Friday, December 12, 2014

Chainsaws to the rescue!

Serious windstorm the other day.  We rode it out on the boat without incident but when we got to the land, there were a few downed trees.  We had big plans to do some tree geo-location and a bit more driveway clearing when a neighbor stopped by and mentioned the downed tree on the road.  CHAINSAWS TO THE RESCUE!  An excuse was all Ken and Jason needed to break out the chainsaw and start limbing and bucking that guy - it was HUGE!

We combined javelin practice with removing the limbs to get them out of the road

And of course a little see-saw time as a distraction (Safety Pup was not amused)

Once one trunk came down, we just prayed that no neighbors would come screaming up the hill in a car and get decapitated by the other one.

Once the tree was limbed and bucked, we had the simple job of getting it off the road.  Ken's big tool for the job?  A dolly.

Fortunately, he also brought along his peavey

And of course the truck - gotta use the truck for this job.  The only thing we were missing was a tractor...

More chainsaw pics to come as we start doing some clearing, but it was nice to practice on a tree that was already down.

In other news, I planted my first Vashon garden!  Casey and I cleared a little spot and planted some garlic and red onions; hopefully it doesn't get overtaken by trailing blackberry before we get back from Christmas.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

House design evolution

It's a lovely thing to be able to build whatever you want.  It's also so full of possibilities that it's hard to decide anything at all.

We started off thinking that we'd build something tiny to live in, then build something bigger when we had the money and desire to have something more substantial.  Then the tiny house would become a guest house or studio.

Then we found that all of our house designs were morphing into the big house, not a tiny house.  So we went with it.  Jason spent a good part of our July sailing trip messing around on SketchUp (our absolute new favorite tool - also? FREE).   He came up with a kick ass design that we both loved.

We even loved it for 3 months (which is impressive considering we generally change our minds about every 1.5 hours).  Then we started questioning ourselves.  We have lived on the boat for more than six years, so do we really know what we want?  And if we build this ourselves, it's got to be more simple.  And, oh by the way, we both teach this thing called Agile which is all about doing something small, proving that it works and then adding on.  Maybe we should put our money where our mouths are.

So we started coming up with small house designs.  This is the latest (and just a rough-out).  We'll of course have to sit on this for a while and make sure it's what we really want, but so far, we're both crazy about it.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Vashon Forest Stewards

So it turns out there's a nonprofit group on the island that not only helps you think about how to develop your land in a sustainable way, but they also have things like a sawmill and kiln to help keep wood on the island - so fun!

Dave Warren came out on Saturday to do a "forest walkthrough" with us.  The guy is hilarious and knows a ton of trivia about the island (did you know that Seattle's Best Coffee was originally named Stewart Brothers Coffee?  Apparently they had all of their "SBC" marketing material printed when they lost a lawsuit to Stewart Brothers Coffee of Chicago, so they switched over to Seattle's Best).

Besides crazy island trivia, Dave also has a ton of wisdom about the forests themselves.  Like what to look for to find diseased trees and which side of the house to keep the big trees to lessen the likelihood that they fall in a big storm.  For $50/hr, his knowledge was invaluable and it goes to the nonprofit, so it's doubly good.

We're so looking forward to getting some of our Douglas-firs (capital D because a dude named Douglas named them and hyphenated because he misnamed them - they're not firs, they are pines!) milled into giant beams for our house and keeping this thing sourced as locally as possible.

Thank you Vashon Forest Stewards!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Logger friends

I've started keeping notes of which of our friends has extraordinary skill in particular house-building areas.  Turns out we know people that do ICF's, cabinetry, siding, all sorts of stuff.  We're totally planning to use our friends.  In return, we will give them free Agile software development advice.  Or at least let them come stay whenever they want once we're done.

It turns out our friends Mark and Molly know a thing or two about dropping trees.  AND they have chainsaws (yes, multiple) despite living on a sailboat - they did pare their collection down to 3, and that was a giant win.  Our chainsaw lessons began last weekend.  I'll let you guess which face cut here is Mark's, and which is Jason's.

In addition to cutting some trees down, we also need to get the rootballs out - and after much YouTube research, Jason decided the best way to do this was with...the truck (it's a damn good thing we got that sucker).  He was in hog heaven switching that thing into 4 low. 

It was a great day AND no one got mangled by a tree - SUCCESS!  On the ferry on the way back, we started a new tradition: Ferry Beers! 

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Terrible burglars

Ken is the master of free shit and McGyvering those things he can't get for free. He has made wifi antennas from Pringles cans and AIS (a fancy boat tracking system) out of bear trackers. I'm not even kidding. The guy could kick McGyver's ass in a duct tape competition.  (Come to think of it, they do look somewhat alike...if only Ken would start feathering his hair...)

The other day, Ken wandered by a nearby street where the city was redoing the sidewalk. Most people would see useless, broken up chunks of concrete. Not Ken - he saw hole-filler.  He and Jason pulled a giant rock out of his driveway the other day (see, what did I tell you - McGyver in action).  Clearly said hole needed to be filled.

He and Jason went to re-appropriate a few concrete blocks from said construction site. Jason, however, makes a terrible burglar in his bright orange jacket.

Our big plan for this house is to learn the ways of the Ken.  We figure normally it would cost us a trillion dollars to build a house, and Ken could build it for virtually 0, so maybe, just maybe, we could use Ken methods and only spend half that.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

The rest of the process, as we know it

I have no doubt that we'll look back at this list and laugh, but here's the process (that we know of now) to get to our building permit.

In true Agile fashion, we did build all of this out using Post-its:

But for a cleaner version of the Post-It wall, here it is:
  • CAD approval
  • Create site plan
  • Apply for clearing and grading permit (we think the forestry permit is a part of this)
  • Septic design
  • Septic/well installation
    • Locate the well
    • Clear road to well
    • Gravel
    • Build pad for well drilling
    • Well approval
    • Contractor drill well (& build pumphouse, pumps and systems)
    • Health department water testing
    • Bring in container/shed to place on well pad
    • Trenching (we will do this)
    • Septic contractor install
  • Finalize house design
  • Building permit
  • Get street address
  • Electricity
    • PSE Project Engineer assignment
    • Trenching primary to transformer and conduit
    • Site prep for transformer
    • Trenching from transformer to well site & conduit
    • Trench from well site to house site
    • PSE install
    • Cable install

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Shilshole moves to Vashon!

BEST NEWS EVER! Our very good friends K&S are buying the land right next door to us!!! These guys live down the dock from us, also live on a Caliber and were cruising in Mexico with us, so it's only natural that we all stick together and become land-baron neighbors, right?? Their land is in the same state as ours, so we'll get to go through this whole permitting and building process together - so excited to have 4 heads on this instead of just 2! But mostly, I'm excited that my modern-commune is coming to life :)

Monday, November 10, 2014

Step 1 (of many) - the CAD

We don't know the entire process we'll have to go through to actually build a house (though we're learning quickly), but do know that step 1 is doing our CAD (Critical Areas Designation). We have wetlands on the property and need to get them delineated (flagged) and categorized so we know what the buffer is so we don't plan to build too close to said wetlands.

This entire process was a bit of a mystery to us, but here's how we did it (not to say this is easiest or most effective, but just happened to work for us).

1) Before we closed, we engaged a wetlands consultant to walk the property and verify that the wetlands that we knew about were the only wetlands around. He came, he bushwhacked, he verified. He even drew us a nice little map. ($500)

2) After we closed, we applied for our CAD with the county. At the time we applied, the county thought the backlog was about 3 months, so they told us to apply, then while we were waiting in line, we could get the consultant to do the delineation and habitat study.

3) While in the county queue, we got another wetlands consultant. The original guy we had was going to charge us $3600 for the delineation, habitat study and report, so we decided to shop around. We had bids that were all over the place - from $900 to $6000 with no appreciable difference - what??? We went with the $1900 guy. He came, he delineated, he wrote a report. And he only charged us $1400 because it took him less time than expected (this is likely the only time ever that something will be cheaper than we originally thought).

4) Once we were through the queue (it actually only took about 6 weeks), the county guy did a site visit, verified the delineation and report and then approved our CAD.

 Step 1?  Complete. Steps 2 through 1,421,392, here we come!

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Landwarming party!

No new purchase of ours is complete without having a party (or a few). Since there is no house yet, we decided to do a landwarming party. First, we set the date, then we looked at the weather. It was going to pour rain all weekend. Change the date? Nah, this would be a good test of how good our friends really are. Turns out? They're awesome. They show up to camp. In the rain.

 Prepping the hemlock grove for some tents


Just add water (or beer) for instant friends

Boat dogs don't know what to do with themselves with so much open space

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The beginning of a new adventure

Jason and I have somewhat short attention spans, so the fact that we've lived on our sailboat for over 6 years without killing each other is something of a miracle. We've decided maybe it's time to stop testing fate and build a house together (that's so much better for your marriage, isn't it?). We paid a whole grunch of money for some seriously huge trees on Vashon Island - about 10 acres worth. We couldn't be more excited for this new adventure! This blog will mostly be a reminder to us how naive and innocent we were at various times throughout the process, but will hopefully also serve for a bit of knowledge for other people hoping to build in unincorporated King County.

Some pictures of our great new wood

And, as it turns out, we did not buy only trees, we were the lucky winners of this lovely abandoned homeless camp - how lucky for us! Inside? A shopping cart, rusty cans, 1 shoe and an old mattress - winner winner chicken dinner!

So let's get to WORK!!