Do you have a bucket list? Well, we don’t exactly have a list, but a lot of ideas we usually just go for when it feels right. We actually had “everything” you usually ask for: great jobs, steady income, nice home in Germany, little vacation log cabin in Nova Scotia (that we then moved to permanently in 2010). But sometimes things happen in life and you just have to grab the opportunity if you don’t want to regret it later.
At the time we bought the property we now live on, we lived in northern Sweden where we had moved to from Nova Scotia in May 2016. We were still in the middle of renovating the over 100-year-old farm we had bought with a piece of beautiful land on a lake — but something was missing.
Having lived and seen a lot of places in the world, we then knew Nova Scotia was the place we wanted to live.
We actually found this property on a website. My husband, Frank, flew up for a weekend, called me, said the property was just a huge woodlot in the middle of nowhere but the lake looked nice, and that there were no other people out there. In short, this was the perfect place for what we were planning — to build our own log home from start to finish.
So, we bought it, sold the farm, packed a container and the three of us (me, my husband, and our Bullmastiff Emmy) started off to a new adventure.
Now we’re sitting here in the middle of the woods on a beautiful little lake 3 kilometers from the next “official” gravel road, all by ourselves and taking on the challenge of building our dream home and living off the grid.
Living off the grid actually wasn’t our original intention. It’s just that we got a quote from the local power company, which told us they’d like to have at least $180,000 to hook us up to “civilization”, so going solar was a no brainer. (Sometimes when you start a project like this, it really is good not to know everything you’re getting yourself into.)
We arrived back in Nova Scotia the end of August 2016 and the first thing we had to do is to get us a place to live. We’d done some research before and ended up with a nice, big 5th wheeler that stood on the road until we got someone to come in and cut in a road.
We also needed to determine where to clear the land where we had decided we wanted to build — really not an easy decision when you stand in the middle of the woods and don’t have a clue how things will look before you take down the trees.
We just knew we wanted to be close to the water and, due to all the granite, rocks, and boulders and not wanting to spend money on blasting, we decided to place the solar ground-mount system up a bit higher on a platform we created while excavating and which is aligned almost perfectly to catch the most sunlight.
We were in a bit of a rush to get as much done as possible before winter came: getting in a septic system, drilling the well, and building the foundation for the house. We didn’t want to get a mortgage or borrow money, so money-wise, only what’s there can be used, which means some things we still want will just have to wait a bit.
But one thing we had to get right away were trees for building our log home! We definitely needed them before winter so that we could start to de-bark them before the bugs would come out in spring and get into the bark of freshly cut trees. Taking the bark off in the winter is really tough, but we found a chainsaw de-barker which made that task a lot easier.
We decided to take red pine, but it was quite the search before we found trees with the necessary length of 50 feet. It took Frank five days to cut and de-branch 46 trees and then friends of ours with logging trucks and equipment pitched in to help us get them up here.
This part wasn’t easy either as we do have a right of way to get to our property, but that “road” is a dirt path only accessible with a pickup truck. Anything bigger than that has to come up over an old, steep gravel road through a quarry. But it worked out.
In the meantime, we had built a shed from scratch for our wood (yes, we took out some furniture in the camper and built in a woodstove) and a 50-foot shed for all our belongings that arrived in the rental container from Sweden and needed to be stored somewhere until we had a house.
A lot more went on and we worked like crazy, which meant that we started winterizing the camper. Still, this didn’t work out as planned and all the tanks and pipes froze up despite heating cables during the first winter storm in mid-December.
We lived without water for three days trying to defrost everything and then our dog got really sick with Lyme decease. That’s the time when you reconsider your Christmas wishes!
Next time: “Setting up the solar system and peeling the logs.”
Manuela and Frank Mueller packed a container in 2016, grabbed their four-legged companion and not even 1 ½ years after leaving Nova Scotia, arrived at their new home: a wooded 50-acre lot with nothing on it but trees and 1.6-kilometer waterfront. They are building their DIY log home themselves and living off the grid. Follow Manuela and Frank on Restless Roots and Facebook.
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