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Our Plans For Camp Bluebird This Month

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By Jon Waraas - First Published: May 3rd, 2024

Boulders and Bathrooms: Laying the Groundwork in Gilmore, Idaho

I'm excited! In a couple of days we (the family) are all headed up to Gilmore, Idaho to do some work on our property we call "Camp Bluebird". This trip will be one of the first of many to Gilmore that we will do this year

I want to share with you ours plans for this month, and then post the progress here on my blog.

So, What's Camp Bluebird?

From Curiosity to Ownership: Our Adventure In Gilmore, Idaho

A brief backstory: Camp Bluebird is the property that we have in the ghost town of Gilmore, Idaho. The property is a little less than an acre, and we are building an off grid cabin on it.

Last year we got the land fully bulldozed, a clay cabin pad built, and a driveway with ditches constructed. We also got the Amish built cabin delivered and set up.

We were able to work on some of the berms and ditches before winter, but we ran out of time last fall.

In February of this year we purchased our neighbors lots from him, thus doubling the property size.

Now, What's The Plan?

Before I talk about "The Plan", I need to first discuss the goals. Which there are three main ones for this month (May):

1. Move rock piles
2. Outhouse
3. Swales

I'll discuss them some more:

Move The Rock Piles

It's not going to be fun, but it has to be done. In Feb of this year we bought our neighbors lots from him, which doubled the size of our property.

We now want to utilize the area next to our cabin better, and extend the "top" swale some more (I'll go over the swales later).

Photo showing the 3 rock piles that have to be moved.
^ Above: Here you can see the 3 rock piles that we have to move. Each pile of rocks are sorted by size. There is also some lumber and trash we have to move as well.

Unfortunately, we have to move the rocks before we start on the other two projects. The plan is to move the piles to the top-north corner of the property. It's gonna suck, but we gotta do it.

The Outhouse

The outhouse is the main focus for this month, and I want to get it completed before the end of the it. Currently we are using one of those "popup" outhouses with a small plastic toilet. Its horrible! We have to use resealable bags, and its just shitty for everyone involved, no pun intended.

I think I can speak for everyone (there are 5 of us) when I say that the current popup outhouse is horrible. You can see why I need to get this done right away.

Photo showing the current popup outhouse setup.
^ Above: This photo was taken a couple of weeks ago, and shows the current crappy popup shitter. We have to set it up every time we get there, and have to use the wooden sawhorses for support. You can also see the rock pile that we have to move.

Last year I didn't have enough time to put one in, plus I ran out of funds last year. The permit cost is $800, which is also pretty shitty. After the Amish cabin and dirt work last year, I didn't have enough funds to get the permit and build the outhouse.

We got the permit (for the outhouse) last week, and hope to finish the outhouse hole within 2 weeks. We started digging the hole last time we went up about 3 weeks ago, but ran into a big boulder about 20 inches into the ground.

We tried digging around the boulder, but the thing is so big that we are going to have to brute force it out. We are also unable to dig a hole more than a 3' in diameter, so digging completely around it is out of the picture.

photo showing the outhouse hole being dug.
^ Above: You can see the start of our outhouse hole here. It has to be 3' wide in diameter (circle). We made it 20 inches down before we hit a huge boulder. I had to purchase a hammer drill to get it out.

We thought about using a jack hammer, but after looking up the prices to rent one from Home Depot, we found that it would cost roughly $250 to rent a jackhammer for 2 days. That would work great for us, and we could easily get the whole hole dug within a couple of days using it.

However, it was only $110 to buy a brand new hammer drill and drill bits from harbor freight. Plus another $20 for the stone splitting wedges from Home Depot. So we went that route, and will drill/wedge the rock out of our way.

We can also use the drill later on for any other rocks that get in our way. That is if the drill works (I've never bought a power tool from harbor freight) and if everything else goes according to plan.

I have no clue how big the boulder is inside the outhouse hole, nor do I know how long it will take to break it. But I'll find out in a couple of days :)

As for the actually outhouse, that will go up right after we finish digging the hole. I'll be building the outhouse right above the hole, and will slide the building over the hole using a wench after the hole and building are inspected.

Photo showing the outhouse hole.
^ Above: Here you can see the outhouse hole with the big ass boulder. It appears to be just a piece of a boulder, so instead of digging around it, I'm going to drill into it and break it apart with rock wedges. At least that's the plan.

Later on I will be doing a whole blog post on how legally building an outhouse in Idaho works, but for now the short version is:

Basically I dig a 8' hole, then have them inspect the hole and do a soil sample. Once the hole is approved, I can put 2' of dirt back into the hole, so that the hole is only 6' deep. They have to test the hole at 8', but you must put 2' of dirt back because the actual outhouse hole can only be 6' deep.

They will also inspect the outhouse building before it is placed over the hole. The building codes for the outhouse are pretty simple.

So I'm hoping to get the hole dug, and the outhouse build within 2 weeks. Let's see how that goes :)


The fun one (for me) to discuss :)

Note that I have never done this stuff before. I worked on a tree farm during high school, but I never actually built anything like this.

I didn't even know what a swale was until a few months ago, when I was trying to find ways to store more water in the ground, to grow bushes and such.

The longer version of what a swale is:

"A swale is a shallow, vegetated depression or ditch designed to manage stormwater runoff. Swales are often used in landscape architecture and urban planning to help control erosion, filter pollutants, and promote groundwater recharge. They can be natural or man-made and are typically constructed with gentle slopes to slow down the flow of water, allowing it to infiltrate into the ground rather than running off rapidly. Swales are often lined with vegetation, such as grasses or native plants, which help to absorb excess water and filter out contaminants."

But basically I need to store as much water in the ground as I possibly can, since I want to grow trees and bushes on the property.

Last year I started building a couple "berms". I built the one near the road to try to keep the dust and noise down. I built the other behind the cabin to prevent erosion. I spent a lot of time and money on that damn clay dirt foundation, and I don't want it at the bottom of the hill :)

But as I said before, I didn't even know what a swale was until a few months ago. I have since watched a bunch of videos, and read a few articles on them. My plan for this spring is to turn the two berms into swales.

In order to do so, we have to dig ditches on the top part of the slope above the current berms, and then add more dirt to the actual berms as well. The trick is to trap the water in the ground with the swales.

In the photos below, I will go over some of the plans:

Photo showing the old roads and intersection.
^ Above: Unfortunately, I don't have any areal views (via drone) of the property, so I have to use Google maps. The map above was taken in June of last year. You can see we started working on the clay foundation and driveway when the photo was taken. You can also see that the property is on an old T intersection (this is an ghost town). The blue lines are the roads, and the green part is the intersection. The cabin is right next to that intersection. The water follows the old paths.
Photo showing the planned swales.
^ Above: The above photo shows the planned swales this year (in blue). The left hand side one is the top one, and cant extend the whole length of the property because of the tree we call "twiggy smalls" is in the way. We're not going to cut down a tree to add a swale :/ The right hand side swale is pretty much done, just needs a small ditch dug.
Photo showing the top incomplete swale.
^ Above: This photo shows the "top" incomplete swale. Note that it isn't wide enough, and there is a pool of water alongside the clay foundation. As you can see from the photos above, the old road intersects right there, and the water flows more in that area. I need to stop the water before it gets there.
Photo showing the top swale.
^ Above: This photo was taken less than a month ago, on April 8th. The snow just barley all melted up there. This photo shows the "top" incomplete swale. It needs to be extended, with a ditch dug. I also have to remove the rocks before I begin the work.
Photo showing water flowing at Camp Bluebird
^ Above: This photo was taken on April 8th, and shows how much water flows without the swale in place.

Thank you for reading about my cabin building plans for this month, please leave a comment if you have any questions or suggestions :)


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Ever since building my first website in 2002, I've been hooked on web development. I now manage my own network of eCommerce/content websites full-time. I'm also building a cabin inside a old ghost town. This is my personal blog, where I discuss web development, SEO, eCommerce, cabin building, and other personal musings.

Recent Comments:

Brett : Very cool to get the back story and will be neat to watch the progress. Hoping eventually to so do something the similar on the west coast of Canada somewhere. Amazing that in 2006 I first found your site for it's myspace page information and how to build PHP site header/footers for resale. How times change hah. Anyways, keep up the great posts, looking forward to the updates.

Posted on: April 11, 2024

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