Saturday, June 14, 2014

Our Building Story - Part 1 Finding Land And Getting A Vision

Welcome to our story. My name is Jenny, my husband is Steve and we have eight children from age 2 to 19 years old. 

When Steve and I were married in 1993, we had several goals. One was to have a family. Another was to live on an acreage or farm (we both grew up that way). Another was to not incur large personal debt. 

On the most part we have been successful - of course it doesn't look like we thought it would look, but we still call it success. For instance, we were thinking four kids....but eight has been an adventure! Because of Steve's careful planning, we have had very little debt and are now one month from being totally debt free! We were able to purchase an acreage in May of 2010, but it is a 7 hour drive north of where we currently live. We are working on our small home from a distance but it has been slow.

The minimalist / small home ideas grew on us as we saw more and more people sacrificing their lives for STUFF that did not make them any happier or content in life. And being a larger family living in a smaller house with one income...minamalist ideas appealed to us out of necessity!

So here is were we were at back around 2008: We had rented since we were married. We did not own any residential lot or home. the only land we owned was a commercial lot in our small town that we had bought at auction with the plan of building a woodworking shop on it.  We had a cabinet making business that my husband had started and built up to be a busy shop. He only ever had one employee on occasion, but mostly did the work himself.  I would occasionally be able to help Steve with his work and our two oldest sons also helped. 

So back around 2008/09 we began to save money for land. We sold our commercial lot but also had a bad business year and the majority of that money had to go back into the business. We didn't know how we would EVER save enough to even have a reasonable down-payment on a town lot  in our area as central Alberta real estate was booming and prices were high. We just saved because if we never started we would never have anything. 

By the spring of 2010 we had somehow managed to save about $24,000 dollars. Our savings seemed to snowball once we got past that $10,000 mark! While that was more than we had ever managed to save before, it was not enough to buy anything around our area. With our desire to have either none or only a very limited mortgage, we wanted to have a 50-75% down payment on anything we bought. It was still looking out of reach, but we kept saving anyway. 

During this time we were also looking all over the Alberta and into BC or Saskatchewan for property. What we did not know was that a relative was also looking for land. They wanted a quarter of land for recreational property and a retirement cabin. They found what they were looking for in Northern Alberta close to many beautiful lakes and great hunting and fishing. However, the price of the quarter was more than they wanted to spend. It also had a 34 piece already subdivided off the corner with road access. They approached us and asked if we would be interested in buying the 34 acre piece from them if they bought the quarter first. It would help them out and they would help us by selling for a very reasonable price. This was all a huge surprise to us! We could not have imagined that such a deal would come up when we started saving. But because we had been saving...when a deal came up we had cash to pay for the land! I think that is so key - just START saving. Tell others that you are looking for an inexpensive piece of land....get the word out. You never know what will come along, but if you never start, you won't be ready for that deal!

So that is how we became the proud owners of 34 acres of bare pasture and bush land in Peace Country, Alberta. We bought it for the amazing price of $20,000 dollars! We had no idea what we were going to do with it, but it was a start....and it was OURS!

That summer (2010) the first thing we did was camp on our land as a family. We explored and dreamed of the possibilities ahead.

We decided that fall to start a cabin or small house on the land. We chose a location and sank cement pilings for a 16'x34' house. 

Little did we know that that summer was an unusually dry one for that area. The next few years had unusually wet springs and summers and we soon discovered that our chosen location had a very swampy corner! If we could choose again, we can see better building locations on the land, but we are content. By digging some drainage ditches around our yard site and adding a duck pond in the one corner, we will be very happy with the situation!

The kids also helped dig an outhouse hole. :-) 

Steve and the kids installed a culvert along our prospective driveway.

We paid a man to put in a proper approach at the highway for us that fall. 

And we got a little gravel brought in to cover the new culvert. 

That was all we managed to do on our place in the first summer (2010). However, we did help our relatives build their retirement cabin on their part of the property. In exchange, they let us stay in their place the next couple summers while we worked on our place.

Over the winter, we pre-built our cabin and outhouse buildings in our rental-house garage. Steve bought the lumber and pre-cut and labelled every piece so come spring, we could ship the building in pieces and start assembling. Also, since we had no power on our site except a generator, this made the build more efficient. 

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