Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Bulldozing a driveway & house pad

Lava rock & coconut palms

Dreadknot and I are feeling very elated that we can now access our property with a vehicle! The Ohia forest on our land was in full bloom when we arrived, welcoming us with spectacular fire red Lehua blossoms as we drove onto our black, red and green landscape in the life sustaining drizzle.
Mahalo Hursley Alani

Hursley Alani from Alani Bulldozing LLC did a magnificent job of cutting in and leveling our driveway and a space to start building our home aka a house pad.
The area of Hawaii that we have bought our land on is solid black lava rock with a thin layer of topsoil. In addition the terrain is pretty uneven with a rolling topography, so it was not an easy job trying to tame it by any means. The good aspect of excavating a driveway into this rock is that once the rock is crushed and dozed it is almost like having an asphalt driveway and we could drive onto it immediately. However, we have opted to add a layer of gravel on top to fill in the gaps and smooth it all out even more.
18 tons of gravel

The house pad

Gravel laid onto driveway

Smoothing out the gravel

The same day we called we had our first dump truck deliver 18 tons of gravel which covered our long driveway very nicely with an initial layer. It was incredible to watch how the bed of the truck was tipped to release small amounts of gravel as the driver slowly drove the length of the driveway. I must add that it was a little nerve wracking too as Dreadknot was walking behind, guiding the driver as he released the gravel... I was concerned that something might go wrong and that Dreadknot could be buried by 18 tons of small rocks and stones.

It rained almost solidly for the entire three days we were there and despite the torrential downpours with thunder and lightning, no muddy puddles developed and our car could easily navigate the terrain. Sleeping outdoors in a tent in the midst of a heavy storm with sheet lightning being displayed every so often accompanied by loud cracks of thunder is quite an exhilarating experience! At first I mistook the lightening for flashlights in the middle of the night which was a much scarier prospect than that of Mother Nature. 
First camp on our property

Shelter from the rain

Camping on our property while we worked on it was also exciting as this would be the first time that we were sleeping on our land and fortunately we had good rain gear in the form of tarps( used over and under the tent), umbrellas and rain suits and great camping equipment.
Once we measured the housepad with a 100ft tape measure we realized that we had measured short the first time as we had to go over and around foliage, mounds and trees. The pad was actually 60 ft by 90 ft instead of 80 ft by 80 ft... but even that initial size we had wanted would not be big enough for our plans. We had Kimo from a container company come and inspect the area to see if it was appropriate for a 40 ft shipping container and realized then that the width of the clearing would not work for this plan. Next we got Hursley to come back and we are hiring him again to widen the pad. This was a little disappointing as it costs an additional fee to have the large bulldozer delivered each time.... but there was nothing we could do, the space just wasn’t wide enough.

Two Feathers at work with the rake

Another one of our plans is to plant fruit trees every time we go to work on our property. Hursley very kindly gave us five coconut palms which we have planted in an area we are calling “ Coconut Grove”. We also bought a small fig tree sapling and lemon tree sapling which we transplanted into bigger pots and planted the seeds of a delicious papaya and avocado we ate and we’re going to see what happens with those!
Dreadknot planting the coconut palms

Two Feathers in the "Coconut Grove"

It’s now two weeks later and the bulldozer is back on the property making it bigger! 

The D9 Bulldozer moving rock

We have secured a heavy duty chain with a lock across the driveway to prevent vehicular trespassing and hope to get a gate up soon. Next step is going to be purchasing and delivery of a shipping container that we can use as a secure lock up garage and storage shed....

Stay tuned for the next installment of this amazing adventure!

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Driveway and house pad layout

Standing on the spot where our house will be built

Mission accomplished for this weekend. We have successfully mapped the layout of our 300ft (91.5m) long driveway and 80ft X 80ft (24m X 24m) house pad. 
Clearing the area for our house pad

We rented a brush cutter, cleared the underbrush along the driveway and marked it by tying red marker tape onto the bushes lining it. This involved intensive labor on the part of Dreadknot who handled the brush cutter while I swept up the foliage behind him, clearing the debris and tying the tags. 
Gathering the cuttings

....and tossing them to the side of the clearing

Along the way we also marked all the well-established trees we want to save with green tape.
Marking the mature trees we want to protect

In addition we cleared a path along one of the boundary lines to enable us to establish how far from the boundary our driveway and house pad would be set. There are legal requirements as to the set backs from the borders you can develop.
Cutting and marking the driveway

It took a full morning just to mark halfway on one side of the property border which we also did with red tags. When we had the land surveyed and staked, we opted for 6 stakes, ( 4 Corners and 2 midpoints). In retrospect I would have gone for 8 or 10 stakes, it would have made establishing our boundary line much easier.
King of our jungle

Once we had cleared and marked off exactly how we would like the layout to be, it was time to get quotes from a  couple of excavation companies to bulldoze and excavate the hard volcanic rock which lies beneath a thin layer of topsoil. 
Beautiful ohia lehua blossom

We feel that we have chosen a very professional company who will do the job right. Everything is set in place for dozing and grading and soon we'll actually be able to drive onto our land which is so exciting! 
Standing in the middle of the house pad area

Green taping the trees we want to keep

The plan is taking shape and things are moving forward one step at a time. We are believing in ourselves, going for our dream and doing whatever it takes.

Dream it. See it. Be it.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Cutting in the first trail

Hard at work blazing a trail onto our property

What an exciting weekend! We had our 3 acres of land staked and this has been our first opportunity to actually access the land by cutting a trail through the dense underbrush with a machete, a shovel and a pair of loppers. The vegetation is thick and lush but fortunately is accessible with a bit of hard work. Dreadknot went ahead with the machete to cut a trail and I followed on behind with the loppers, trimming back branches that stuck out into the trail.

Enjoy our drone video of our land in the raw, only a trail is visible.

We are thrilled with the piece of land we bought and plan to keep the majority of the beautiful indigenous trees intact. The ohia lehua trees are gorgeous and well established along with a few other species we have yet to learn about.

Beautiful ferns abound as well as the invasive mountain strawberry guava which are delicious but pose an ecological threat to indigenous forests as it crowds out the other plant species. So we'll have to work hard on curbing the spread of this plant, originally brought to Hawaii from Brazil.

This weekend we succeeded in establishing a trail so that we can access the 4 corners of the property and we made a clearing that we can camp on whilst working. A true feeling of satisfaction has engulfed us and we are motivated!

Next step is grading the driveway and house pad. Tune in again to see our progress.

 Dream it. See it. Be it.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Dream it. See it. Be it.~ Step 2: We bought the land!

We're celebrating! Our offer for 3 acres of land was accepted and we have the title!

As I mentioned in my last blog post the first 2 steps to successfully achieving our dream are completed:

First step: Have an inspired dream: Our dream is to build our own energy efficient round house on property large enough to grow fruits and vegetables and start a sustainable lifestyle, mostly off-grid and self-sufficient.

Second step: Figure out where you want to live and buy property:After multiple trips to the Big Island of Hawaii and countless hours of research on different areas we found a property which suited our situation. We figured out where we wanted to live, placed an offer which was accepted and now we are ready to move onto the very long-term third phase.... The bonus factor is that we managed to buy 3 acres instead of the 1 acre we originally visualized.

Third Step: Create a sustainable house design and draw up plans: Now comes the hard labor as we intend to design and build everything ourselves. The land is raw and untouched, with beautiful Ohia lehua trees, endemic to the Hawaiian islands, which we intend to keep as they are, medium sized brush and bushes and shorter ferns and grasses.

Once we've had the property surveyed and staked we plan to cut our way into it with machetes to get an idea of the lay of the land. After we've done this initial exploration, we'll be able to envision how we'd like the driveway and house pad to be positioned. Once we've made that assessment we'll create a plot layout plan and do the clearing with a grader.

Baby foot in front of the other but we're stoked, the dream is morphing into reality.

Friday, July 1, 2016

The beginning of our dream for sustainable living.

Dreadknot and Two Feathers celebrating my PCT thru-hike finish
Aloha from Hawaii.
We are about to embark on a long term adventure in creating a sustainable lifestyle for ourselves in Hawaii.
The definition of sustainable living is as follows:"Sustainable living is a lifestyle that attempts to reduce an individual's or society's use of the Earth's natural resources and personal resources. Practitioners of sustainable living often attempt to reduce their carbon footprint by altering methods of transportation, energy consumption, and diet."
This is not a dream that will be realized overnight, it will be a long journey and we invite you to join us and hopefully be inspired to try to create your own sustainable living lifestyle as best you can.

Who we are:
Dreadknot is a Contractor and Carpenter as well as an inventor. He can build houses amongst his other skills. He got his name when we hiked across northern Spain on el Camino del Norte because he wore his dreads up in a topknot and this caused much interest from other hikers we met.
Two Feathers is a Registered Nurse, Health and Wellness Coach, Motivational Speaker and Author of the book " Dream it. See it. Be it. ~ Discovering your potential at the end of your comfort zone."
She got her name when hiking from Mexico to Canada along the Pacific Crest Trail.

What we love doing:
Hiking, backpacking, running, stand-up paddling, scuba diving, chilling on the beach, cooking delicious vegetarian meals (Dreadknot says he's 75% vegetarian and Two Feathers has been a vegetarian for 32 years, five of those vegan).

What we want to do:
~ buy an acre property
~ build a beautiful round house with smaller round "pods" we can use as guest rooms and a workshop.
~grow food: Fruit orchards and vegetables for our own personal use and surplus that we can share and sell.
~we also want to create edible landscaping.
~our water source will be catchment water that we purify with a UV system.
~ our lighting will consist of LED bulbs throughout.
~our waste water will be split into black water and grey water systems, BW into septic, GW will be treated and used for irrigation.
~ our refuse will be sorted: organic material composted and recyclables taken to recycling facility.
~our electricity will be obtained from solar panels, and potentially other sustainable means.
~ we don't want to owe big money and tons of interest to a bank. We plan to create this paradise slowly as we can afford it.

Why a "Round House"?

The idea of living in a round structure as our home appeals to both of our sense of aesthetics.

"The oldest forms of indigenous shelter were often round in shape. Good examples are the Hogan houses in SW USA, the Mongolian Yurt, North American teepee and the Greek Tenemos, among others. Why did our ancestors choose to build round? Because the ovoid shape -- eggs, earth, tree trunks, and stones -- is what they saw reflected in the surrounding natural environment. Round buildings are more comfortable, more energy-efficient and safer -- especially if you combine the ancient shape with modern materials."

"The natural thermal dynamics of open-at-the-top architecture round space uses no external energy to circulate temperature. It works like this; heated air naturally rises till it reaches the insulated ceiling, it moves up the domed ceiling till it reaches the center skylight, which is cooler, the air reacts by dropping to the floor where it moves across to the walls and rises again till it meets the skylight and drops again. This action constantly circulates the air and temperatures in the home."

"In modern round buildings using the ancient Yurt design, 1-3 airplane grade steel cables circle the outer perimeter where the trusses meet the wall and hold the natural outward thrust. Because of this combination of a central compression ring at the top of the roof and the encircling cables where the roof meets the walls, long roof spans are possible without any internal support system (like beams or posts). The interconnected tension in the building goes all the way to the ground and uses gravity and compression to hold it together with incredible strength."

"Round buildings use less wall, floor and roof mate­ri­als to enclose the same square footage as a rec­tan­gu­lar struc­ture.  15 to 20% less mate­r­ial is used to cre­ate the same square foot build­ing com­pared to a rec­tan­gu­lar design! This means the possibility for a smaller eco-footprint and more living space for less cost. It also means less sur­face area in con­tact with adverse weather con­di­tions, which improves the over­all dura­bil­ity and energy effi­ciency of the home.
The acoustics of round space can be out of this world. The curve soft­ens the sounds inside the build­ing mak­ing it the per­fect place for rest and reflec­tion or for social­iz­ing and lis­ten­ing to and play­ing music (…think long winter evenings of storytelling around the central fire….) The shape also pre­vents noise from pen­e­trat­ing in from the out­side. Sound waves dis­si­pate as they wrap around the build­ing, shield­ing the interior from loud out­side noise."
"David Raitt, yurt builder  describes it “Circular living provides a balance of looking inward and outward, looking out at the natural environment and surroundings but then coming in again to the self and the hearth.”  You might call it curve appeal."
I found the above information in an article called "Inhabitat" written by Rachel Ross.

STEP ONE: Have an inspired dream.
STEP TWO: Figure out where you want to live and buy a piece of property.
STEP THREE: Come up with a sustainable house design and have plans drawn up.

We'll be discussing these first three steps as the adventure unfolds.

Until then LIVE GREEN for the survival of our planet.
Here are ten tips from the Nature Conservancy:
1. Buy local building products when available, and ask retailers to expand the offerings of regional goods.
2. When home-buying, look for a residence that requires you to pare down and simplify, rather than encouraging sprawl. Larger homes require more resources to heat and maintain -- and more stuff to fill the extra space.
3. A laptop uses just a quarter of the power required by a desktop computer.
4. Contaminants are tracked into homes on the soles of shoes. Consider becoming a shoe-free household. Clever designs for shoe storage near the front door can keep entries clutter-free and indoor air cleaner at the same time.
5. Using cold water can save up to 80 percent of the energy required to wash clothes.
6. Some commercial air fresheners use chemicals that can be harmful to a baby's development. Instead, lightly spritz the place with vinegar.
7. Situating your water heater as reasonably close as possible to the point of highest use (bathroom or kitchen) will save both water and energy by reducing the time it takes for hot water to reach the tap or shower.
8. Choose low-toxic paints that also are low in volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, which convert to gas at room temperatures. Outdoors, certain VOCs react with sunlight to create smog. Indoors, VOCs can irritate lungs and cause allergic reactions. Check the paint label for a VOC level below 150 grams per liter. Zero-VOC paints also are available.
9. The average American home contains two televisions, a VCR and/or DVD player and three phones. These home electronics can use more energy than you think. As you replace existing equipment, look for Energy Star models that help reduce carbon emissions.
10. Activities within the home, such as cooking and bathing, produce large amounts of moisture, which can cause structural damage and mold growth. Keep pots covered when boiling liquids, and use ventilation when cooking and bathing. If a bathroom or kitchen lacks mechanical ventilation, install properly sized, energy-efficient fans.

Hope to see you at our next installment. Until then...a hui ho.