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Footpath vs Driveway

 
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We're about to make an offer on 13acre lot (in the Blue Hill Peninsula area of Maine) with rather interesting topography. The land has what they call swales around there -- not on contour berms like the permaculture community talks about, but basically a series of little ravines from seasonal snowmelt or perennial streams/springs breaking up the land into little peninsulas of usability.

There is an upper portion of the land, mabye 125-150 feet wide, and about 100ft elevation, up against a primary road with easy access, and the rest of the land drops down to a lower plateau (about 50ft). The grade to get down to the lower area is about 25% for 75 feet of it, and 12% for another 75feet before it gets down to a pretty mild 2-8% for the lower plateau as a whole.

We're on a cash-only system and doing this bit by bit, but I'd really like to site the 400sqft house where the little white rectangle is in the picture (way better solar exposure than siting up by the road and very little clearing to do). The upper portion has the western-exposure a bit more blocked from an increasing grade across the street, and, mainly huge oak trees (the land is mostly oak in the flat areas -- it was logged in 2011 and they left some beautiful, very tall, straight oaks behind as I'm guessing they only took softwood, of course, I'm worried they are top heavy from having been previously part of a more established taller growth forest). I'd rather not have to take down many of the oaks for solar exposure, and I'm trying to do most everything by myself (or with my wife's help), by hand, and felling huge oak trees is not at my current skill/comfort level.

I have attached an image of the land from google earth. The green areas are very usable mostly-flat, dry land. The spring is one I located while visiting but it needs to be developed (and hopefully not lost). The blue line is the most reasonable road access, roughly corresponding to the logging access road ruts on the property from the logging in 2011. If we were to do a driveway it would only go down to the housesite, of course, which is about 400ft from where the existing access driveway from the main road (gravel, steep 18% grade, about 30-50ft)

So, enough preamble: while I'd love some general ideas on how best to use the land (no animals, but interested in garden, fruit trees and cultivating some already existing ecosystems (tons and tons of raspberry currently in all open spaces)), this post is about driveways.

Personally, I'm not fond of driveways. They seem to kill usable land and add very little value in terms of access 98% of the time. 2% of the time it can save a lot of labor to be able to drive up to the homesite. Where we currently live in Vermont we are on the back of a farm up a long rolling hill, about 1000feet from the road. The owner of the farm is rather neglectful of our road access and in the mud season and half of the winter we can't get up to where we are located, and simply walk. In snow, it's a pleasure, as groceries work great on a cheap sled. In the middle of a big downpour in mud season, it's not quite as fun to get groceries home. I've also moved a gas stove on a hand-truck up the hill in mild rain okay when our van couldn't make it. I am not fond of employment, but am happy to do hard work generally and have plenty of time to do so.

One of our heros is Bill Coperthwaite, who lived happily 2 miles in on a footpath, with no vehicle access (though he had boat access, having been to his house site his house was still about 1000feet from the nearest place he could have pulled in with a boat I think, and he didn't use motor boats besides).

In our case, we'd only be living 400feet in (half as far as we currently have to hike up i bad eather).

So, my instinct says, screw the driveway. The cost I'm guessing will be near to $10k due to the slope, plus it will require hiring someone as part of that cost, since I've no experience with heavy machinery and am not about to get that experience on a 25% grade. It will also eat up and uglify some of the land, brings in offsite materials,  and most of all will require long term maintenance and plowing if it's really intended to be used (which means buying a truck and plow or paying someone).

I'm having some doubt, though, and am trying to hear some reasons to have the driveway. The only compelling reason I've heard is emergency access, but I know that a well-maintained, well-labeled footpath of 400ft is less of a barrier to an emergency event then a rutted out half mile rural road in inclement weather at other properties I've seen. I once put a chisel into my knee while living at a cottage up a short hill (maybe 100feet) and they had no problem at all parking at the street and getting a gernie up there. I can see a firetruck would be a problem, perhaps? And I'm curious with the grade whether the ambulance would prefer to park higher up either way.

As for anything OTHER than emergencies, it seems the only really annoying part will be during the building process, but I'm building small and light, and even if I wanted to bring some substantial amount of material (like fill, or gravel) back there, and I didn't want to use a million wheel barrow loads I could probably either just manage to get back there with our subaru and a trailer if I timed the weather just right, or I could use a the money I saved to buy some kind of tractor or offroad vehicle and turn around and sell it when I'm done with the construction process.

As for legalities, I can't seem to find any general state or federal rules around needing a driveway to within X-feet of front door, and my specific town I'm buying in has no code and no zoning. They have a planning board meeting where you have to run your building plan by them (just a site plan with location and size of house). I will be asking the town about whether they would have an issue with a 400ft walkway, but pending they don't (or pending they do and I just say okay I have a driveway, you just drive here but if you don't have a raised 4wd pick up you wont make it), can anyone convince me that I'm being silly or cheap or dangerous by walking 400ft to my house?

Thanks for any input, in advance!

BY THE WAY, the attached image is looking SOUTH, not NORTH!
Screenshot-from-2018-06-12-10-48-29.png
[Thumbnail for Screenshot-from-2018-06-12-10-48-29.png]
green parts are highly usable areas of mostly-flat, dry land
 
steward
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Howdy Hanee, welcome to permies!

First a couple of questions.  Is there a second road , shown at the bottom of the picture, that you could use as an access road?

What other plans do you have for the property? Will you be trying to capture runoff from rain and snowmelt in any of the gullies?

I think you mentioned that you might be able to buy a piece of equipment , use it , and then re sell it ?

May I tell you what I would think about doing if I owned this property?

A road or driveway can serve several functions. When I look at the picture I wonder if you might be able to cut in a driveway from a point somewhere at the bottom right of your picture, if there is a road there, and move across the property towards the top left, approximately on contour, across the gully's to the home site. The driveway can also act as a swale or Keyline, to capture and direct runoff water into the gullies. If you can also create a "dam" across the gully by running the road across said dam, then you can create a nice pond at the same time. So a driveway becomes a major part of your permaculture plan.
 
Elron Larch
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Hi Miles, thanks for your reply.

Is there a second road , shown at the bottom of the picture, that you could use as an access road?



I have attached another picture. The other road I can't access both because my lot doesn't touch it and because it would be nearly impossible. The other lot is actually for sale and would be quite cheap (same realtor as the land I'm likely buying has it for $18.5k and said "please just low ball me and give me any offer I will never sell that land"). But between the two lots is a stream most of the way, and then that lot is almost all crazy topography, thickly wooded and both steep and cut through with swales.

What other plans do you have for the property? Will you be trying to capture runoff from rain and snowmelt in any of the gullies?



Right now the focus is on the initial house, water supply, waste situation. In maine we can legally do a 25gpd design leachfield and no septic (with composting toilet) as long as we hand-carry or hand-pump water (which is what we're doing here in VT, but here it is not legal and we just dump our kitchen waste water onto our compost pile). The burden of being legal there is pretty low so that is what we are trying to do, all on the up and up. We will be doing solar, but rather small amount (maybe 2 100watt panels). We currently use about 0.5kwh per day on average (almost all of that is our fridge). We can run the fridge easily in the hot season since there will be plenty of excess power during those times, in the winter it will use less if I design it so that it is in an uninsulated alcove off of the house. But overall I would like to do a cold storage, particularly a spring house sounds about perfect if the source is good enough. With cold storage taken care off I could almost ditch the electric altogether (could use and charge laptop at library, we don't do internet at home besides, fine with candle or lantern and early bed), but it's easy enough to have a very minimal system.

With water, I am hoping to develop the spring I located (which is not high flow probably, but our needs are pretty small) or do a shallow-dug well or pond. For our household water use of 25gpd (we currently use about 8gpd where we are, but we take showers once every couple weeks at a friends house), calculations I ran said I'd need about 600sqft of roofing and a 500 or 1000gallon tank to do the rainwater catchment, but I have some concerns about needing a tank in that case and to bury it rather deep due to frost -- also it's been unclear how to take advantage of winter precipitation. Overall, maine has plenty of water, so the idea of capturing water in a big degree that seems to be a big part of a lot of permaculture thinking is a bit less of a priority for me -- it may be that I am instead trying to increase drainage, I will wait and see what the land needs. I'm fairly comitted to hand-working the land and would like to hand dig any shallow well, etc, but it is tempting to contemplate earthworks.

Long term we'd like to do an alternative building, but short term this is an economic proposal: we're spending our savings completely on this risk, moving away from a well-paying job (in my wife's case) and hoping to reduce our overhead to bare minimum. To do that we need to get a bare minimum of building/water/waste/access/electric on a very tight budget (we have $50k to work with total, land we're hoping to get at $30-35k). That means time-wise I'm a bit forced into doing stick-frame construction. I don't have the cordwood supplies quite on site and they would need a year or two to cure, plus it's heavy building, heavy foundation. Same with strawbale. I probably would go with strawbale but we have a high water table most likely, and I have some concerns around doing any heavy building. I'd rather a light building and 2x6's fit that bill.

As for growing: we are both lifelong vegans (for strictly ethical reasons, not ecological or political ones, so no need for arguments here about how smart it is to do critters) and are keen on growing as much of our own food (including grains and beans -- we are big fans of Will Bonsall), but know the land will be limited in that respect. I will do what I can bit by bit each year, but very interested in doing it in a permaculture way, focusing on perennials and establishing ecosystems that re-produce themselves. My bent is towards the Fukuora type approach of minimal intervention and I would like to also integrate as many wild-harvested foods as possible. Rather excited that I can harvest my own sea salt as well.

I think you mentioned that you might be able to buy a piece of equipment , use it , and then re sell it ?



That's the best option I can come up with. It would still probably require borrowing in some form (either from family or financing), which I'm rather averse to. But, even if I bought a small excavator/tractor, I'm a bit of a safety freak and not very comfortable with the idea of using it on slopes. I also am, how do I put this, existentially-averse, to relying on technology to speed up what can be done by hand. Being a crew of 1-2, though, I am fine making compromises especially when there are good economic incentives, etc. I'd really, really, rather prefer though to do things by hand, even if it meant spending digging a pond for an hour each day for two years. I've no aversion to the work, I just may not always have the time for it or the physical strength for it.

May I tell you what I would think about doing if I owned this property?



Certainly! The more ideas the better!

A road or driveway can serve several functions. When I look at the picture I wonder if you might be able to cut in a driveway from a point somewhere at the bottom right of your picture, if there is a road there, and move across the property towards the top left, approximately on contour, across the gully's to the home site. The driveway can also act as a swale or Keyline, to capture and direct runoff water into the gullies. If you can also create a "dam" across the gully by running the road across said dam, then you can create a nice pond at the same time. So a driveway becomes a major part of your permaculture plan.



I like the idea of combining functions and it makes the driveway a lot less of a needless aggression on the land, but I'm concerned that the cost of damming a gully could be quite large. If I bought that other parcel or otherwise went on contour it would mean a much longer driveway -- not sure the cost tradeoff on that. Also I'm a bit concerned about washing-out since these gullies are formed, after all, by ages and ages of runoff following the same patterns. Not a big fan of fighting nature (and if there's one thing that always irks me a little about mainstream permaculture it's this idea of heavy earthwork to make the land into something else) -- if it's done just perfectly, I get it, but as we know many times human intentions don't work out as expected. The gully-pond might increase erosion on its sides depending on soil structure. It might run out underneath the driveway or take out the driveway in a large storm. If I were to try something like that, I think I would have to do it experimentally, as a thing in itself, start with damming a small amount of water and increase it year by year watching carefully for its effects. The driveway, though, if it were to be useful, would have to be there from day one, and I wouldn't want to do something so experimental as the basis for my primary access, particularly if a foot-path on a comfortable (by foot) 25% grade for 75ft would suffice.

(NOTE: the attached images are both oriented north-up, as one would expect. These give an overhead view.)
 
pollinator
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Your land has some "texture". Gradients can cause erosion problems and large costs for roadways if not thought out carefully. For example, a road way that is cut into a hillside becomes a channel for water, concentrating it. If, on the other hand, your drive way were to follow the crest of the ridge line it will shed water in all directions, and will not become damaged by surface flows. Such a road is likely to be less expensive to construct, and require less maintenance - even if it takes a slightly more circuitous route.
 
steward
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Hanee Birch wrote:The other lot is actually for sale and would be quite cheap (same realtor as the land I'm likely buying has it for $18.5k and said "please just low ball me and give me any offer I will never sell that land").


Those sound like lovely words to hear from a realtor.  Offer $1,500 and see what happens.  Why won't they be able to sell it?  If you can ever get adjoining land cheap, it's usually worth it in the long haul.  How many people have I heard over the years say "I wish I bought that 40 next door for $3,000 when I had the chance".

Regarding the driveway, how bad is the rutted logging path?  If you got a few dump truck loads of road base and spent three days with a wheelbarrow, could you fill in the ruts enough to get a normal truck through?  Then it would be a walking path in bad weather and a driveway in good weather.  You could just walk it in the winter (no need for a plow truck) and drive it in the summer.
 
gardener
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If you can find a way to get multiple functions out of a road, then it might make it more attractive to you.  Roads make a nice surface to catch water and move it toward a swale or pond.  They can serve as a kind of terrace.  The certainly make it easier to move livestock, particularly in the winter when you want to do so using an ATV or some other vehicle.  

Its a pretty big piece of land.  Will you at least want to use an ATV or small tractor?  If so, a "road" may be nothing more than the two tracks made by the continual use of an ATV over the same route.  It would seem that such a "road" is more than a footpath, but certainly less than a long, wide, crowned, paved roadway.

One other variable to consider: time.  What I can do now (in my mid 50's) is considerably less than I could do when I was in my roaring 30's, strong and full of vigor.  Recently, as I've tackled projects and considered modifications to our home and property, I always consider, "How will I be able to manage this 10 years from now?"  I don't know how old you are, but I do know that tomorrow you'll be a day older than you are today.  And 30 years from now, you may be wishing you'd have bit the bullet and put in a roadway to help facilitate the movement of stuff around your property.  I suppose that you can always build something then, but if it will make your life considerably easier now, then perhaps you'll want to think about it today.

Best of luck with your big project.  How exciting.
 
Elron Larch
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Mike Jay wrote:

Hanee Birch wrote:The other lot is actually for sale and would be quite cheap (same realtor as the land I'm likely buying has it for $18.5k and said "please just low ball me and give me any offer I will never sell that land").


Those sound like lovely words to hear from a realtor.  Offer $1,500 and see what happens.  Is that the two or so acres to the East of your property?  Why won't they be able to sell it?  Just looking at it from the internet it looks lovely.  If you can ever get ajoining land cheap, it's usually worth it in the long haul.  How many people have I heard over the years say "I wish I bought that 40 next door for $3,000 when I had the chance".



We're cash only and trying to live with as little income as possible. Every penny counts. The main reason I would buy the land is to prevent neighbors, but, if the land is unsellable, the neighbors are already prevented.

That 2 acre lot is not it (that's the one across the street with a clearing) -- that one is a nice little lot, but is so small in terms of usable land that you run into serious problems with siting due to all the setbacks (well, leachfield, house). Quite tight.

The lot bordering to the north between this lot (13 acres) and the one above is 5 acres, long and skinnny, the road on the north of it and a stream on the south of it. It would be almost completely unusable due to not only topography, but also it's got a creek cutting through it between it and our intended property, which means you've got shoreline zoning in effect for 75feet into the property as well (not much clearing allowed and no building). It's been on the market since 2011. I'm pretty confident it is going to remain that way for a good long while. I could ask for some sort of first-right-of-refusal from the owner, but investing in not very usable land as just a neighbor-insulator is a slipper slope -- I could do it on my other border too which has two lots that haven't been touched ever and are owned by out-of-staters. Both have cove frontage. But buying them (I'm sure a cold letter on TONS of lots in these areas would result in a sale -- it's really hard to sell raw land in these areas, takes years often) would just increase my tax burden (especially since it's water front), and I've not got the man-power to make them reward me in any way other than buffer or as an even larger playground.

Regarding the driveway, how bad is the rutted logging path?  If you got a few dump truck loads of road base and spent three days with a wheelbarrow, could you fill in the ruts enough to get a normal truck through?  Then it would be a walking path in bad weather and a driveway in good weather.  You could just walk it in the winter (no need for a plow truck) and drive it in the summer.



My kind of thinking. I do think this could work. Once the logging slash is removed I think just filling in the ruts would probably do for a couple years with light use -- could still be a lot of material, though? Eventually I'd have to fill in between to crown it and do spot repairs in those first few years. The ruts are compacted, maybe up to 12" below grade in some wet parts. Reusing it is what my primary plan would be if I did go for a road. Only time would tell what kind of soil conditions I would have in spring and whether the land would just swallow up the gravel quickly without being scraped down. But not much to lose.

I also much prefer iterative approaches instead of "design-upfront" approaches. Having been a design-heavy person in the past, I think that approach just as often bites you back for hubris. An incremental driveway with localized learning about EXACTLY where the problems and limitations are and small test-fixes, is much more my style.

Another complaint is the issue of scale-of-use relative to scale-of-construction: even if I did have a nicely done $10k driveway put in, with three sizes of gravel, and culverts, and scraping down to hardpan, and all that jazz, I'd end up parking at the top just for the nice walk 90% of the time. My use case is a lightweight, AWD vehicle on good-weather days and special occasions. It is only firetrucks/ambulances and potential material delivery that make it compelling to do anything other than the absolute bare minimum of "can just barely get down it in my subaru, turn around, and head back up, when I need to bring in a trailer load of something".

I guess a more specific question is: does anyone see any GENUINE SAFETY CONCERNS with a 400ft footpath and/or crappy-road as the only access to your house? I still just keep remembering that the one time I needed an ambulance they had a 4wd electric gernie they could go right up the hill with, and otherwise they could have easily used a stretcher and two guys pretty easy. Not to mention, if I hurt myself, I'd be just as likely to do it 400 feet from my house in the woods cutting down some tree as I would conveniently at the house at the end of a nice driveway.
 
Elron Larch
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Marco Banks wrote:If you can find a way to get multiple functions out of a road, then it might make it more attractive to you.  Roads make a nice surface to catch water and move it toward a swale or pond.  They can serve as a kind of terrace.  The certainly make it easier to move livestock, particularly in the winter when you want to do so using an ATV or some other vehicle.  

Its a pretty big piece of land.  Will you at least want to use an ATV or small tractor?  If so, a "road" may be nothing more than the two tracks made by the continual use of an ATV over the same route.  It would seem that such a "road" is more than a footpath, but certainly less than a long, wide, crowned, paved roadway.

One other variable to consider: time.  What I can do now (in my mid 50's) is considerably less than I could do when I was in my roaring 30's, strong and full of vigor.  Recently, as I've tackled projects and considered modifications to our home and property, I always consider, "How will I be able to manage this 10 years from now?"  I don't know how old you are, but I do know that tomorrow you'll be a day older than you are today.  And 30 years from now, you may be wishing you'd have bit the bullet and put in a roadway to help facilitate the movement of stuff around your property.  I suppose that you can always build something then, but if it will make your life considerably easier now, then perhaps you'll want to think about it today.

Best of luck with your big project.  How exciting.



Thanks!

I'm 38. Not a big or strong guy, but stubborn. The land is big, but much of it is unusable. I'm not doing any animal agriculture, otherwise that would certainly be a good use of complex topography. The two green areas selected total only about 3.5 acres. Tractor couldn't pass through most areas because of the steep ravines. ATV or 2-wheel tractor is more realistic -- but I just can't much think of what I'd use them for. I'm planning on growing beans, grains and vegetables, plus orchard. Otherwise firewood is great, but my usage their is quite small (maybe 1-1.5 cords a year should do us, even if we scale up to 400sqft -- we spent last winter in 145sqft ).

I do think, ten years down the line, maybe a driveway and further development would merit equipment and land work. We're cash only and moving on a tight budget with no major employment lined up. Phase 1 is really just about getting to initial stable, minimal economic footing with as little outgo as possible. Phase 2 is maximizing food production and growing a few market items (the ravines and inaccessible areas would do great for mushrooms, for example, and most the difficult to access slopes and bluffs could support additional orchard).

Everything else comes after that and hopefully we'd have saved up money again in the future and made good local connections to affordable labor/materials enough to consider more conveniences or efficiencies (road, plumbing, landwork) as we got older, though I'm hoping to get more stubborn and minimalist as I get older. I figure, I might be more incapable as I age, but if trends continue as they have in my life so far, I'll also be a bit more monkish and have an even easier time just going without.
 
Elron Larch
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I think the only genuine safety issue I can see is fire--which is mostly a money issue, as 400sqft house and a good detector makes any personal harm pretty unrealistic.

It looks like standard fire hoses are quite short (50-100ft). Not quite sure how that even gets anything done when you have such huge houses these days, but they do have incredible PSI so maybe they can shoot it quite far. I'd imagine in a rural area where there are people burning blueberry fields that have no easy access they would have some kind of mitigation approach that would work with poor access.

A pond and a pump would be a better solution to a fire than a driveway, my bet, as my 400ft shanty would probably burn down before a truck could even show up.
 
Elron Larch
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Hrm, maybe that was bad data (wikipedia soruce). Another source cites an national standard of 800ft of 2.5" hose on any fire protection vehicle.
 
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I like the house location.  Gravity feed from the spring and off the road good.  If you put a little parking area on the flat spot on top, you've cut your walk to about 300 feet.  Nothing wrong with that.  As for the legalities just call the old logging ruts your driveway.  if you absolutely need a driveway to the door you can spend that money later.  You are in Maine--if you need something heavy into the house, some one close probably has a team of horses or yoke of oxen to drag it in for you.
 
Elron Larch
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Bryan Elliott wrote:I like the house location.  Gravity feed from the spring and off the road good.  If you put a little parking area on the flat spot on top, you've cut your walk to about 300 feet.  Nothing wrong with that.  As for the legalities just call the old logging ruts your driveway.  if you absolutely need a driveway to the door you can spend that money later.  You are in Maine--if you need something heavy into the house, some one close probably has a team of horses or yoke of oxen to drag it in for you.



No draft horses nearby that I saw, but I did notice that the closest neighbor across the street (who is a woodworker that does yacht interiors, according to my google-ing) has one of those kubota 4wd compact tractors with backhoe/loader. Pretty much the exact model I would buy if I was on flatland, hand plenty of funds, and had larger usable acreage.

Yeah, I'm thinking if there's a legal issue I can simply have a crappy driveway for cheap until I save up if it proves truly necessary.
 
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I once built a house entirely from hand tools, just like they did 160 years ago.
I would never do it again.
Modern tools save weeks of work.
As for your issues with a driveway, part from cost, there are some points for consideration;
- A driveway to the house block will save enormous amounts of time carting materials
- comparing the lifestyle of others who walk i long distances into their home, or live near rivers with water access etc may not be wise.
- I can drive earth moving equipment, but sometimes a contractor is good value.

Having made up your mind about actually having a driveway to the house site, there are more considerations;
- gradients and flowing water can cause erosion
- an existing track covered with 40mm rock may be ok for some years before you put finer gravel and thus create a smoother driveway
- contractors who help with the house will love good access
-  cutting a new driveway on grade or a contoured driveway may cost more than renovating what you have.
- Some photos may assist us to comment

AS for building, if you work with earth blocks,[ adobe] you will not have a problem.
Where I am in Australia Bush fire is a potential problem and tricks such as berms, fire resistant planting and special design features on the house all work to minimise fire damage.
Also we store large amounts of rainwater in tanks to have as firefighting water.
Speaking of rainwater, we catch ours and use it as the water supply to the home and limited garden.Rainfall is 450mm at my home
 
master pollinator
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On this site I have made suggestions to people on building drives and roads, but equally I have proposed NOT to build roads and drives too, so I kind of take pride in looking at the entire situation and making recommendations from that.

In this situation, I do not have enough information, and I am not sure that the original poster does either. I think part of it is not observing the land for long enough time and making a recommendation based on what is observed. Granted I am an hour and a half away from Blue Hill, but I know the soil is very thin there and the general make up of our unique weather, and how Mainer's are in personality. We are a funny lot for sure.

Here everything is town based and not county, state or federally based so we operate on a local level. It gives us greater control, but also less funds to do things. Our fire departments are volunteers and operate on shoe-string budgets, so there are no four wheel drive gurneys in the back of ambulances, and hose-lays for fire trucks are not that long. Long hose lays to inaccessible houses means multiple fire departments must be called for those, or really any fires. Myself, I think that considering these men and women volunteer their time to help out their community, anything we can do to make their life easier is what we should do.

Whether to put in a driveway or not depends on a lot of factors, but the greatest factor has not been discussed; do you plan on having an off-farm job? If you do, you will want a driveway. If you are trying to build a home, even a modest one, and must hike heavy materials uphill or down, it will consume a lot of time. When you are working a full time job, that leaves 2 days per week, and some vacation days and holidays to get everything done. In Maine, where the outdoor building season is short, do you really want to spend a lot of those days being a pack mule? Sadly we do not have many Sherpa's here in Maine either. I farm full-time, and I constantly stay busy despite having 24/7/365 to do what I want, there still is not enough time in the day, but I never forgot what it was like when I worked off farm.

But here the weather gets nasty. Rain is bad enough, snow is worse, but where that is located along the coast, ice storms are prevalent. A driveway is expensive for sure, but a slip, trip, or fall that takes out a back or knee, is even worse. Even with health insurance deductibles for such an event will probably cost more than building the driveway, and if a person has no health insurance...it will cost ten times what a driveway would cost. Just the thought of shoveling several hundred feet or path with 2 feet of snow sounds like a miserable back to me. That much snow might only be once or twice a winter granted, but what about the other snow storms. Last year we got 122 inches of snow throughout the winter, where 6 inches or 24, it has to be shoveled. A driveway can be plowed out with truck, tractor, or atv.

As for getting a neighbor to use their tractor...when I teach my class on farming, I strongly warn against this. Most of the time a neighbor will be neighborly and help a neighbor out...at first. That neaghborliness gets really old, really fast when you have a tractor and your neighbors constantly want to use it. The barter and trade system works well here for sure, but that neighbor has yacht interiors to build too, so his off-woodworking time is valuable to him.

Most of the time, if the decision is difficult due to money being an issue; once the project is allocated for, a person never regrets spending the money on the project down the road.

I recognize that a driveway or road takes valuable land out of production, BUT on my farm where I have several heavy haul roads, the ability to move materials too and fro about the farm is invaluable. A person cannot utilize something fully if they cannot access it fully. It is like a computer, how can you fully use its cababilities if a person cannot access half its programs or files because they are password protected that cannot be remembered?
 
John C Daley
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I am one to never say something is not worth having a go at ,.. ….generally.
But maybe you need to think more about what your aims are overall.
Being vegan in snow country
relying on footpaths to build and manage your property

All on a budget.

Is it possible to delay the start of the project , buy the land, but work for a year or two to build up capital
IT would allow more time to evaluate the land, your needs and your wants.

Maybe you could then also get some equipment , say a bob cat [ skid steer] which may be an ideal tool for you, or a serviceable tractor that will help a lot.

maybe even visit Travis at his place and others around and open you eyes to ideas and difficulties.
Once you have ideas, and have identified difficulties you can work on solutions.

I get the drift the whole thing is new and maybe you need time to build some skills and a knowledge bank.
Its taken me 46 years to have an overnight success, its taken Travis ages and and I expect that is something you have not thought through.

I have spend 3 days sorting out a solar system I damaged, with no sun and equipment that is not compatible.

Cretae or join a group which can teach and help each other.
Travis's comment about borrowing is spot on, it wears thin.


 
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I plan on having just a foot path to my yurt in eastern TN.

I am well aware of the delay in emergency services that the foot path will present and I am willing to take that risk.

If you are willing to take the risk, I say, screw the driveway and yea to the footpath.



 
Miles Flansburg
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Mike Jay wrote:

Hanee Birch wrote:The other lot is actually for sale and would be quite cheap (same realtor as the land I'm likely buying has it for $18.5k and said "please just low ball me and give me any offer I will never sell that land").


Those sound like lovely words to hear from a realtor.  Offer $1,500 and see what happens.  Is that the two or so acres to the East of your property?  Why won't they be able to sell it?  Just looking at it from the internet it looks lovely.  If you can ever get ajoining land cheap, it's usually worth it in the long haul.  How many people have I heard over the years say "I wish I bought that 40 next door for $3,000 when I had the chance".

Hey Mike do you have a link to a realtor where these lots are for sale?

 
Mike Jay Haasl
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I don't but I bet Hanee does.  If you were into a little detective work you could use the picture he attached in his second post to figure it out.
 
Miles Flansburg
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Thanks, ya that is what I just did. Seems like a nice area. In another life I wouldn't mind being his neighbor!
 
Travis Johnson
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Building a driveway here might not actually be that bad.

I learned a technique that I use with all my roads called the "Burrow Pit" type of construction. Basically you ditch each side of the road and put the overburden where you want the road. In this manner you are building up  sub-base without having to haul in extra gravel. Because it is made out of native soil, gravel has to be placed over the top of it or it will get slimy when it rains or snow, but you only need a few inches of it. This does a lot of things, it really gets your roadbed up so that water drains off it, uses material what you already have, and reduces gravel costs. With a rented excavator, a 400 foot driveway could be put grubbed in, in a day. $300 probably!

But I would not be surprised if there was not gravel located in that area. A few clues are the stream, and pond. All areas in Maine had the glaciers sliding southwest, so the gravel deposits are always found on the northeast side of a hill. I would have to dig around some with LIDAR Maps and Web Soil Survey to find it, but I bet there is some gravel there. If that is the case, a four hundred foot driveway could be topped off from gravel on farm using just a farm tractor.

I build a Heavy Haul Road last year using just my 25 hp farm tractor. The Federal Engineer in charge of the project insisted that I use road fabric on the road because it had a 9% grade to it (the steepest allowed), and yet after seeing how I used burrow pit construction, she was amazed and said she had no idea I was going to do it that way, and that I did not need road fabric after all.


Close-Up-Dirt-Road.jpg
[Thumbnail for Close-Up-Dirt-Road.jpg]
 
John C Daley
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Great that the Engineer had an open mind to the idea, and went with it.
 
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