Thursday, May 27, 2010

How not to chop down a tree

This weekend we are hiring a big excavator and dozer to come help us clear the back acre (we did the math and it was cheaper for the guy to come out and level the barn site then it was for us to rent the equipment, etc.).

The one place we can save money in the whole equation is by taking down two trees ourselves. I think it's important to mention that we're sad about losing two trees, especially the maple, but we spent a lot of time laying out the barn to take advantage of the pre-existing space...and this is the best case scenario.

We promise to plant AT LEAST two trees for every one we lost (including the accidental one).

Sunday, May 23, 2010

She thinks his tractor's sexy

Yesterday we made the 3 hour drive down to Hood River, Oregon to purchase our very own Kubota Tractor (Mr. Nick called up and down the coast and Sheppard's Tractors had the cheapest price by far).

We thought about it for a long time, deciding whether or not we needed to purchase one, and finally decided that yes, as owner builders having a tractor will enable us to do many things on our own. (digging the trenching for the electrical, cable, and well; digging the septic system; hauling tree stumps; leveling areas for building; digging our pond; the list goes on).

To rent the tractor for a day is upwards of $250. Kubota is offering a great deal right now: 0% down, 0% interest for 60 months. So our monthly payments are less than the price to rent it once per month--that means all we need to do is use it once a month for the next five years and we'll have come out on top.

As my mother pointed out, living on 5+ acres you will ALWAYS find a use for a tractor/backhoe. Plus, I kind of like the way Mr. Nick looks on it...I guess Kenny Chesney was right, she does think his tractor's sexy!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Temporary power pole: Just the basics

I've always prided myself in my ability to find a good bargain but Mr. Nick is blowing me out of the water with his deals lately...and the fact that what he's buying is actually necessary for the building of our house, well we won't get into that.

So what's that in the bed of our truck? It's a temporary power pole, nabbed on craigslist for just $50 (had we gone through Home Depot the price would have been $250!)

In case you were wondering why we need one of these here's the scoop: In homes that are already built the power comes in from the road into the house through a meter (underground). When you don't have a house you have to have some place to put the meter. Solution: A temporary power pole which distributes power through a circuit breaker (still underground). We're going to install it and the power company will come and connect it from the power that's in the road (after we pay a connection fee).

Once we build our house the power company will remove the temporary power pole and extend the wire to the house for our permanent power. Then maybe we can sell it to someone else just starting their building journey!

Interested in learning more? Here's a great site I found on about the basics of temporary power.

Photo Credit: I took this photo of Mr. Nick in the parking lot of our apartment complex...we're fairly confident no one will be tempted to steal it.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Top three things to consider before buying land

I take for granted that my husband is a professional engineer and develops properties for a living so I sat him down this evening for an interview so I could put “pen to paper” on what the basic items people need to look at before buying land. It’s important to note that this list only covers the “ability to build” and not the “should I build” which for me is: proximity to items people want (good schools, roads, cities, etc.), other homes that are already in the area (should you really buy a nice plot of land and put your super nice home on it only to find that your neighbor is rockin’ a junk yard), and my number one…road noise! So below is the list from Mr. Nick…I tried to get him to be my guest blogger but he wasn’t having it. If you have questions let me know and I’ll “schedule” an appointment with him to follow up!

1. How does the property get water, is it city water or well water? You can find this out by calling up the county that your land is in. You can also look at other building sites nearby…if you have pavement you can look out in the street for mini valve covers. The best way though is to call the city, usually the Public Works Department. Costs: There are connection fees to hook up to city water which vary depending on where you live. The costs to drill a well and install a water system on your property depend on many factors: depth of water table, chemicals in the natural well water, distance from existing man-made structures, price materials (which are a commodity).

2. How will the property dispose of sewage from toilets, showers, sinks, etc.? You either have city sewer (if you see manholes in the street) or your property will be served by septic. Before you purchase land you’ll want to know if your lot has septic approval from the local department of health…if it doesn’t you’ll want to contact the septic system designer or a licensed civil engineer specializing in land development. Costs: There are connections fees to hook up to city sewer which vary as well. If you go with the septic system you’ll have to take into consideration a few factors: types of soil, elevation and lot layout can all vary the cost from a few thousand dollars to tens of thousands of dollars.

3. Are gas and power available/nearby? If power is not nearby you’ll have to take into account what it will take to get power, which you can find out by contacting the local power company. There really aren’t any other “practical” options if there is no accessible power. If gas is not available it’s fairly simple to install bottled gas (either natural or propane) which you can find out more about by contacting your local power company.

Once you have answers to the first three questions you’ll want to look at the features of your site and most important what is around your site that may affect what you can do with your property. Here in the Pacific Northwest the most common issue is proximity to wetlands, endangered species, protected tree areas, and groundwater sensitive areas. The best way to find out answers for your area is to contact your city or county planning department. You’ll also want to find out the zoning to make sure that your desired use meshes with what the city/county also wants (building a house in an area that is zoned commercial is probably not going to happen).

The bottom line is, you can’t go wrong by calling up the city or the county as all this information is public information and these departments are here to help you. If the land is a considerable investment it may be worth your time to hire a local civil engineer to help you navigate the process…unless of course you happened to marry one like I did!

Photo Credit: Here I am standing in front of our property map in the entrance to our development...after Mr. Nick did all the hard work to decide whether or not we should buy it! 

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Antique tripod and level: A diamond in the rough

This weekend we made the quick drive North to Tacoma to check out the biggest swap meet in the Pacific Northwest...or at least that's what the website said. We didn't go with high hopes, which is a good thing, since they would have been dashed very quickly.

The swap meet is at the site of the old Starlite drive in movie theater, in fact the big screen is still up in the giant fenced in area. Parking is free and admission is just $1 each.

Inside most of the booths focus on clothes, hats, car radios and used tools. Sprinkled throughout are food stands where we were able to grab a humongous bag of duros doused in hot sauce for just $1.50. The predominant language in the market is Spanish leaving it to feel a lot like the markets we have woven through in the Yucatan and in Nicaragua. Nick tried to get a cheap fitted baseball cap for $3.00 but they didn't have his size...this would have been a similar problem had we decided to spring for the snakeskin and crocodile cowboy boots with matching belt.

We did see a couple of Stihl chansaws, but not well taken care of and not priced all that great. Nick found his almost brand new farm boss on craigslist for just $250 and we saw no deals of that caliber. The tools were also very beat up and mostly mismatched odds and ends.

So, was the trip worth it? Absolutely! (But just barely). In the last row we came across this beauty, an antique level (although it can't be to antique since the level came in a plastic case). I had been looking for one ever since I saw how they can be turned into floor lamps while trowling around an upscale antique store in Seattle. The lamp I found in Seattle was $375, something I was absolutely not willing to pay. It took some convincing of Nick that we "needed" to purchase this tripod and level but he finally came through when I reminded him that Obachan had given me some money for my birthday AND when he realized that it works!

Nick happened to be wearing one of his Goodwill shirts that said "Cascade Christian Ahtletics" which the booth guy gave us a $10 discount for. Paired with his awesome bartering skills we got this $60 tripod and level for just $40!

I know it's going to take a little bit of effort to turn it into a lamp but I'm not worried about that as I'm pretty comfortable with wiring things. Of course, I'll have to wait to take it out of commission until Nick is done using it...ahhhhh...compromise.

Photo Credit: I jumped out and took this photo right before Nick had a chance to drive away...a fun game that he just looooves to play.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

A historical find...Dorothy comes home

I'm pretty excited about my latest salvage find, although this would probably be classified more on the unnecessary side of things, I couldn't resist! I loved her as soon as I saw her (she's over 3 feet tall) and then when I got home and started researching who she was I love her even more.

First, what is it? Apparently up until the 1960s the English churches allowed people to rub the brass tomb plates in order to create wax impressions which they then mounted.

Second, who was she? Dorothy Wadham (1534-1618). When her husband, Nicholas Wadham died he left everything  to her (despite her being a, gasp, woman). His sole wishes were to found a college in Oxford, England. Dorothy, being the strong independent woman I'm sure she was, did just that. "She fought all the claims of Nicholas's relations, lobbied at court, negotiated the purchase of a site and drew up the college statutes" (History of Wadham). Within four years of his death Dorothy had started a college from scratch, even hiring the cook herself. 2010 marks Wadham College's 400th Anniversary.

Now this is obviously not a situation I want to duplicate entirely (I'd rather have a "Notebook" style death where Nick and I pass peacefully in each others arms at the ripe old age of 100 or more) I think it's so important for women to continually find inspiration in the strength of other women.

I'm lucky enough to have married a man who values me as an equal team-member, able to pull my own weight, while still making me feel beautiful and loved. Hopefully I'll never be in Dorothy's shoes, fighting to fulfill my husband's wishes, but I like to think that if I was, my Nick would definitely trust I was up for the challenge.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Amateur land surveyors, inc.

We rented a transit today to shoot the lines between our property corners so Nick could finish up our septic design and so we could determine our new well site.

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