Building a House

Posted on 20th May 2019 in foto story, photojournalism, Red Spruce

In the Spring of 2018 we began building a new house in Pictou County, Nova Scotia, for my parents. What a process!

We threw around almost all ideas, and finally came up with an ICF (Insulated Concrete Forms from Nudora) house.

(as a side note: the only thing I didn’t like about this choice was that we weren’t able to build the house ourselves because one must be trained to install them right.)

It took what seemed like forever to organize who was actually going to break ground for us, and when. Almost every step after that was the same. Who could we get to commit to helping us put this house together. Our trick card was that my brother, father, and I all wanted to work as much as possible. Many of the contractors wanted to do to lockup. It almost felt like an arm wrestle the whole time with contractors and getting them to come by and do the work they agreed to do. Alas, it’s almost finished now and we’re pretty thrilled every day we get to live in it.

I didn’t actually move into the house until sometime in February or so, which means I was in the chicken coop for most of the winter with Ruu (dog) and Strawberry (cat). Mom and dad were in the house way earlier. Thinking back, it was mostly the ICF and the roof that we required the most help doing. The rest we did mostly ourselves with the help of a local business, Turnkey, specifically carpenter Tyler Miller, Dave and Jonah. Alex Knicker was here for a great spell helping, plumbing was done with Blair Falconer of Falcon Plumbing, and electrical by Michael George and Jim Fraser. This means external siding, 4ply laminate structural 64′ beam, floor joists, sub floor, hardwood flooring, framing, windows and doors, drywall, bathroom waterproofing and tiling, painting, air exchange, and most of the electrical we did ourselves.

It is really nice to have this building nearly done now. It was really a stressful year for everybody with organizing and trying to time everything perfectly and smoothly so there was no sitting around waiting – yet of course that still happened plenty in spite all the worrying! I have noticed more grey hairs in my hair and beard.. Granted, we did have a tonne of fun doing it and learned a whole hell of a lot, so much so that we feel confident building more houses soon.

I took lots of photographs with my phone camera – my main office – throughout the whole process. I haven’t really shared phone camera photographs on my fotoblog as I’ve always been skeptical about the quality. I’m sure if I looked back in my earlier archives I’d see I’d never had quality images! Almost all the time my hands were so dirty I didn’t want to take out my DSLR camera often. I guess, since there’s 42 images I’ve put into this fotoblog, I took it out more often than I thought. At some point I’ll put together some character shots from my phone camera to give a bit more insight into this build. I’m happy I did capture what I did.

view of future homestead site
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comments: 0 » tags: building, construction, house

Our New Farm, Red Spruce

Posted on 6th January 2019 in nature, photojournalism, Red Spruce

This year has been a year of building, that’s for sure. Almost everything has really taken a back seat to building. I’ve only now had a chance to take a look at some of the photographs I’ve taken over the time.

Let me step back a second.

In 2017 we bought land in Nova Scotia in Pictou County. We live in Poplar Hill. In 2018, dad and I arrived to meet Bart here in late April and we at once began planning and building.

It took quite a while to really get things rolling. There was brainstorming, frustration dealing with last minute contractor cancellations, permits, and schedules to deal with – the ever ominous: “I should be able to make it there next week.” But with the three of us, joined by mom in the early part of summer, we kept moving forward. When we weren’t able to work on the house, we worked on out buildings. In those early days we would drive into town almost every day to pick up supplies, which was frustrating for all of us. It took us quite a while to get into the mindset of anticipating what things we needed to buy to keep us busy for a few days rather than just one or two days, and also buying enough supplies for the full job at once, rather than one step at a time. We also had to head into town nearly daily for groceries since we were living in a small cabin with no electricity, and a shower at the Pictou County rec center (which we are still doing to this day).

So many things have happened that I’ll kind of just rattle off here. Perhaps it would be better suited in the intro of a photobook.

We got a dog, an Australian Shepherd, we named Ruu. Alex Knicker joined us for so much of the summer giving her more than willing helping hand; I’m sure her blood has been imprinted in the planks used here many times over. We bought a tractor to use with our new-to-us disc harrow, sickle bar mower, wood chipper/shredder, and successfully spread lime and seeded the working land (~30 acres) we have here – yes, I did get the tractor stuck a few times which Bart, like a champion, helped me dig out. Bart bought a 4-wheeler, I bought a dual-sport motorbike. The tools, oh the tools! We build two 8’x12′ cabins, and one 12’x16′ chicken coop), one outhouse, and we are now almost complete building a 1800sq.ft (main floor) insulated concrete form (ICF) house (just about finished hardwood flooring and tiling the bathrooms). There are deer that cross our field daily now, and a few days ago we saw a coyote looking curious. There is a group of white breasted snow birds that are regular here now this winter. The raccoons have hibernated, as have the pheasants.

What a learning experience.

I still sleep in the chicken coop. There’s definitely a few reasons why I do, but the biggest two are that the house isn’t quite ready for living nor do we have a live-in inspection done, also, in the coop I sleep with the dog (and sometimes cat) on my legs.

Spring at the creek
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comments: 5 » tags: autumn, dog, land, red spruce, spring, summer

In Chiang Mai

Posted on 29th October 2018 in adventure, architecture

For the winter of 2017-2018 I went to Thailand to… I guess find the cheapest rent and learn about a new culture. Truth be told, I really just wanted to be on the land of our farm building, but as it was, going to Thailand was an incredibly beautiful experience that I would not change for the world.

I spent about 5 months in Thailand, and most of my time was in Chiang Mai. I arrived in Bangkok and immediately met up with my friend Donovan. He invited me to join him on a train trip up to Chiang Mai where he was going to see about work. Most people take the sleeper train over night, but it was sold out so we took the day train. I actually really liked it since we were able to watch the city as we rolled on by.

I came to know Chiang Mai quite well. The caf├ęs I came across astounded me. The people I met blew me away with kindness and generosity. The landscape was as expected. And I had a scooter and motorcycle to cruise around on the whole time! I was, I guess, in heaven. My family is still now hearing stories I remember as we go about our daily, and each time the stories come to mind, I smile a deeply felt smile.

The next few posts will be devoted to the time I spent in Chiang Mai. Please say hello if you’d like to talk more about any of the photos and I will do my best to caption them.

Donovan renting a scooter

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comments: 0 » tags: chiang mai, thailand

Busy in Bangkok

Posted on 24th March 2018 in adventure, wandering

It seems like ages ago now when I was first in Bangkok. At the time, it was definitely a blur. I had just landed from Canada and in the process of trying to wrap my head around the fact that I was in Thailand. Do you know that feeling when you get to a new place by plane and realize that just the day before you were walking the streets of where you came from, likely a point a fair distance across the map from where you stand now? To regain my bearings, I usually try to lay low, just wandering the local streets trying to figure out where a good place to eat is.

I had a few friends in Bangkok that I met up with over the week I spent there, which is always good for me because they tend to have a list of things they want to do or see and I can just accompany with a smile. I left Bangkok in the same fashion, I had one friend, Alex, up there already for Loy Krathong, and another, Donovan, wanting to go up for work and to also catch Loy Krathong. When the latter asked me for the second time if I wanted to take the 12 hr train (turned into about 14 hrs) to catch the lantern festival (Loy Krathong), I decided to go on this journey.

So I ended up staying then in Bangkok for about 5 days. I wandered many streets and thoroughly enjoyed Chinatown. Such a busy area with vibrant storefronts and markets that I could walk through. I did a whole bunch of street photography with Donovan, since that’s his style of choice, which you’ll see soon in a photoblog of its own. Often, I’d find myself just wandering, wandering, wandering and running straight into a marvelously decorated temple or busy market. Each night, my sandals would come off, my dirty feet would be washed, and I’d collapse into my bed wondering how I’d get some relief from the humid and warm temperature I don’t think anybody ever can quite adjust to.

I resisted leaving because I didn’t feel I had explored the city as I had hoped. I think I’m learning that I never really feel like I’ve explored any place I’m at fully, and I think I’m ok with this. I think this is a great outlook for life to be on an adventure even in one’s own backyard.

Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand

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Mushrooming with Leiah Luz

Posted on 12th October 2017 in lifestyle, micro adventure, wandering

I asked Leiah Luz (previous posts, instagram, fb) if she would go on a Micro Adventure with me through North Vancouver, and she agreed. It was hard for me to really explain to her what I was interested in shooting, since it’s much different than a regular shoot. Leiah’s so rad though, she’s always been keen on shooting if she’s around, so she was pretty easy to convince I guess. At that time, I wasn’t calling them micro adventures, more a hang-out-session-afternoon-walkabout-thing. Like a romantic date filled with adventure. Instead of deliberating over clothing choice, we deliberate over where the most interesting location would be to adventure to.

Adventure was what we wanted, through the great outdoors. We wanted to stick to the West Coast theme, that much was clear, and wanted to try and capture all of the elements: earth, air, water, fire. We literally captured this by traveling on the Sea To Sky highway. Oh, and we found oyster mushrooms. I have been looking for them for a long time now, and we just stumbled upon a whole bag full of them without even trying. A good omen?

tech specs // Sony a7 / Super Multi Coated Takumar 28mm f3.5 / Super Takumar 55mm f1.8

Leiah Luz - Micro Adventures in North Vancouver - Ned Tobin Click here to read more.. »