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Moving forward with Okanogan homestead got the land (with pics)  RSS feed

 
Devin Lavign
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hey Permies just wanted to let you all know I am moving forward with a property, though still open to look at other property and planning to check others out in case this one falls through.

But I visited a really nice 40 acre property with a pond on it. It is in a natural bowl with 3 hills. There hills hills East, NW and SW. I would own up to the tops of two hills East and NW, and a decent amount of the SW hill. The property hasn't been logged since 1987, and has minimal work done on it. A little bit of over grown road, and the pond was man made by blocking the gaps between hills. The pond is 150' wide at the widest, and 620' long. Listed as seasonal, but the neighbor said only one end tends to dry up during dry years and the south side is spring feed and stays all year round. Otherwise in wet years it is all year for most of the pond. I made an offer $8K under the listed price. The realtor said the owners had refused that price 3 times in the past. So bumped up to $4K under the list price and seemed agreeable to that being at least worth taking to the owners. So I made the bid and moving forward. It is a 30 day cash out offer, and while I expect them to counter rather than just accept I have my step father who is an architect, planner, and developer doing the negotiations for me. In other words I let a shark loose in the kiddie pool. So he is ready to keep firm on the price, or if they want more, a list of improvements that are needed as well as extending the cash out to 90 days, or even requiring a partial financing.

But it is looking like depending on the owners and how much negotiation is done, I could be closing in a month or so.

Keep your finger crossed, or send out some prayers, or wish me luck. Any little help I can get to make this happen is appreciated.

But let me share the story of how I got to the property. And then some pics.

First off, I driven over in the night and camped out at a lake park so I could get a nice early start to my land hunt. Had plenty of properties to look at. First one in the Coalville Rez, couldn't find though the area was lovely dotted with lakes and ponds. My GPS said it was right to my right but it definitely was not the right place. Maybe I entered the lat and long in wrong? Second was a nasty mess of slash piles. It would take a lot of effort to clean up and then the property itself wasn't all that great. Another and it was just way too steep slope with no benches or flat. On to two more, and a long drive on paved roads then a gravel road that was not very well done. The gravel road was recently washed out part way up and filled with course rubble rock. Still long ways down the gravel road and I come to a truck stuck in a mud hole, in the path blocking me from continuing. no way my CRV would make the hole if he got stuck. I hung out and did my best to help and offer support to the guy. And he did get unstuck. But the access issue crossed the next two off my list.

On to the property I am hoping to get now.

As I got off the 3 lane wide hard pack gravel road and onto the actual road that leads to the property I saw a guy walking along carrying groceries. I slowed down so not to kick dust up in his face and just past him, stopped poked out the door and asked "do wanna walk, or would you like a lift?" he asked where I was going, I told him and turns out he owns and lives on property that boarders the one I was there to look at. He offers to come up and show me around and tell me about the place and hops in.

View down into the valley about 3/4 the way up the road to the property.


I learned a lot about the road from my new friend and potential neighbor. While not horrible and it could use some work, he had lots to say about it. Obviously it was something he likely complains about a lot. A bit bellow the area I took the pic posted above, is a really nice homestead set up with wind and solar, who I was told are nice folks retired military and I look forward to meeting them later.

My passenger was giving all the gossip about the neighbors, pointing out one set just above where I took the pic who he felt were the ones responsible for the condition of the road. They had a big privacy fence, and posted security cam surveillance as well as a no trespassing including government agents etc. Most likely hard core Libertarians who don't want gov interference. My passenger mentioned the cops wont step on their property. LOL.

My passenger's place was just bellow mine, and the road goes right by his small 5th wheel camper. Not sure why folks put their places so close to the road, I sure wouldn't. Just past his place though and the easement road to the property I am looking at arrives.

The entrance to the property is an easement road that only leads to the property I am looking to buy


The easement road is a bit over grown and there is a small mud hole on easement road, but as you can see not a big problem.


Just a little ways and there is a for sale sign then just past that a barbed wire fence line that looks newish, as it still hasn't rusted. I suspect this is the property line for this side. But not completely sure, as it doesn't seem to cut the land like I would expect.


You can however see this easement road is in a narrow cut between a ridge and a big hill. Which would mean securing the entrance would be fairly easy.

Here is a pic from the road on the property looking up onto the ridge. Nice steep slope that would make putting a gate across the road quite effective.


The first thing you see coming on to the property is a large clearing/pad. Not quite level, with a SE down slope. But I could easily grade and level the space.

Sorry bout the dark camera phone pic, seems it had trouble dealing with the bright light at times.
This is the view coming down the road and looking out over the pad and pond beyond. Mostly east direction wise


Main clearing looking southish, the entrance road to the right of the pic


Main clearing looking northish, the entrance road to the left of the pic, my CRV behind that tree closest


And looking back up the entrance road, sorry again a bit dark


The pond is fairly hidden by trees, which I would do a lot of cutting down and using for some fencing, and other projects. But would want to clear and gain better access to the pond. However I do want to be careful not to go too crazy. I want to leave some trees and bushes around the water edge in places.


So this might be a good time to give you some areal reference to the property. To give an idea of where things are. This is the realtor's posted areal image, which gives not only an idea of the property and it's boundaries but also the parcels around the property. Top is north, the easement access comes in from the west side.


I had transferred the lines onto google earth to get a much better idea of the property ahead of going to visit it. Really like when they give you the property lines to understand what your looking at.

So on we go, while there is a road continuing down that goes to the south tip of the pond, lets move around the property the other direction, and go North to East and around the pond and back up to the clearing. Since that is the route I explored.

So up on the Northern hill/ridge. This was close to the western edge of the property.

Looking north


Looking south


Up on the hill and looking back over the property and the pond you get a great view. You can see how dense the tress are around the property, as well as the trees over on the eastern hill across the pond. That V notch was filled to help make the pond, and I was told the spring that feeds the pond is on that end.


Looking right from same vantage in pic above, toward the clearing and where I parked


Down closer to the pond looking toward the south end.


From here if you look northish, you can see a marsh where there is spillway for the pond overflow, as well as a nice little meadow.


around and over on that meadow, looking at the wetlands and spill way



And the spillway, a bit dark but it was obviously an intentional spillway man made


The pond mostly runs N & S, but where the spill way is a finger runs off to the east.
This is from where the marsh and spillway are, and the separation between the finger and main pond body


Beginning of that finger of the pond




The pond's finger is fairly narrow and straight, but a decent looking depth.


Berm at the end of the finger


Looking down hill from on top of the berm, if there was no berm here all that pond water would flow right over and down this slope.


continued..
 
Devin Lavign
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Now around to the eastern side of the property, which seems to have lots of wonderful rock formations, stair step flat benches, and surprisingly the road that goes down to the pond on the southern end actually comes around on this side but is hard to tell when at what looks like the end of the road at the southern tip of the pond.

This is the continuation of the road, over on the east side of the lake


But the roads this side are pretty over grown


Looking out over the pond from the eastern side


Stair stepping flat benches on the eastern side


Looking down on the pond finger from the eastern side


As I mentioned some great rock formations and cliffs over on this side






up on top of the rock looking at the tops of others.


OK so I have mentioned the south side of the pond, and the road going down to it several times. The road comes down to this point and curves and goes into the pond. I think this was done at some point to make a boat launch into the pond. As i mentioned the road actually should continue around the pond. But a dozer blade seems to have cut into the earht and made a step you wouldn't be able to drive over, as well as the area where the road continues is quite over grown to the point you don't see it standing on the road at the southern end of the pond.

Here is the south side of the pond looking westish


This is the path the road used to take around to the east side of the pond, can you see it? Believe it or not I had just come through that. But it is a couple feet higher up than where the road goes into the pond.


This is looking south, and the berm built up to fill the gap between hills, obviously no water escaping that route.


Looking up the road from the south end of the pond, it curves to meet the pond


road going back up to the clearing, pretty straight going


Almost back up to the clearing


Well that about does it, I have plenty more pics but that is a general loop around the pond and a general sense of the place.

The property has a lot of potential. I think I can deepen the pond a bit here and there. Cut back some trees, and clear lots of brush. Do a little leveling and reconnect the road to gain access to the other side of the pond. Likely do plenty of terracing and swales to maximize water run off, catching it and keeping it from eroding soil. I didn't explore too much along the south edge of the property, as it is heavily forested with thick underbrush. I did push my way in a bit, and would want to thin it down a bit but retain much of the trees and patches of brush. I did spot a place in there that looks like it might likely have a spring, due to the vegetation, however it was far too thick to get in there without cutting stuff back. Also on the eastern side I spotted a likely spring where there was lush grass and moisture just under the surface of a dry crust of algae. So there might be multiple springs on the property. Though would need to monitor them and see if they dry up and are just seasonal seeps, or full time.

Well thanks for checking this out, and hope you enjoyed. Leave some feed back if you think of anything. Or feel free to ask questions.
 
Devin Lavign
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Just a quick update, I just got the call that my bid was accepted. So pretty much have the land, just the bureaucracy and finalization to make it official.
 
Devin Lavign
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So thought I would share a few Google Earth screen caps of the property so folks could get some idea of the topography. Of course the topography is more general but gives much better idea than a just a flat areal photo and some camera phone pics.

top view


facing East


facing South


facing West


facing North
 
Devin Lavign
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I wanted to share this list of advice for the new homesteader I got on another forum. It is such a good list of things that I felt it worth sharing for others out there. Plenty of things I already knew, but there were also plenty of things I hadn't known or heard yet. I have a feeling I will be checking in with this list regularly just to remind myself of things I need to consider.

Some suggestions, in no particular order but with a mind to where you are and to what you will have access...

1. Go with the tractor for plowing snow over a truck mounted plow. If the tractor goes down you're delayed in doing chores until it's fixed (miserable as it may be you can always shovel the drifts by hand in an emergency) . If you cause the truck to go down you're stuck on the property until it's fixed.

2. Keep spares of the usual suspects that go out on your vehicle and tractor. Starter. Plugs. Fuel pumps. Belts. Hydraulic lines. Know how to swap those parts out.

3. Look in your immediate area and see what is the most common older truck being driven by others living in the boonies. Then get the same truck. Parts availability, is one factor. That the model truck you're seeing everyone drive has been around a few years in that area indicates that it handles the local conditions well. Lean towards diesel.

4. Get a good set of snow chains. CHAINS not cables. There is a difference, one of them being that chains can also help you if you get stuck in mud.

5. Get front and rear hitch receiver mounts, then get a hitch mount winch with remote. And a snatch block. Many things can be done with this, not the least of which is self recovery of your vehicle.

6. Get a second vehicle as a backup form of transportation.

7. Do not buy used chainsaws. They tend to be used up. Everyone has their preferences, mine is a Husky 460 Ranch&Farm model with a 24 inch bar. Get a smaller one as well for lighter tasks (some of the new battery saws from Husky look promising).

8. Whenever possible, fell trees by winching them over rather than cutting them (unless leaving the stump is desirable for some reason). This gets rid of the stump and roots and will be a hell of a lot easier than felling the tree THEN trying to dig up/blast/or grind out the stump. I recommend the Wyeth-Scott Amsteel Power Puller with amsteel rope and a snatch block.

9. Put some chain on the front of your powered winch cable when you use it. If steel cable parts (breaks) under load it can whip back and remove limbs, maim, or kill you. Or put holes in your truck. Very bad mojo. When a chain link fails it just breaks and drops to the ground, the energy expended right there.

10. When using a chainsaw, helmet/ear pro/face shield......every damn time. Google chainsaw chain injuries to head and you'll see why.

11. Wear chainsaw chaps (Kevlar) every time. Period. See above^

12. Stand on the opposite side of a felled tree when limbing it. If you screw up you have the tree between you and the axe/saw.

13. Get lots of spare chains.

14. Check out Lister 6/1 engines, they're very old school diesel engines that are great for back up generator work. Tricky to get a hold of now, but possible with some research.

15. Get a big propane tank on site. Think propane stove, propane water heater, and propane for a backup generator (not the lister). Propane doesn't go bad.

16. Get an above ground diesel tank. Actually, get two. One for vehicle fuel (tax paid) and another for off-road (no tax, dyed red).

17. Greenhouse. Build one. I suggest a geodesic dome type in order to better deal with the wind and snow load there. Look into rocket mass heaters to heat it in the wintertime.

18. Look up slow sand filters. Also look up hydraulic ram pumps. Mix the two to exploit the water flowing out of your pond as a water supply for your home.

19. If you do screw up while working on the pond and break the seal, get pigs and use the Sepp Holzer technique for sealing a pond,

20. Seeing as you get so little rain, check out Sepp for his use of swales as well. This is also why you'll want a tractor.

21. Look in to aquaponics, run the pump off a PV panel and an NiFe battery. Will save you water...yes, I see the pond, but you will have drought years and will want/need that water for other things.

22. Stock the pond with fish. Check around, some states will help foot the cost of that.

23. Start planting fruit and nut trees right away. They take time to mature.

24. Consider getting some beehives, even if you don't want the honey. Great pollinators. Also a great place to hide a spare key . Google "eastern european bee house" if you have bear issues/concerns.

25. Install a sprinkler system on your roof (which should be metal given where you're living). Ditto around your immediate yard near the house. Use it to wet everything down if there are any brush fires nearby.

26. Look at the lay of your land and the neighboring areas....look at vegetation, ect and figure where you may someday need to make a firebreak. Planning now makes dealing with it later easier. Chainsaw, winch, and controlled burn (from both edges to the center).

27. Trailer mounted water tank with pump....many uses, but putting out a fire is the important one. Get some good fire hose. Ask Dannus for advice.


28. Dig yourself a few cold cellars. Also good as storm shelters or (FSM help you, fire shelters).


I may have more stuff later, this was just off the top of my head.

OH! I almost forgot.....
Your house!!!

I'd suggest either going with insulated concrete forms if you can get a readi-mix truck in there and can afford the materials, or go attend the LHBA (Log Home Builders Association) class in Las Vegas. I went, and while I already knew the basics I picked up enough tips and tricks to make it worthwhile....and for you you'd also be very likely to get a crap ton of free labor from other members...lot's of them in your area and they like to help each other out with building. Costs $750 for the two day class, well worth it.
 
Rufus Laggren
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Hi Devin

Looks like you're pulling out all the stops. Nice looking spot. Thanks for sharing the pics. What are you driving through there? A Honda?

Are you planning on spending time there now or just "visiting" and getting a few things started? Looks like there can be many years of work ahead.


Rufus
 
Devin Lavign
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Thanks. Yep a 2001 Honda CRV, though going to trade it in for a pickup.

The plan is to get a travel trailer with a little off grid electric up there and start living as soon as possible. Though that might take a month or so after closing to get the trailer and solar hooked up. I then can take a couple years to build a house.

I actually just got back from visiting over the weekend. Did some work cutting back the easement road foliage, cut some trails so I could explore the property easier and to places I hadn't seen yet. Got up to the South side of the property found it was fenced. Also most of the West side is fenced. Which is a great bonus.

And got to sleep out on my land as well as hang out with the neighbor, and meet the rancher at the bottom of the hill. Slowly getting to hear the stories of the area and gather info on the history.
 
Devin Lavign
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OK went back over to the property this weekend after picking up some wonderful tools at an estate sale. I got 4 cross cut saws, a cant hook, an adz, a froe, a gas weed whacker (no electric out there to plug into), and a grinder. Slowly adding some tools to my collection for using on the homestead.





I didn't take lots of pics while out this time. I was busy working. Did some work cutting back the easement road foliage, cut some trails so I could explore the property easier and to places I hadn't seen yet. Got up to the South side of the property found it was fenced. Also most of the West side is fenced. Which is a great bonus.

And got to sleep out on my land as well as hang out with the neighbor, and meet the rancher at the bottom of the hill. Slowly getting to hear the stories of the area and gather info on the history. Realized just bellow my property is a buffalo ranch. And yes they sell meat and hides, yay.

So speaking of bellow the property, Here are some pics from down in the valley across the river looking up toward my property.

my place is between the building and the bumper of the passing car, just above the car roof is Eagle's Bluff.


Zoomed in to my property a bit.


zoomed in more, starting to loose resolution


Sort of gives a bit more context of my location. Up almost to the top of the hill.

While out cutting trails and hiking around, I found a new friend.



I suspect in the process of laying eggs, so took a couple pics and left her alone.


Also saw a nice large deer who was too fast to get a pic of. As well as plenty of chipmunks, grouse, and ducks in the pond. Oh and a young rattle snake laying out on the road sunning it self who was being lazy and not wanting to move until I hit it (lightly) with a thrown stick so I could drive around it, I forgot to take a pic of it, but it was a pretty little snake.

So I mentioned I was able to get up into the steep and heavy growth area on the South side of the property.

This is looking out over the property that hill is the Eastern side of the property I own up on to the crest of that hill.


A little further down slope toward the east looking north you can see a lot of timber on this south side that I can use for building and fire wood. The little bit of a hill you can see between trees is the North western hill on my property.


As I mentioned I found that the South side of the property was fenced, looks like it could use some maintenance in some spots, and some clearing back some over growth. But huge bonus to find some fencing in place already.


Similarly the western side had fencing.


And this is likely the North West property corner, which would give me a good reference point to run fencing along the northern side of the property. While the neighbor that direction is the one I made friends with my first trip out, since I plan on having live stock I will want to fence this line and it is the side that faces toward the road and main access. So is also the direction I would most likely get people coming from.


Well that is it for pics to share, sorry I don't have more the share right now but more will come. I will likely be closing over this week, so very soon this property will official become mine in all the paper work etc. Then the real fun begins.

I need to rent a dozer to fix some problem areas on the road coming in. To make pulling a travel trailer, when I get one, up to the property easier. As well as just making the road better to travel on for me and for guests I have come visit. Also I want to use the dozer to do some work on my easement road into the property. As well as creating a level place for a trailer on the property and working the road around to the eastern side of the pond into service again. And likely just some land sculpting here and there to get to a good starting point. Maybe cut a small section into the western side of the pond to have better access there. A lot will depend on how fast I can work and how much of the critical work gets done. While I could find plenty of projects for a dozer to last a month, I don't want to pay a month of rental fees. The idea is to get enough basics done to move out there and start living and working there so I'm not just weekending over there. I can always rent the dozer or other equipment again later to follow up.
 
Rufus Laggren
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Getting to know your neighbors and the "neighborhood" is pretty much at the top of the list of smart living practices.

A plug for renting the man. I'm not experienced in road work but everything I've read (and it makes sense to me) says that unless you're already pretty skilled with the heavy equipment that you need, and get the use of it free or for a song, it's almost always more cost affective to rent the operator with the machine. A skilled operator will be much faster and cleaner than anything you will do on OJT; a dump truck is often part of the deal and can make the whole job turn out better. Equipment performance, safety and repair are on his nickle. A operator experienced in your area will also have BTDT and be able to offer worthwhile suggestions on the best methods to fit your needs, maybe even stuff you didn't see. This could save you time/money down the road. They'd know local sources of material you might need. It also establishes another line of potentially valuable contact in your area.

Best luck.
 
Devin Lavign
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Rufus Laggren wrote:Getting to know your neighbors and the "neighborhood" is pretty much at the top of the list of smart living practices.

A plug for renting the man. I'm not experienced in road work but everything I've read (and it makes sense to me) says that unless you're already pretty skilled with the heavy equipment that you need, and get the use of it free or for a song, it's almost always more cost affective to rent the operator with the machine. A skilled operator will be much faster and cleaner than anything you will do on OJT; a dump truck is often part of the deal and can make the whole job turn out better. Equipment performance, safety and repair are on his nickle. A operator experienced in your area will also have BTDT and be able to offer worthwhile suggestions on the best methods to fit your needs, maybe even stuff you didn't see. This could save you time/money down the road. They'd know local sources of material you might need. It also establishes another line of potentially valuable contact in your area.

Best luck.


Yep I am enjoying meeting the neighbors, and think I will get along just fine with the folks there. Which is great since 1 bad neighbor can ruin what seems like perfect property.

I am a certified heavy equipment operator. For dozer, excivator, front loader, back hoe, grader, and roller. But yes, if I wasn't I wouldn't even think of doing the work myself as I agree that a skilled operator can take away a lot of the hassles that end up happening with unskilled use of heavy equipment.

Personally I would love to be able to rent a small grader to fix the road, but haven't found anyone offering those for rent. I could fix the road in short order with a grader but I am no slouch grading with a dozer either. In the long run too, the dozer will be more useful on my property for the various tasks I need doing right off the bat. So probably good I am not tempted with someone offering grader rentals.
 
Rufus Laggren
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I'm certain any/all pics videos you can post on your machinery exploits will be Top Ten here. <G> Get some beer buddies or other good friends enjoying a day in country w/a camera while you work...

Rufus
 
Devin Lavign
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I am hoping to start doing videos of my journey in building up this homestead. I even have started a youtube channel in preparation to start posting videos. But at this point my only camera is my cell phone, and it's video quality is horrible to the point I really just don't want to subject folks to it. I actually tried a couple times while out this last time to record a short video showing the property in it's original state of no work yet done, but the video was way too shaky, the light would get too dark then too bright etc... I am hoping to get a go pro or similar soon, as I also have a drone I am building, that I would want that sort of camera to use on it. I hope to use the drone to get some great areal shots of the work I do and of thew land. I think being able to do slow passes with the drone will really help some folks get more of a sense of the lay out and how things are going.
 
Anne Miller
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Before doing any dozer work on that easement road, be sure to ask the owner for permission. If it were my land I would want to know what you plan to do as the easement only allows you to use it to get to your land.
 
Devin Lavign
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Anne Miller wrote:Before doing any dozer work on that easement road, be sure to ask the owner for permission. If it were my land I would want to know what you plan to do as the easement only allows you to use it to get to your land.


But of course I plan on asking the land owner first. Basically the entire road to my place is easement after easement cutting through different properties. I have already gained permission from one of the land owners to fix the road where it goes through his property, and I will be talking to the others to get permission to fix the road for their sections.

But I do appreciate you bringing up the topic as yes it is important to seek the permission of the land owner first. Including a land owner in the process is very important to maintain good neighbor relations and the last thing I want to do is cause drama and a fuss first thing upon getting the property that will effect the relationship for the rest of my life there.
 
Anne Miller
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Good you have already started the process, I would suggest finding a good Pie Shop and taking an apple pie with you when you make your introductions or offer to "polish" their driveway since you know what you are doing. Best wishes for the future.
 
Devin Lavign
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So filled out the paperwork and paid for the property, there is one final piece of paperwork the sellers are having trouble finding to finish the deal. But at this point the land is mine, and I am starting to move forward with plans. Like installing a mailbox and getting an official address. Which will let me register my vehicles to that address, change my voting registration, etc...

I will also be looking into renting some equipment soon to work on fixing the road, and clearing a nice pad to park a trailer on the property. Since I want to get living out there as soon as possible so I don't have a 6hr commute form Western WA to go work on the place.
 
Devin Lavign
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This last Monday installed a mail box, and today I was told they had finally found that last piece of paper work and filled the sale with the county. Tomorrow they are mailing me the deed. Yay, it is now officially 100% mine.
 
Devin Lavign
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Been out working on my property over the last week. Mainly just clearing brush, and especially the overgrown access road, though also picked up my snow plow and dropped it off on the property. But thought I would share my camp set up with folks. sorry about the shaky low quality camera phone video, but it is all I got at the moment. Something is better than nothing I guess.



 
Cristo Balete
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Your place looks great.   Lots of water, a very good sign.  Thanks for the homesteading tips, those are good ones.

When you are deciding on a house location, and even your trailer location, since it could be a guest cottage later on, having a south-facing location is good for passive solar.  A house design that is long on the south side, narrow on the east and west side, with lots of big windows on the south wall can get great passive heat in fall, winter, spring. 

We should always build just down from the top of a hill for wind protection.  If you want to take advantage of the solar heat through windows, find a location that doesn't get a lot of direct wind, and is open to sun from early morning until later afternoon on the south and west sides.

If you want to take advantage of gravity flow water, then water tanks should be in the highest spot, with house and garden lower than that.  While it might be tempting to pump out of the pond, pumps use up gas pretty fast.  I use my gravity flow water until I really need to pump from the pond, and it helps save on the pump.  In the winter you won't want to pump from the pond anyway.

Be sure you get all the permissions to cross other people's property in writing.  If they sell their property the next owner may not allow it, and then your very expensive driveway will have to be redone somehow.

One reason people build so close to the road is because the driveway is shorter and cheaper, less maintenance.  The cost of the utility company to put poles in back to a house, or an underground line can get very expensive, like thousands of dollars.

Before you fall in love with a location for the house, be sure you can always get to it, regardless of other properties, or cross as few as possible.  Make sure if you don't like living with solar, you can afford to put the local power back there and it shouldn't involve going through a lot of ground water.  Don't assume that you will want to live off grid, it's not easy, and it won't make your place easy to sell if anything happens. 

Try to make choices that don't add a lot of work, hard chores, continuous maintenance, and difficulties in the winter.  The first few years it's exciting, but after that it can get exhausting.  At some point you'll want to sit back and enjoy it, not have to struggle for the basics. 
 
Cristo Balete
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About propane and a large tank, that usually means that a propane truck comes and fills it.    Even some smaller heaters require a 100-gallon tank minimum so it gets enough pressure, so if you decide to go with propane they have all kinds of rules to follow.

Propane trucks won't go over a shaky driveway or a nonengineered bridge.   Sometimes they won't let you build if you can't get a propane truck or a fire truck to the location.  All of these organizations are linked these days, and when one finds out you aren't accessible, they tell the others, which goes straight to the County permit department, and it all starts going downhill from there. 

I use solar, but I have gasoline-powered backup equipment.  The smaller propane tanks are expensive, and a nuisance to keep filling, and they've started requiring a new one every 10 years.  The date is stamped on the tank, and some places won't fill it if it's older than 10 years old.   I just had a valve go bad on an $85 tank, and I'm tired of the hauling and expense involved.

Gas is not that expensive these days, and propane is getting more and more expensive.  I use solar for almost everything (which has been downsized a lot), but when it's stormy or there hasn't been enough solar to charge the batteries, then I use the generator, a big, very reliable one.  It's easy to store gas, and since I have to get gas for the truck anyway, I get some extra for the generator or other tools.  I know gas can go bad, but they have stabilizer for it, and I've never had it give me trouble if I know how much I'll use and buy just that much to store, until the next trip into town.  This is usually only an issue in the winter.



 
Devin Lavign
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Cristo Balete wrote:Your place looks great.   Lots of water, a very good sign.  Thanks for the homesteading tips, those are good ones.

When you are deciding on a house location, and even your trailer location, since it could be a guest cottage later on, having a south-facing location is good for passive solar.  A house design that is long on the south side, narrow on the east and west side, with lots of big windows on the south wall can get great passive heat in fall, winter, spring. 

We should always build just down from the top of a hill for wind protection.  If you want to take advantage of the solar heat through windows, find a location that doesn't get a lot of direct wind, and is open to sun from early morning until later afternoon on the south and west sides.

If you want to take advantage of gravity flow water, then water tanks should be in the highest spot, with house and garden lower than that.  While it might be tempting to pump out of the pond, pumps use up gas pretty fast.  I use my gravity flow water until I really need to pump from the pond, and it helps save on the pump.  In the winter you won't want to pump from the pond anyway.

Be sure you get all the permissions to cross other people's property in writing.  If they sell their property the next owner may not allow it, and then your very expensive driveway will have to be redone somehow.

One reason people build so close to the road is because the driveway is shorter and cheaper, less maintenance.  The cost of the utility company to put poles in back to a house, or an underground line can get very expensive, like thousands of dollars.

Before you fall in love with a location for the house, be sure you can always get to it, regardless of other properties, or cross as few as possible.  Make sure if you don't like living with solar, you can afford to put the local power back there and it shouldn't involve going through a lot of ground water.  Don't assume that you will want to live off grid, it's not easy, and it won't make your place easy to sell if anything happens. 

Try to make choices that don't add a lot of work, hard chores, continuous maintenance, and difficulties in the winter.  The first few years it's exciting, but after that it can get exhausting.  At some point you'll want to sit back and enjoy it, not have to struggle for the basics. 


Thanks.

I have to say on the whole south facing thing for house site, this is something I hear a lot and thought myself generally. However I set up my tent in a large cleared pad that gets amazing sun all day long. After 3 days I moved the tent to the location in the video above, which doesn't get direct sun until slightly after noon as the eastern side is shielded by a rock cliff and hill. In summer, too much sun exposure on house could make it into a hot box that is just uncomfortable and miserable. Not every location is a large south facing home a good plan.

Yep not on top of a hill but also not at the bottom of a hill. The current location I have my tent and will likely place my trailer, is in a nice middle point between the low point of the pond, and the eastern hill with amazing stone cliffs.

I completely agree on not falling in love with any one location early on for a house site. When first exploring the property I kept seeing wonderful spot after wonderful spot for possible house placement. I have said many times, it could take me a year just to figure out where I want to build. I am planning to have a water witch to come dowse the property, to try and see where I might be able to drill a well on the property. This might make or break several possible locations for building a house. If access to well water is too far away, or on the other side of the pond.

Thankfully since my property is a bowl shape, there is pretty much always a hill I can pump water up into a cistern on top of to create a gravity feed system. I would not use gas powered pumps, but rather solar/wind pumps to pump water. And if at all possible ram pumps.

Thankfully I don't need to get permission for road access, it is written into my property title.
 
Cristo Balete
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Devin, great news about the permissions in your property title.  

About the south-facing location being a hot box, it's slightly different in summer because the sun is overhead and a house will have a well-insulated roof (whereas the tent will not).   I think the benefits of passive heat coming through windows in spring and fall really outweigh worries about too much heat in the summer.m, especially if you situate it where the summer breezes can go through windows from one end to the other. 

On my south-facing windows there is very little heat coming in in the summer.  On my west-facing windows I use thermal shades and thermal curtains that block out direct summer heat in later afternoon.  All windows have thermal shades and thermal curtains that help with heat retention.  It is very satisfying to stand by the windows at 8:00 in the morning on a sunny day when it's 40 F outside and feel heat coming in.  But I also do not have Low E windows, that are in some building codes these days.  I do have double panes, though.

It's good that you are taking a year or so to see what happens in different locations.  where I first wanted to build turned out there was so much ground water in the winter it was running over the top, and that would have been a real disaster with a standard foundation.  I didn't build there after all, but there is a cabin there, and it's been a constant jacking and leveling as different piers sink depending on how wet the winter is.

The Google maps should also show you where the ground water is, as the biggest/tallest trees will line up along it.  I don't know how much this drought has affected you, but I noticed all the wild blackberry bushes died off that were not directly over the main ground water channels.  One huge patch shrunk down to one small area, and during the drought I was going to try to develop a spring there, it would have taken me forever to find that small area where the water was most prevalent.   Now I've gone around and marked the areas that show where growth was most active during the drought in case I want to build something or actually look for water.
 
Devin Lavign
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So I just ordered a big part of my off grid power set up from Missouri Wind and Solar. https://mwands.com/store/index.php?route=common/home

4 Monocrystalline 100 solar panels. $556.00
1600 Watt 5 Blade Missouri Rebel Freedom Wind Turbine $329.98
3000 Watt 12 Volt Pure Sine Power Inverter $699.00
12 Volt DC Crossflow Cooling Fan $19.98
300 Watt Divert Load Resistor $11.98
1500 Watt Diversion Dump Load Resistor Bank $124.98
Hybrid Dual Amp All In One 440 Wind and Solar Charge Controller $319.00

Still need to get batteries and cables as well as a mast for the wind turbine, but want to source those locally as shipping batteries and a turbine pole is just too expensive.

I am also planning on ordering a triple fuel (propane, natural gas, and gasoline) 3000 watt generator soon. Though still making up my mind on Honda http://www.centralmainediesel.com/order/Honda-EU3000iS-Tri-fuel.asp?page=EU3000iS_Tri_Fuel or Yamaha http://www.centralmainediesel.com/order/07684.asp?page=I_07684 . I am leaning toward the Yamaha, but need to do some research on repair services in the area, since if no one works on Yamaha in my area it would heavily influence my decision.

This combo of alt energy and generator should be more than enough power for my needs for a good while. Allowing me the ability to grow into it and not have to rush to increase it as I grow.
 
thomas rubino
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Hi Devin;  Very nice looking piece of property you have acquired! I spent 2 seasons working on omak creek in the hills above the sherman pascal indian school.  Really pretty country over there. If I wasn't so happy in nw mt I would have looked over there instead. I have been off grid since 1983 and I can tell you a few pointers. #1) Your battery bank is the absolute most important thing ! Make it way bigger than you think you need, Common mistake is (oh we won't use that much power...) believe me YOU WILL . If you have or find a partner to live with you, your usage will increase. Cloudy days, no wind and the amp hours add up FAST. Buy a (trimetric) meter to monitor power in, power out and cumulative power used .#2) Propane is a most important item you will need ! Make sure the propane truck can and will go to your place! They may not be able to get in during the winter and spring... rent a large tank from them , 250 gal minimum , 500 would be better.Propane is still cheaper than gas or diesel. Your generator is next, honda/ yamaha are great inverter gensets that idle down with no load... 3000 watts is to small ... I tried for several years to run with a 4000 watt,  not big enough, 7000-9000 is what you will ultimately want (might take you a few years to realize this )  Run your genny on propane... hook it directly to your large storage tank... nothing worse than realizing your out of gasoline at night in the cold and having to troop out and pour gas into your gen set and usually on your clothing as well.  Diamond brand propane fridge/freezers made by the amish are top of the line... the new sundanzer 14' 12 volt freezers are very slick but your battery bank must be capable of handling it year round. Think led lighting, nothing else will come close. I invert 95% of my power to 110 vt, but I still keep a 12v line thru the house for low key lighting at night that does not require my inverter running all night (even on standby).  I use two pure sine inverters , the main one is a magnum energy MS2000 inverter / charger that runs just about everything the other is just a cotek 600 watt, by having two if one acts up you have another you can still work with while you repair/replace the other.  #3)  Solar panels... i see you ordered 4) 100 watt panels, good start but not nearly enough.  The wind may blow a lot over there but your going to want serious solar power as well. I would add another 600 watts to what you already have. Here is a link to my local off grid supplier in north idaho( http://www.backwoodssolar.com/) ask for their paper catalog , it is loaded with information you can use. #4) HEAT !  propane backup heat is a good thing, but it will get expensive when its cold and windy outside. Learn about and build a rocket mass heater ! BEST THING EVER!!! Ernie & Erica  Wisner professional rmh builders / designers live in the okanogan so you know they will work with your climate ! Good Luck with your new adventure!! you're off to a great start !
omak-washington-028.JPG
[Thumbnail for omak-washington-028.JPG]
 
Devin Lavign
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Thanks Thomas for the tips and suggestions. A lot I was already well aware of but if I wasn't it is good to hear you make the suggestions so I might have gained good info.

I do plan on adding more solar panels as well as more wind turbines, but you know there is this thing called a budget that slows these things down. I do plan to run 12 v lighting when I build my house, but that is a ways off. I was aware Ernie & Erica are in the area and look forward to meeting them at some point, I am definitely planning a RMH as well as a double chamber cob wood oven. I don't plan to run my generator a lot, it is a back up not a primary. I am not trying to set up a massive energy use home, I am looking to reduce my energy use and lower my need for electricity and other energy sources. I don't plan on investing a lot of infrastructure into propane as I don't plan continued use of it except for the transition period of living in a trailer while building a home. I am planning to get a chest fridge so I don't have all my cold pour out of it when I open the door, as well as getting a chest freezer, but both will come later.
 
Cristo Balete
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Devin, be sure to put your solar setup in a wooden shed, not a metal one.  And put the batteries in a part of it separated off by a wall with bigtime ventilation because of the offgassing.  You don't want that gas in touch with your electrical equipment.  Put extra support under the floor where you put the battery bank, they are extremely heavy.

I am a total Honda fan.  I am not in any way associated with them, but I have tried the other brands, and nothing has held up as well as a Honda.  Yeah, it's hard to swallow the price, but I think the equipment starts to pay back by lasting longer, being more reliable, saving you time because it is more reliable, starting up readily with pull starts, and makes the job easier.  They are more efficient with gasoline, which starts paying back in lower gas costs.  Really easy to change the pull ropes.  I have a water pump, two generators, a professional mower, and an ATV.  They are a pleasure to use.
 
Devin Lavign
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Cristo Balete wrote:Devin, be sure to put your solar setup in a wooden shed, not a metal one.


Why do you say wood not metal? I have seen a lot of solar set ups in metal sheds that seemed to not have any issues. Several were in use for over a decade like that.
 
Devin Lavign
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Well, didn't do a lot of video or pictures this last trip too busy working to remember to film. I found that I would have to go all the way down to Wenachee to rent a dozer to work on the road and do some leveling. Seems no one in the area rents bladed equipment. Sigh, what a pain.

I did do a video of some of the work I did carving trails and clearing brush after the fact just before heading out.



Hope folks enjoy.
 
Devin Lavign
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Rented a skid steer and did some clearing of my property. Knocked down a lot of the thick brush and dead aspen in the aspen grove around the pond. As well as some brush clearing up in the pine forest above. Also tried to work on leveling the pad for my trailer, but yesterday I got my first real snow that stuck and it turned the ground to mush that I couldn't work with. I did get to do a little road maintenance on the road going up to my property since I had to park the trailer down at the bottom of the hill as the road was too poor to pull the trailer up. So on the way down today to return the skid steer I did some road work. Nothing major, but a little improvement to the worst of the the road.

I will be taking pics and maybe some video soon to show what I have gotten done.
 
Liz Hoxie
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I didn't read all the posts yet, but I wanted to let you know to get some pics of that land in late summer/early fall OF A DRY YEAR. Talk to the realtor' your neighbor, or the rancher. You need to know what the land looks like in a typical summer and plan accordingly. Put swales/hugels there first. Just seeing this thread so I hope you grabbed some of this rainwater.
I have noticed a couple of things here: (1) any flat spot bigger than a square foot is usually man-made. (1) here in the Okanogan, there is what I call 'instant' dirt, just add water and it grows things. That's why I like permaculture so much. It seems like it was thought up just for this area. Things can be actively growing while we're improving the soil. BTW,welcome to the Okanogan!!! Enjoy!
 
Devin Lavign
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OK time for a video dump. I am over at my brothers in Western WA, so have some time and internet access to upload some videos I took.

First is a short tour of the travel trailer I bought. A 25ft Mallard bunkhouse.


Next a couple of tours of work I did with a skid steer I rented over Thanksgiving.

 
Devin Lavign
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Now a couple videos showing the sun exposure and how micro climates are important to observe through multi seasons.



And finally a little tour of the potential build site I am considering for a home
 
Devin Lavign
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Liz Hoxie wrote:I didn't read all the posts yet, but I wanted to let you know to get some pics of that land in late summer/early fall OF A DRY YEAR. Talk to the realtor' your neighbor, or the rancher. You need to know what the land looks like in a typical summer and plan accordingly. Put swales/hugels there first. Just seeing this thread so I hope you grabbed some of this rainwater.
I have noticed a couple of things here: (1) any flat spot bigger than a square foot is usually man-made. (1) here in the Okanogan, there is what I call 'instant' dirt, just add water and it grows things. That's why I like permaculture so much. It seems like it was thought up just for this area. Things can be actively growing while we're improving the soil. BTW,welcome to the Okanogan!!! Enjoy!


Thanks for the input. I have 2 different google earth pics, the older one showing the pond as a green pasture, and the newer one as a open pond. So yes, there is some differences depending on the wetness of the year. As I have mentioned in this thread a few times. I plan on doing some dredging of the pond so it can hold more water. As well as become a better eco system for wold life. With some deeper water I can stock the pond with fish and other aquatic life. Not just for my benefit but for the wild life benefit. And yes berms and hugles are planned. As are plenty of other fun things. A lot of work yet to do. As tyou can see in the videos I just posted, I have done some clearing of the aspen grove and there are tons of old logs just waiting to be made into hugles. I have plenty of steep slopes that I need to build swales on to slow water run off. Lots of work to do to get the place into the homestead I plan to have.

There are actually quite a few natural flatish spots on my property. Benches and cuts between rock formations. However most of these are not ideal for home building due to issues with access to them, they tend to be up on the hill slides.

And thank you for the welcome to the area. Yes the mix of glacial and volcanic soil deposits make the area quite fertile if you have water to sustain the plants.
 
Devin Lavign
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So with it being winter, and me wintering off my property not a lot I can do on the property itself. But I don't want to just sit idle either. So I have been working on my house design plan.

A thread here at permies was talking about where to locate a RMH in an Owen Geiger designed earthbag pod home. This is the 3 pod design he was looking at https://earthbagplans.wordpress.com/2010/09/07/pod-houses/ I am not planning on earthbag building, more of a wofati styled underground and earth bermed. But the earth bag wall thickness is comparable in planning to that of log posts used for wofati designs. This post reminded me of those Owen Geiger house plans though, and especially of that 3 hex design which I had already bookmarked in previous housing idea searches. I had really liked the hex designs and round designs on the site. I went and checked the rest of that site for other options. But kept coming back to that 3 pod hex design. While not exactly what I want, it was a good starting place to mod and alter for what I want. Part of really liking the hex design is it is a good compromise between round and box. I love round living spaces but let's be realistic they cause a lot of problems with how to deal with furniture and construction is more complicated. While boxes are easy to build and add furniture they just don't feel organic and happy to me. But a hex has a great compromise of benefits of both. Not to mention I already have a hex tent, so have some experience with hex living and I sort of like the idea of a house matching my tent.

For those who don't want to visit the link here is the Owen Geiger 3 hex pod design that I used as a starting point.



So after some gimp reworking of the original 3 pod design, I put together a 1st draft idea of what I am thinking of doing. There are still some alterations and finessing I would want to do, but this helps give a rough idea of what I am sort of thinking. Also since I am a single guy, I really wont need the extra 2 bedrooms, however since I am burying my home, leaving room for expansion seems like a good idea. If at some point I do meet someone to join me in my journey, extra space can be good. As well as I could likely use the space to house guests, and in the more short term not even finish off the interior of that section and use it as a large indoor work space.



You might notice I have a rather large pantry added on to the design. This was intentional as I really want to have a very large pantry. I am not sure about the door leading outside, the whole thing came accidentally by mirroring the two sides, but I sort of like the concept of being able to get into the pantry from both inside and outside. This could really be beneficial, though there are some negative issues too, like air leaking, pest access, security, etc. I will have to weigh the idea as I progress.

I was definitely going to make sure I had an entry with a "air lock" mud room. I really don't understand why people still design homes that don't have this set up, especially in areas were it gets either really hot or cold (the Okanogan does both). It has been around long enough that the benefits are well known. I might even try figuring a way to add this sort of feature to at least one main door in the south face, since I can see a need for going in and out that direction regularly.

I had definitely also wanted to incorporate greenhouses into the house design. For decades I have been tinkering with a design with greenhouse spokes radiating out from a central hub. So I stretched the connections of the hex pods, to give space for greenhouses. I made them situated slightly different for either side, as a way to test how I liked the different positions, but sort of think the asymmetric layout there might be beneficial for general access.

As I mentioned there is still plenty more planning and likely lots of redesigning. I still haven't placed any RMH for example. Which will be rather important since it takes up plenty of space as well as being underground I will need to situate the chimney. Though might opt for the wofati idea of going up and out the south facing wall. I also found BroAudio's Walker Wood Fired Masonry Cook Stove. And really like this idea for possibly building as a wood cook stove for my place. I have been lusting after the Kitchen Queen wood cook stove for awhile, but building my own wood cook stove has some great perks. Including the possibility of making it hex shaped to match the hex theme of the house.

Here is an video intro to the stove design, and some links to images and descriptions, about the core itself http://walkerstoves.com/walker-riser-less-combustion-core.html and about the stove http://walkerstoves.com/walker-brick-cook-stove.html



Hope folks enjoy.
 
Devin Lavign
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BTW, I am now working on the house plans with the 3D modeling program Sketchup. I downloaded the program and have been teaching myself (with the aid of some tutorial videos) by doing multiple build versions of the house. I am on build 5 now. And have learned a lot of what Sketchup can do (though still lots more to learn) and I am getting closer to having a good basic floorplan that I can use as a starting point to test other practice builds off off.

And of course I have added some new stuff, having seen opportunity to add in some covered work space/storage/garage I added 2 extra hex pods off the pantry and mud room. Moving the doors to exit out into the new hex areas rather than straight out. Now if this will stay, not sure. Every little added detail raises the amount of materials, the time to build, and final cost. But covered work space can be a very important feature, and since I am building underground I really do have to try and think of as much as possible ahead of time and build it in the beginning, since digging things up and adding on is a huge pain.

Hopefully I will have some Sketchup plans to share in the near future, which will really help people see the vision I have in my head.
 
Devin Lavign
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So here is the current Sketchup of my house design



Sketchup has really been helping to get a clear idea of scale and how to arrange things. It has saved me plenty of times on figuring out better ways to do this design. As you can see I have further modded the design, changing things a bit. I am sure I will still change plenty more before the final design but figured I would share what I have so far.
 
The City calls upon her steadfast protectors. Now for a tiny ad:
Video of all the permaculture design course and appropriate technology course (about 177 hours)
https://permies.com/wiki/65386/paul-wheaton/digital-market/Video-PDC-ATC-hours-HD
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