Back to the land

back to the land

A no sewer solution

I might be misleading you a bit with this title choice. By back to the land, I don’t mean I am going to talk about escaping from the rat race, and raising chicken, goats and rabbits, on some remote hideaway in the hills. I have to admit, that that image has tempted me once or twice. But then I remember what it was like on the farm when I was a kid. I don’t think I could handle hanging my bare butt out in an unheated outhouse in -40 degree weather anymore. Of course there is such a thing as a warmer climate, but in the summer there was usually a bees nest somewhere in that outhouse. I hope no one ever saw me trying to run, with my pants around my ankles, while trying to swat away the pesky critters. By the way -40 degrees is just as cold in the U.S. as it is in Canada.

Speaking of climate, I remember studiously working on my tan at a blackjack table in the Bahamas one time, when I was rich enough to get out of Canada for just a bit of the winter. An attractive young dealer was curious when she found I was from Canada. She said she understood it got quit cold. I replied that I had experienced -62 degree weather (perhaps exaggerating just a bit to impress her). She shivered ,and said she couldn’t imagine it that cold, and that it rarely got below 65 above in the Bahamas. (We were both on Fahrenheit at that time.) Then she asked if it ever got warm. When I said I had known temperatures of 100 degrees, she looked at me in wonder, saying that it never got that hot in her country.

Frost on the land

Canadian winter

I think this illustrates the vast differences we can face from one locale to another. If you are a Canadian, with land in Costa Rica, bent on building yourself a winter getaway house, you had best consult with the local builders.

I have slipped a bit away from the subject I meant to write about. I want to discuss the things you have to deal with once you have obtained

Blending into the land

Blending into the land

your land, but before you start to build. This can vary from practically nothing, if the land is fairly level and services are already in place, to arranging for everything, sometimes at great cost. I did build one house where we removed a derelict mobile home, and found all the services practically right where we needed them, and in good shape. This made things pretty easy and inexpensive, but is a rare situation.

In almost every case, your land will need some shaping.

This requires heavy equipment and can be quite costly. You may even have to bring someone in to blast away solid rock. You can minimize this, by designing your house to blend into its environment, and your home will be more attractive for it. If you are building in the suburbs, it should blend with its neighbors as well.

In town, services are generally very close, and relatively inexpensive to hook up. Roads, lights and sidewalks are already there. If you are building in the country, things can get much more complicated and expensive. Make sure to research and budget very carefully to prevent unpleasant surprises. If the land has not been built on before, you may have to provide everything.

You will need access. This could mean building a road. Remember that the municipality is not required to supply you with a road, even if your land fronts on a road allowance.


getting water to your land can be difficul

Low water in New Mexico

You will need water on your land. Sometimes municipal water is available, but more often you will need a well. This means hiring a driller, and providing pumping equipment and piping. Consult with a local driller. They can likely tell you your chances of finding a satisfactory well and the quality of the water you can expect. You may have to buy softening equipment, and you might be limited in the types of water heating and piping, for maintenance reasons. There are some areas where water of usable quality cannot be provided by a well. Reservoirs to collect runoff water, in the form of dams or dugouts, might be necessary. Cisterns to collect rainwater may work. You will need some method of purifying this water to safe standards, which still may not make it drinkable. Still other areas may not have any of these sources that are reliable, and the only alternative will be to haul water.

You will also have to provide your own waste water system, which usually means a septic tank and drainage field.

If it is a remote area, the infrastructure to provide electricity or natural gas services to your land can be prohibitively expensive. You may want to resort to off grid solutions. These are expensive in themselves, and have maintenance and reliability issues. Lifestyle changes will almost certainly be needed to live within their limitations.

The land producing beauty

A Canadian summer beauty

Telephone, television and the internet may have to be provided by satellite. Cell phone service may not be available.

None of these things are insurmountable but costs can be high, and you should be prepared with the best estimates possible, and the bucks in your hand. Of course, another option is to live without the trappings of civilization as early pioneers did. I think I could last a day or two under those circumstances in a Canadian winter. Most people are probably not much more hardy than me.

Get that picture out of your mind. I mean the one of me running with my pants down, swatting at bees. I mean it.

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