So I have a contract on 8A of gently sloping raw land hill on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington state. One face of the hill is very steep, maybe 35 or 40 degrees rising to a plateau. The backside of it runs the length of the property into a ravine, and is a much gentler 5-10 degrees with flat areas. Thought I'd share what I've been up to, might help folks see what the process is and maybe someone will have helpful ideas.
I'm in the "feasibility study" period in which I have 30 days to figure out the following:
1) can I afford septic (required by law ho hum), electric, well to this ppty?
2) can I collaborate with this land in all my desired purposes?
3) how are the neighbors? will they be germane to my efforts? (one guy has already moaned about generators, somehow it interferes with his Orca watching)
4) what are the boundaries of the land?
Regarding 1), I rented an earth auger and bored 5 3' deep holes on the ppty with my realtor, who used to be a soil scientist 20 years ago. We found two sites that she believes could be used for a gravity feed septic, the cheapest kind, thank dog. I am planning to do composting toilets but the county REQUIRES you have a septic field no matter what. It sounds like a handout to the underemployed of the county but the health dept insists it is because people get composting toilets, then can't deal with them (eww! gross!) and need something to fall back on. As for electric and well, the previous owners did the legwork on that so I only need to confirm their figures.
On 2), I have walked it a fair bit, but nowhere near enough. The trees are mostly alder from a logging 20-30 years ago, and plenty of gnarly bigleaf maples. The understory is diverse but typical, including oregon grape, huckleberry, lots of salmonberry, native trailing blackberry, nettles, devil's club, very little if any salal (yay), damn sword and deer ferns agogo, holly trees, some Himalayan blackberry which will have to be slain with extreme prejudice. We were thinking of making treehouses in the maples (you can see top of Mt Rainier from one of them), maybe for airbnbs. Something that everyone thinks is birch is around, but it's not any birch I can find. And I really want birch. I have to figure out how much of the acreage is wettish due to a spring on the property and permeable hydrology which creates natural depressions suitable for ponds. Since I want to plant a lot of trees, hydrology is going to be very important.
3) After mining the real estate sites for months and driving all over to hell and gone looking at clearcut trashheaps and stony slopes, I found this unlisted property by word of mouth. That supports what I heard on here: the best places are not listed. The neighbors prefer the quiet of the woods, who doesn't? One of them sleeps outside 90% of the time. I don't want to run a generator longer than I have to (til I have grid power), but there will be earth augers, chainsaws, tree chippers (ok ok permies yell at me now but..........mushrooms) and the like running, plus gunfire, people are gonna have to deal. These are very real concerns as I want to have a community not be a nuisance.
4) I tried to run a string between two markers, which is never easy when it's overgrown. A proper survey costs 2-4k and I'm starting to think it's inevitable even though there are several markers and a clear treeline with the neighbor's ppty which hasn't had its marketable doug firs logged. I had the notion that a drone with GPS and a camera might do an easier and faster job, and be cheaper than a survey, and be something I could tool-library with friends and neighbors (accompanied by my services flying it). Has anyone had experience doing drone surveys or having them done?
Sorry, I just paid last year (argument with a neighbor over a wandering fence, so I had all four properties and all three roads sorted out) $1100 to have four properties, two abandoned roads (one is a platted and never built-no curb cut or anything) and a still in use (by city to get to one of the city warning sirens) alley. It took them about four hours. They struck the line showing that I owned the mess of a peeling badly built split rail they'd erected, and all of that fenceline was at least 8" onto my side. I have control of the two streets and the alley is more like a private drive, I keep it mowed. They gave me a deal because it was two contiguous runs and mostly the outside edges were the important ones. They even threw in pegging the other boundaries of the neighbor with fence issues and they got a few surprises on where their lot sat.
Drone would be good to 'fly' the general boundary corridor but. It may take getting a pro up there to mark your corners, zigs and zags. I am in-town so terrain wasn't too hard to navigate. I took a gardening trowel, a pail of quickset and literally set permanent tiles (four 1" ceramic tiles) in at the firm corners front and back and end to end. It can be mowed over and no more arguments and will take more than a casual jab with a shovel to dislodge.
You did your 'perk test' and have soil conditions that will allow the septic field to work properly? Here I have adobe clay, literally and nothing leaves in 20 min in a raw hole. Where stuff has been amended and dug deep, things grow well, but.
I'm also currently shopping for land, and a tool that I've come to really like is the USDA Web Soil Survey. It will tell you all about the soil, what rate it soaks up rainfall, how deep different strata are, how deep to bedrock or obstruction, flooding/ponding risk, etc. This tool has helped me weed out potential land sites without leaving my living room, because the main focus of homesteading for my wife and I is growing our own food with livestock being second, and good soil is critical for both. Check it out, I think you'll really like it and find it useful.
"Study books and observe nature; if they do not agree, throw away the books." ~ William A. Albrecht
Hi James, after months of using soilweb to rule out most properties before I even visit them, I finally tried USDA Soil Survey per your suggestion. I'd tried before and found the interface very frustrating (county land info websites are, naturally, worse and I've had to fool with those) but I'm starting to crack it. And it sure does have bookoo infos! Am pleased to see the results on hydric soils of my plot, though I need to interpret them more carefully. I could use this site all day!
Where are you, Deb? Survey costs can vary wildly. In most of WA, land pressure is so great that surveys can run $4-6k. My county is depressed so i think 2-3 might be possible. Sounds like you got a deal! I didn't perk the holes (no water on site) but will do that now, bringing 4 5 gallon pails if I can manage it. I'll pour 10 gallons into each hole and time how fast they drain, then share that with septic person.
Googled a company that makes drones for surveyors. They're Swiss. Probably very precise. Also preci$$$$$$$e. Anything that hides the prices online must be crazy expensive. Stay tuned.
Original dustbowl aka nowhere. The surveyor had another large job scheduled in area and THEY paid the 'get them out' fee. I just made it worth their while as a whole day. Otherwise for just one plat would have been close to $500 and technically I had eight, but one is a lot sandwiched between two others and sold separately, and three are the 'roads' which were bounded by other things, so just do the 'what isn't X or Y is Z the road' subtraction to sort out four of them.
For perk you dig a hole of a certain size, put so much water in, and measure depth again after 20 minutes. I don't remember offhand how deep the hole is, etc.
I just had one of my lot lines surveyed and the guy charged $250 and did it in about 2 hours. The other guy I called wanted $850. It was only 1/8 of a mile and relatively flat but there were trees. They told me if there weren't trees, they'd've used GPS which gets them within 2".
Do you NEED to survey the lot lines? How many corners are marked? If there isn't anything on your side or the neighbor's that is suspect and you don't want to put anything right up against the line, it may not be a critical part of your buy/don't buy decision. If there's a spring or other feature that you really want to have on your property, that's a different story. If you purchase the lot and have time on your side, the price may come down.
If you can get a decent GPS signal, you can always mark the corners and walk the line as closely as you can by following the gps. Flag trees as you go and it should be within 10'. I don't know how a drone with gps would be any more accurate unless it's undogly expensive.
I didn't know the certain hole size and depth. So little info is needed for owners to do septic planning, but practically none of it is easily available, and one must ask both the county AND septic designers to get even part of the whole picture. Then ask the right questions to flesh it out. I decided on the pretest holes after talking to county so didn't ask them if 3' deep, 9" wide would work. I poured 5 gallons of water in each hole yesterday. My best excavations drained down to 4" and 2.5" of remaining water after 30 mins.
Mike, I don't have to have it surveyed, no. But the only county marker is a stamped steel spike lost in a ravine, will need a metal detector. The others are all the usual hinky stakes with plastic flags or flags on trees. I was lucky enough to get one official looking flag on a piece of planted rebar. Three neighbors all hanker for this place and it shows plenty of game and humanimal (doubtless their) trails. In fact the reason it is a ridiculous L or boot shape is because one neighbor already bought 2 acres off the original owner years ago. Neighbors are reclusive folks who want it for a "buffer" or "bubble"; one is an artist who sleeps outside 90% of year and the other a retired ocean seismographer who wants to hear humpbacks from his deck. There is an artesian spring in one corner. I swooped the property away from them and they're already negotiating with me for 4 acres. Under those circumstances a proper survey seems advisable, no? But on the other hand, though my neighbors want it, they're not really the sort to edge in on it and try to take it.
I can't get any kind of signal up there, but it's worth changing carriers for. You might be right that a GPS survey would be good enough.
Where are you shopping for land, James? What are you looking for?
PS: I found out the "birch" is actually bitter cherry, Prunus emarginata. I should know better than "looks like a birch".
Yeah, I guess if it's an L shape and there aren't good corner markers to start with, a survey sounds like a good idea. If you don't have good corner markers to start with, using a GPS device probably won't do any good. A pro can probably use GPS to find the corners and then plot the boundaries. But us laymen probably can't accurately locate the corners with our GPSs. If you can even get the data from the county/state to figure out where the corners should be. Good luck!
Hey Fredy I've been looking for land in tennessee and kentucky. I've lived in and around Nashville my entire life, but it's no longer the city I grew up with. It's growing at a ridiculous rate. The local news said something about approximately 1200 people move into Nashville each month, and it's been going on for several years now and maybe that number has increased, but the housing market is crazy (yay for those trying to sell) and traffic is appalling. I'm used to tennessee's climate and the 7-8 frost free months that I can grow a garden in, so I haven't been looking for land really anywhere else in the country. My wife doesn't like the cold so that kinda limits going north, but I'm totally ok with that. And besides, tennessee currently has ample amounts of rural land for sale and it doesn't cost an arm & a leg. We've been looking for mixed pasture & woods and have found a few that we think will work for our needs and desires. In fact I think we're going to put in a offer on our favorite next week, we'll see how it goes.
"Study books and observe nature; if they do not agree, throw away the books." ~ William A. Albrecht
Mike, there is only one corner marker and I'll need a metal detector to find it. Of course, that's cheaper than a survey or a drone (and more useful in the long run). I can measure from there using the county description. I might just do that.
James, all cities are growing at a ridiculous rate. Seattle is the USA's fastest-growing big city, all skyhooks and traffic and gentrification. One of my favorite stats is that 55% of the world's population now lives in cities, and by 2050 that's expected to be 66%. (U.N.) They're already barely habitable in my opinion; imagine when we are too old to be able to leave them (or so old we are forced to return...). I want to establish something on the margins while I am still able, and with any luck not die looking at a skyline.
Tennessee and Kentucky sound great. It's so exciting to have something you're ready to make an offer on. I wish you the best of luck!
His brain is the size of a cherry pit! About the size of this ad:
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