Sunday, November 15, 2009

Confessions of a siding geek

In the dreary afternoons of November it is truly amazing to look back on the photos of this past summer and see everything we were able to accomplish. All those smiling faces, all that hard work, it's a reminder of how fortunate we've been throughout all of this.

The cabin is tarped up for the winter, and now is the time when we ponder next steps (siding, roof) and dangerously day-dream about things like finishings and floors. In the summer it is easier to remember that we always have to take everything step by step. With my hands on a hammer, I'm grounded. Here in the city, it's easy to believe we can just fly through the next steps, and even at my imagination's lightening speed, I'm impatient to get there.

Siding and roofing alternates between being very boring to think about and almost overwhelmingly complex. Throughout so much of our building we've had a solid place to start from: a great set of windows, free timber, a site we fell in love with. I just don't seem to feel that we have that same clear sense of direction for how we finish the house. However n the process of trying to figure it out I've become something of a siding geek.

Some choices are easy: no to vinyl, since it fails most of the L's except low-cost.
Logical:  We are quite close to trees so something with some fire-resistance at least for most of the cabin. This means metal or some kind of fibercement siding. But is it loveable? We don't want anything too industrial looking though. I think we are agreed that the cabin should have some sense of natural variation. Inset cedar tongue and groove? Shakes? is there a 'logical' approach to this kind of ornamentation of a house? Logical/low (visual)-impact:  Colours and materials that work with dark metal window frames, fir posts and cedar decking. The east side of the cabin should be fairly dark coloured so it doesn't stand out on the hill. The dominant colours of the hill are rock grey, dirt & bark brown, and cedar green.
Logi(sti)cal: We probably need to buy most of our siding materials from a commercial supplier (vs second hard/re-purposed)since they can put it on pallets and deliver it to the dock for the barge.

i think the look we are going for is natural but tough aka rustic modern. That still leaves an incredible number of variations and possibilities though and on a long rainy afternoon, a thousand different websites and photoshopped pictures and google sketchups to ponder as we anxiously wait for spring.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Big Build #2 2009

Huge thanks to Patricia, Bill, Jesse, Dale, Co, Maddy, Sonia, Chris, Kim and Derek, Rich, Kevin N. You all rocked!! Thank you thank you thank you!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Big Build #2... the countdown

the brigade so far looks like it will be sonja, kevin, patricia, bill, dale, coe, jesse, kim, derek, maddy, sonia, alt-k aka kevin nugent, rich, although probably not all at the same time.

we're hoping for the remaining walls, the knee braces and the roof for this build. that roof is going to look sweet in stop motion. if you'd like to be one of the tiny little figures in the movie, there is still space available in the brigade, especially mid-week.

From aug14-1609

Friday, August 7, 2009

Big Build #1 - The report

Greetings brigade,
We had an incredible week during the first "big-build" of 2009. The weather was record breaking heat, aside from an intense thunderstorm that rolled through on Saturday night that helped keep the dust down for a couple of days. The swimming was the best it has ever been with the brigade taking 2 or 3 swim breaks a day. Also, if you haven't been to the blog in a while we have 6 holes of the Halkett Heights disc-golf (do not call it frisbee golf!) course in place thanks to our disc-golf consultant Malcolm who was in from Terrace the weekend before the big-build. We even had some tomatoes from our garden (thanks Maddy).Much was accomplished. The walls of the main cabin are 85% complete and the deck is complete aside from the railing and knee-bracing. Sonja took some time lapse of the daily progress and is editing it for uploading to the blog.
Thanks to all who participated:
Alex Dan DeeDee Janice Jose Lewis Marc Matthew Miles Molly Pancho Pere Sarah Sean Willy

I am very pleased to say that the entire week did not require a single trip to town for any building supplies or groceries.
You can see lots more photos here
Highlights and accomplishments
  • walls & floors as seen in video
  • fabulous swimming
  • Matt's two great games of LCR and the super fun awesome game which is like charades but better
  • group cries of 'safty first' after our child labour sign crew all forgot the E
  • night and dawn swims
  • spectacular thunderstorm & amazing lightening
  • the rapid raccoon response team of willy and uncles and their brave attempts to protect the camp kitchen
  • dungeons and dragons
  • 'smores and more 'smores

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

From HB Summer 09
More VSOP (visible signs of progress) weekends leading up to big build 1. Mike, Malcolm and Kevin with big help from Eric and small help from erected two large posts for the deck. It was a lot of muscle, geometry & no doubt a little luck, but the posts are in. We used logs for these, since they are too long to go through the mill.
Malcolm laid out a disc golf course, and made several great tonals. The course is made up of tonals that take you on a pleasant tour of the lower Halkett Heights landscape. Malcolm is an avid disc
From HB Summer 09
golfer who's played courses all over the Pacific Northwest and even in Costa Rica, so it's great to have his expertise. I feel so guilty we didnt' even get to play the whole course before we left. Come back soon Malcolm, we'll make it up to you we promise!
Not too much to report in the wildlife department but Maddy's little tomatoes are loving the sun and turning orange.
The receipt for our grocery bill for the first big build was longer than kevin's arm, and we're not done yet. The windows have made it over to the island and up the hill without breaking which we're taking as an omen that it's going to be a great week!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Well one house got built this past weekend

From HB Summer 09
Last weekend featured our youngest builders so far of the summer of 09. Cute, and efficient too. While the rest of us worked on beams and scaffolding, they managed to construct a whole house!
Highlights and accomplishments:
  • Completion of modern and roomy house for birds, complete with windows and interior design
  • Scaffolding & other prep for the 15 person family build coming up at the end of July
  • Our first tri-lingual building day with a wonderful visit from Pat and her friends from Switzerland (German) and Annie & the boys from Quebec. So cool!
  • First swim of the year for Sonja
  • Old tent platform moved to nicer location
  • Near completion of 1st 'beam bench.'
Alas, it was not all good news. Our fridge continues to be a little fritzy and my previous theory about over-heating doesn't seem to be it. And we're confident it's not a 'not enough electricity' (for want of the technical term) issue since it doesn't only happen when we're there and charging batteries, opening the fridge etc. A lot of people have expressed interest in the idea of running a regular fridge off solar, so if you're one one of them, I promise we'll post the solution. When we find it.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Why can you have a house there but something for the enjoyment of others can't be placed there?

This evening I got an interesting comment in response to my Save Halkett and more signs post, and I couldn't sleep until I finished my response:

Anonymous said...
Why can you have a house there but something for the enjoyment of others can't be placed there?

Dear Anonymous
This is such a great question, and I'm glad this comment is giving me a reason/chance to talk more about it.

When the Artificial Reef Society proposal first came up, I was actually excited about the idea of an exciting eco development in our little bay. But even after I did some research on artificial reefs, and decided there was no way I could believe that sinking a warship in that bay was going to benefit the environment, I had to ask myself, do I just care about this because I'm building a cabin there?

The truth is, Anonymous, I am, in every sense of the word, invested in the future of Halkett Bay. But I don't think that it's OK to dump what is essentially government surplus into our oceans, and pretend it's about ecological improvement. Not at Halkett Bay or anywhere else for that matter. And I don't think it's OK when government officials tell you something is a done deal even before the final consulting processes are complete. You shouldn't either.

The more I delve into this issue, the more dismayed I am by how this process has been conducted, and how individuals and communities are having to fight against the kind of greenwashing which artificial reef societies and government agencies have used to justify dumping potentially hazardous materials into our oceans, not just in Halkett Bay but in many other locations as well.

The Georgia Strait Alliance, the David Suzuki Foundation and the Ocean Conservancy Society have all questioned the usefulness of artificial reefs for anything more than tourism diving destinations, and challenged their overall benefit to the environment. When we asked for long-term studies demonstrating the safety of these projects, we were told none were available. Would you want to take a risk like that with your land, your ocean? Because it is your land, your ocean, that we're talking about. We're just your neighbours. This is a provincial park, and these are federally governed waters. Under B.C. law, marine protected areas are "dedicated to the preservation of their natural environments." Is sinking a 371-foot warship with enough explosives to kill nearby seals in keeping with these goals? (for more info check out

As for our cabin, there are a few things that separate it from the Annapolis. It's smaller for one, a lot smaller. It isn't right in the middle of a publicly used park. It's being built on an old clearcut site, and we're working hard to keep our footprint as small as possible. But we're not trying to pass ourselves off as a benefit to the environment either (although the mice in the solar power tower might disagree!) It isn't covered in anti-fouling paint. It might fall down, but it will never irreparably harm the marine life in this small bay. And if there was any chance of that happening, I certainly hope you would speak out against it.

Anyhow, that's my own personal take on things. But you know I have an interest in preserving Halkett Bay the way it is. So I urge you to read about what some of the conservation organizations have said about artificial reefs. Read some of the things that have gone wrong. Think about how you want public land and protected marine habitats to be managed and preserved, and ask yourself if you think this project really serves those interests.

sincerely yours,
sonja l.
Information on potential seal deaths:

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The drawbridge deck

The very first lowering of the drawbridge deck. Due to a technical glitch, I lost the very first raising of the drawbridge, but I did capture the first lowering. In its final form, there will be some kind of mechanical means of lowering the bridge/deck, not those two burly men we see in the video.

The idea for a drawbridge deck came about after an extended discussion about mouse traps. Mice are a real problem in the winter. We decided rather than spend our time trying to figure out how to kill the mice, we'd try and keep them out instead. And thus the drawbridge deck was born. The second phase will be to wrap the posts with a foot wide piece of sheet metal, to keep them from crawling up.

For now though, we needed a wider deck/bridge to safely accomodate Big Build #1 coming at the end of the month.
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Thursday, July 2, 2009

Safety committee chairman injures finger

You can tell Kevin's just recently whacked his finger when he starts off our weekly update email with "First off I want to remind everyone the theme of this year is safety, just it case anyone forgot. " Just who might that be Kevin?
The finger is on the mend, and he doesn't think he'll lose the fingernail (but I'm willing to take bets...)
Lots of little things to finish up before Big Build #1 featuring a crew of no fewer than 14 siblings, parents, cousins headed up the hill to build that cabin! We are so excited and grateful for their help & think the week should be absolutely amazing.
This weekend I'll play catch-up with the camera and get some pictures of the top of the power tower railing, Maddy's composting/sawdust toilet (yet to be tested...), the new mini hotwater heater & some new improvements to the kitchen shack and the power tower and of course the new deck on the westside, replacing the old ramp.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Save Halkett & more signs

From HB Summer 09

Another great weekend, part of it spent painting signs for our fight against the sinking of an ex-warship in our little bay. Learned how to play Settlers of Cattan from Maddy and got the final post and railing up on the power tower. Yeah!

Monday, June 15, 2009

VSOP Weekend

VSOP (Visible Signs of Progress) Weekends

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These past two weekends have felt both laid-back and quite productive to me. Maybe it's seeing things gradually take the tiny sprouts of Maddy's garden popping up, what seemed impossible suddenly also seems possible at the same time...

Highlights & Accomplishments

  • Concrete pads in for the front deck, which will also be the scaffolding during our first big build
  • Concrete pad for the final railing on the power tower
  • Maddy's Garden & the installation of the Lee Valley drip irrigation system to keep it alive.
  • Loft & ladder built in power tower (which go very nicely with the beds we built last week)
  • Our first home decor purchases...Ikea lamps for the power tower!
  • No signs of mice in power tower!
  • Great food including real Montreal bagels delivered fresh from MTL (served with lox and cream cheese) fresh crab, BBQ chicken, grilled portobello mushroom sandwiches & bumbleberry pie
  • Fort Compost (aka the compost bin) survives its first week against the raccoons
  • First swim of the year prize goes to Mike!
  • And to top it off, on our way back from Halkett this week, we scored a great stainless steel sink and countertop from Craigslist, which I think is a 7/7 on the 7L List (Low-cost, long-lasting, logical, loveable/liveable, low-impact, local, and lots of uses.) OK maybe it doesn't have lots of uses. But it's still a pretty cool sink/counter.
Special thanks to Mike for his continued help, Pat for the fresh crab, Maddy for the garden & Carmen for the painting and bagels and Craig for starting that list.

HB Summer 09

Maddy's garden + Fort Compost
From HB Summer 09

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Milling: The Final Report

The posts and some of the beams of our cabin were milled using a chainsaw mill which we set up on the island. Approximately 20 trees were milled altogether.

Local The logs were located just down the hill from us, given to us by a neighbour who'd cut them from their lot
Low-cost We did pay $5,000 for the mill and had to buy a new chain-saw but we still feel that for the quality of wood we obtained, we would have had to pay more if we'd purchased it.
Low-impact ( The logs were re-claimed from fallen trees. Our mill was able to cut pieces a larger mill might not have been able to.
Loveable/liveable: The beams are beautiful!
Long-lasting: We were able to use thicker than essential pieces of wood for most of posts and beams.
Logical: Logical is probably the trickiest one to assess. The milling took much longer than anticipated, and was fairly unpleasant work. Kevin had chainsaw hand (a numbness caused by the vibration of the saw) as well as allergic reactions to the sawdust. That said, there is something amazing and right-feeling about building the house from trees grown right on the island. Does that make it logical? Hmmm.

Monday, May 25, 2009

The Milling is DONE

Keivn and Mike Loading The Final Beam...
And boy was it a big one. And with that beam, the days of milling were finally done. Two years after we started, the logs so generously given to us by our neighbours, were finally milled. All that was left was to move the mill.

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Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Big Build(s) 2009

    Our 7L project is being built with lots and lots of help from our friends. If you'd like to come and leave your mark, here's some info Our list of goals for this year's big build varies wildly depending on the day. But like, probably some floors. And some walls. And maybe a roof? The logistics You can only get there by boat, it's a lovely 20 minute ride from Horseshoe Bay. We provide the boat (and the lifejackets!)
  • Starting in April and May we will be making day trips and as it gets warmer the whole weekend.
  • We will be there full-time for the last two weeks in August.
  • Promise to swing a hammer and we'll cover your transportation costs.
  • The amenities
    • Flush toilet in "toilet shack"
    • Large 2-6 person tent on platform in main camp area
    • Secluded 2-6 person tent on platform with water view
    • Roofed room (in power tower) with water view
    • Solar outdoor shower with spectacular view and variable temperatures
    • Kitchen cook tent with running (cold) water, BBQ and stove
    • Screened in eating area
    • Lots of tenting sites
    • Sunscreen aplenty
    The perks
    • The company of people who understand the importance of R & R
    • Yummy food for vegetarians and omnivores
    • Cocktail hour
    • Granola bars & other snacks
    • Hammock
    • Ocean swimming
    • Wildlife viewing
    • An excellent workout
    • A chance to use power tools
    The to-do list
    • Move smaller rocks off foundation area
    • Power wash rocks for foundation
    • Begin building power tower walls
    • Treat all lumber with oil-based natural wood protection
    • Lay-down platform
    • erect and sheath all the walls of the guest cabin
    • install roof rafters and sheating in the guest cabin
    • Begin building guest cabin
    • Finish installing windows on power tower
    • Siding for power tower
    • Inside details of power tower
    • Cook / Clean-up
    • Build trails
    • Replant displaced trees
    • Build a swing
    • Be a gopher (go-fer tools, water, sunscreen etc)
    • General site maintenance (tents, tarps etc)
    • Set up a croquet set
    • Set up a Frisbee golf course?Dream about future zipline
    • Glass-cutting/recycling project
    • Build things with wood
    • build the decks around the cabin
    • complete the milling of the logs
    • erect and sheath all the walls of the main cabin
    • install roof rafters and sheating in the main cabin
    • install at least some of the windows and doors

Rainbow ride back from Halkett

Spring 09
Big big thanks to Mike who's been a super trooper despite not having received his official Halkett Bay Building Brigade t-shirt yet. Also thanks go to this past weekend's crew of Maddy and Carmen. Maddy worked on a mini-garden (all that land and no food growing was driving her crazy!) and Carmen who scrubbed and painted when she wasn't trying to get pictures of the deer.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

2009 season opening

I hope everyone had a fantastic wintertime. The camp didn't fare too badly, although we did have to spend a day fixing the kitchen tent that had collapsed from 2 feet of heavy, wet snow. At least there were no mice this year (where did they go?).
There is a new building season upon us and we have a whole new set of exciting goals for Halkett Bay. We are hoping to:
  1. build the decks around the cabin
  2. complete the milling of the logs
  3. erect and sheath all the walls of the main cabin
  4. install roof rafters and sheating in the main cabin
  5. install at least some of the windows and doors
Everyone is welcome to join us each weekend. There will be fine imported beverages, delicious food and now even more places to rest your weary head at the end of the day. We will also be doing 2 weeklong buildings sessions: I would like to propose build dates. We would like to split it into two different weeks this year:
First week: July 25th to August 3rd
Second Week: Aug 22 to Aug 30th
Look forward to seeing you this spring or summer

a blog about 1 cabin and 7 ideas

local / logical / lots of uses / long lasting / low impact / low cost /loveable

Big thanks to everyone!

Help Gambier Island

Gambier Island is facing numerous environmental threats at the moment when we are seeing a rebirth of wildlife. Wolves, whales, owls and more, all around us we see evidence of an eco-system on the rebound. But that resurgence is threatened by plans to allow clear-cutting, develop LNG plants, sink warships.