Buying Your Retreat During ‘The Melt’
Ah…for those of you who have never heard of the ‘melt’ or the ‘mud season’ in a cold climate you’ll be in for a big and most likely not very exciting surprise. This phenomenon usually lasts a few weeks to a month and during that time the entire area is just plain wet and muddy. Most roads other than the main highway have [commercial/logging/mining] load weight restrictions placed on them with heavy fines for violations. This is to keep the roads from buckling and sinking when the earth underneath them thaws and is sometimes very soft. Shopping for your retreat during this springtime surprise can often be as much a pain as when there is three feet of snow on the ground. Walking property lines and even getting to some properties will be a challenge at times. During this time, in addition to the hiking boots one should normally have while property shopping in the boonies is a good pair of tall mud boots.
A positive aspect during this time is that you’ll be able to see first hand any drainage and wetland issues. Basements will be showing a seasonal dampness or leakage as well as low spots that may have otherwise been judges as tillable or a decent place for a structure will be identified. Sometimes even the slightest sag in the land can be an issue during this time and these areas are sometimes impossible to see during the summer months. Seasonal streams erupt from out of nowhere and once pristine roads turn into mud soup. Nicely manicured gravel driveways into some properties just plain sink into oblivion. During last year’s mud season we ran into a situation where we had to lay gravel and approximately double the yardage was used due to sinking, than if we could have done it after the mud season.
When out looking at properties it will be obvious what the quality of road construction was done in some of the land splits for sale in your locale. I can think of one property that has a road winding up a steep hill and ending on top of the most beautiful view for miles around. I’m certain that the road will either wash out or be damaged during this spring’s thaw. It was constructed using a large amount of rock and boulders from the hillside and fill dirt with no provision for runoff, no culverts whatsoever. With the heavy snowpack in the western US this year, any new owner would be in for a large bill for road repair. Buyers, beware of road construction! Have an engineer look at any questionable construction before you get involved in purchasing raw land.
If you buy a retreat during that time be aware that the moving truck could be delayed by a few weeks and increase the moving costs unless it stays cool enough in the morning hours when heavier loads are allowed with a permit (usually before the sun gets high enough to begin the morning thaw, about 10 a.m. here).
If you’re like a lot of folks out there that haven’t yet sold the property that was going to be used [to raise funds] to purchase that retreat I have some easy advice. Don’t fret over losing $100,000 when there may be a day very soon when you won’t have anything left to lose at all. Get out now! Even if you have to drop your price drastically, wouldn’t you rather have something to work with than nothing at all? Time is truly short in the real estate markets for all involved, even the commercial market is about to take a bath, and a cold one at that. I’m envisioning empty dark office buildings all over yuppieville this time 2009. Knowledge is only power when one actually acts upon it. Otherwise it’s like fools gold, eh?
How to Burn Down Your Retreat
Early Wednesday afternoon we got paged out to a structure fire a few miles outside of our local little town here. As I’ve explained many times before in the weekly update rural fire departments take a bit of time to get to the scene, period. So as this story goes the homeowner was cooking and decided to take a walk, no problem. The food burns and starts the kitchen on fire, again no problem, it happens all the time. Now, the homeowner arrives after a short walk and sees smoke filtering out of the home so they run inside and attempt to put out the fire using a pillow and not a fire extinguisher. Well, not the smartest thing to do, but again no problem. They were unsuccessful so the homeowner decides to open all the windows before running outside and calling 911. Now we have a big problem! Had the fire been left to smolder while we were en route we could have simply vented the structure, made entry and used a foam solution to quell the fire and the home most likely would have been in okay shape. But, venting the fire immediately so that it had oxygen to burn for 12 minutes before we arrived was not a smart thing to do. Normally a fire will double in size every 30 to 45 seconds, very scary? Yes! As you might deduce, we arrived on scene to a fully engulfed home (again). One propane tank exploded right before we arrived and luckily we were able to keep the other 500 gallon tank from exploding (the paint was bubbling on the tank as we put water on it). My point? Keep fire extinguishers on every wall of your retreat and don’t open any windows and close all the doors you can as you (safely) exit the house. The doors will act as a break in the fire slowing the spread and the closed windows will deprive the fire of needed oxygen. If you have your retreat built do yourself and the firefighters a favor, don’t place the propane tanks 20 feet from the house, keep them as far away as possible and bury them! I suppose someone might think that a red fire extinguisher and a flashlight would look silly hanging on every wall in the retreat, but I suppose then that’s why it’s a retreat, a safe house for the family in times of peril, right? Be sure to make it so. Remember, fire is a bigger threat that thieves at rural retreats, especially if you have a ‘bat cave’ to hide your preps in. Assess the risks and prepare appropriately. God Bless – TS in Idaho