So we bought some land. Now what?

For anyone that missed Post #1: in September, we purchased 10 acres of forested land near the BWCA in Northern Minnesota. We're still pinching ourselves, and trying to enjoy the beginning stages of excitement and planning. That planning stage, it turns out, is super important when you've never developed raw land before. There is a lot for us to learn, and we're ready.



Colder weather has started to set in up North, and ground freeze isn't far off. That means we have to pump the brakes on things like digging the outhouse hole for soil testing. Andy dug as far down as we thought we needed to go the last time we were up there, but a quick phone call later revealed we have to get the soil tested at a depth of six feet as part of the privy permitting process in St. Louis County (see - learning!).


So now we read. There are building codes to understand, plans to draw up and permits to file for. Without further ado, here is our general top-level plan for the land, in order of priority


  • Outhouse/Pit Privy Priority one for obvious reasons. We need to get a soil test done at a depth of six feet to ensure our soil is capable of safely supporting a pit-style outhouse. We also need to ensure the bottom of the pit is at least three feet above the water table. If it passes the soil and water table tests, we dig a hole of a specific size, reinforce the walls of the hole to prevent cave-in, properly vent the waste area, and then build a simple structure on top of it. If it doesn't pass those tests, we have to move to a vault-style construction method, which is more complex. We'll sit on that seat if we come to it. We're also learning a lot about maintaining an outhouse and taking care of waste build up, but that will be discussed in a more detailed post all about sh*t later.




  • Simple Shed/Shelter A three-walled shed is high up on our priority list for a couple of reasons. 1) We need a place to keep things like firewood and building tools dry. 2) And to keep us dry and out of the wind when it's pouring and we're trying to do things like prepare food or eat. The plan is for a 10x10ish three-walled structure with a shed-style roof with a large overhang. There will also be a hand washing station. The shed will be positioned near the fire ring we built for quick access to dry firewood. A general land-use permit should take care of this project, so we're reading up on codes and developing plans to submit right now.


  • Rainwater Harvesting System We plan on using the roof of our shed to harvest rainwater using a barrel system. We're currently researching the best ways to filter rainwater for purposes like hand washing and washing dishes. Even though rain water might seem clean, things like bird poop on a roof or a bacteria introduced to the tank can make it unsafe. We have a 55 gallon drum we obtained for free from a friend, and may be getting one or two larger water storage tanks for free as well. Our drinking water will be rainwater filtered through a Berkey water filter. The Berkey is an amazing filter that works using microfiltration. It removes pretty much everything - from chemicals to dangerous pathogens. We've used a Berkey at home for over six years, so we are familiar with it and have total confidence in our filtered drinking water.


Exploring the land on a rainy day


  • Camp/RV Sites One of the first things we plan on doing in the spring is clearing several areas for tent camping and/or parking RVs so that we can have friends and family up. A huge part of why we bought this land was so we could have a space to gather, host and share this beautiful place. We've identified the general areas we want to put the campsites, so on our list is clearing brush and any surrounding dead trees or limbs, leveling the ground and removing roots and rocks, and setting up power at one or two of the sites. We have electricity at the road, but are unsure if we'll utilize that or go with a simple solar setup. More research to do!


  • Larger Fire Ring and Picnic Shelter The first thing we did was dig a fire pit and create a ring with rocks found on our property. It is great for small fires, roasting marshmallows, sitting around with the family and keeping warm. But we want a larger fire ring, potentially with a grate over the top for cooking, a little further away close to where we're going to put our cabin. I'll be honest, we're known to stay up late around the fire with family and friends. Our wedding included a large bonfire that lasted until 4am and we were the last ones to leave the fire! We have identified the perfect place to put a large bonfire ring. Next to that, we're going to build a roomy picnic shelter with pizza oven and another hand washing station. This build is going to happen very slowly, as we can afford it using reclaimed materials. Eventually, we'll use the picnic shelter to host educational events, workshops and more. I also plan on using this space as a three season art studio because I make a huge mess.


The bonfire ring will be to the left of this curved tree

  • The Cabin We're going to have some fun this winter in Google Sketchup. Building a cabin has been a dream of mine since the age of 15 or so. I've been reading about building techniques, creating sketches and obsessively pinning cabin construction styles I love since Pinterest was created. Andy has also gotten into planning with me in the last few years. Given all of that, we feel like we have narrowed down what we would like to build already. BUT - one of our adventure promises is to keep an open mind, so we'll change things as we learn if it makes sense to. The last time I was up there, I staked out the size we were thinking in the location we are thinking, just to get an idea of how much room it will take up. We don't plan on bringing in any architects for help with our plans or filing for permits until sometime in later 2020, maybe even 2021. Since this cabin will be almost totally self-built, taking our time and learning from the smaller projects is incredibly important.



So that's it, the high level, way-simplified version of our plan. We are seeking advice from those that have self-built, and will graciously accept salvaged building materials or a helping hand in the spring.

Thank you all for reading and joining us on this journey, we're so excited to be here!