Time For Piles!!

Allan is a manager for a pile driving company. He used to be a pile driver, and worked his way up to where he is now. Because he has access and knowledge for piles, we decided that we would put in a pile foundation for our home. This is great for us, but understand that it’s not cost effective normally. Normally, a regular basement or slab foundation would be much better for you in the dollars and cents department. Because we have free access to the equipment and we will be putting in our own sweat equity, and we get the piles for much less than retail, it’s the cheapest option for us.

So, now that the stumps are out and the trees are cleared, it’s time to install the piles. We first need to mark where each pile is going, and we do this by putting a nail with pink marker tape tied to it in the centre of where the pile should go.

We walk around after with a ring and spray paint and mark exactly where the pile will sit. This is what the rigger will line the pile up to. It will be his job to make sure that the piles are where we have marked.

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A marked pin for the piles.

 

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The grid we used to lay out the piles. Getting this square was super frustrating.

Once everything was marked out, we called up Allan’s friend and co-worker Dave to come give us a hand. Dave is a mechanic at Allan’s shop, but he started out as a rigger for the company and so he knows what he’s doing. I have rigged for the cranes, but not for the pile driver, so I opted to take photos instead. <grin>IMG_1899

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Dave guiding everything into place. Remember those pins?

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Allan had to climb to the top to adjust something. As someone who is afraid of heights, this made me nauseous – even if it wasn’t me! Don’t worry though, Allan was wearing all of his fall protection stuff.

Once all of the piles were in the ground we had to cut and cap them. This means that we cut all the piles so that they were at the height we wanted and level to each other. We don’t want a crooked house!

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Here is Will using a beveler that a friend loaned us. This makes sure that the cut is even and clean – and so simple even a kid can use it ūüėČ

 

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Now it’s my turn. Time to weld the caps onto the cut piles. In the foreground you can see some of the caps sitting on top waiting for me to weld them.

 

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Time to double check that all is level…

 

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Nailed it!!

It feels so good to be one more step closer to having a house! Something tangible!! Love it <wink>

 

 

We all got something new!

We have had some excitement on the acreage lately. William turned 14 and got the one thing he has been begging for, a pet rabbit. The rabbit’s name? You would never guess it. Pickles. No word of a lie. The boy named his rabbit Pickles. <sigh>

The little guy needed a home, so instead of running out and paying exorbitant amounts for a simple rabbit hutch, I went on the internet and found some simple plans that I like. You must be careful if you find plans on the internet though. Anyone can do up some plans and put them on the internet. It doesn’t mean that the measurements add up, or that the structure is even safe. Even if it looks good, go over everything with a fine toothed comb and don’t be afraid to add some reinforcement to stuff if things look a little flimsy to you.

You also need to keep in mind the area the plans came from too. People in Texas don’t have to worry about our temperatures and snow loads, but they do have their own weather considerations. What’s good for our area isn’t good for theirs, and vice versa.

This particular cage was fairly good, but there were some measurements that didn’t quite add up. I wish that I could tell you what the differences were and where I found them, but I can’t.

 

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Cage finished, sans rabbit, and stain.

 

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Pickles in his new home.

 

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Gunner, our lab, inspecting the new arrival.

Gunner, our lab, inspecting the new arrival.

 

For myself? I got a compost bin! It’s three compartments and has a roof to collect rain in the centre. The rain will then drain into a rain barrel that I can water my plants with. Assuming it rains. It’s been VERY dry this year so far.

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Allan screwing down the tin for our water collection. We can also store dry straw or hay in the centre to add to the compost.

Allan screwing down the tin for our water collection. We can also store dry straw or hay in the centre to add to the compost.

Of course, I didn’t buy the compost bin, I built it. Again, I got the idea from the internet. This one was from here. It’s doesn’t have blueprints or measurements, but I based the idea on this site. It’s not stained yet, but will be stained the same as Pickle’s cage. We will get to that soon I’m sure <cough>.

This leads me to Allan. In the one picture of my compost bin, you can see his shiny new present. A Kabota tractor. Allan is in little boy heaven right now! It has a lawn mower attachment, a snow blower, a bucket and a hoe. For a small acreage, what more could you want? (Apparently that wasn’t rhetorical, as I was informed that we could use a tiller for my garden and pallet forks too) <gig>.

Here are some better photos of the new Tonka Toy:

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William mowing the lawn….yeah, we will call it lawn, not old hay field.

 

A Fire Pit!

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Our farm so far. You can see the smoke from the new pit, the shed, the RV, Ruby, and in the background is the stumps and cleared tree area for the house.

 

Allan dug me a fire pit! It’s literally a pit.

I told Allan that I wanted to be able to have fires at night, especially since we had all of this wood sitting around just waiting to be burned! Some of the wood was standing dead, so it really is ready. Most of it is green, but there is enough to have a fire now and then.

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Standing at the RV looking towards the pit. You can also see the poultry fencing we have up. No, it’s not for our hens…yet. For now it’s to teach the dogs our boundaries. They are city boys too. Behind Will is our pile of trees waiting to be cut, chopped and stacked for more wood.

 

Allan took me at my word and went out and dug a fire pit. It’s wonderful!!

The view from my future porch. I can't wait!

The view from my future porch. I can’t wait!

Bringing home a shed

Living in your 5th Wheel is a little tight. It takes some practice, and I’m glad that I was able to get that practice when we had previously lived in it for a year before moving here. Still, having a shed to store extra stuff in is nice.

We had built a shed when we were living at the shop apartment and hadn’t brought it to the land yet. Again, I am grateful for Allan’s job because it has made so many parts of this experience a lot easier. He waited for a day when the trailer and picker were available, and loaded everything up and brought it to the house. I got to be his rigger for this, and no, it wasn’t the first time I’ve done this, even if it looks like it .

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I’m grateful that the shed survived the trip in good order. The staples for our temporary roofing (aka – tarp) came out on one side, but it was otherwise unscathed.

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Me, rigging(For those of you who are safety conscious, Allan is a ticketed Journeyman Boom Truck operator, and I have all of my oilfield safety courses as well from being a welder. We are 100% qualified to be doing this, legally and with experience.)

 

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Allan in the swing cab.

 

It unloaded beautifully and is now awaiting our extras. This will include stuff like winter gear, camping gear, supplies for the Junior Forest Wardens, etc. It will be nice to get those things put away and out of my hair.

Happy 2015!!

As you may have noticed, I have been posting stuff that happened in the summer lately. In January.

I know! I know!! I promise, I’m not trying to confuse people here. I just had a small hiccup in the internet department that I’m hoping I have found a solution to. For now, we have a place to go to once a week and I will use the internet there. It’s actually the place where I am doing our laundry at until spring.

As far north as we are, and as remote as we are, it’s not a simple matter to get internet. If you can get internet, it’s not necessarily¬†good¬†internet. Remember the days of dial up? You would click on the internet logo, and the screeches and beeps would start up, then you would go get a coffee and switch the laundry. When you returned, the browser was opening up? Yeah, it’s like that here.

We have found a tower based internet service though, and they have recently put up a tower within a few kilometres of our place. That’s the good news. They also have internet that they claim is fast enough to watch Netflix in HD. So they claim. I’ll believe it when I see it because I have been up north here for a year and a half and have yet to see any internet that can handle that.

The bad news in this is that we have a small forest between our place and their tower. They have quoted us different prices to set up a tower to get over the trees.¬†We will find out within the next few weeks what kind of signal we will have. They are behind right now because we have had a week of -40C. They can’t lay the cables at that temperature, because stuff doesn’t flex when it gets¬†that¬†cold. For my American friends, -40 is the same in Celsius and Fahrenheit.

So that is our first goal for 2015 – to have INTERNET!

What else is on the table for 2015? Oh, where to start??

Back in October we purchased a Solar Panel kit. It’s a 1 Kw system, so quite small, but it should be a good start. It has room to grow and we will buy more panels and batteries as time goes on. Our next goal is to build the shed that the solar batteries and hardware will be kept in. Normally, you put this in your house, but since we don’t have a house, it’s going to go into a shed/guest house. It will be 14′ x 14′ or just shy of 5m x 5m. It will have a barn style roof with a loft and that’s where we will plunk down the family and friends who are brave enough to venture this far north to see us.

Goal #2 – Build the solar shed/guest house.

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Goal#3 – set up Solar power

Our grow season up here is incredibly short. One compensator is that we have really long days in the summer. Super long. The sun barely sets. Seriously. This gives us some hard core grow time in our fields and allows us to work ridiculous hours. Last summer there were several occasions when I was getting tired working outside, checked the time and found that it was 1 am, and sunny. It takes some getting used to, but boy oh boy can you get a lot done!

Unfortunately, although gardens love the extra light to grow, and we can grow some nice vegetables here, some plants still need a longer season than we have. I was shocked last summer when my tomatoes were killed by a heavy frost in the second week of¬†August.¬†Doesn’t that make you sick? This year I¬†need¬†a green house. I also want to make some hoop covers for the plants.

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Goal#4 – build a greenhouse (hopefully a geodesic greenhouse)

I need chickens. Really. I am trying to live the farm life and so far all we have are two dogs and a rabbit. A¬†pet rabbit. If I get no other animals in 2015, I have to have some chickens. The chickens need a house because Allan said they can’t live in the shower. I tried. <cry>

Image from cherrycreekcanadians.ca

Image from cherrycreekcanadians.ca

Goal #5 – Build a chicken tractor followed later by a cob or cordwood chicken coop.

Goal#6 – Get Chickens!

We were originally going to purchase some Chantecler chickens. They were developed by a monk in Quebec to withstand our cold weather. They are an endangered breed though, and as I am still very much a city girl, I think that I will possibly try something else for my first season. Maybe. There is a farm near here (600km south – distance is seriously relative this far north) that will sell two layers and a rooster to people who are willing to try and expand their flock off of that. I will be talking with the farm right away and if they are willing to work with me and give me support (read: allow me to call at 2am because their poo is funny looking) then I may go ahead and get them.

I need a garden. A real one. Last year I had strawberries in a hanging pot and I had tomatoes in plastic tubs and I attempted potatoes, but they didn’t quite make it. I planted them way too late. That’s the problem with not getting the acreage until June.

I ordered all of my seeds from here. It’s a great source for Canadians (or anyone, they are based in British Columbia but will ship out of country) to get heirloom and organic seeds for their gardens. Their prices are very reasonable and the quality is high. I already have mine and I’m itching to plant. Yes, it’s currently -40C, and that’s half the reason. The colder it gets, the more you dream of warmer days. <sigh>

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Last years’ tomatoes

 

Goal #7 plant the garden!

Fencing. Oh we need fencing. We have plans and hopes for goats, pigs, horses, and a milk cow. We have some perimeter fencing, but no paddocks or pasture that’s fenced. Have to get that in!

Goal#8 Fencing and cross-fencing

Did I mention we don’t have a house? Oh yeah. Somewhere amongst all of the other goals we will be building our house. Ourselves. Yep. I think we will have our hands full. Lord willing by the first new snow of 2015 in the fall, we will be tucked into our new home. It takes priority. The other goals we will squeeze in-between somewhere.

In the meantime, my laundry is done, time to upload what I have, head home, and put on some stew for supper.

Have a good night everyone!

Clearing stumps

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Ruby’s stump.

One of the problems with cutting down trees is that stumps are left behind. This can be a problem if you need to use the area for something else, like a house. If you are in the woods and falling trees for firewood or if you are simply cleaning up some fallen trees, then stumps aren’t an issue. Unfortunately for us, we need the stumps gone. Now.

There are several methods that we looked at for removing the stumps. One is to use the old method the local aboriginals would employ. They would simply light the stump on fire and burn it out. If the stumps were all dead, and I wasn’t concerned about a root fire, I would be all for this. Of course, the chance of burning down all of our trees puts a bit of a damper on the bonfire as well.

We also looked at pigs. We read that if you pen pigs where there are stumps, they will root around and push up the soil looking for tasty morsels. In the process, they will push up and turn so much soil that they will either uproot the stump altogether or make it so that it’s really easy to pull the stump up when they are done. This takes time, and we don’t have that kind of time.

That left us with my Jeep, that I affectionately call Ruby. Ruby is a girl. Yes, I’m weird. That’s not the point <grin>. Her name is Ruby because she is a Jeep Rubicon. She is mine, and I can make her a girl if I want. And yes, I am very lucky to have her. Rubicons are the top line of the Jeep Wrangler series, and as such are built heavy duty with major off road capacities. Ruby can pull other Jeeps…so why not a stump?

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My Jeep, Ruby.

So, we dug around the first stump, cut all of the roots with an axe, and wrapped a chain around the stump, and pulled. We pulled, and pulled, and then…with a rending tear, the stump came out. It worked. It wasn’t easy, and Ruby had to work hard. Harder than Allan was comfortable with. As an oilfield man for 20 years, he has seen a lot go wrong with vehicles and chains. He didn’t like it one bit. Back to the drawing board.

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As luck would have it, Allan’s work had a little project going on of it’s own, and they had a little mini hoe that they were using. When they finished using it, it was going to sit for a week at Allan’s shop until it could be picked up. In the meantime, we were given the ok to use it for our stumps.

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Allan brought it home after work and got right to work. He was like a little kid in a sandbox with a large Tonka Truck. I think that he was grinning the entire time. It took a couple days, but he managed to pull all of the stumps out and made a nice big pile of stumps and dirt.

One step closer to having our home! Now to figure out what we are doing with the stumps??

 

 

Clearing trees and planting our future.

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We have to clear quite a few trees for our home building site in the woods. We have marked the ones we are cutting down with pink paint and now have a beautiful forest of pink trees. It’s quite daunting to be honest.

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I am determined to have my house nestled in the trees, but the thought of cutting so many trees, hauling them out of the woods, chopping them in to fire wood, burning or chipping the branches and then pulling all of the stumps makes me feel at times like we have taken on too much. Everything is always easier in the planning. It’s the executing that gets you. Maybe that’s why it’s the same word used to kill something….

DSC00010We bravely push on, chopping and hacking our way into the future. The nicest part of all of this is that everything we do is for our future. Everything has measured results. At the end of the day, I looked at the trees piled up and the wood stacked and the stumps laying around, and I knew that we had accomplished something tangible.

One thing I’m learning is that too often we spend all our time and effort on something that isn’t tangible – television, video games, etc – and in the end we have nothing to show. Nothing that we can point to and say, “See? I did that.”¬†If you play video games or have favourite shows, I’m not picking on you. I was there once too. I have spent obscene amounts of time playing games and watching television only to have nothing tangible to show for it. Take my word for it when I say that this is a better feeling of accomplishment than anything a game can offer.

Neatly stacked for a future fire.

Neatly stacked for a future fire.

White Spruce saplings

White Spruce saplings

 

 

As well as cutting down trees, we planted a line of 80 spruce trees between our property and the neighbours. The saplings were given to us from a friend who works for Sustainable resources. The local Forestry branch. They hand out saplings to school children every year and usually have left overs. Instead of seeing the left overs be wasted, I asked if we could take some. I actually had more than 80 given to me, but that’s all I could plant. I gave the rest to some friends who assured me they would also plant them.

 

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Baby Steps

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William, our strapping young man of nearly 14, pulling a post. That is literally the end of the road in front of him.

Our 20 acres consists of 7 acres of hay field, and 13 acres of mixed forest and peat. That’s all. There is nothing else on the land.

We are at the end of a dead end road, and to the north is a quarter section (160acres) of heavily treed grazing land (see pic above, those trees are the grazing land). To the east is 160 acres of farm land (also see above, the field is the farm land). Same thing to the west. Just to the south is our only neighbour. He also has 20 acres, but he is zoned ‘country residential’, which means he can’t do much with his land, other than live on it. I think it suits him fine, as he doesn’t seem like the type to raise chickens. We are zoned “agricultural”, which means we can pretty much do what we want with it – and that suits us just fine.

On the project list right now is clearing trees for our building site and planting trees in the pasture (hay field). We are wanting to clear approximately 1 acre for our building site, but have it nestled in the trees. We are actually crazy enough to attempt this (mostly) by hand. What I mean by mostly is that we will cut the trees with a chainsaw and pull the stumps, either with a chain and my Jeep, or with whatever equipment Allan can borrow from work, ie; a skidsteer, loader, mini-excavator. We know that this will take a long time, and isn’t nearly as efficient as a D6 Cat (aka – Bulldozer),¬†but¬†all it will cost us is time and labor. We looked into renting a D6, which my amazing husband knows how to run (I’m impressed at least…), and around here it would cost us $1000/day, plus 14% insurance, plus cartage to get the cat to our place. *sigh* We will do our best to pull the stumps safely. We will dig around each stump and cut the roots before pulling it. We know all the horror stories of chains breaking and stumps flying through windows. This adds a huge amount of time to the process, but we think the added safety measure is worth it. Hopefully though, we will be using the skid steer to push the majority of the stumps out. Our first weekend on the land we managed to drop around a dozen trees. Half of those we bucked up for future firewood. The other half we moved to the side to be bucked up at a later time. We also planted 80 white spruce saplings. If we cut a dozen trees, and planted 80, we’re doing pretty good, right? I’d say we are ahead of the game for now. Soon enough, we will have cut more trees than we have planted, but at least we will be closer to having our home.