13.42.15.jpg

    A year passes, and I am making progress (the high flat spot in pic, is where there was a natural clearing - see earlier pic).
    Not sure where I am going, in terms of clearing. It may not seem obvious, but I was trying to keep the 'healthy' looking trees. Problem is, they all had some defect or they were too close to dead trees (leaving stumps all over, wasn't an option).
    And I'll admit, at first, felling trees with Bobby was too easy. Feels like your in an Iron Man suit. Nothing really stops you. ;)
    But after a while of wanton destruction, it becomes work, and a lot of it. I have to step outside the machine and hand pick all the itty-bitty branches and rocks. You fall a tree, and you get a pickup of bits.
    Then it came time to slash burn. Never liked fires, and never will. Around here, you have to get a permit from the local fire hall. I bought a tiger torch to get the pile going. Since we are required to be there while the pile is burning at all times, it is best to start in the wee hours of the morning, because a machine pile will burn all day....and the next...and the next. Then it will smoulder for two weeks. Since I'm in a temperate zone, the risk of a slash pile spreading is very low in the late fall. I did do a burn in May, and sure enough, a ember started a living tree on fire. With no water other than 2-20l water jugs, I was frantic. Multiple trips to the lake to refill were in order that day.

    Here is the end result of the this particular burn
    View attachment 2013-01-25 14.11.09.jpg
     

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  9. ShannonR

    ShannonR hillbilly farmgirl

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    Wow!! Great job on your property cleanup.
     
  10. melli

    melli Otiose Endomorph

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    Thanks Shannon.

    As the clearing was well under way, I began to get antsy for power. There are three things I needed; Power, septic system and a well. With power, I could pull out the power tools, and build stuff.
    So, I needed to get power onto property. I had many options. I decided to build a power shed a 100ft from road (where power lines passed), so I could get our utility to string a line to it (they will only go a max 100ft from road). And they insist on a bone fide electrician to do the 200amp mast/meter/main panel. I eagerly start building an 'electrical shed'. I don't do half measure...lol
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  11. melli

    melli Otiose Endomorph

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    If you live in an area with a fair amount of excavator companies, it is always wise to meet them and in my case, let them know I need fill, and lots of it. I figured I'd need 150 loads of fill to create arable land. And if I went to the local gravel pit, I could be paying $200-$500 per load (material and trucking). That was way out of my non-existent budget. At times, excavator guys are doing a job, and they just need to get rid of the spoils. If they are close enough to me, it makes sense for them, and I only have to pay $50/load. Sometimes, I get prime dirt, and other times I get glacial till (a mix of rock and dirt). To me, it is all good, as I need a base from which to work with. Here, I got some 24 loads of 'shot rock' (blasted rock).
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  12. melli

    melli Otiose Endomorph

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    Ok, back to the electrical shed...busy busy.
    View attachment 2013-07-05 14.23.34.jpg
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    Once the shed was built and water tight, I got a trench dug from electrical shed to a temp kiosk I was going to build up top (place to plug into).
    Can see electrician on my electrical shed roof doing his thing.
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    You'll notice I have two lines...why you ask? Well, I had 100ft to electrical shed, plus another 250ft to temp kiosk...for a 350ft run (voltage drops the longer the run), I had to either go high voltage, which meant transformer at both ends of line (big money), or get a huge cable or have multiple smaller cables...I priced it all out, and went with ACWU 250MCM (last bit denotes size - big cables). ACWU = Aluminum conductor, weather proof and underground rated...it also is amour coated. Compared to copper, it was cheap ($3500 for the cable).
     
  13. melli

    melli Otiose Endomorph

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    A couple more pics to finish off electrical install. BTW - I had a brain cramp...no idea why I didn't put a couple of 2" pvc elbows in floor for power run to temp kiosk...meant electricians had to drill through wall to run cable...oh well.
    View attachment 2013-10-15 14.08.50.jpg
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    After the electricians did their thing, I covered up the cable (note I used clean sand - code is 6" all around cable), then some caution tape, then fill. Coming up steep part, I had to use concrete, as fill would just slide off. That was a job, humping pails of concrete up a steep slope...I remember that day well.
     
  14. melli

    melli Otiose Endomorph

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    Since the electricians took all my money...:grumble:
    I had to become one. Having done electrical work in my old trade, it wasn't a big deal. The problem was doing it to code.
    Each detail has a chapter in the code book...from what clamps to use, to how tight each nut has to be. Usually, the item comes with specs, but many a time, I would be scouring the net for the proper torque of a lug nut. One of the biggest hassles, was finding the proper splitter boxes I needed at both ends of the double run of cable. I needed monster boxes. Not too pricey, but I needed specific ones, that could handle the rather large cables. If I was to do it again, I'd just stick with one cable...go with lower amperage for house.
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    My 'plan' is to build a 'shed' (garage home) by temp kiosk, then when I win the lottery, build a real home up top (convert garage home to a garage/workshop).

    It was so sweet to flick on the 150 amp breaker in electrical shed, and get power up top...power!
     
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  15. melli

    melli Otiose Endomorph

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    Now that I had power, I needed a septic field, as one cannot get a building permit without one up here. I also needed a well, which needs to be 100ft away from septic field (min). I had sited my septic field in a low spot, as I wanted a gravity field (that is, one that requires no power). So, should the need arise, I can install a toilet anywhere, except electrical shed (too low).
    I did a write up on that at DIY...was one of the easier things I had to do. There was a manual, and it covered all the bases. Since I had no native soil, I had to do an engineered field, which meant getting an engineer to spend a half hour looking over site and saying ok. Once done, I gave him a form, and money to file the paperwork.

    http://www.doityourself.com/forum/w...eld-1000g-2-chamber-septic-tank-complete.html

    For the well, it was a tad tougher than septic. But having Bobby helped a whole lot, as he had to dig more power and water lines. I got a driller to dig the well. There goes another 8k....

    http://www.doityourself.com/forum/w...35648-new-well-setup-options.html#post2331739

    I didn't have to build another shed, but I did. I figured the well gear (pressure tanks and whatnot) would cramp my garage home. And I needed another place to put junk. As luck would have it, it was a great idea, as a neighbour gave me a near new washer and dryer...betty crocker versions, but I am not one to complain. So, the well shed has a washer and dryer...
     
  16. melli

    melli Otiose Endomorph

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    I am catching up to the present day....
    Since I was burning through money on the three services (septic, well and power), I was finding it difficult to rent and pay a mortgage. So, I found a half decent RV, and last summer or maybe the summer before, I parked it by the temp kiosk. I hooked up the power, septic, and later water.
    Words cannot describe the feeling of having a property that is totally private and quiet. I wake up in a RV (that sucks, as I am not the roughneck kind), and look out my window and see trees and moss. No nosy neighbors, noise, traffic etc. I can putter around property at all hours, make noise, which I am apt to do, and nobody hears me. I ask them, and their response, is do I hear them? lol
    The trees are a great filter.
    I even managed to get fibre optic up to RV...that was luck. The local cable company was hooking up anybody who wanted fibre optic for free. We were a test area. I hand dug 250 ft of trench for that in a couple of days:bouncy:...I couldn't have Bobby treading or digging where I put the power line. It was fall, and with a 40" flat screen crammed into RV, I was watching TV and surfing.
    View attachment 20150220_165146.jpg
    As you can see, the clearing in back has expanded...I had a wet winter, and the low spot right of RV filled up with water, until I had a small pond. Then the winds came and blew over several trees. RVs and trees don't mix.
    You can just make out truck with 250 gallon water tank in back....I had to use that for water, until I got the well up and running. If one is miserly with water, 250 gallons could last me a month.
     
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  17. melli

    melli Otiose Endomorph

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    Fast forward to this past winter (Feb). I had just gotten about 20 loads of fill from an excavation. Plus I got another 12 loads from the pit (finer stuff). I was thinking I ought to halt landscaping this spring and focus on building myself a home. I am going to build one like the electrical shed, only super size it (19x30). Shed style buildings are probably the cheapest style to build.
    So, I get the loads of fill leveled, and resign myself to having half a yard. I had come a long way, and in time I would get the rest covered.
    Mid March, I was having lunch, and up my driveway rumbles a super sized dump truck. I am what the hell, I didn't order any fill. I step out the RV and see what is up. The trucker, in a total country drawl goes, "you wanna buy some dirt."
    Well, I had to have a look. I climb up and peer in the box. Glorious dirt! :bouncy:
    How much I ask. "50 bucks", he says. Well, I am jacked now. How much do you have? "About 20 loads."
    So, for the next month I am leveling the dirt and buying more fines from the pit to cover some of the rocky stuff I got. Lost ten pounds in one week because I had to hand rake the dirt, so I could plant grass.
    Meanwhile, I am also bucking up firewood to sell, to pay for the dirt.
    I hate bucking firewood, but I especially hate splitting it. Turns out, folks want to split their own firewood, as most around here have electric splitters. Win win. See all those vehicles in distance...they are having a feeding frenzy at my wood pile...lol
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  18. melli

    melli Otiose Endomorph

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    Now it is April, and I am killing it. I feel like a farmer who has to get the seed down. Raking and raking, and picking up rocks by the wheelbarrow full...wish I had the dough to just buy really fine stuff, but such is life. By now, I've put on about a 1000hrs on Bobby in four years. He has paid for himself many times over.
    I had to take a spell off raking to burn the last big slash pile I hope to ever do...rather ho-hum burn and safe, as my whole property was one big dirt pit.
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    By now, I had accumulated over 200pds of grass seed, and about the same in fertilizer, and spend a couple days planting grass seed. By the way, get grass seed in bulk, save a lot of money. I was paying $3/kg ($1.40/lb) for grade A grass seed (Ketucky/Fescue/Rye mix). I was in a rush, as we start to run into dry spells, and we warm up. Grass likes cool to warm, moist weather. I need the grass to set, as summer weather will brown it out until fall. If it hasn't matured, it will die. No way am I running around with a sprinkler all summer. Irrigation system is for another year....
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  19. melli

    melli Otiose Endomorph

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    I get mesmerized looking at my yard now...first thing in morning, cup of coffee, and those darn cigarettes, I stare into the green dewy grass...then, I run outside and move the sprinkler...:spinsmiley:
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    I should point out that I need many more loads of fill to smooth out the rough edges, but as of this date, I have exactly (as well as I can count), 150 loads of dirt on property. I will need about 75-100 to finish it off, I figure....
     
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  20. BohemianWaxwing

    BohemianWaxwing Well-Known Member

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    Amazing transformation! Your hard work is paying off. Eager to follow as you move forward with your building plans as well!
     
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