Departure - Site Selection, Stewardship and Taking Possession

October 31, 2014  •  3 Comments

I haven't written in a while because I have been very busy and focused on a new project.

I am starting a series of blog posts that are a bit more personal.  This has to do with accomplishing something that I have considered a dream, but often pushed it out of the list of possibilities because of the horror stories and discouraging tales from those who have gone before.  We have decided to build a house!  I plan on writing about how we got to this point and then about the process during the realization of this project.  I am hoping to keep these entries short.

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There a lot of reasons why we decided to do this and some back story that would probably not be too interesting to most readers.

My wife and I chose a site based on general location to the amenities of the area.  It is equal in distance to the mountains and town.  The purchase of the land was contingent on feasibility for building a single family home.  We had three weeks to determine if the well (that was already drilled and without a pump) would be productive and provide potable water, if the ground would perk (have enough drainage characteristics) to support a septic system and to have a geologist determine if building site would be stable enough to build a home.  Everything worked out to support a single family home at the building site.  We also learned during the process that the acreage that we wished to purchase was Designated Forest Land.  Initially we had no idea what this meant.  We learned that there is a significant tax incentive offered to private land owners to manage their land in accordance with a timber management plan devised by a forest management consultant.  The transfer of the classification of Designated Forest Land needs the approval of the county assessor's office.  There was already a timber management plan put together by a previous owner in the mid 1990's, but we were required to submit an updated plan to the county assessor's office.  So I had to hire a consultant to examine the old plan and provide the updated plan.  The photo above shows the relatively flat area at the top of the hill.  The black creature in the photo above is my dog, not a bear or anything.  However, I did hear from the forest consultant and others that there are elk, deer, bear, cougar, coyote, and wolves in the area.

So not only are we embarking on this house building adventure, but we will also be managing the forested area on the property.  I would be a steward of the forest!  I met with the consultant and learned a lot about the parcel of land.  I learned about some invasive noxious weeds that had taken hold along the .6 mile long driveway and some other recently bulldozed areas near a neighbor's fence.  

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I had observed some sign of elk on the top of the property and the consultant believed it was a calving area.  He did not think our presence would interfere with the elk activities as they seem to adapt to human presence as long as they do not feel threatened.  I recall seeing herds of elk in the park in downtown Jasper when I traveled there a number of years ago.  There is still a bit of tree thinning to do and I will be able to selectively log these trees to provide some wood for supplemental heat, and leave the slash piles and some of the thinned trees on the ground for animal habitat and to reintroduce nutrients to the soil.  This will help the healthiest of trees to flourish with more room to grow and minimize the chances of damaging insect infestation and fire danger.  I have taken to reading research papers and larger forest plans for restoration being implemented by the US Forest Service.

We are allowed one acre to build on according to the rules of the Designated Forest Land allowance.  I am happy that this area will not be subject to subdivision or other development.  It is my goal to build with the least amount of impact possible, which means hiring a builder who is familiar with low impact building principles such as avoiding building at the crest of the hill and hopefully using some salvaged or repurposed materials so long as the quality of the materials support a building that will not require a re-do, repair or diminish the longevity of the finished building.  That would be the most wasteful of all.  I will also be looking for the most energy efficient products, appliances and building techniques.   

A unique feature of this parcel is the sandstone pillars at the top of the property.  They are visible in the panoramic photograph above and in detail in the photo below.

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There will be no building between now and snow melt in the spring.  After the recording of the sale I set about putting up a gate at the start of the driveway and posting the property with "No Hunting, No Trespassing" signs.  I stopped by the property to plan my projects.  There were several gates in the lower pasture next to the driveway entrance that were left behind by the previous owner.  I determined that I needed to go to the hardware store to get some hinges, signs and nails.  Upon returning from the hardware store I started the installation of the gate.  While I was digging a hole for one of the posts, the neighbor from across the street came over and introduced himself.  He said he used to keep an eye on the property for the previous owner and commented that there was a noticeable increase of traffic up the driveway since it had been put on the market.  He added that he was glad to see the gate and signs going up.  We exchanged phone numbers and he left me to my digging.  I broke for lunch and then continued with my work until the gate was up.  I fashioned a cable with two loops on each end by crimping a sleeve to secure the ends and locked the gate.  Just as I completed this, a small white car containing two teenaged boys and a teenaged girl driver, came down the driveway from the top of the property.  I had not seen them go up, but there was a very primitive and overgrown road leading to the property from the other side of the hill.  I did not think their car would be capable of driving on that road.  I approached the kids and asked what they were doing.  The boy in the front passenger seat said they had been taking pictures.  I asked them how they got in.  They said they drove up the driveway.  I determined they entered the property while I was at the hardware store and had been up there the whole time I was putting the gate up.  The girl asked, "Is this private property?"  I said that it was, and asked how they knew about it.  The girl said she knew about it because it was up for sale (which would be an indicator that it was private property).  I told them that it has been sold and was now posted and gated.  I unlocked the gate, admonished them not to return and sent them on their way.  I went back up to the top and found numerous footprints in the damp soil, and fresh tire tracks from their vehicle and a larger pickup truck or SUV.  It appears I completed a priority project.  The next project will be controlling erosion at the trail (where the footprints were found) at the top of the property. untitled shoot-1320untitled shoot-1320


Andy K(non-registered)
You need a drone with an HD camera on it so that you can take airborne photos of the progress. It would allow you to view hard-to-reach areas, too. (Is that enough justification to get a new toy?)
Congratulations on the launch!(non-registered)
Thanks for sharing the process. Great idea taking us along on the journey with you. Excited to see it in person, love Bailey
Linda nix(non-registered)
I hope your blogs are long and involved! I can't wait to watch this project grow!!! So excited for you both
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