A bit more dry information

Choosing a cabin site is really two questions; where in the world (or, in my case, BC) would you choose to be and, of course, where on your selected property would you place the cabin?  So much of that is subjective that I’ll keep it short. I am only mentioning it at all because so many of my friends have asked me to look out for a ‘certain kind of site’ for them.  That ‘certain kind’ likely represents what is typically desired when contemplating cabin locations.

Firstly, I am Canadian and I know Canada.  Some.  And I know BC much better than most other provinces.  Having said that and, in my humble-but-biased opinion, the only provinces to seriously consider having a cabin in are BC, PEI and Nova Scotia.  My favourite, BC, is far and away the most temperate.  At least around the Gulf of Georgia or what we are now calling the Salish Sea.

I have ruled out huge swathes of Canada due to the bug count.  The prestigous ‘lakes’ region of Ontario is probably the largest area of free protien in the world.  If you are a bird with a taste for bugs!  And, trust me, a lot of the other provinces are close in that category.  If the bug count matters to you, stay on the coast.

But the Gulf of Georgia in BC is, in my opinion, the best.  The rest of the province (and the country) can and does get as severe a winter as our ‘eskimos and polar bears’ reputation suggests.  40 below zero is not an unusual number to read about in any place in Canada but the coasts and the Gulf.  And the Gulf often goes the entire winter without more than a couple of weeks with below freezing temperatures.  If temperate is what you want, then the Gulf of Georgia is where you want to be.

People like water front.  I do, too.  But, truly?  It is not as necessary as you might think.  Canada does not allow upland owners to own the beach.  Beach is public.  So that means you can access any beach at any time (if there is an access point or you have a boat).  What you really want (if you are an ocean watcher like me) is a water view.  And a clear, unobstructed water view property is significantly less money to buy.  I know of one couple that is probably two miles from the beach and can see clearly over the water to the nearest town 25 miles away.  They have a lovely view to enjoy every day.

In Canada, you want to face south.  You need the sun.  This is not Arizona where you need to get away from the sun.  This is Canada and the further north you go, the more you covet the sun.  In the winter, for sure.  Face south.

You need water.  Most of the Gulf receives about 60 inches of rain a year or more.  You can catch and store rain water but a stream or some other small source is usually pretty reliable.  Sadly, much of the Gulf Islands have water problems.  That is because they are basically just huge rocks and rocks don’t absorb and store a lot of water.  But it is also because the islands are popular and what water resource is there is fully utilized by the people.  Frankly, I’d advise finding a property that has it’s own water source and the locally organized water-sewer-grid is one to avoid.  Too expensive.

Arable soil is not in abundance.  But there is some.  It tends to be ‘back-in’ from the coast in clefts and small areas.  With the exception of a few valleys on Vancouver Island (Saanich peninsula, Cowichan, Comox, Strathcona), large tracts of good soil are somewhat hard to come by.  But a few acres here and there are still findable.  Typically cabin dwellers are not the same people as full-on farmers so you’ll likely have enough dirt for a vegetable garden.  We do.  Barely.

I think the most important factors when choosing a site are access and neighbours.  Most neighbours are great.  But some aren’t.  Do a bit of research.  You don’t want to be living next door to the unlicensed shooting range of the poor, paranoid nut-bar who spends his day in camo and keeps adding to his tattoo collection.  It can get a bit disconcerting at the very least.

And access is an issue.  Even though you are wanting to be off the grid, off the radar and off on your own, you will still need to get places and have some people get to you.  We live two hours travel from the nearest town.  It feels further because we travel by boat, car and then catch a ferry.  We definitely feel as if we are way, way off the grid.  But some people on another island have to take a ferry to another island to then catch that ferry.  They are not off-the-grid so much as on-the-ferry.  Takes them longer to get to town but much of the time is spent waiting in the ferry parking lot.  That loses it cachet rather quickly.

Seriously consider access.

Property values fluctuate hugely.  There was a beautiful piece just down the way with everything anyone would want in a five acre lot except it was not waterfront.  Stunning views, tho.  It was only 75 yards away but it was not waterfront.  They couldn’t give it away.  I’ve seen small pieces moldering in shadows with nothing going for them get a big price because they had waterfront.  So,  prices aren’t always logical in my opinion.

You really have to get to know the area before taking a leap.

Like the post on generators, this one only touches the surface of the topic.  If anyone wants additional information about my area, please contact me by e-mail.

6 thoughts on “A bit more dry information

  1. Can you discuss rain collection vs. on-the-grid solutions for those of us not blessed with streams/creeks on our property? What about purifying the water?


    • Well, rain collection can be pretty simple. Or complicated depending on your system. Your roof collects the water and it runs off along the gutters and down the down-pipes into a cistern or series of blue food-grade barrels. Or you can build something great like a huge concrete pool like they used in the old days. You should have a simple/crude filter to sort out dead birds and bugs and branches (called a diverter) but the germ content of the water is present and inevitable going in. To purify the water, you have to do it in the cistern (a chlorine pump) or at the tap. It is simpler to do it at the tap and just make sure to clean out your barrels or whatever now and again. Our water has been tested a few times and it is always good. There is also always the possibility of a ‘shot’ of beaver-fever coming from Giardia, tho. But a good filter at the tap takes out Giardia and most of the other stuff that you might not like. Rain water is pretty pure. Nature-distilled. It is your roof that will contaminate the water and the worst of that will be is bird-poop. But don’t worry too much, heavily diluted, bird-poop just adds to the soup. People worry too much about ‘pure’ water. Probably because of industrialization and the old and poorly maintained water grid. AND, of course, marketing. If you are out in the toolies and collecting rain water and filtering for Giardia, you are good to go.


      • what do you think of the SODIS Method? I guess it would be difficult with larger volumes of water.

        Do you currently or would you recommend having separate tanks and filtration systems for your tap/drinking water versus your shower/toilet/laundry/hose water?


      • Solar purification is what happens naturally. Man-enhanced SODIS might be great for places where malaria thrives or water is sucked from contaminated supplies but, around here, it is simply doing what has already been done naturally. Especially if you catch rain water before it hits the ground. Rain water has been purified by the salt in the ocean and then by the ultra violet rays of the sun as it is evaporated. Your roof and the bird poop is the prime source of contamination in roof collection but a basic Brita will handle that. Catch rain water in your mouth and, so long as you are not in acid rain country, that is as good as it gets. But more to the point: you need to keep it simple. Real simple. ‘Cause real simple is still a lot of work.


      • We keep 1100 gallons ‘on hand’ but take from it (the cistern) every day and fill it every day. We don’t filter anything except drinking water. Tea water is boiled. Shower water is au natural (eau?) and we brush our teeth with it that way, too. Neighbours have been doing that for over 20 years and they don’t have a drinking water filter. Been fine. Don’t forget: we tested the water at a lab three or four times as well.
        Having said that, two other neighbours bring in bottled water. One of them uses bottled water for drinking, cooking and tooth brushing. Frankly, I think it is unnecessary but it is a judgment call and we all judge things differently. I would advise first getting the water in its natural state tested and then getting the water tested again after you have filtered it at the tap. Then make your decision. That is the cheapest-as-you-go method.


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