Friday, August 10, 2012

Location Location Location and Systems

First of all, do research in the town and state that you are locating in.  Find out about zoning, if any.  Find out about property line setbacks, minimum lot sizes for various constructions and growing zones.  Find out about waterfront setbacks for construction, roads and septic systems.  What animals may you keep there?  What restrictions are there in that area on plants, native versus imported, or nuisance plants.  Find out if there is a county extension office and DEP you can tap for information.

Check out your potential neighbors.  Will they be receptive of your project?  Will they be raiding your gardens at night or burglarizing your property when you are away?  Will they be a danger to you in a remote location?  Not everyone is as nice as I know you are.

There are many things that will determine the correct location on your property for the house and many things that you should be looking at before buying a property.
Planning on solar heat or solar panels?
The best exposure is South South West. Try to imagine, or if possible, visit a piece of land in several seasons.  First of all, you can tell if the land turns into a quagmire in the spring, or if that beautiful stream dries up completely in the summer. Can you actually get to your property in mud season or in the winter?  Try not to site your house below the level of the road.  Try to be level or just above.  Once it gets icy, you have to be able to get out in an emergency, and you do not want road run off or snowbank melt heading toward your house.  Most important though is to hang around through a day in autumn, winter and spring to determine if there is nice clear sunshine(or phone reception) once the leaves are down in the fall.  In summer, the sun is usually pretty high and you will LIKELY get enough from many sites.  A mistake could mean that you will need to put your solar panels on a telephone pole!

For solar gain in a heating or hot water systems, you want those cold month windows and rooves to get as much sun as possible.  If you do not take this precaution, you may end up cutting down huge swathes of trees to get enough sunshine on your house. 
You must also pay attention to the growth of trees, especially evergreens.  You may not have to worry so much about deciduous trees blocking you from the sun in the winter, as so much of the potential shade will have dropped to the ground by October.  Pine, Spruce and cedar, among others will grow quickly, and you will have a solid shadow anywhere they grow.  Call in an expert if you are unsure.  Also, if your are planning on much of your heat coming from the sun and you live in a cold climate, get a solar heating expert or do extensive research into heating systems before you break ground.

Waste disposal.

 My sister and her husband have lived for ten years now without a septic system.  If they were not afraid of their health and ability to continue with that disposal, they may never have even thought about one.  They are now at an age where they do not want to be running outside for an outhouse.  They do not want to be carrying waste out into the woods and burying it(which they have been doing quite successfully all this time).

Septic systems are expensive.  There are alternatives.  If your town of choice is not following your actions too closely, you can do many things.
Use a five gallon bucket(the kind plaster patching material comes in).  Fasten a toilet seat to the top that will remove easily or construct a box cabinet with a toilet seat on it to cover the bucket.  Line the bottom with newspaper.  Use the toilet.  Cover each deposit with newspaper, cat litter, dirt or sand.  when the deposits are getting too close to the top for comfort, empty the bucket into a trench, far from the house, well, road or property line.  There are spray foams that seal in each deposit as well.

Composting toilets.  Find them on line.  They may not work well if you do not have a full family there, as volume is an issue.  They can be quite bulky.

Gas toilets.  Make sure that you have an iron clad guarantee, and buy good quality.  Corrosion is an issue, and keeping the incinerator in good order can be a hassle.   But with caution and good research, they can be a good alternative, as can composting toilets.

Septic systems come in all shapes and sizes.   There are some that can be carried into remote locations on your back and look like the Beatles' Yellow Submarine. You can even do much of this work yourself if you are into heavy labor, saving thousands.  Get a soils test.  Get government approval before installation to avoid expensive alterations once you are spotted.  Read up on regulations.

With State approval, install a holding tank that will be pumped regularly.
Carry small holding tanks out to transfer stations like people with trailers do.  The containers are called honey buckets or honey wagons.

 In fact, the trailer supply centers are an invaluable place to start looking for almost anything that involves compact operating systems in a little house.  Tiny sinks, toilets, showers and appliances may also be available there.  Also, they are an invaluable resource for winterization equipment.

Drill your well and be assured of a good water supply.  Consult with experts at every stage of planning and installation. 

Do not even think about getting water from streams or ponds.  It might even be dangerous to water food crops or wash clothes with them.  There are parasites in almost every body of water in the US, that will ruin your health.  We are not living in the pristine 17th century anymore.  Also, these can contain animal feces, fertilizers and dangerous minerals and heavy metals, leeched from the soil on the banks.  Don't even drink there once, unless your life is in danger if you don't.

A dug well should be uphill from any septic system within 100 yards, and if they can be above all septic systems and cultivation in the area, so much the better.  Test the water ALL THE TIME, or just use it for bathing, and drink and cook with bottled water and other sterile sources. You are not just avoiding bacteria etc these days.  You are also avoiding chemical contaminants as well.  Farms, gardens, factories and animals(domestic and wild) all contribute to ground water pollution.  Save liquids from canned foods, the end of wine bottles and juices to cook in, but do not add salt without tasting it first.  Pour out your cooking liquids into your garden to help with watering needs in dry spells.  You can also channel shower and kitchen water overflow to the garden if you use organic products for washing.

Start a compost pile, but be sure to avoid the well area.

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