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.


A marked pin for the piles.



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


Dave guiding everything into place. Remember those pins?


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!


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 😉



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.



Time to double check that all is level…



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.



Cage finished, sans rabbit, and stain.



Pickles in his new home.



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.


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:



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


Clearing stumps


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?


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.


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.





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.



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.









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.




Baby Steps


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.