Construction Has Begun

Since financing was finalized it’s been a slow but steady slog. In order to start construction you need a building permit approval. In order to have a building permit approval you need a functional well. For a well you need a site plan. We already had our site plan with well and septic design completed in the spring which had been approved by the Board of Health. It’s an intricate series of dependencies.

Watching the well drilling is pretty neat. They use a series of metal rods to drill very far into the ground. In my area it is typical for wells to reach 400-600 feet. Unfortunately for us, we had to drill quite far. We even had to hydrofrack which is related to the terrible-water-that-lights-on-fire gas hydrofracking but is done at a much shallower depth with clean water.

 

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The rods get joined to the vertical pipe to extend the drill downward

After the hydrofrack they had to pump out excess and dirty water for a couple days until it runs clear. Then they tested it. So far it looks like we will have to fix the aluminum and iron levels of the water but nothing else.

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Ewww. Dirty water from hydrofracking.

Once that was complete, the only thing stopping our building permit was our road. Yes, that road (See Parts 1, 2, 3, and 4). Getting the road ready to pave was a scramble but it all worked out. A local paving company gave us a great quote (about $16,000 to grade and pave about 11,000 square feet of binder course) and worked with us to get it ready for the paving. Amazing that after two years of weekend work on this road only 3 hours were needed to pave it.

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Graded and rolled

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Crew getting started and the engineer double checking

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SO PRETTY

With the road and well complete we finally had everything needed to receive a building permit. The town had no problems and gave us our stamp of approval in mid October. Our builders were excited to get started and are confident they can manage the winter weather. The first step was to remove the top soil in the construction area and pile it up for future use. The next step is to create the (very tall) driveway so that it can serve as access for the project. One of the difficulties of building on a sloped lot with a walk-out basement is managing the driveway/garage. We didn’t want our garage facing the street because of the design of the house as well as concerns about rainwater flowing from the road into the garage. This meant we have a side facing garage. With a sloped lot, this places the driveway further “downslope” which means building it up a lot in order to avoid a slanted driveway. Making a relatively level driveway means a big drop-off on the other side. We are hoping to make it look nice by terracing or creating a natural appearing change in elevation.

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Black box is below grade, black line is driveway

I expect progress will be much faster over the next year than the previous two! I hope to provide an update after every major step in construction. Thanks for reading!

Battling the Brush

Now that I’ve discussed some of the major hurdles with the land (buying it, planning board meetings, road construction, architects), I wanted to talk about the land itself. This post will focus on the overgrowth that has run amok on the property. Prior to our purchase, the previous owners were not using it for much. There was some haying and at one point the field served as a horse pasture. There had been some lumber harvesting in the past and an attempt to grow Christmas trees I believe. Unfortunately much of the land had grown wild.

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Ferns on our “path”

Once summer arrived it became very difficult to traverse the so-called paths that skirted the perimeter of the woods. Going walking with a pair of loppers was a wise precaution. We could see massive poison ivy vines climbing the trees that were wider than a soda can. Grape vines, wild raspberry bushes, multiflora rose, and bittersweet had spread out through the forest along with other unnamed thorny plant-beasts.

We started to pick specific areas adjacent to our open field within which to spend our clearing time. One particular spot held an old stone wall. We have many stone walls along our properties. Some clearly mark out the boundaries of the property while others hold no current use. One of the nearby stone walls had been overtaken:

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Overgrown!

You might have some trouble seeing the stone wall in there. One of the satisfying parts of clearing brush is when you are able to clip them close to the ground and pull out entire bushes at a time. We haven’t decided how to keep them from growing back though, so we expect to have to battle it out for a few years until they give up. We are hesitant to use any pesticide and root-digging is quite an endeavor.

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Hello in there

We kept at it until we actually reached quite a respectable stage:

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Take that, weeds!

As awesome as it is to complete such projects it’s a bit daunting to realize that we need to replicate this process a hundred times to reach this kind of result all across our property. “Work of a lifetime,” is an oft repeated phrase.

Here is another similar clearing project. This one was particularly cool because we wanted access to the old hand dug well on the property. I used a shovel as a rough comparison device across photos:

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There’s a well in there

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Partway through

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Now you can see the rocks that cover the well

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Mostly cleared!

We measured the well depth by using a sea retrieval magnet on rope. We didn’t grab anything magnetic from the bottom of the well and presumably there’s not much down there. We estimated the depth to be 33 feet. The previous owner told us that it has never been dry that he recalls though it can get very low in August. It’s covered with a very heavy stone:

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Well entrance

Once you heave that rock away you can see a very cool hand dug well. We haven’t figured out an easy way to access the water. I considered a hand pump but the effort one would expend to draw up a barrel of water seemed impractical. We don’t have electricity so it would have to utilize a battery. Since none of us have a background in getting something like this functional we haven’t solved it yet. One day it would be great to use it for agriculture, especially on the further field.

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Water level in end of April

Our progress in clearing brush continues on. Sometimes one of us has a particular hankering to improve a specific area so we struggle against it for a couple afternoons. Usually I’m dreaming of how a backhoe could do it in 1/10th the time. But even with the countless thorns attacking us it’s a fun way to get to know the land.

-Clara