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: 2 » 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: 6 » tags: autumn, dog, land, red spruce, spring, summer

Tofino, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada

Posted on 6th October 2015 in adventure, explored, nature, photojournalism, wandering

My brother is a nomad. He has a camper van and he likes to spend most of his time on dirt roads harvesting anything from mushrooms to blueberries. When he’s not tree planting that is.

I’m lucky enough to have him to call up when he’s off work and suggest journeys. He’s usually game without much of a fight, though sometimes I need to lure him with some kind of harvest or natural wonder.

This time we went to Ucluelet and Tofino, nestled deep within the great Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. We only actually went into Tofino once though, most of the time we’d spend in Ucluelet if we were anywhere near a city.

The day we arrived on the West side of Vancouver Island it was pouring rain, and also the final day of tourist season. That night the shorelines erupted with fireworks from the tourist hosts celebrating another season in the sun finished. We didn’t quite realize this was the case, which made finding accommodations rather interesting for us, as the campgrounds were closed. Queue camper van.

We’d spend our mornings trying to decide which beach we would go to, and spent most of our days huddling inside of driftwood barriers and huts some of the locals no doubt built as they waited for the surf to break. For my brother, this was pure bliss. Not a care in the world besides the suspense the author of his book decided to build. I, on the other hand, would find myself wandering as if conducting a science experiment.

Naturally, as I wandered I had my camera.

Ned Tobin - West Coast Tofino Ucluelet - PNW Click here to read more.. »

200 Hour Yoga Teacher Training | Haiku, Maui, Hawaii

Posted on 6th June 2015 in adventure, events, foto story, photojournalism

April, 2015 I was asked to video & photograph a 200 hour immersion yoga teacher training in Maui, Hawaii, put on by the lovely folks at Yoga University (fb, instagram). To be more exact: I was living in an ashram in Haiku, eating, breathing, and practicing yoga in every form of the word with 12+ humans who would very quickly become my ohana (family).

I have created a video to accompany this photo series, which can be found here (or on Vimeo).

Thinking back over the month, the first thing that sticks out in my mind is the intimacy and immediacy of daily check-ins. As we became more open and used to each other, these check-ins would become incredibly powerful, allowing the group to be supportive instead of judging so that each of us could have verbal dialogues with what was going on in our minds. The value of creating this space has exponential returns, both for the giver and the receiver, somewhat similar to reading a blog might: I write and get my thoughts clear and sorted out, you read and share my revelations!

I came back from this journey both mentally and physically stimulated like I haven’t been for years, one might say I was transformed. Every day in Maui I found myself learning, being guided, sharing, and committing to true love; discovering my body through satsangs of anatomy teachings with Alana, cosmic visualizations of chakras and pranayama discussions with David Lopez, Blue Mountain’s blessings, mangoes, and seva. Allowah & Sufey, the two guides on this beautiful journey, were instrumental in provided the space and the teachings for this Journey to Divine. We would typically spend over 14 hours a day in some form of yoga (these are the yoga sutras):

  • yama – ethical guidelines,
  • niyama – behaviors,
  • asana – physical practice,
  • pranayama – breathing life force,
  • pratyahara – detachment from ego,
  • dharana – meditation,
  • dhyana – meditation to god,
  • samadhi – peace, bliss, and happiness without end through the absorption of god.

Like I said, imagine the sense of awe, awareness, inspiration, and beauty when you walk into a sacred space of worship. Now make that a place you live and explore every day for a whole month. Meditate on that for a while.

Ok, fine, there was a lot of fun too.

If you’re interested in learning more about Yoga University, I’d be happy to talk about it, or head over to their site and see when their upcoming 200 or 300 hour teacher training and retreats are.

Yoga University - Maui Hawaii - Teacher Training - Ned Tobin

Large bunyan tree, Ioa Valley State Park

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My Family History Tour of Latvia, 2012

Posted on 4th March 2014 in adventure, architecture, explored, photojournalism

Latvia is a very special place in my heart, for many reasons.

One of those reasons is that my family has a very long history there. If you’re not familiar with Riga, I’ve made two posts on the architecture there (Part I & Part II). Riga is a very beautiful old city in an old country, with a lot of amazing history over the centuries, and a lot of very sad history too.

My family had estates scattered around Latvia that were lost sometime around the Russian Revolution(s) ~1917. For so long Latvia was behind the Russian Iron Curtain, but within the last 10-20 years everything has changed making it accessible to us foreigners. While I was there I rented a car and tried to visit as many of the old family estates as I possibly could.

I received such beautiful hospitality when I was there in 2012 from a few people who made my family history tour possible: Gerda Berzina, Imants Lancmanis, & Ojars Sparitis, who all went out of their way to extend their services to me. I will forever be grateful for the opportunities they presented to me, and in fact I’m a little ashamed it took me so long to write this post as a token of my gratitude.

If you’re interested in seeing a map with pins (markers) where I visited, head to my family genealogy site, tobyns.com,where I’ve made an interactive map.

My trip went from Riga -> Schleck -> Edwalen -> Pope -> Ugale -> Riga on day 1. On day 2 I went to Mežotne -> Rundāle -> Elley -> Vilce -> Jelgeva -> Riga.

This is what I saw.

Schleck Church (lv. Zlekas)

Schleck Church (lv. Zlekas)

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