Friday, August 27, 2010

Virtual fist bumps to you, Mark Frauenfelder and Deacon Greg

Our cabin got BoingBoinged! And Beliefnetted!

This almost makes up for the fact that, due to unpredictable weather and various life events, we have not made it over to the island as much as we would have liked to this summer. Sad face.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

The reason Thoreau was able to write 'Walden' was because he didn't have to build his cabin. And his sister cooked all his meals.

Er. Yeah. It's been a while since we updated. Since our last post, John and Stefan have done a fabulous job of expanding the deck, and Stefan deserves some kind of Genius of the Year Award for coming up with the idea of using rebar for the railings, after we learned that tension-wire would be about half the price it cost to build the entire cabin. (It's wire, people! What's with the fancy pricing!)

I also gave a tour of the cabin at Apartment Therapy, which has gotten some really nice attention and some super-nice comments over there, and which has led to posts on Tiny House Blog and Shedworking, the site that first inspired us. It's so cool to see everything come full circle like this, and to realize how many people like us there are out there – people who just want a simple little "wooden tent" to kick back in.

Our next projects are a treehouse for the boys and an outdoor kitchen/bar. John has some crazy ideas for this one. I say "crazy", but actually a lot of this entire cabin scheme is his crazy idea, and look how that's worked out. Hooray for crazy ideas!

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Shed Hacking 101

Looking back on the past year, it's kind of funny how crazy we must have been to think we could build the cabin we'd originally planned. We'd have gone into debt up to our eyeballs - all for counter-intuitive sake of pursuing leisure.

So we went the cheaper route, building ourselves a nice little 10X12 shack based on some shed plans we hacked, and now we have ourselves a starter cabin that serves our needs, and get us on the land.

It's still a work in progress, but it's cozy and comfortable, and because we decided that we weren't going to bother hiding the 2X4, plywood, and fiberglass construction materials, the whole thing cost us less than $15k - including some very expensive barge trips, a propane fridge, AND buying back our old Blazer (at twice the price) that we'd sold the previous year.

The build took a skilled friend and I about 10 days (long, back-breaking days), and we should be able to finish it up with a few more solid days of work this spring. It won't be insulated (at least not for a while), and it is electrical and plumbing free, but who needs that stuff anyway?

Next steps will be finishing the front deck, water collection/storage, outdoor kitchen, "landscaping", and hopefully a bunkie. I'd spent months trying to figure out whether or not we were going to build an outdoor fireplace, and settled on using a giant stainless steel wok for our firepit. Can't wait to try it out. Now, if the effing rain would just stop.

Friday, October 17, 2008

The Past Six Months in 3 Minutes Or Less

The following things have happened since I last wrote:
  • Late March, our boy Will is born. A fun chaos ensues.
  • We start talking turkey for getting this thing built by fall.
  • Canada Day, I go over to the island with a friend to survey the property. As soon as the water taxi drops us off, I get a call from my sister with news that my Mom has just died after a long illness. I knew it was coming since my visit a few weeks earlier, but I didn't expect it so soon. The water taxi isn't due back for hours. I'm stuck, but at least it's a nice place. We get caught in 4 hour traffic jam on way home.
  • A month later, we get some numbers back, and we realize that we've gotten away from our original plan of keeping things simple and cheap. The proposed design is way too expensive for us. We were prepared to go slightly into debt, but realized that we wanted to pay for it with cash in hand.
  • We decided to radically scale back the project with Smallworks.
  • They come back with another design and a proposal for us doing a lot of the work, and the price came back well into our range.
  • Using SIPS (the cabin will not look like Subway btw) we can prefab a very basic 16X20 structure in very little time and expense. We would be responsible for foundation, roofing, siding, windows, and other finishing.
  • I buy some tools and begin work on the outhouse in my spare time.
  • With the help of our close and thrifty friend, Stefen who is wise in the ways of building, and doesn't "work" like descent folk, instead living off the proceeds of his tye dye business, we figure we can maybe get the project started and mostly finished this fall.
  • We thought about some of the stuff we would have to do, and talking with the builder about them doing the really important stuff like the foundation and roof. The price goes up a bit.
  • We came to a consensus, and put the plans in for engineering.
  • We buy a table, the one previously mentioned. We talk to the builder about having them to a bit more. Stefen is disgusted, arguing that we can do it all and save loads of cash.
  • I go over to the island to talk to our neighbours who will take down and mill a few trees for us. I dig a hole.
  • Shortly after, we (and by "we" I mean "me") start having doubts about the wisdom of the project as the Vancouver housing market started to drop. Maybe this was a bad idea. Maybe we could actually afford a house in another year after all.
  • I call and leave a msg to stop the engineering, since we wouldn't build till spring anyway.
  • Too late. Drawings were mostly done, I didn't stop anything, and ended up looking like a flake.
  • The drawings are done, it's raining a lot now, the project waits for spring, and I'm eying the Vancouver housing market more than I have in a long time. But I also think how great it would be to be there in the rain right now.
  • There is a mostly constructed outhouse in my basement taking up tonnes of space.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Cedar? I Don't Even Know Her! (I Don't Know What This Joke Means, Either)

Hello, cabin blog. Did you think we'd forgotten you? As it turns out, having a new baby keeps one somewhat occupied. The other huge time suck in our lives has been, ironically, getting ready to build a cabin.

John is writing a post detailing all the boring crucially important work involved in prefabricating, transporting, and assembling the cabin. In the meantime, I'm on procurement detail. Of all the furnishings and inside-the-house things we've wrangled so far, I'm most excited by this:

It's a six-foot-long reproduction harvest table made of reclaimed cedar. We found it through Craigslist, and it's absolutely perfectly suited to our needs. We wanted a big, heavy table to use on a covered deck, so cedar was an obvious choice for wood. But early settler types tended to use pine, fir, and other conifers for their furniture. Clearly, those selfish early settlers needed a few lessons in looking to the future and anticipating my needs.

What are the odds we'd cross paths with a carpenter who just happened to have some old 2" by 12" cedar planks kicking around, and that this same carpenter would have the wonderful presence of mind to build a table in exactly the style that most suits us?

I'm feeling lucky, I tell you.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Water Water Everywhere, I Think I Need a Drink

Something we're going to have to start thinking about soon is water. Apparently, it's all the rage for bathing and cooking, with some people actually drinking the stuff!

We have a drilled well on the property, but any time I've tried to walk from our building site to our well, I get lost in the woods. Bad sign. So initially, we'll try rainwater collection, but regardless of whether we pull from the well or use rainwater, we're thinking of building a water tower for storage and pressure.

If our water tower is from the old school, the "alien blob" pictured above, which my friend Dave sent me earlier today is a spacey yet practical solution. They've worked the water storage tank into the living space as a room divider, structural support, and cooler. Nifty, but I can only imagine how much this thing cost. (Images by Peter Bennetts)

Via via Materialicious (my new favourite blog)

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

I'm Dubious About Midnight Trips to the Outhouse

Don't be fooled by the uber-modernist pic John posted a few days ago. All I can say is, I'm glad there's a bylaw prohibiting trailers as long-term residences on the island, because otherwise I can picture him trying to talk me into one of these:

(Via Apartment Therapy)

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Bunkie Concept

Via Cribcandy...

The finish isn't really our style, but I could see adapting the concept for some groovy little bunkies built onto the hillside, or in the woods on the property. The size is something like 2m by 2.4m by 1.4m.

Below is the architectural gibberish that accompanied the original post, which is very hard to find because there is no direct link. Funny that... why is it that so many architects have problems creating good websites?

The Lit Clos puts forward a simple idea. It’s a box that’s sufficiently closed to accommodate a bed and the intimacy that it presupposes, and at the same time sufficiently open not to be claustrophobic. The box is on an architectural scale, between a bed and a bedroom.

It uses techniques from furniture manufacture: painted plywood, soldered steel, and above all there’s the DIY assembly of the kind that you get with a piece of Ikea furniture. These characteristics give you a certain ease of assembly and of installation. While it's admittedly more complex than an ordinary bed, it’s still simpler than putting a bedroom together. There is a play on the scale of the space.

The « Lit Clos » frees you from the necessity of building a whole bedroom, and opens up numerous possibilities in relation to the place where one sleeps.

The « Lit Clos » exists in a low and a high version, respectively 70 cm and 180 cm off the ground.

Extracts from the book Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec, released by Phaidon in 2003.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Upside of the Down

Is there an upside to the recession that may be bearing down on us? A recent essay in New York Magazine makes the case, albeit sort of badly.

There's obviously not much to look forward to during a recession, but I was hoping that writer Joel Lovell would look for bright bits in the fact that it might inspire people to once again realize that you don't need a Viking range to be happy, and that thrift can be sorta sexy. After all, isn't the true meaning of "cool" all about making a dollar out of a nickel? (I stole that from somebody else, btw.)

But mostly he spends his time bitching about the current high price of cheese, skyrocketing home prices, and how poor he feels compared to the other yuppies that have moved into his Brooklyn neighbourhood.

He's aware of the fact that he's overly smitten with the desire to own all the same shiny things the moneyed folks do, but not enough to stop talking about it throughout the entire article. Still, there are a few gems, such as the one below, that make it worth reading:

Is there a moment you can point to when you thought, Things aren’t like they used to be?” She contemplated. “I guess it was the personal juicer,” she said.

She was referring to our friend’s boss at an Internet start-up, a guy who got paid ten gajillion dollars about fifteen minutes after he started his company and then went bananas. Among various eccentricities he hired a Rastafarian to travel everywhere with him and make him juice.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Coming Into Focus

Nothing makes you look like a bigger, more pretentious douche than blowing off a visit from a friend by telling them that your architect is coming by. Fortunately, our friend is also a douchebag, but he's hip to the project, so no hard feelings. We'll still be able to put his ass to work on the project eventually and help him toughen up those soft, white hands of his.

So anyway, Aaron from Smallworks came by the other night to show us the latest version of the plans, and WOW.

To be perfectly honest, my first reaction was slight disappointment. I'd grown so attached to the previous design he presented to us, I didn't want it to change. But it didn't take long for me to get on board. He'd taken our suggestions re: the previous design, and come back with something that, while definitely different from the first plan, was better suited to our immediate needs and basic comforts. All the comforts of home, without being a house.

We probably should have posted the first design mockup earlier, but we hadn't discussed it with Aaron and didn't want to do it without talking to him first. So now, with his permission, here is our original plan:

This was blue-skying, and represents a few phases, with a main structure for cooking, socializing, and sleeping, and a small bridge to the lower bluff, which contains two bunkies designed to sleep eight people. The entire structure is oriented east, to take advantage of the view of the mountains and ocean.

Unfortunately, budget dictated that we had to cut the bunkies loose (for now) and focus on the main structure, on the left. We also cut back on some of the main structure, because at the end of the day, we want to keep things as simple as possible. Our vision is about camping with style, not hanging out in a city house in the woods.

We puttered around with the SketchUp* design Aaron gave us, and came up with this crude revision to show him at our next meeting:

Since we realized that right now we can only afford to build a one-room cabin, which might have to do for the next decade, we asked Aaron to make the core structure slightly larger to give us more room in the sleeping loft and on the main floor. It had to sleep four comfortably, and be comfortable for hosting friends and their kids.

A few weeks later, he came back to us with this:

This is exactly what we're looking for at this stage. A nice little camp core with plenty of room in the loft for beds and storage, an open, practical floor plan below with a bathroom, and plenty of deck space for a huge table, hammocks, and hanging out. Sleeping arrangements for most guests will have to be a tent for now, but it'll be a nice tent.

Next steps... we're going to spend a week or so soaking this in and figuring out if we have any changes, and then I guess we start talking about blueprints, how to build it, and cost. Yikes.

Oh, so many crazy things to research. I'm going to drive Tammy up the wall.

*SketchUp is a pretty cool rendering application from Google. There's a Pro version, but we've been puttering with the free download available here.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Off-the-Grid Caffeination

John and I love espresso. We also love camping (and by extension, our future stays in our as-yet-to-be-built cabin). Let me tell you something: It's hard to get good espresso off the grid.

But we have a secret weapon. It's called the Presso, and it's a manual espresso machine that makes fabulous espresso every time. Then, after you've whipped up your espresso shots, all you need is a heat source and a milk frother to make a cappuccino, latte, or mocha that, in addition to making you almost weep with its sheer perfection, has the added charm of having been made entirely by hand. (And yes... you CAN taste the love.)

For a long time, we were the only kids on our block to have one of these magical devices, because they were only distributed in the UK. But now the company has gone global (click here for Canadian vendors), and you too can convert your camper/tent/cabin/boat into a personal coffee shop.

(This entire post is probably a sign that we've lived in Vancouver too long.)

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Rescuing Caterpillars and Making Plans

So I guess we're watching Iron Chef America. Quite the comedown after the way we started the day touring the property with Aaron Rosensweet and Jake Fry, partners in a local design/build company called SmallWorks, and their kids.

After a leisurely water taxi ride and mosey up to the property, we showed them some photos of structure concepts and camp layouts we liked, and while they huddled to come up with a plan, Tammy and I took turns going out on to the road with the kids to rescue stray caterpillars.

An hour or so later, we all regrouped, and while the kids horked all the M&Ms out of the trail mix, Jake and Aaron outlined their plan for developing the homestead. It was pretty clear to me and Tammy that, based on what the guys described to us, we were ready to move ahead and get them drawing up some plans.

The idea is to contruct an outdoor -- but lockable -- kitchen on a large, possibly covered platform that crosses a little ravine to connect with a pair of bunkies. The concept is simple, keeps the focus on being outside, and gets us comfortably on the land without spending a fortune. Also, the phrase "superstructure" came up a lot, which Tammy really liked.

To be honest, I was a little concerned about the possibility of being forced to spend the morning making awkward conversation with strangers, but as it turns out, Aaron and Jake are really nice guys, and we all seem to be on the same wavelength.

We learned a little bit about their backgrounds prior to starting SmallWorks. Jake is a director-turned-carpenter, who specialized in finishing carpentry work on well-heeled extravagent projects, with an interest in smaller, green projects. Aaron was an industrial designer fresh out of Emily Carr looking for an interesting gig in designing sustainable and unique structures.

All of this made it clear that we could spend years looking for a better design/build team for this project, and probably not find anyone else better suited to it.

One concern though... I hope our dog stops eating the tall grass. I just did what seems like the magician's handkerchief trick pulling it out of his bum. Sorry for that... but that's life in the bush, I guess.

Can't wait to get back to the land in the next few weeks to clear some slash.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Pitter Patter, Let's Get at 'Er*

We're excited. This Saturday, weather permitting, we're going over to the island with the architect and builder who may be designing and fabricating our cabin. We had a great initial consultation with them (I say "great" because (a) we seemed to have the same aesthetic, and (b) they didn't laugh at our budget), so this is the next step.

We showed them some of the many photos we've been collecting in what I guess designers would call our "inspiration folder." Here's one of the first pictures (Designed by Tim Prentice, Spotted in: Great Backyard Cottages) that got us thinking in the direction we're moving toward:

And it just occurred to me that we've never posted the video we shot of our building site almost a year ago. So here it is:

Just picture the sleeping cabin in the top pic -- better built and with a twin -- and place it in our lot, and you've pretty much got as clear a picture as we do of what we're looking to create.

*Shout-out to Charlie!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Wilderness Modernism

John and I are intrigued by the idea of modernism as it relates to cabin living. Don't misunderstand: we're anything but minimalists in our day-to-day life in the city. Clutter seems to be helplessly attracted to us. (Having a toddler, a dog, and two cats -- not to mention two adults who can't resist bringing home any weird objects they find during their day -- all in a ramshackle old house is probably a factor.)

But the more we talk about what we want out of island living, the more we seem to come to the same conclusion: that this is a place where we want less, not more. And this is where modernism comes in -- not in the fetishy, trendy, chrome-and-plastic way -- but in applying the classic modernism mantra to all our plans for creating our island environment:

First, is it necessary? And if it is necessary, is it beautiful?

We're reading a lot of books and magazines and websites to help us process these questions. One book that took a lot of chasing down is Cabins and Beach Houses (the link is to Amazon, though we found our copy on eBay), which was published by Sunset magazine fifty-five years ago, just when modernism had trickled down to the middle classes, at a time when regular folks were entering a period of affluence that allowed them to buy recreational property. The book contains 63 sets of plans for various cabins, and while some are still amazingly contemporary looking, there are quite a few that haven't aged quite so well.

In addition to building plans, the book contains chapters on practical matters such as how to find a building site, how to develop a spring, and how to close a cabin for the season. The book also has a section on building practices and specifications, as set out by the U.S. Forest Service to govern the construction of all its Forest Service cabins across the country. I find these specifications fascinating because they do a thorough, sensible job of explaining how to create harmony with the natural environment, while at the same time allowing a great deal of leeway for architects and designers:

Building Design: Generally, cabins fit the ground more readily when horizontal lines predominate and building outlines are low and sprawling.

Wall and Roof Materials: Cabins are fundamentally rustic vacation homes and should present that effect when completed. Rough wood and stone are considered the best basic materials. They harmonize easily with surroundings, and have a long life with minimum maintenance. Smooth-surfaced and thin materials, on the other hand, look manufactured and lack the strong, rugged appearance necessary in most mountain sites. Approved materials are: peeled logs, hewn logs, log siding, rough sawn lumber, wood shingles, shakes, single-tile, composition shingles, and stone. Concrete, masonry blocks, and brick may be used in portions of the exterior in combination with more natural and rustic materials, provinding overall design is rustic. Smooth or finished lumber may be used for trim and minor areas of the exterior when the basic exterior material is of rougher or more natural stuff. Sheet metal, stucco, cobblestones, flexible paper, or felt materials, composition wall materials, and mechanically laid masonry are classified "undesirable" because of unnatural colour, texture, or unsatisfactory performance against the rigors of mountain winters.

Roofs, too, are required to be of rough-textured materials. Exceptions are when a flat or low-pitched roof is used, little of which is visible from the surrounding ground. Built-up tar and gravel, painted sheet metal, and other similar materials may then be used.

Design Details: Foundation should be as low as possible consistent with good construction. Use of masonry, concrete, or concrete blocks is approved. Pier construction must include siding or heavy latticework which extends to ground level to enclose the underpinning.

Windows and doors should be of uniform size and shape. Top or head-level should be at uniform height above the floor. Window area must assure adequate indoor light.

Chimneys and fireplaces are required to be of safe, substantial construction with a solid masonry or concrete foundation. Flue lining is necessary.

Exterior Color: Colors generally found in the soil or the bark or the foliage of trees are recommended: subdued red, gray, gray-green, or warm brown. Stain or paint may be used, or exterior walls and roof can be left to weather naturally.

Doors and trim may be painted lighter or darker shades of basic colors. Bright colors may be used for small exterior areas, including doors.

Administration of Standards: Approval of plans and specifications is up to the individual Forest Supervisor. He may allow for architecture, materials and colors which are not generally approved. For example, sheet metal may be approved in a high fire hazard area and in heavy snow country to reduce snow damage.

When otherwise inappropriate materials are allowed, they must be painted an appropriate colour.

It's as if Miss Manners had written a book of design etiquette for the wilderness. In theory, I agree with most of these guidelines. I believe that a cabin should integrate with its environment. I've never understood people who buy a beautiful, pristine piece of wilderness and then erect either a faux-Colonial manor or one of those ultramodern monstrosities like the one in Beetlejuice.

But I also like the balance between rigorous, thoughtful standards and the flexibility to recognize when and how best to deviate from these standards. After our cabin is up, it'll be interesting to revisit these specifications and see how close we came to hitting the mark.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Our First Crack at Homesteading

So. After weeks of being screwed by alternating bouts of bad weather and poor time management, we finally made it back to the land for some weekend camping. All in all, it was a success, though we've definitely learned a few things about how to convince a previously crib-bound toddler to sleep when he's suddenly drunk on the freedom to careen around a tent unfettered.

We trekked around the roads and trails for what felt like miles, but then realized that it was probably only about 500 metres. It's funny how schlepping around a 35-pound organism screws with your sense of scale. Thanks to the extra surveying work John commissioned, we learned that our lot is much bigger than we'd originally understood it to be (see above re: poor senses of scale), and that our chunk of the bluff (and the view) is even more incredible than we'd thought. We also finally discoved the trail that leads down through the woods and to the brook, which ROCKS.

We also had a chance to get re-acquainted with some of our neighbours, and we met others for the very first time, and they are all lovely people. We're looking forward to getting to know them better.

We are ridiculously stoked to start building a homestead, and we have a gazillion ideas we'll be posting here in the near future. But in the meantime, a few inspiring pictures:

Created with Paul's flickrSLiDR.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Tired of Thinking About Poop

I've been thinking about poop a lot these days. Now before any of you poop aficionados who came across this post via some weird google search go getting all excited, it isn't that kind of post. I'm talking about what we're going to do with poop on our recently purchased acreage. Since our lot isn't serviced, we're forced to deal with this issue ourselves, and so this is new territory.

First off, at this stage of our lives we can't afford to build a cabin with a bathroom, let alone install a septic system, so that's off the table for the next few years regardless of how we may feel about the sustainability of one of these things.

Composting toilets are interesting, but they don't come cheap. After I reckoned our "output", I realized that we would need an Envirolet Waterless Remote System, which runs on a 12v battery. Since there's no power, we'd have to charge it with a solar cell, and since the toilet has to sit over a meter above the composting bin, we'll have to construct an elevated structure. I figure all this come in at around $4k+. That's a lot of dough for a glorified hole in the ground. Mind you, it looks like some of our neighbours have managed to rig up a home-made composting toilet without too much trouble and expense.

Then there is the venerable outhouse. I really don't like outhouses, but I found some good plans (PDF) to work with, and for about $500 I could build an all cedar structure, and seal off the hole with a concrete pad, thus helping to keep down the smell. Trouble is, I have no idea how deep the topsoil is, and I haven't walked the land to know if there is a place to drop it far enough away from the creek, and well in order to meet ministry standards.

I really can't wait to stop thinking about poop all the time. Frankly people are beginning to talk.

Sunday, February 04, 2007


Wow. Colonel Wilson's Moonshine stills. Dare I live the dream, quit my job and become a moonshiner like my grandad?

So much to consider.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Abandoned Summer Camp Not a Selling Feature

News that we bought land has now spread through our group of friends and acquaintances, and so I've been answering a lot of questions as to why we decided to buy on Gambier.

One of the selling features was its proximity to Vancouver, and so to give people a sense of how fast we can get there, I'll run through the trip... "so you drive to Horseshoe Bay, catch the water taxi to the Fircom dock, cut through the abandoned summer camp, and..." - this is usually where they stop me. Pretty much everyone is creeped out by the abandoned summer camp. I mean sure... so these feature prominently in a number of teen horror films, so I guess I can see their point.

Generally I'm not one to let my imagination get the better of me, but then I'm surfing through Flickr searching for photos tagged "Gambier Island", and I find this photo of a creepy doll which was apparently taken at Fircom. What gives?

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Surveying the Land, and Next Steps

Now that all of the paperwork is behind us, it feels like we can move onto next few steps. We're planning on having a surveyor swing by to clearly mark the property, since our building site sits so close to the property line.

Once this is done, I figure we'll head on over, and start planning a camp. We've pretty much come to accept that a cabin is not feasible in the immediate future, mostly because we're probably going to have a second child sometime in the next year or so. These kids... it's a good thing they're so cute, because they're really expensive, and they poop all over the place.

Once we've moved past the diaper stage, we should be able to get it together to build something. Frankly I'm fine with this, because this is just when the critters will really be able to start enjoying it. Until then, we'll just have to rough it.

I figure though, that the camp has to be comfortable. And so this end, we're planning on making it not just civilized, but stylin'. It's going to need storage, a nice place to cook, a farout fireplace/pit, and room for a family of four, plus guests.

I've spend enough time living out of a dome tent to know that I don't want to do this if we can at all help it. So to get past this, I've been looking into prospector tents. These durable canvas tents are tough, look good, and last a long time. I'd like to maybe throw up a few of these, and build some simple plywood platforms to get us off of the ground.

A cook tent, or shade structure will work as a kitchen/bar, so long as we can lock our gear up in the storage shed. And for the fireplace, I found a guy who goes by the name Satan, who does really cool metal fabrication, and sculpting. Hopefully his prices aren't too high, or diabolical.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

"We don't even know what we bought"

Finally, FINALLY we have closed the deal on the land. It was a long time coming. The developer had to settle a few subdivision issues with the Island Trust (or something like that), and this took until late December, and then suddenly our conveyancer suddenly tells us: "we-have-to-close-right-now. NOW damn you!"

Tammy ran around like a fart in a mitt to get all of our paper work together, and transfer the money, but it's done, and so now we're left with a "oh no... whadda we gonna do now?" sorta feeling.

Seriously. We don't even know what we bought. I think we've actually seen about 5% of the 5 acres, and I don't really remember it all that well. I think we're going to plan a visit as soon as the weather improves, and do some exploring.

The current plan o' the week is to simple set up a skookum camp that we can use for the next few years while we get our shit together to build a proper cabin.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Renters 4 Ever or How I Learned to Stop Worrying, and love the Housing Bubble. Part II

Last posting I started giving some background on our decision to continue renting in the city, and go the cabin route...

Seeing as hastily built townhouses in East Van are now selling for $550k, and that our budget was at best suited to a two bedroom condo in a mediocre neighbourhood, we quickly realized that we'd be crazy to give up renting our current digs. We, a standard Mom, Dad, and Boy operation currently share what I would describe as a very cozy dump just off of Commercial Drive with our roommate of 10 years. We're mere steps to shops, restaurants, delicious coffee, and funky family friendly community services that draw in yuppies from across the Lower Mainland like moths to a flame. So than why the hell would we leave for a box in nowheresville?

The house hunting process left us tired, and demoralized but it got us thinking seriously about what we were going to do. In the unlikely event that we did find a place we liked and could afford, did we really want to get into a situation where all of our disposable cash went into our home? We would be living pretty lean to make payments, but what would we do if our income was affected by job loss, or another baby? We would no longer be working to live, but living to work.

The recent announcement that banks will now be offering 35 year mortgages sealed the deal by making us realize how utterly retarded the current real estate climate has become. At what point does borrowing on an investment turn into indentured servitude? Will people finally finish paying off their mortgage just so they can swing one of those deals where the bank buys the house back so they have enough money to live on? Screw that.

It took a while for the reality of the situation to set in, but finally we realized that the Vancouver housing market has passed us by. We will never be able to afford the home we want unless A) we somehow start making another $50k per year, or B) the housing bubble bursts, and doesn't take the rest of the economy and us with it. On the other hand, we could pursue our dream of owning a cabin - something we've always wanted to do anyway - without feeling like we were making a stupid decision.

The challenges of finding land were similar to finding a place in the city... too little land for too many people, but the cabin idea had been percolating for years, and so we were no stranger to what was available within three hours of Vancouver. After a tonne of research, and a few false starts, we settled on the previously mentioned water view property on Gambier Island.

Now don't get me wrong... a house would have been great, but not a house that would become a millstone around our necks. If we can manage to put a cabin on the land for around $40k, then, who knows... maybe we'll get a condo. But for this to happen, the numbnuts developers in Vancouver are going to have to stop building the cracker-box shit currently going up around town, and they're going to have to build something in the Commercial Drive area. So if anybody is reading this... and you build something down in that useless light-industrial area near Clark, give us a call.