Monday, July 9, 2012

Building a Cabin for Free - Part 3

Wow! Has it really been this long since I posted? Well we've had an eventful few months - one of the biggest events has been me getting laid off in early May. Needless to say my focus has been on things other than building out little wilderness cabin. But today I finally took another little step toward making the cabin a reality.

I'm back to checking the "free" listings on Craigslist regularly and I found a lady looking to get rid of some scrap lumber. So me and two of my boys made the 20 mile trek to the country to pick up a collection of 2x4s, 2x6s, and 2x8s. Most of the wood is in pretty good shape. Any thing we can't use we'll just burn this fall/winter. We'll try to find more goodies this week.

So far we have a door and some windows and this load of lumber. But we still need alot more. Stay tuned!

Monday, April 2, 2012

How I spent my lunch break

I work in Liberty Lake, WA which is about two miles from the border of Idaho's panhandle. Once a week or so I like to take a little drive during my lunch break. Here's a few pics I took today:
Here's a small herd of bison...

Up the road about two miles from the bison a guy has a few elk....

Last but not least, a few horses.

I love the fact that about five minutes from work I can be driving a beautiful, winding road through the country.

We're planning to make it over to Montana this weekend so I can post some actual pics of our homestead site. See you then!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

A walk in the country...

I mentioned in my last blog that I was planning to head over to Coeur d 'Alene to pick up some free wood. Well, we had a slight change of plans and, hopefully, the free wood will still be available next Saturday.
But, this change of plans meant I had some time to go hiking with two of my sons, Noah (5) and Adam (3). We live in Spokane, WA and are within minutes of several nice hiking trails. So we hike quite a bit.
The weather was a bit chilly and breezy but a good time was had by all. There is nothing like a walk in the woods to help clear your head. In fact everytime I'm in the woods it reaffirms my desire to live full-time in the country.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Building a Cabin for Free - Part 2

My weekend plans include a trip to Coeur d 'Alene to pick up another batch of free construction materials. A gentleman on Craigslist has a three section deck he wants removed from his yard. He says the wood is in pretty good shape so I will be there bright and early Saturday morning, with a crow bar, to dismantle and haul out a deck. This will provide a number of 2x4s, 2x6s and possibly some 2x8s. I'm hoping there might even be some concrete deck pedestals as well. I'll post some pics of the adventure.

Monday, March 12, 2012

The Politics of Homesteading

They say politics makes for strange bedfellows. Well my brief immersion into the world of homesteading is proof. It is interesting that homesteading attracts folks from the far right and far left - and, of course, alot of us from points in between.

But I take comfort in the fact that right-wing gun toters can coexist with left-wing granolas on homesteading forums. It makes me feel like we have more we can agree about than disagree about. I think the desire to live a simpler, more natural way of life is universal - regardless of political persuasion.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Building a Cabin for Free - Part 1

Our first phase in our homesteading plan is to build a cabin that we can use on weekends and holidays and will serve as temporary living quarters once we start building a house. Because funds are limited we want to spend as little money as possible so I have a crazy scheme to build that cabin for free....or close to it. (Check out an article I wrote on this at Suite 101.)

Building with recycled materials

Using recycled or "repurposed" building materials is nothing new. We've just gotten used to going to Home Depot or Lowe's and buying everything brand new. But there is a huge "market" of free stuff out there just waiting to be used. All it costs is time and elbow grease. Ever seen those rickety old out buildings in the country? Do you know anyone doing a remodel? Opportunities abound for someone willing to haul away other people's junk! (Remember the old adage, "One man's trash is another man's treasure"? That's exactly what we're talking about. Using recycled materials is a win for everybody - and the environment.

This morning's Craigslist finds

When it comes to finding free materials Craigslist is your best friend. This morning, a brief search in my area's "free" section yielded the following: wood paneling, an entire porch someone needs dismantled (which means lots of 2x4's, 2x6's and plywood), a moving company that is offering free furniture moving containers made out of 2x4's and 1/2 and 3/4 inch plywood (the plywood can be used for floor and roof decking possibly) - and they've got alot of them free for the taking! In recent days I've also seen free cinder blocks (great for your cabin foundation), bricks (for a chimney possibly?), and a lot of other useful stuff. The "inventory" is constantly changing so check Craigslist often.

He ain't heavy, he's my brother

I have a brother who's a contractor. He'll be helping me with the construction of my cabin (though he doesn't know that yet!) and, as you can imagine, he is a rich source of recycled materials. So far he has already supplied me with a door and some windows. Had I told him about my free cabin plan a week earlier he would've been able to get all the tin roofing I would need! But he comes across material all the time so i'm not too worried. On just about every remodel he does he has to pull out old stuff and haul it too the dump. Now he just gives me a call whenever he's pulling out materials that could be used for the cabin project. If you're looking to build a cabin on the cheap then get to be friends with a contractor.

More to come

I'm in the very early phases of gathering up as much material as I can. My goal is to be able to start building the cabin in July or August. I'll keep you posted throughout the process.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

20 Acre Homestead: The Lay of the Land

So I thought I'd just give some details on our property. As I mentioned earlier we are very fortunate to own just over twenty acres in Sanders county, Montana. In the early 50s my Grandfather moved his family to western Montana to work on the Cabinet Gorge and Noxon Rapids dams. I believe he originally purchased 200 acres. He sold off 40 acres and then sold the remaining 160 acres to my Dad in the early 60s. My Dad sold 40 acres to his sister in the early 70s and then about 15 years ago he deeded 20 acres to each of us kids - there are five of us, keeping 20 acres himself where he and my Mom live. What a blessing to have this beautiful property! One of my sisters has started construction on a home on her property but the rest of the plots us kids own are undeveloped.

The lay of the land

The picture above is a Google Earth image of our property. My younger brother owns the parcel to the north of me and my older brother owns the one to the south. On the east, across the county road, is a cousin who owns several hundred acres and to the west is US Forest Service land for several miles. It's a pretty ideal situation.

The property is a slight to moderate slope up to the Forest Service line and is pretty heavily treed. It was last thinned in 1991 so it's probably due for another thinning. You'll notice from the image that the property is bisected by an old logging road. That's actually a nice little trail and access road to cut through all of the adjoining parcels.

Twenty acres is not a huge tract of land but keep in mind one acre is just slightly smaller than a football field. So a chunk of land the size of twenty football fields is plenty of elbow room for one family, I think.


There is ample wildlife on the place. In fact the area is teeming with whitetail deer. It's rare to walk the property and not see deer. I've also seen elk and black bear and have seen a cougar once. I haven't seen coyotes on the place during the day but I hear them at night all the time.


My parents actually get their water from a spring that originates up the mountainside. However that spring already supplies my folks, my cousin across the road and another neighbor with their primary water source. We will likely need to drill.

Selecting the homesite

I have a few ideas of where our home will be but we haven't decided for sure. Realistically it will likely be at least four or five years until we actually build the house. In the nearer term, however, our plan is to build a small cabin to use for weekend getaways. You'll hear much more about that in the next few posts.

Homesteading: The Call of the Wild

Call me crazy, but I have a dream of living in the boonies; of having a big garden and fruit trees; of having deer and other critters wander through my front yard; of living a simpler, slower paced life. Actually, the more I think about it - I'm not crazy at all! And I'm sure I'm not the only one who dreams of a "back to the land" lifestyle. Maybe you have the same dream. But, if you're like me, your dream probably smacks right up against reality!

"How can I ever get back to nature when I've got so much "stuff" going on in my life?" That's my common question. I'm a busy husband and father of seven awesome kids - which means our calendar is packed and our bank account is not! Still, the "call of the wild" is strong. There is something very therapeutic about being away from the city where you can breathe the fresh air and see alot more stars at night. Plus, the idea of being self-sufficient is a real draw - especially in our current shaky economy.

My goal is to take small, incremental steps to achieve our goal of living in the country. We are very fortunate to already own 20 acres in beautiful Western Montana. Over the next several months I plan to document the steps we are taking to transform this bare land into a homestead. When will we actually move to the mountains? I'm not sure yet - but thanks for joining us as we try to figure that out.