Monday, June 25, 2007

A Waiting Game

Straw Bale house update: As we're waiting for foundation drawings and a copy of title for submission to Islands Trust, Ive been cutting some of the blow-down trees on the lot. Last winter's storm has produced enough firewood for many years. We spent Saturday afternoon selectively cutting a few trees to enhance the view from the house site. This will be done slowly as we want to ensure maximum protection from any wind-blown rain. We will be well sheltered from the easterly wind which generally brings the bad weather. South-west is the least likely to produce any serious threat and fortunately that is the direction of the view. The first picture is the view as it is today. The second shot is the road into our lot. It's actually one of the nicer roads on the island. There is still one of the 10 acre original lots on the market. Rumour has it that the largest lot which is 40 acres, will go back on the market this week for an additional 100K. A nice flip if he can get it. The power lines still aren't complete and our driveway looks like a war zone. It may be a couple more weeks as there have been unforeseen problems at the other end of the line.

Last Wednesday was Tax Freedom Day.... the day which we begin working for ourselves after paying taxes for almost half of the year. BTW, the feds are sitting on a 29 BILLION dollar tax surplus.

Currently CRA are doing their usual jerking around. It urks me when they make up rules to suit whatever situation occurs... kind of a "make it up as we go along approach". Don't they realize that they do everything possible to promote an underground economy? It reminds me of a true story....Once a salesman was on a call on a snowy winter day. When he returned to his car, he found it snowed-in and unable to move. The salesman went to a near by hardware store and bought a $10 snow shovel. He dug himself out and continued on his way. At the end of the month the salesman submitted his monthly expenses to the company. Included in that month's expenses were business lunches, hotels, entertainment, auto expenses and the snow shovel.
When he received his expense reimbursement cheque, there was a note that explained the snow shovel expense had been disallowed.
The next month, the salesman included the snow shovel expense once again, but included a detailed explanation. He explained he had been on company business and that he would have lost time, sales calls and company profit had he not bought the $10 shovel. He offered to ship the shovel to head office as he had no further use for it. Once again his expense check came and the shovel had been disallowed.
The third month, the salesman submitted his expenses as usual, with a note attached that read..... "the shovel is in here, find it".

On Friday, three of us (firefighters) and a backhoe operator set up a "standpipe". Because the island has no central source of water for firefighting, water must be pumped from any and every source. A standpipe makes it much simpler for a pumper truck to simply pull off the road and fill up. The standpipe is made up of lengths of 4 inch PVC pipe with the last length being flexible. It is then attached to a rough filter and suspended just below the surface by attaching it to an auto tire. This setup takes advantage of a farmer's pond that is within reach from Northwest Road.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

A Tale of Two Islands

Friday, we took possession of our new 5 acre lot. We celebrated with Sue & Bill. Lawn chairs and cooler were arranged approximately where the deck will be and we enjoyed an afternoon sunning with appies and bubbly.

It was the Denman Island Home and Garden Tour this weekend. Although the weather didn't cooperate Saturday until early afternoon, we enjoyed visiting our old favorites, as well as some new additions to the tour. There are some hidden gems
down those dirt driveways! With emphasis on sustainable living practices, there were lots of unique ideas for our new property. The pictures are from various island gardens.

Sunday, we ventured down to Salt Spring Island
for their Home Eco-Tour. This tour was more about alternate building styles and we were able to see homes of rammed earth,
cob/cordwood, and even two bale homes.... one under construction, (which was of particular interest to me). There are many different views on bale construction and there is no proven method for construction in this climate. There is one main rule: Don't get it wet.... and yes, we live in a rain forest; therefore, it must have the best hat and shoes available.

While on Salt Spring, we ran into Valdy. See March 2007 Blog. I told him that I was going to call his agent to see if we can book him here on Denman, (he's never been here) .... Hmmm he said, I'm sure I'm booked there already (in October). You heard it here.... Valdy on Denman October '07.

Monday we can file our building proposal to the Island Trust. Although we don't need a building permit, Islands Trust must approve where the building(s) will be placed on the lot. It's not unheard of for islanders to be somewhat mistaken on property boundaries. Homes have been built, and wells drilled on adjoining properties in error. I'm not sure what Islands Trust do with the proposals other than file them for future reference (and collect a couple of hundred bucks to do so.)

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Hummer TV Cont.....

Hummer TV is still going strong with escalating action. The feeder is so busy now that we have to fill it twice a day (when the weather is cool). Perhaps there is more need for energy to keep warm. The fledglings now come to visit, when they are allowed by the dominant males. They don't have anywhere near the same flying ability as adults and so will often rest on the deck railing. They are totally oblivious to people, so it is now possible not only to stand close to the feeder, but to hold it and actually touch the young hummers. The parents are a little more shy, but once they see they are missing out on the goodies, they become much braver. I am trying to master holding the feeder in one hand while taking a "macro" picture with the other. These pictures were taken about ten inches away from the brave subjects. These are the youngsters.... I'm still trying to get a similar shot of an adult male that has much more impressive plumage. The pictures are in a larger format this week.

Straw Bale update: Work on the power lines continues this week. Some huge rocks showed up in the easement, so the large machinery was brought in to pulverize the sandstone bedrock. We may be able to excavate soon. Drawings are nearing completion, with structural, plumbing, and electrical details to be worked out. As there is no building code here, we don't have to apply for permits and fall prey to the cash grab. We do have to adhere to septic and electrical codes. A call to the regional district electrical inspector was reassuring; it seems they are familiar with straw bale construction and everyone should be clear on what is acceptable.

Friday evening we attended a talk and presentation on pesticide free gardening. We're getting a little ahead of ourselves I know, but the talk was very informative. Curt & Denise are visiting this week. Curt had his upper wisdom teeth extracted on Tuesday and is currently recouping from that ordeal. We switch shifts on Thursday as Sue & Bill arrive for Home and Garden Tour Weekend. Saturday, we'll take in the Denman Island H&G Tour, then on Saturday, we'll do the same on Saltspring Island. We're especially looking forward to seeing the bale house on the tour there. The weekend should provide many photo opportunities.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Life in the Trenches

For the most part, it has been T-shirt weather, which means the weeds need to be cut twice a week. I can't say we have a lawn, but the front and back yards are a combo of wild grass, weeds and wild flowers. July, being our driest month of the year slows the growth of the "lawn" and, of course, we cannot water it.

After not seeing the elusive Alligator Lizard in three years, I've seen two this year... unfortunately, the second was at the working end the the gas powered weed-whacker. The snakes are very good at getting out of the way, but it seems the lizard, (although extremely fast) prefers to hide out in the tall grass and hope for the best.

We finally take possession of the property on the 15th. The delays have been due to lack of power. The power trench has now been dug and the conduit installed for our underground power lines. The underground part may turn out to be a huge asset given last years winter storms. The picture to the right shows the trench running from one end of the property to the other...about 345 feet at this point, (the narrowest). Sienna is about where the front deck will end up. The picture on the left is the driveway, which will see improvement only after all the cement trucks etc., have done their worst. Sometime this week, there should be a power trench dug along the left side of the driveway to take the power to the last building site on the line. Our nearest neighbours are 10, 12 and 40 acres. We're by far the smallest at just over 5 acres.
There's a steep learning curve when it comes to building straw bale homes. I'm in the process of absorbing all the information I can get my hands on. Our floor plan should lend itself well to straw bale. The construction will be a hybrid of new and old construction methods. Materials will range from insulated concrete forms to mud and lime plaster. It may be possible to have a foundation in, post & beam in place, and a roof on before the rains come. This will provide a skeleton framework and dry storage for straw and tools etc. Further to our "enviro" undertakings, we are looking at a septic system that utilizes a secondary treatment plant and a "wetlands" rather than a traditional septic leach field. The treated fluid in this case is virtually pure. As we're at the top of the hill this will be appreciated by well users below.

Tyler stayed for the weekend for some R&R. We were going to walk on the north-east beach on Saturday, but the logging road to reach it, has now been gated by the Northlands Owners. (A very petty move, in my opinion, to take away beach accesses in hopes of gaining support?) Anyway, there are plenty of beach walks, so we switched to plan "B". Curt and Denise come for a return visit next week, followed up by Sue and Bill on the weekend, to take in the world famous, Denman Island Annual Country Home & Garden Tour. If you have never been to the DIACHGT, I highly recommend it.
Friday Night at the Backhall featured Bob Wiseman. It's hard to describe Bob... a, songwriter, movie making, accordion, guitar, keyboard playing kinda guy. He alternated short movie clips and sung story songs.... although hard to describe, it was entertaining.

Oh ya, Happy Birthday Curt!!!