Off-Grid Property Search

I began an Internet search for land in the late summer of 2017. During my research, I came across an ad for a cabin under construction in southern Colorado. The ad did not include pictures. It only noted 10 acres including a cabin shell for $126,000 for sale. Wow, I thought, where can one find mountain land in Colorado for such a price. Curious, I called the listing agent requesting more information.

The agent and I discussed the property at length. The cabin turned out to be a speculation model. The concept was to build an enclosed shell (roof, walls, and floor). Once sold, the purchaser would finish the cabin. If the idea worked, the owner would build more structures on other tracts of land he owned in the area. The agent also mentioned several times, “there is nothing like it in the entire county.” I asked him to clarify, and he said, “unconventional techniques used to built it.”

I took most of what the agent said with a grain of salt. Still, it intrigued me. As a result, I planned a trip to Colorado to see it for myself. I made arrangements with him to meet in early September. We decided to meet at a set of self-service gas pumps in the community of Segundo, Colorado. Segundo is around 15 miles west of Trinidad Colorado on highway 12.

After driving for most of the night, I made it to Segundo on time and met with the listing agent. He mentioned the cabin was about 11 miles north of our location. I agreed to follow him in my vehicle, and we took off. About a mile west of Segundo, we turned right onto a county road heading north into what is called Sarcillo Canyon, which is hardly wide enough for two vehicles.

The terrain became more forested and steeper as we drove up the canyon. We passed a few homes on the way, grazing cattle, and the pavement ended after about 8 miles. The road then weaved through a small canyon, opening up to a beautiful view of one of the two Spanish Peaks. We turned right onto another county road entering into a rural community.

West Spanish Peak Colorado
West Spanish Peak, Colorado

The cabin’s location is only a few miles from where we turned. The cabin sat on the edge of a large meadow about 300 feet off the road buffered by forest on three sides. Thinking to myself when I first saw it, they weren’t joking about it being small. Still, I was trying to maintain an open mind, but I had mixed feelings. At least, the cabin had a southern exposure and was perfect for a set of solar panels.

The agent introduced me to the man responsible for building the cabin. A beefy man, standing about six-three, well over 200 pounds: his wardrobe and appearance was befitting for the mountains; flannel shirt, straw cowboy hat, and long gray hair and a gray beard. After exchanging pleasantries, we toured the cabin.

Initial Frame

Although we could walk the cabin from end-to-end in less than a minute, the tour took over a half an hour.

First, he explained his unusual method of framing using rough-cut lumber, which seemed wasteful and time-consuming. For instance, cutting a 2 x 4 with 45-degree angles on both ends, and nailing them in the corners of end walls. Second, he discussed some of his plans for the cabin, such as extending the loft over much of the lower floor, building dormers, mudroom, and a cooper steel roof.

rough-cut lumber
Rough-cut lumber

Rough-cut lumber has no planed (smooth) sides. Generally, it is cheaper, but the downside is the lumber is not kiln dried and will often warp and crack as it dries. Therefore, you end up discarding pieces because they are unusable or cutting off warped or cracked ends.

In any event, the builder seemed to be excited about and took pride in his craftsmanship.

Once finished, the cabin with around 900 square feet, and coupled with the land, seemed to meet my needs. And I had a name for it, Rough-Cut Acres, but a friend later suggested, “Rough-Cut Ranch.” The name stuck. Still, I had some doubts. I wanted to think about it. So, I elected to drive back to Arizona.

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