Recently a friend asked what I realistically expected to accomplish this year. The list of things I would like to get done is a long one, and far more than could reasonably be done with the available resources.
The list has been deftly prioritized by the nature of a Saskatchewan winter. In about five weeks we will be leaving our winter rental to take up permanent residence on the homestead. Getting a reasonably comfortable camp set up will take a bit of work, but should not present too big a problem. The countdown to the next winter is already on my mind. Lethal cold has a way of providing focus.
The cabin has to be up and finished to lockup stage, insulated with a working woodstove and a good supply of firewood. The tasks and projects we take on over the next eight months need to be compatible with that simple reality.
– 48 sq. ft. insulated shed divided in half. One side is an outhouse and the other has accommodation for a generator, storage batteries and an inverter. Until our solar capacity is greatly improved, starting the generator for an hour or two each morning will be necessary. Combining these functions seems to make sense. The distance between the cabin and this shed will be set by our longest (80’) heavy duty extension cord. This should be close enough for convenience and efficient transfer of power, and far away enough to minimise noise and unfortunate aromas.
– 96 sq. ft. cookshack. This small building will be mounted on skids to allow for re-positioning. Until the cabin is done we will use this as a kitchen and a snug sleeping loft will serve as a refuge on nights too cold or stormy to pass comfortably in the tent. It will be rigged out temporarily with a two way RV fridge, three burner propane stove with oven, sink and hot and cold running water. With a metal roof, full insulation and a tiny woodstove, it will be a valuable addition to the homestead even after this summer. We are currently fighting over future possession of this shed to use as an office, studio, hobby room or summer kitchen.
– 930 sq. ft storey and a half cabin. We are attempting to design the smallest, cheapest little shack that can be built at high speed without hired help and using minimal equipment and facilities. And yet we want the resulting building to be solid and comfortable, last beyond our lifetime and stand as an asset that can be rented or sold off in the future. Not much to ask, right?
The only way this plan is at all realistic is to develop a fetish for simplicity. The foundation will be concrete piers at a spacing of 8’ running down under the frost line. Large J bolts will allow adjustments to be made to counter the effects of frost and settling. The storey and a half design gives the maximum amount of floor space for the materials allocated. Eliminating the attic gives a house that has a smaller footprint that is easier to heat with a woodstove. Past generations of homesteaders in this area favoured this layout because of its economy and practicality.
– Construction of approximately 800’ of driveway and roadway.
– Clearing 1 – 2000’ of new trails for access and harvesting firewood.
– Harvesting, cutting and splitting 10 to 15 cords of firewood.
– Setting up separate off grid electrical systems for the cabin and workshop.
– Setting up off grid setup for hauling, storing and distributing water.
– Repairing and re-furbishing old workshop
– Repairing or removing existing sheds
– Removing the remaining junk left from the old homestead.
– Clearing brush for workspace and to reduce problems with skeeters.
– Making a start on gardens, planting fruit trees, moving existing trees, starting composting and soil improvement.
Is it realistic to think that we will finish all of this in 2014? I expect not, but we will work on all of these things. What we need to get done, we will get done. The rest is carried over to the next day, or the next year. Death will be the signal that the homestead is completed.