Well, Who Would Like to Dig a Well?

All said and done I had an excavator on that project for 16 hours at $35 an hour, paid about $700 for the concrete products and a little over $300 for the pipe and fittings.

When I bought this land the first things I did was bring in some gravel to create a good pad for a mobile home and I dug a well. I have a couple creeks crossing my property but the government was being very slow to grant my water application. Unfortunately they didn’t bother to let me know that my application was automatically approved since I was the first person to request water rights. Thanks RDNO, you guys are useless. They told me they were too busy to get to me and I waited a year to find out I was automatically in possession of the license just by applying. Our regional district likes to make things hard and expensive so I learned my lesson, try not to talk to them!

So in the mean time I need a proven water source to get my authorization to build my home. I found a nice lush meadow above my house that was mostly an under ground seep, a confined aquifer, with some surface water as well. I picked a spot I could push a small road in that was very wet and dug a nice big hole. The clay was thick there so as I removed it from my well site and made a berm or dyke with it to help create a nice little pond. In order to source more clay I dug a second pond below my well and used most of it to shore up my well dyke. Then took a whole bunch of glacial till from the embankment up hill from the well and piled it over the edge of the berm to give it some thickness. I have a good sturdy berm to hold back the water this way.

I put my well 6′ deep as I didn’t want to punch through the clay and hit gravel, allowing to water to go into the ground. As soon as I noticed gravel I put some clay back in and mushed it down with the bucket. I stopped putting clay back in when I was sure there was no longer a swirl like a draining bath tub. I probably put 2′ worth back in. I was close to 9′ deep when I started loading the clay back in. it worked!
I went to my local concrete product manufacturer and bought two perforated 4′ concrete rings and one solid one. All blemished seconds, cash and cheap. I also bought a lid with man hole to keep leaves and critters out. The excavator I rented was just barely able to lift them off my uncles trailer and I had to use the blade on the front to support it while I climbed up the hill. We pumped out the hole with my 2″ Honda pump and got the first perforated ring in nice and level, squishing it into the clay real good. After that we back filled with field stones as drain rock then put the next two rings on and the lid. Over the next year I loaded 22 pick up truck loads of field stones picked from my field to fill in the pond. I don’t want to give water bugs and mice a place to die so I buried the water with stones. This also keeps the light off the water stopping algae from forming in our water source and keeps the well rings supported while allowing the water to flow to the center where I need it.

After digging my 2″ schedule 40 PVC pipe in 4′ down and running it down to my building site 360′ feet away with about a 30′ elevation drop I hired a local well drilling outfit to test the recovery rate of my well. My gamble payed off, we tested right after a huge rain storm and I barely passed. I got one step closer to my authorization to construct. I still needed a waste water certification on a septic but by then I had my mobile set up, plumbed and the septic was installed before I bothered to apply. I was learning how to deal with the regional district… Don’t if I can help it. Of course in the end I met all certifications to create a residential address out here, I just didn’t have time to wait for bureaucracy to allow me to build before winter came. Funds limited my time away from working so I really needed to get it all done.

Being that the pipe to my home was put at 4′ underground and my well is over 6′ I made a concrete plug around the pipe as a collar, run the pipe into one of the perforations, added a 2″ ball valve and put a 90 bend with an 18″ leg to draw water from closer to the bottom. When I filled the pipe for the first time I needed to remove the leg to allow the airlock to pass. So don’t glue that section, I didn’t. We packed clay around the pipe behind the collar to help seal the trench and added a 4″ ABS waste pipe as an over flow on the opposite side of the well to help keep the dyke from eroding. I seeded with grass as well.

We had a drought year that first year and my well was starting to empty and not recover so I took a trenching shovel up above and redirected the seeps into my well and dug a diagonal trench across the top of the meadow and directed that to my well as well. Never had a problem since, lots of water for us.

All said and done I had a rented excavator on that project for 16 hours at $35 an hour, paid about $700 for the concrete products and a little over $300 for the pipe and fittings. Not bad, beats the $12,000 that I was quoted for a drilled well. It is just that I need to filter and treat this water source with reverse osmosis as it is surface water and could get contaminated easily. Or boil it, no one wants beaver fever… I had help from my uncle (he trucked the concrete up with his big trailer), my Father who run the pump and had the level handy and my buddy Dave who glued the pipe the next day as I run the hoe digging trench and filling back in. We had some fun and I saved a bunch of money.

If you’d like to see the YouTube video of this project and photos taken during the build please feel free to visit my YouTube channel at NorthernWilds Lifestyle.

If you find it helpful or interesting please like, share and subscribe to the channel, it’s free! And have a great day. ~Scott

Smoke Em if You Got Em.

Nothing will beat a clean sockeye or coho salmon fillet fresh from a river. Now with all this salmon we needed a smoker so we could have our own Indian candy. And from there my adventures in smoked meat began.

A very handy project to tackle on the homestead is building your own meat smoker. Over the last decade and a half I have built many smokers. I lived on the B.C. coast for a few years and nearly lived on salmon.

My first three smokers were built out of old refrigerators gutted and turned upside down. I liked using the small freezer compartment door at the bottom for adding chips to the fire, it’s great because you don’t lose your smoke while adding chips! Another innovation was to cut in a sloped roof. I would use a piece of plywood angled so that any condensation will run down it to the back wall rather than dripping on to your meat. Shingle it and add a vent for the steamy air to escape and your have a perfect shell.

To hang your meat or racks to lay it on I drilled holes in the sides every few inches and added ready rod. You could use dowels or square strips of wood. Cedar would do well. On my original three smokers I laid used oven racks up cycled from the local landfill on the rods I ran through the sides. I even used nuts and washers to secure the rods and added a meat thermometer through an extra hole to gauge internal temps somewhat. These turn into fantastic smokers and I intend to make another soon, I have given all my old ones away to a local friend each time I move.

To get heat and smoke going in the smoker I have used electric elements up to 1500W. I am not a fan of them though as they just don’t pump out the heat enough for the good hot smoked, chewy jerky that I like. I’m not a fan of cold smoked mushy fish either. So to improve on that I now use the side burners of old used bbq’s destined for the scrap yard. Much cheaper and easier to acquire than a hot plate anyhow. If you do like the cold smoked meats it is easy to add an external firebox and pipe it into a hole cut in the rear bottom of your smoker and smoke your lox up too.

My current smoker is a Cadillac. I was given an old pizza warming oven when a restaurant closed down and I immediately saw gold haha. I had to do very little to it and use it exclusively for red meat and pork. I want zero fish flavour in my chops and sausages, who’d want fishy deer jerky? Not me!

I added a whole bunch of oven racks from the scrap yard again, added the old meat thermometer from our kitchen and cut some wood strips to hang sausage from. Another bbq side burner fitted into the bottom, my cast iron skillet salvaged from a flea market and voila, smoker #4. It came with ledges for shelves built in and some awesome adjustable vents on each side of the top. I swear this thing is meant to be a smoker, quickest and cheapest build yet.

I will build my new fish smoker yet but in all honesty I doubt I can make it for the $4 price tag (meat thermometer) of my jerky smoker. You can bet I surely will try. For a better look at my jerky smoker featured in this post please check out my new YouTube video about it at NorthernWilds Lifestyle. Remember to hit like and subscribe if you enjoyed it and leave any feed back you come up with. Enjoy! ~ Scott

Thawing Our Creeks’ Culvert

So I brought out the big guns… I fixed my tiger torch. 200,000 btu baby! Booya!

We have been having a problem. These years with less snow fall early on in the winter result in deeper frost penetration during the following cold snaps. For us this means a frozen culvert on our creek.

This year we had it freeze solid at the end three times, had it been placed properly originally there would be no issues. Ours is at a good elevation where the creek enters it but it doesn’t follow the creek bed. Had it been laid properly it would have it’s bottom in the creek bed for the whole length of the pipe rather than terminating in a two foot waterfall like ours. This would help keep the end warm, ours freezes. A way to remedy this would be to re-dig the pipe in and perhaps size up the pipe as well. The temporary fix is to plow snow over the end to help insulate it but this year we didn’t have a lot and I left the end uncovered. So here I will share my tips for thawing a culvert.

The first time it happened I took a six foot crow bar and chipped my way in as far as I could until I had a long cone chiseled in to the icy pipe. Since I was unable to get the water moving with the chipping alone I dug out one of my old 30 minute road flares. I shoved this as far up the pipe as I could and voila, I got running water!

The second time I kept my eye on it and just chipped it free before it got too bad, but the third time it caught me off guard a month later and froze up really bad. Not only did I chip it as far as possible but I used another flare and it didn’t do it either. *Note for the future, put something to raise it up so that the melt run off doesn’t quench the lower half of your flare! haha. So I brought out the big guns… I fixed my tiger torch. 200,000 btu baby! Booya! lol. This melted it through with out any nasty flare smoke or further chipping. It saved my but.

If I don’t get my culvert flowing when this happens soon my creek backs up, over flows it’s banks and would eventually wash out my driveway and part of the main road. The chipping out as far as you can really helps get you in there and the torch finishes the job well. I have had to go over two feet into the pipe to get flow again. It sucks but can be fixed, soon I hope to redo the pipes trench right and be done with that nonsense!

Good luck with your water next winter and keep a keen eye out for troubles, catching them early makes for a lot less work. ~Scott

The Chicken Compound

My plan is to start with 20 meat hybrids from the local hatchery to see how the spacing is for them, the tractor is 11′ x 7′ approximately.

Last spring I was given this large steel mesh cage by a neighbour when I was clearing a pasture for them. It looked to be meant to mount to a flat bed truck of some sort but someone had cut it up a little. Fine by me, I seen a chicken tractor in it from the get go. I ended up carrying it by dangling it with my excavator and walking the machine home with it. I was too busy to do anything with it until winter so it was put aside. Sweet score!

So winter comes and now I have time. I ended up not wanting to run my machine down the hill and back just for that so I just used the tractor. With some swearing and slipping I get it chained onto the bucket of my tractors loader and drag it to the shop in reverse. All things considered it came with very little damage. I was pleased.

After using my oxy-propane cutting torch to clean off all the bits that I didn’t need and trimming the bottom to length I welded a 4″ angle iron skid to each side so it can be dragged on my uneven fields. The cage came with double swing out gates on the one end so I rigged up a locking system and a latch as well as welding a 2″ square tube across the front where I wanted to put a 2″ ball hitch. The hitch got 1 1/2″ square tube to truss it out a bit so the 3″ x 2″ hitch tube that I used can handle all the weight I plan to add to the coop.

Princess auto in the nearby big city (150km away) had a sale on really wide trailer axels and the hitch jacks with a 500lb rated wheel. I snagged one each and a couple wheels cheap. Still the new steel and parts came to about $400 plus oxygen, propane, welding rod and the electricity it took to make the magic happen. She ain’t cheap but I can call it bear proof haha. I need all that and more out here. I lost some sheep to a cougar last spring and I’m not big on feeding my dinners to the local critters too much. My chicken dinner! Get your own sandwich cat!!

Later on this spring sometime I intend to put an A frame roosting coop on the top with tin roofing and 2″ x 4″ lumber. A ladder plank into the bottom, a feed/water system and some roosting perches should be awesome for the meat birds. We should do well with the system I plan to build.

My plan is to start out with 20 meat hybrids from a local hatchery to see how the spacing is for them, the tractor is 11′ x 7′ approximately. Once the coop is added on top I am sure I can up it to maybe 25 or even 30 birds. We will see. Until then I will just tarp it for them and go with less. We have lots of lush grass (come spring), will give them grower pellets and by moving them around with the tractor or a jeep they should get plenty of fresh chow with clean pasture.

So far I am thrilled with my armoured chicken tractor. Even though my daughter says chickens are friends not food I am going to have to get geared up for processing them soon. And get her some fresh pullets to go in her pet egg layers too.

I will keep everyone up to date as we progress with the new food production by adding more details on how we are making out in future posts. And please… get outside and enjoy the fresh air! It is wonderful. ~Scott

Savings with Cedar

My record for walking out of the bush so far is 33km. I’d suggest avoiding the need to do that in the future.

Over the last few years I have cut a few hundred fence posts. You see, to buy a 4″+ thick and 7′ long post here it is about $7 each. That adds up! In order to save money I go out and cut my own posts. I choose cedar because around here they are plentiful and they are resistant to rot. Typically I can find the tops of the older trees with the harder wood left over from the logging operations. This is good as the younger, skinnier trees won’t last as long in the Earth. Plus I save them from being burnt up in the slash piles and keep their carbon out of our atmosphere.

When I cut my posts I look for an area where all the tops have been brought to the road side in preparation for piling to burn. When the logs are processed road side rather than at the stump I get the easier pickings. I choose 6″ posts if I can and cut them 9′ long (a store bought post this size would run ya $15 each). I pound them in with my excavator 4′ into the ground so I get an ultra sturdy post. I use my chainsaw to make a point on the fat end. When it comes time to put them in I use a 6′ long crow bar with a chisel tip to stab a hole into the ground and work it around a bit to open up a small cone shaped hole. This gives a guide to hold and direct the post as I tap it with the excavators bucket.

It is good to peel the bark off them for not only looks, but it also helps them last longer. A two handled draw knife is the tool to do this best. Leave them stacked up off the ground for a year and cedar bark practically peels itself. This is wonderful. With my range fence I didn’t even bother to take the bark off, they will still last a long time bark on. Usually every time I go firewood cutting I manage to bring back a few good poles or posts. And when I find a nice spot where I can get a full load of posts… well the firewood has to wait for the next trip. The poles save me three times as much money than the firewood does haha, that and they are harder to come by. Put 35 or 50 posts on your truck that you would have to other wise pay $10+ each for and the savings sure adds up!

Just be sure to be safe, learn how to use a chainsaw safely and let someone know where you are going. My record for walking out of the bush so far is 33km. I’d suggest avoiding the need to do that in the future. Haha. Oh and make sure you aren’t stealing someone’s wood. Get permission and be very sure not to take marketable timer from the sites. That will keep you out of trouble.

Have fun!  ~Scott