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

Getting a Jump on Spring

That way I can enjoy my pak choy and cos that much sooner.

Living where we do gardening can be a challenge. As I write this it is March 25 and we have 10″+ of snow in many spots still. Our growing season normally starts May long weekend but with greenhouses and cold frames we get things started earlier. Late October is usually a safe bet on harvesting your root veggies although I just pulled an arm load of onions we missed out of the tiny bare patch of my raised bed today (Even though my kids said they got them all I thought their haul looked a bit on the light side). So that being said we mainly get June-Sept as our best growth months. Anything later than that will be Russian kale, chard, radishes, certain salad greens like mesculin and root veggies but growth rates are near nil.

While doing my silviculture work I was taught that the tree planters will often try to find a raised planting location as the higher parts of the terrain will melt off sooner than the lower spots (This is why I got some onions today, my raised beds are starting to show in the snow). The result is a 25% longer grow season for the trees. Another trick is to plant the seedlings near a heat sink such as a rock, log or stump. This gives them extra warmth nearby to help them through the cold nights after being planted. We also look for ideal soils to put them into but in your home garden this should be already taken care of, I try to remember all these techniques when doing my own home gardening.

When planting out my spaghetti squash seedlings I will put them beside a hunk of firewood. I start them early indoors in a window mounted cold frame. I can leave the window open a crack to keep them warm and they love it. I did an experiment a few years ago and put some out with and without a heat sink and only the ones that had the heat sink survived the cold nights. This practice adds a couple weeks to my season.

Even in my greenhouse I will grow my first batch indoors and plant out when the soil just gets warm enough. Being that seeds often need 22C/70F or warmer soil temperatures for germination, I like to get a jump on it. That way I can enjoy my pak choy and cos that much sooner.

Looking inside my greenhouse today I see that some of the seeds of my red orach plant have already volunteered to germinate. I guess I should have collected my seed last fall haha. ~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

Morals & Morels

One thing we do need to be aware of is over harvesting.

When spring takes its turn and transforms our snowy wonderland from the clean, white landscape to a slippery, muddy mess opportunity strikes for the various flora and fauna. As the new years growth takes a hold of the Earth we get to see the once cold, white world change to a sweet smelling, beautiful Eden full of life and sound.

One of my favorite things to look for come April and May is the wild morel mushroom. I live in an area heavy with black morels and they are incredible! The texture and patterns that make up the body of this most interesting of fungi can steal away ones imagination.

When picking these choice edible mushrooms I like to use a mesh bag or colander for gathering them into. This allows any bugs that may be upon the prize to wiggle out and drop off as the mushroom dries and helps with the airflow to facilitate drying. Some people will use them fresh, some like to dry them out for later and some like to soak them in a salty brine to drive out any remaining critters that could be still inside. If they are there, you will see them in the bottom of your brine bowl.

Morels prefer disturbed areas in pine and poplar forests where I am. Mostly higher than 500 meters above sea level. I find mine in the 700-1000m range but I do see them much higher too at work. As I do my work in silviculture, rehabilitating the forest after the loggers finish, I especially find the spring morel in the burned off areas. These are prime locations to pick mushrooms and the higher you go in elevation the later in the season you will find the fresh morels.

One thing we do need to be aware of is over harvesting. If you leave some of the older, less fresh and desirable caps you will ensure that there will be more to come in following years. The one thing we don’t want to do is destroy the value of future harvests by being greedy today. I added an Amazon affiliate link below to the exact field guide I use to identify mushrooms when I go out picking. It’s a good one!

I filmed a YouTube video of us finding morels a couple years ago. I picked 15 lbs that year and decided it would be fun to show everybody what to look for when out picking. Yum! ~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

Jake’s “mouse”

I still wish I kept that squirrel and trained it to collect Fir tree cones for me. I can sell those by the pail full for good money. Live and learn.

So this one cool fall night, October 24 2016, our youngest son Jake comes sheepishly into our bedroom doorway to tell us about a little critter that has made it’s way into his room. Being that it was past their bed times and the fact that the two of us were snuggled up in bed as well, not wanting to be disturbed, we weren’t really excited about this development.

“What is it Jake, why are you out of bed?” I ask.

“There’s a mouse on my bed.” Jake whispers in his own mouse like voice.

“well just flick it off the bed and one of your cats will deal with it.” I said, wanting to get back to our snuggle.

Now to this Jake just looks at me with wide eyed horror. But he does leave us alone for a short time only to return a few minutes later. This time he informs us that it is still there but now on his window sill as he stands there in his pj’s quietly. I think to my self ‘how does a little mouse get up on a window sill?’

So I figure I better get up and settle this problem for him so I can get him back to sleep. Upon entering into his room we look at his window sill and see nothing. Quickly though I hear Ally belt out “Holy S#!t, that’s not a mouse!!”

It was a big grey flying squirrel hanging from the top of the window. And it is freaked right out! Hahaha. So me being me I grab it hoping it won’t bite. It bit, I felt his teeth go right to the bone. I’ve handled many smaller rodents, bats, squirrels and snakes that the cats bring home but never anything this big. Usually a little bite is no big deal here. So I drop it and go for my skidoo mitts.

After donning the necessary safety gear, a mitt, I take our newest visitor into the kitchen for it’s mug shots before releasing it on the terms it is never to come back inside our home. He bid us farewell with the flick of his tail and made off into the night.

I still wish I kept that squirrel and trained it to collect Fir tree cones for me. I can sell those by the pail full for good money. Live and learn.


Day one with the blog

Our hopes are to be able to share and learn some of the much needed tips, tricks and techniques of living the “land rich, live poor” lifestyle.

So today is day one of our first blog at the homestead. Five years in now on the land in central British Columbia, Canada we have gathered a good many funny and even some useful stories about life in the sticks and starting from bare land.

As we continue to share our experiences and adventures I will try to add in a few stories from my grand parents and their set ups in the day on the Canadian prairie. Our hopes are to be able to share and learn some of the much needed tips, tricks and techniques of living the “land rich, live poor” lifestyle. haha. Along the way we will be having links to videos about how things have been done, what we do to get along today and small hobbies that add to the richness of our lives.

Feel free to look around and give feed back or comments on what you think and maybe how we can improve the experiences we have together here. I also have started a YouTube channel dedicated to our lifestyle if that may of interest. Please feel free to check it out.

Enjoy!   ~Scott