Here's answers to the questions ......
<<<Where did you live while you built the house?>>>
In a shed with a light bulb, a water pump, and a tiny solar system that could run either the lightbulb at night or the water pump the next morning. We often choose the water pump. It was raw plywood and exposed unpainted 2x4s with an uninsulated metal roof. A couple windows with no screens. A propane cookstove against the wall and a propane refrigerator. They provided the heat on chilly nights and damp days.
<<<Is your current community the same as the old one?>>>
We moved from New Jersey to Hawaii. We didn't know a soul in Hawaii. We moved "cold turkey" and have never regretted it.
<<<Did you just jump into the local relationships or dip a toe in first?>>>
We had been coming to Hawaii for several years, for short 3-5 day visits. Hawaii was one of the many places we visited in relation to hubby's employment. It wasn't until 2001 that we started looking for a place to move, and Hawaii was one of the locations that we checked into. So I suppose you could say that we had been dipping our toes for years, but it was never with the intention of moving there. But when we made the move, we knew no one except the two real estate brokers that showed us some properties. Once we were here, I got involved selling coffee at the local farmers market in order to make a few bucks, then met a lot of nice local folks because of this. I'd introduce myself as "Hi, I'm the new people that bought a piece of the old Lorenzo place across from the ranch."
<<<Did you buy land and observe it for a year?>>>
We bought undeveloped land that had been previously used for pasturing cattle. Sometime in the past there had been a house in the land, though the only indication now is an old cesspool cover. An a previous owner had bulldozed an area with the intent of building a barn, though that never came about. Did we observe it for a year? Heck no!!! We jumped right into building our house and weedwacking down the massive grass overgrowth.
Over the years the farm developed. The land pretty much dictated where things would go. Only the front few acres along the road get sunshine, so most garden beds would have to be in that location without doing massive destructive (and expensive) bulldozing. The back 14 acres were only suitable for pasture without doing massive tree removal and bulldozing. So pasture is what they became. There were significant holes/gulleys beside the driveway (large enough to fit a large pickup truck and swallow it up) so they became hugelpits for growing bananas.
Because we wanted electricity and balked at paying $30,000 to bring grid electric to the property, we quickly figured out where the sun tracked and how many hours of sunlight we typically got. We then installed a $20,000 solar system. We observed for about a month while we waited for the system parts to be delivered, then extrapolated the sun angles for the rest of the year.
Rather than observe for a year, we tapped into the knowledge of our neighbors and other long time residents. They gave us valuable information about seasonal temperatures, rain patterns, wind cycles and history, climate cycles, ground water, local vegetation, etc. Most of these people had been living here for 20 years or more, so had observed a lot over that time. They taught us about the importance of elevation, plus the fact that soil type, rain amount, and wind effects can change every mile.