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Why Pennsylvania Farmland Is the Best Place to Build a Log Cabin

With 170 acres of rolling western Pennsylvania farmland on which to build their log home, the Saymanskys can't lose.

Written by Gary Saymansky

If you read the first installment of Becky’s and my log home journey in the February issue of Log Home Living, you’ll recall we live on a 170- acre farm located in the rolling hills of western Pennsylvania. It’s also located on the second- highest point in Beaver County. Wanting to take advantage of our high vantage point, Becky knew exactly where to build our house so we could achieve our “million dollar view.”

From our front porch, we wanted to be able to look down through the valley and field (about a 20-mile vista on a clear day) and follow the change of seasons just by looking out our win- dows. The fall foliage is spectacular with the wide variety of tree cover Pennsylvania enjoys. Approaching thunderstorms or snow are fun to watch as they circle around us; sometimes not dropping a single raindrop or snowflake on our land! From the rear, we’d be able to watch the deer feeding in the field, soaring eagles above or red-tail hawks as they nest. All of these elements make up our “million dollar view,” which gives us a relaxing, almost hypnotic, feeling.

See also The Sweetest Thing: Planning a Lodge Home in Northeast Pennsylvania

In order to protect our log home investment and the farm from unseen circumstances or events, we decided to parcel off two acres. Now the initial work began. We hired a surveyor and contacted our township engineer to do the perc (short for percolation) test. For first-timers, a perc test determines the water absorption rate of soil in preparation of building a septic drain field basin. Once the survey was completed and the perc test passed, we packaged all of this information and sent it to the township and county for approval. We thought getting our building permit would be a piece of cake, but were we in for a few unwelcome surprises that not only delayed our progress, for a while we were afraid we’d have to abandon our log home dream altogether.

During the review process, the DEP (Department of Environmental Protection) disapproved their part of the application due to the fact that our septic field could allow our waste to migrate approximately one-half mile into a stream. We had to hire a geologist to prepare a study showing that the stream was actually a dry bed. (This specialist was the first of many dips into our contingency fund.)

With the new information in hand, the DEP approved their part of the application; however, another obstacle appeared. The Pennsylvania Fish and Game Commission rejected their part of the application because of the possibility that an endangered bird, the Pied-Billed Grebe, was nesting on our property. The discovery process cost us valuable time. The Fish and Game Commission physically walked our property and, in the end, deter- mined there was no nesting of the Pied-Billed Grebe on our site.

 Finally, our application was approved and stamped, and we were ready for construction. These obstacles set us back about three months, but with a little research and determination, we were able to resolve them. Nothing was standing in the way of our dream log home anymore.

See also History Repeats: Craftsman-style Log Home in Pennsylvania

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