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Initial Structure - winter approaching  RSS feed

 
Posts: 16
Location: Northeast Utah zone 6B
forest garden greening the desert solar
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Was not entirely sure where to place this post so hope I got it right.

It is the middle of August and my family and I are preparing to buy our land in which to start building our homestead as well as our home.
The home (likely an earthship) will take us 2-5 years to complete since we are building it as we have funds to buy materials.

This brings me to the main reason for making this post.
I need to build a small shelter that we will call home for the next few years.
It has to be something I can do with my own hands, relatively inexpensive and done in a relatively short amount of time.
Short amount of time because we won't be picking up the property until late September.

I have not been in a position to go to any classes or internships to learn how to make/use cob, strawbale etc.

So my question is, for a family of 4, what kind/type of structure might some of you suggest I focus on to provide a small but livable structure that we can survive the winter in?

I have been studying and researching every kind of structure I can find online for last 7 months but without actual hands-on experience with any of them I don't honestly know which direction to place my focus on.
Any input would be greatly appreciated.
 
Posts: 90
Location: Minnesota
13
trees
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How much experience do you have building structures?
How comfortable are you with power tools? Big machinery?

What experience do you have?

These and a 1000 more need to be answered before any real answer can be provided.

Then comes the questions about the property. What is the average winter temp? Sumer temp? Winter Minimum temp? Summer maximum temp? What aspect is the land? How many trees? What are the natural building materials on the property?

How long until 50 degree nights? Do you currently live close to the property? How are you going to deal with septic issues?

Since none of these are known I would suggest a mobile home. It is a prebuilt structure so it will take the least work. You can improve it as time allows as much as you want while working on your house.

Knowing how hard homesteading is I would not want to build a house so late in the year while so much else needs to happen to prepare for winter.
 
gardener
Posts: 2596
Location: Upstate NY, zone 5
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I second the idea of parking a mobile home or RV on the land to live in while building a real house. A skilled builder could throw up a temporary structure in the amount of time you would have, but getting up to speed doesn't happen overnight, and you can't afford the time to make mistakes and learn right now.

A mobile/RV can be resold when you are done with it, recouping some of the investment, while a temporary building put up without a well thought out site plan/layout would likely not even be useful as an outbuilding later on; it could be in the way or hard to access.
 
Scott Reid
Posts: 16
Location: Northeast Utah zone 6B
forest garden greening the desert solar
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I can use power tools and know which end of the hammer to use.

Even if we have to wait til spring to move on the property I would still like to know what structure type best fits the criteria in my original post.

Thank you for any input and advice.
 
Bernard Welm
Posts: 90
Location: Minnesota
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Scott,

As I said in my post - there are WAY too many questions that are unanswered to know what to even suggest to you.

We have NO idea what your skill levels are, how much time you have to work on the house/structure, what materials you have available, what your climate is or any of the other questions I posed.

Without more knowledge of your situation there is NO WAY we can suggest what the best structure is.

it could be a log cabin or it could be a "cave like house" or it could be a stick framed A frame. They are all valid but they all depend on your context.
 
Scott Reid
Posts: 16
Location: Northeast Utah zone 6B
forest garden greening the desert solar
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I am no expert when it comes to carpentry. But I know how to use all tools.

I live within a couple miles of where we plan to buy land.
We live in what is called high Desert mountains.  Northeast Utah.
Temps at night get down to the 50's during the summer. They'll start getting into the 40's by early September.

If the property does not already have septic we will be installing one right away.

All in all I'd consider myself a greenhorn when it comes to construction.

Hope this helps.
 
pollinator
Posts: 10111
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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Personally I wouldn't install septic unless one is required by law in your area.  Humanure is an important source of fertility which you'll need for growing food.  Also, in the desert, flush toilets are a waste of water.  I think a composting toilet is a much better option unless you have a compelling reason for flush toilets.

I think a normal stick-built tiny house might be an okay option as this is the easiest for the amateur to build.  The building could become a guest house or workshop in the future.   I haven't looked at these plans,  I'm just posting a link to show there are free plans available:  http://www.tinyhousedesign.com/free-plans/

I think the RV as some suggest is possibly an even better option because it can be moved around. 
 
Scott Reid
Posts: 16
Location: Northeast Utah zone 6B
forest garden greening the desert solar
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I can understand the suggestions to do an rv or mobile home but for us we want to build a structure that we will call home for the next 2-5 years.

Not sure I can get my wife on board with a composting toilet but we definitely will do a grey water/black water system.
We'll have plenty of access to stuff for composting and mulching.

I was half expecting someone to suggest I consider a straw bale structure.
 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
Posts: 10111
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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The great thing about a little stick-built structure is the ease of adding onto it, even to add a passageway to your eventual Earthship.  I wish we'd done this with our place - instead of building one large structure, build a number of smaller ones connected by covered screened walkways.
 
gardener
Posts: 2137
Location: Northern WI (zone 4)
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I think the reason you're hearing temporary/quick solutions is that between when you acquire the land in September and when the snow starts falling, you don't have much time.  A stick built tiny home is pretty quick to build if you have a lot of construction skills.  A straw bale home takes different skills, less money but more time (as I understand it).  So your limited timeframe may be why folks are suggesting more temporary options. 

I'd also suggest the RV or mobile home.  Just getting one of those put in place and hooked up to any sort of utilities may consume a month of your life.

Another variable that I may have missed is if you have a day job or if you can work on this 7 days a week?
 
Posts: 78
Location: SW New Mexico, 5300'elevation, 18" precip
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Hi Scott.... Your desire for a home this fall, that you can build yourself, that would shelter your family for 2-5 years..... in a novices' dream..... they don't come that quick... I have built over 30 small homes on bare land... and the reality is wait until late spring to start... and that is the reason folks are giving you quick options... we have lived for years in a yurt I built in 60 days... no foundation.. put down some plastic on level ground... then carpet pad, then used carpet... and a wood stove sitting on some flagstone or tiles.... fire it up and it's like living in a sauna... 20 ft in diameter get a big pile of dry, split firewood, cover it and your home.... BUT, (there are always buts)....
You need a good source of water.. and a place to poop..... you could just dig a hole with a shovel ( 3'x3' as deep as you can)... and build a little seat, and leanto roof and 4 walls and you have a traditional outhouse.... should serve your needs until you can build a composting toilet, using red wiggler composting worms.... of course all this needs to be out of sight, hidden from the law... or they might tell you that you can't do it that way..  a single wide trailer could serve as a temporary option, for the first 2-5 years... while you built a straw bale house.. post & beam construction, with bales as infill...  earth plaster... you have a lot to learn.. and there is no need to get in a hurry... study up on these things.. as you 'camp' on your land..... first water.. then power to pump it... then pooper and simple temp. shelter .... then start building a 'house...   Good Luck... slow down.. do a good job... learn by doing...
 
Scott Reid
Posts: 16
Location: Northeast Utah zone 6B
forest garden greening the desert solar
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Definitely appreciating the input from everyone.

It appears clearer at this point that any construction options are best to wait til spring.

Been studying/researching alternative home construction, homesteading,gardening/permaculture for past 7 months and only now has the ability to move forward with all this arrived.
I am sure you can understand our desire to find a way to actually pull the trigger now.
 
Mike Jay
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Location: Northern WI (zone 4)
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Scott, I totally understand how anxious you are to get started.  Sorry if we dampened your hopes but many of us have been in your shoes and are just trying to pass along our experiences.

One thing I did on a small cabin build was to get footings and piers installed in the fall so that I could start earlier in the spring when snow was still on the ground.  So if you do pin down a construction technique you may be able to get some work done this fall to allow for an earlier start in the spring.  Or get some other work out of the way (septic, well, etc).
 
Scott Reid
Posts: 16
Location: Northeast Utah zone 6B
forest garden greening the desert solar
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Anxious or not, it behooved me asking in here for whatever advice I could get from everyone.

Odd how important winter has become and its only mid-August.  

Thank you to everyone for your input.
 
pollinator
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I live in Maine in a house that I started 22 years ago and on my family farm that has been in the works since 1746; yet I still spend all my time just getting ready for the next winter.

Do you have a lot of trees in which to build from? If you did you could build a small temporary cordwood home. You could not start on it this late in the game, but you could start getting your wood for the walls all winter and be ready to go in the Spring. Just an idea...
 
garden master
Posts: 1826
Location: USDA Zone 8a
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Scott Reid wrote:  I live within a couple miles of where we plan to buy land.

If the property does not already have septic we will be installing one right away.



Does this mean that you have not found the property you want to buy?  It usually takes a month or more to close on the property so now maybe you will not be moving until October or November?

Something that I have not seen mentioned is that you need to watch the property when it rains.  Where does water puddle?  Where does the water run off?  What if you put the house right in the middle of one of these runoffs?

I agree with the others that you need to get an RV.  You can usually find them fairly cheap, but you want one in good condition.  Meaning that the roof does not leak and that the plumbing works.  And you need to learn how to use the systems.

Another alternative is to look at the storage building like you see at Lowe's or Home Depot.  Also now days you can find these that are built and ready to move for about $3000-4000.
 
Posts: 1442
Location: Fennville MI
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This is a familiar sounding thread. My wife and I have found twenty acres in SW Michigan, which we expect to close on in early September.  We have been thinking about living arrangements and our short term plans involve an RV, with a back up option of finding a rental in the vicinity if we aren't set up before the snow starts.

Longer term the house design is a timberframe with cob infill, south facing greenhouse attached, metal single slope roof with rain collection system, passive annualized solar heating. No possibility of getting it built before this winter - probably not going to have it done by next winter, but maybe far enough along to move in.

A complication on our site, that is also a benefit, is that it is almost entirely wooded.  The only cleared portion is where the utility line runs across the land.  Making it necessary to clear for everything we want to do - no space now for an RV, where to put the house, and so on.
 
Scott Reid
Posts: 16
Location: Northeast Utah zone 6B
forest garden greening the desert solar
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After having a good discussion with my wife, we have decided to begin looking for a couple of older RV's/camp trailers to use on our property once we get it.
Love my wife dearly but "roughing it" isn't always her top priority. 

It's taken time but she is also on-board with my (now our) homesteading plans.
 
Posts: 12
Location: Oregon, Utah
3
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Scott Reid wrote:Anxious or not, it behooved me asking in here for whatever advice I could get from everyone.

Odd how important winter has become and its only mid-August.  



Mid-August is close to the first frosts. Hope your over-wintering is going well.

Thanks for asking for this advice. It's been insightful for me to read this thread. I like the channel Primitive Technology on YouTube, as it provides clear visual demonstrations of natural construction and tool creation. If you are in a sandy area, with rocks, on unincorporated land, you can build an earthen home that will withstand the weather. Water catchment is a must in high desert areas like Northern Utah. Underground structures are helpful for climate control and food preservation.

Hope those two cents are helpful.
 
pollinator
Posts: 533
Location: Pac Northwest
52
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I closed on my property Summer Solstice. I was asked often if I was going to winter there this year. My answer was, depends on how much I can get done before the snows come. People never seemed to understand how variable winter would be for me, they seemed to expect a simple yes or no.

But I had a lot of work to do and lots of purchases to make before I would be ready for winter. It took a long time to locate a travel trailer to buy for example. I kept scheduling to look at them then find out they sold before I could get a viewing. Finally after getting a trailer, and getting it up on my property, I had weather to contend with as it was now Fall. Wet weather kept limiting the projects I was able to do. As well as lack of equipment rentals for equipment I needed to rent. Often times finding out the equipment was already rented out to someone else.

So a project like yours where you wanted to build a home before winter, well I can't imagine the rush you must have felt. In the end with all the delays and set backs for me, plus my brother wanting me to come back to his place for 2 weeks in Dec to house sit. I decided I will likely not be able to winter this year on my property. But I will be hitting the ground running next spring.
 
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