Category Archives: land preparation

And, The Big Sky Saga continues…..Our Latest Homestead Adventure

Sometimes, crazy things get in the way and slow you down. Over the past couple of months we have experienced just that! Our goal has been to continue our dream of having our own little private place to call home in the mountains of Tennessee. We gave you the lowdown on our progress to get our land cleared and the septic tank installed. I had hoped (before now) to give you the latest on our water line and electric install, but, crazy things just get in the way.

While we were busy planning to move right along and hopefully have a home in place, that was not to be. We applied for the water meter installation at our local water utility and were met with little resistance on that end. The ELECTRIC was a completely different story. When we applied for electric service with the local Member owned electric co-op, we were informed that we needed to obtain easements from the adjoining property owners nearby. The end of line electric pole was on a neighbors right of way thus we needed to get his written permission for the electric company to install a separate pole on his property and to run the power line from his existing pole. While he initially agreed to give us an easement, we had to wait almost 90 days to FINALLY receive it.

Needless to say, and with some frustration on our part, we were forced to seek some legal intervention and a close look at the Electric Co-Op Bylaws. While an Attorney was busy trying to convince the neighbor to sign an easement, we found a section of the Bylaw which gives any new members automatic easement for themselves and any others wanting electric service. It took a phone call to the Electric Co-Op Attorney and even more to the Co-Op Management to finally get some much-needed progress. While they decided that we made our point, approval was finally taking place.

A ninety day delay really put us behind schedule in making some effort to move forward. In August we were finally able to make a return trip to our property and finish the utilities. It turned out to be an all-out effort to coordinate our contractors to finish up. We were able to get Tucker Farms LLC back to dig trenches for the underground Electric line from the pole to our pedestal and a water line from our water meter. We were also able to hire David Garrett, an electrician in Livingston Tennessee to install our electric service. I would happily provide you with some contact information but he doesn’t do email or websites.
I do have a phone number if interested! He and his crew do great work and are dependable and affordable.

Electric Pedestal Installed

Our Electric Company was able to come out that same morning and install the electric line through a 100 foot trench to our service pedestal in a trench of 30 inches deep and 18 inches wide. This is required in many areas per electric code and cannot be within the same trench as any other utility line such as water or sewer.

In a separate trench for our water line I decided to use underground 3/4 inch PEX tubing. PEX is so easy to work with and is great for colder climates. Unlike PVC piping, PEX will expand about five times its size if frozen without breaking. We buried it at 24 inches deep which is well below the freeze line for our area. During the water line install we placed a 3/4 inch Freeze-proof Yard Hydrant ( for outside watering needs) from our local Big Box Store. I also added a brass T and extended the PEX another 10 feet to allow for our cabin water supply and plumbing needs. Using SharkBite fittings is the way to go with plumbing these days. By the way, my wife and I got a great deal on that 300 Feet of PEX tubing.

PEX Water Line Install

After most of the day working at our property we were finally able to install our water line and turn on the water from our meter!

Running Water Finally!

We were happy that the electric and water line were both installed that day even if it took us a frustrating three months to get there. But, It doesn’t end there!

When we were just about ready to order our cabin and begin the work to be able to live in it, Hurricane Irma decided to pay us a visit in Florida. We had been following the forecasts for several days and it certainly looked like she would be a monster storm. We decided that our better option would be to evacuate out of the storm’s path and hope for the best. We had no idea what we would return to once it was over. Besides taking the essential clothing and bare necessities, we also packed up laptops, computers, and recently purchased products for our new homestead. We didn’t want to lose that too!

When it was over we came back to a partially downed fence and our tree across the neighbor’s roof. Fortunately, there was no significant damage and we were spared from much worse than we thought! It cost us from what we call our “Tennessee Fund” to remove the tree and evacuate two states north.

In the meantime, while trying to recoup and obligations of work, I was able to update our Homestead Store with some new and exciting products. We hope that you will take a look Homesteading Store and make a purchase from us. While we don’t make a lot of money on it all profits go towards our Blog Hosting and future Homestead in our Mountains of Tennessee! If you have any questions about our Products feel free to ask.

Until Next time!!

Installing Our Homestead Septic System

Again we made our annual trip to our property in Tennessee although this time it would be different for us.  It was time to clear the property and install the septic system. We needed to be there to decide what areas we wanted cleared of underbrush,many small saplings, and a couple of dead trees.

After arriving on a rainy Monday afternoon  in Livingston we had lunch at a local downtown diner. It was a great little spot with an adjoining antique shop. You can find more about that on  Cheri’s Blog.

Early Tuesday morning we met with our Contractor, Benton Tucker with Tucker Farms LLC and his associate Jason Huggins at another local diner for breakfast. These guys made us feel welcomed and happy to do business with them.  During breakfast and between a few laughs we explained what we were looking for and decided to head out to the property and create a plan for tomorrows work.  We needed to decide where to clear for the septic system according to the Inspectors permit we had received. The permits will usually give you some idea of where the Inspector conducted the percolation test on the property and where the tank and drain field would need to be.  It was also important in knowing where we would be able to place our future home, placing utilities, driveways, gardens and other outbuildings we may have later. We walked the property with Benton and Jason while they provided some expertise and valuable insights of things we could consider. At the end of our walk we knew we would have a much better idea and vision once their equipment was on-site and the clearing began.

On Wednesday morning, after a short delay due to a flat tire on one of their trailers they arrived and began work immediately. Jason began work with the Forestry Mulcher clearing some of the property. This would allow us to get in much easier beyond the underbrush and briars. It would also help in clearing for the septic system.

Excavator digging Hole for Septic Tank after property is cleared

We were fortunate enough that Benton had already contacted the State Inspector to come out and inspect the installation and hopefully give us a completion permit.  The Inspector arrived much earlier than planned and decided to hang out with us for awhile while the digging and measuring continued and wait for the septic tank to arrive.

We had purchased a 1000 gallon Low Boy concrete septic tank for the system with a gravel- less drain field system approved by the State Environmental Health Inspector. These tanks need to be buried on site at least 6 feet in depth and level. That is normally the depth of these tanks. It will provide that the tank is level and will drain properly. For accuracy, our Contractor used a transit to measure the depths while being dug by the excavator. The top of the tank being close to ground level also provides easy access to the tank when its time to pump it out to remove waste. The Inspector informed me that our tank would more than likely only need to be pumped out once every 10 years or so. Much of that depends on use.

Now the septic tank is ready to lower into the ground..

Around noon the truck with the septic system arrived on-site and the work began to lower it into place and make sure it was level.  Once the tank was in place it was now time for the excavator operated by Cody ( another Tucker Farms Equipment Operator) to dig another trench for the drain field piping and gravel-less pipe. The permit called for 110 feet of gravel-less pipe which would stretch across the front of the property. This will allow any liquids accumulated in the septic tank to flow through the pipe to the drain field and be absorbed into the ground.  The piping and the ground will filter the liquids and pretty well render it harmless. In the below photograph you can see the gravel- less pipe in the foreground. It is nothing more than flexible perforated piping wrapped in a mesh sleeve and then outer wrapped in black plastic. Gravel-less pipe replaces the need to haul in gravel to put in the trench for the absorption process in waste treatment.  It seems to be much quicker and less expensive than a several hundred dollar truck load of gravel.

Installing Tank

Once the tank was installed in the ground they began digging the trench for the drain field piping.  In our case the trench needed to be 110 feet long and a few feet deep.  This would eventually tie into the septic tank by a section of PVC pipe to the drain field. This allows the liquids to reach the drain field for absorption. Many times the drain fields are commonly called leech fields.

Drain field trenching begins
Up close view of the trench

Once the trench is completely dug the tree roots will be removed to make installing the piping easier and clear of debris. They removed those with a cordless sawzall. Some prefer to simply remove them with a pair of loppers.

Once the system is in the ground you will need a local Health Department Inspector to come out and inspect the installation to make sure it meets code and will work properly. After it is inspected and passes, the Contractors will then cover it up. The Inspector would then give us a Certificate of Completion for our records and it meets code. We will also need this Certificate for the Electrical Permit.

 

The installation is complete!

Now that our septic system is installed it is important to remember that in many locales it is required to have septic systems installed by a Licensed Contractor in your particular state. Many of these same locations require you to have an approved method of disposing of waste, especially human waste.   The reason is simply that disposing of waste improperly allows the ground water ( aquifers)to be contaminated with human waste. Many aquifers are our main source of drinking water who use wells for water sources. Home made septic systems don’t always purify our drinking water. Many locales also allow approved composting toilets for disposal as long as running water is available to you.

You can be sure that if you are ever found in violation with a home made system you can face heavy fines and penalties.  Please do the right thing and install an approved septic system. Our health depends on it!

  • Check your local codes or with your local Health Department to find out what is approved and not approved in your area.

 

By the way, our water meter was installed this past week much to our surprise!

Utility Company installing our water meter

Be sure to visit Cheri’s Blog to read her take on our complete trip to our Homestead and things we did on our down time.

 

 

 

Our Adventure is about to begin…..

The Road leading to our Property

 

In a couple of weeks we will make our annual trek to our property in the Cumberland Plateau of Tennessee.  For many of you following my Blog, Cheri and I will finally begin the process of clearing our property for our future homestead, and installing the necessary utilities that we will most certainly need.

It’s been close to a two year process in getting this far and we aren’t about to stop now.  In my previous Blog Post about our plans Here , I provided my insights in what we needed to do next.  With many ups and downs, and obstacles to overcome we are finally ready to get started.

During our few days there I will share with you our step by step process of how its coming along and hopefully have some pictures or videos to share.  We will see how good the internet speed really is in those mountains –

Please feel free to follow Cheri’s Blog for updates on our adventure at cheriannjones

She would love to have you follow along with her latest updates on our project and plans.

How To: Digging a well on your property

 

Your typical Pitcher Pump

 

I know I have often thought about drilling a well or simply being satisfied with a public water system on our property.  Many times the costs are less when connecting to a public water supply, but the water isn’t always the best! After all, water just isn’t something you can do without, right?  In this instance, I will give you some ways to have supplemental water sources for your garden or watering your lawn!

If your property has soft, sandy soil or loose gravel on top of a shallow water table, here are three cost-effective ways of drilling your own backyard water well. On the other hand, if the water table is 150 to 300 feet below the surface, use a portable drilling rig, or hire a contractor for the project.  Well Drilling Contractors can be a good source for telling you if your area is suitable or possible for a well. Deep well water is usually potable — provided it passes certain tests performed by an approved laboratory. If not, your deep well should produce enough water for a sophisticated irrigation system.

Check your Zoning Laws and the Water Table

  • Check your local suburban zoning laws before planning a well or purchasing equipment — some cities do not allow private water wells. On the other hand, if your local ordinance allows backyard wells, apply for the relevant permits and ask for the location of municipal utility cables and pipes on your property before proceeding. Once this is done, establish the approximate depth to water table by either checking the depth of nearby wells or hiring a hydrologist to perform a survey of your immediate area.

Driving a Wellpoint

  • A wellpoint is a perforated pipe fitted with a hardened point that is driven into the ground by hand. The openings in the pipe are large enough to allow water to enter but small enough to keep water-bearing gravel out of the pipe. Wellpoints vary in diameter from 1 1/4 to 2 inches, with lengths between 18 and 60 inches. After the initial drive point is hammered into the ground, subsequent pipes are attached to the ends with specially designed drive point couplings. Pipes are added until the perforated end penetrates the water table by 2 to 6 feet. Wellpoint extraction only works when driven into a high water table, 10 to 15 feet below the ground. Once installed, about 5 or 6 gallons per minute can be pumped out using a pitcher pump or a shallow well pump.

Air Pump-Assisted Drill Bit

  • An air pump-assisted drill bit can drill your backyard water well to a depth of up to 100 feet. The unit consists of a small but powerful air-driven drill bit capable of cutting through hardened clay and densely packed soil. The bit is attached to the end of a tubular expansion chamber containing the inlet pipe from the air pump, with holes in the lower part for water to flow into the system. A 100-foot length of 2-inch PVC pipe is attached to the outlet port of the expansion chamber. The well is constantly filled with water from a garden hose until the drill bit penetrates the water table. Exhaust air from the drill bit is ejected up the expansion chamber and into the 2-inch PVC pipe, forming a vacuum and sucking water and slurry out during drilling operation. A well liner, foot strainer and pump is installed on a concrete slab to complete the project.

Jetting or Washboring

  • Jetting or washboring is suitable for producing a shallow well where the distance to the water table is 25 feet or less. In basic terms, serrated teeth are cut into the end of a schedule 40 PVC pipe with a hacksaw. A drill head with two 3/4-inch threaded fittings is attached to the top of the pipe with a threaded pipe coupling. Hose pipes are connected to the threaded fittings to supply a constant flow of water into the Schedule 40 pipe. A wide wooden handle is attached to the pipe with hose clamps to provide leverage. The operator stands on an open pickup truck tailgate, places the serrated end of the pipe on the ground and has a helper turn on the hose pipes. He then twists wooden handle back and forth to allow the teeth on the end of the pipe to cut into the soil with the help of jetting water. Extra lengths of pipe are added until the required depth is reached. A well liner, foot strainer and pitcher pump or a shallow well pump is installed on a concrete slab to complete the project.

Micro Drill Rig

  • Use a one-man diesel-powered micro drill rig to drill a well up to 300 feet through clay and rock formations. These rigs are equipped with hydraulic power for easy handling and for added pressure on the drill bit. A powerful mud pump is used to pump drilling mud directly to the drill bit to speed up drilling action, and manual setup and positioning is straightforward. Since these micro-rigs cost over $20,000, you may be able to rent one through a heavy equipment rental outlet. If not, you could always recover costs over time by renting the machine out to your neighbors — or you could establish your own micro-drilling company as an added source of income.

Land Preparation- Is your Land Ready for your Homestead?

 

 

My wife and I decided that we wanted to find the perfect place we could call home and be certain that the land was sufficient for the things we wanted to do with it. We needed to focus on land preparation. We began that journey more than a year ago as I posted in a previous Blog Post. Without some basic research, we ended up with a property we couldn’t do anything with. You can read about it here –>>https://www.homesteadinghowto.com/a-place-to-call-home/

We found another piece of land that was a little smaller and decided to venture back to Tennessee and meet with the Land Specialist to look at it. A few days earlier we decided to do as much research on this property and learn as much as we could. After all, we didn’t want to end up in that same boat we had been in before. We quickly found the contacts for the utilities and if a title search was needed on the property. Title searches can show you any discrepancies with the property and any obstacles over ownership or deeds. After talking with the Register of Deeds Office in that particular County we found that the property was free and clear of any potential heartaches. That was a good sign!

The Road to Our Homestead:

When we arrived in Tennessee, we checked into our hotel in preparation for our trip the next morning to look at the land we were interested in. Traveling those mountain roads is a lot of fun and we ended up on a gravel road which led us several miles, it seemed, up the mountain to our future homestead. We passed old farmhouses that appeared to have been there for many years. The gravel road lead us under tree canopies, past small farms and cattle, and an occasional old tractor or pickup truck. In some areas the edge of the road appeared to be washed out from the rainfall, however, the road was still passable and well maintained. Once at the top of the mountain we saw a wooden sign appropriately named ” Big Sky Acres”. Our future land would be at the end of the road. We were told that the area was once supposed to be an exclusive development with an airstrip. The road in front of our future property was part of the old airstrip runway. The development, in all its expected glory, never materialized. The area has cabins and homes in the area with a few neighbors scattered here and there. The property is mostly wooded and underbrush with a bluff in the back of the property overlooking a portion of the Obey River below. We can’t wait to see the view in the winter months when the leaves are fallen!

Utilities:

Many people do prefer the “off grid living lifestyle” and that’s fine. At this point in our lives, it’s just not for us, particularly when we will be new to the area and we aren’t that young anymore!

It didn’t take long to find the local electric co-op for that particular area the property is located in. After speaking to the Engineer and later meeting with him, we found that electric service was much easier than we thought. A service pole is within 375 feet of the property boundary and they would install a pole if needed, adjacent to or on the property at little or no cost to us. A little tree limb adjustment on the neighbor’s property would be needed to run the lines at very little cost to us.

In subsequent phone calls, I located the water utility company for that particular area. That was a little more difficult since the utility companies in that area have different boundaries for service. You will find that a lot in rural areas. Once we connected with the right company we quickly found that a water main runs directly in front of and ends at the property. This was also a good sign! The manager was very helpful and knowledgeable about the water in that area and informed me that he used to own the water system and could happily tell me all about it. A water tap will cost us a few hundred dollars to have water for our homestead.

Land Clearing:

We knew once we walked the land, asked the right questions beforehand, and we came prepared with some needed answers before we arrived, we felt we could do something with this. It was about a week later we decided to purchase it. We realize that we would have to have the land cleared somewhat before we could decide where to put the cabin, driveway, and the things to make it livable. I found a local contractor who gladly went and looked at the property and gave us an estimate on clearing and installing a septic system. We had thought once before that we would try to clear the land ourselves to save some money. We made a decision that in the interest of time, we would have the contractor clear those areas that we needed for the cabin and access, and do the rest ourselves, at the pace we wanted. His price was also affordable and could be completed in about a day!

The contractor we are hiring has various pieces of equipment to complete many tasks, but we asked him to clear ours with a forestry mulcher. If you haven’t seen one in action, they are quite impressive! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XXyEOX1srf4

These Mulchers will clear the brush and small trees and provide a mulch for the ground on our property. It helps the environment and saves us from disposing of unwanted underbrush and limbs. We will use the larger trees that need to be removed as firewood for our small farm. We also plan to leave the road frontage untouched to provide a buffer for privacy. If you live or have property in the area, feel free to give him a call with your needs! He is very knowledgeable and great to talk with!

You can find him here —->http://www.tuckerfarms.farm/

If you prefer to go the old-fashioned way with a lot of elbow grease and hard work then you will need the right tools to do it with. I recommend a good quality chainsaw that will last! I chose the Stihl 170 chainsaw for the work I want to do! You also need a good wood splitting ax to chop or split wood. You can also rent equipment to clear land or dig holes, but keep in mind, if you break it you will more than likely be responsible for repairing it.

Building or Setting up a Cabin:

My wife and I decided to purchase a 14x 40 Pre-Built cabin to live in. Once it is ordered and delivered it will be set up on concrete blocks or pillars. We want it a little higher off the ground to be able to easily install plumbing and drain lines underneath for easy access. Our ground is suitable for that since we previously had a percolation test to determine the absorption rate of the land. If you have soft and sandy ground I would recommend a foundation support under it. It can be in the form of concrete footings in the ground that go below the freezing level or concrete pillars. You can find the pictures of our future cabin in an earlier blog post.

Organic or Non-Organic Garden Preparation:

When we are settled on our Homestead we plan to start an organic garden, meanwhile finding out what we can grow, and cannot, in our new surroundings. The land should be ripe for growing as a result of the mulching that will be done to clear the property. Regardless of where we are, we have found that different areas of the country have different growing seasons for different plants and vegetables. A good resource, if you are just beginning, is to contact your county Agriculture Extension Service. They have a wealth of knowledgeable people who can guide you along the way and they are free. They can also put you in touch with the right people for soil testing. Organic farming can be a little more tricky and time-consuming since you are trying to keep away all the pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers. There may be farmers in your area you can contact for advice.

We plan to use as many natural protectors as possible in our garden for the food we eat. We also plan to install a small greenhouse to provide us with food during the winter months. Planting cover crops and plants on your property also help with garden growth and pollination and will provide some food for our renewed bee hives! Look for what grows best in your area and start there!