Saturday, 17 November 2007

DIY housing, a proud Kootenay tradition!

Building low-impact housing out of whatever happens to be at hand was a way of life when we first came to the Kootenays in the early seventies.

The back-to-the-land crowd was building log homes from the trees around them or living in improvised shelters any old way. Building inspectors were nowhere in evidence. 
One in particular stayed with me as the ultimate in flimsiness.

We had bought our land in the fall of 1970, when Chris still had the good geology job near Grand Forks, B.C. We still lived near Christina Lake, a 3 1/2 hour drive from Nakusp.

We made it a point to visit the place at least once every season. We’d camp in a tent for one or two nights in the weekend, explore the area and marvel at the idea that we owned this spot.

The first time was in the spring of 1971, right after the weather had made its dramatic shift from winter to spring. By late April the sun was warm enough to allow sunbathing au naturel, which we were doing when Scott, the 12 year old son of one of the hippie settlers came for a visit.

Scott took us for a walk through the spring-green woods to introduce us to some neighbors. The trail snaked through a swamp, alive with skunk cabbage and yellow violets, to join a larger trail that went up the mountain. At the corner stood a dilapidated log cabin that had once housed an Australian trapper. The larger trail is now a solid gravel road, but it is still called Kangaroo Trail.

Up the hill a bit and into the woods and there in a small clearing we found Frank and Jane, starkers like we had been earlier, next to the shelter where they had spent the winter. It was a Bucky dome made out of thin cedar strips, covered in clear plastic. That was it. They had cheerfully lived through a snowy West Kootenay winter in it and seemed none the worse for wear. Interesting times. So wonderfully free.

The picture is the log house my husband built while we lived in the tipi. It was home from October 1977 to September 87. For some of that time a good job for Old Dutch took us to Vancouver Island. We visited when we could.

Unfortunately the house never got finished. There were several reasons. First there is the time vs money conundrum, well known to other wannabe builders. You tend to have either one or the other, depending on if you are employed or not.
But perhaps most importantly Old Dutchs' enjoyment of carpentry work did not match his ability. He is surprisingly good at it, handy and inventive. He even did all the electrical wiring. It was inspected and found good.  But after a week on a job he loathed but did for the sake of the family, laying a floor in the upstairs was the last thing he'd feel like doing. I have two left hands that are all thumbs and am useless for building.

With the brilliance of hindsight I should have insisted on hiring a few professionals to speed up the job. It was an option at some point. At the time I had no idea that a pro could do things in days that take amateurs months. Also at the time I was a financially dependent SAHM, my self esteem was non existent, and I just went along.

At some point an inheritance allowed us to buy a mobile home and have a finished dwelling, paid for, NOW! It has served us well. My only regret is that we did not put a snow roof over it right away. But never mind, we have one now. 

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