Clint was nice enough to send along a couple of pics today. "Yes, Dave, I really am working on your foundation!"
Obviously there has been some snow between the first picture and the second. You can also see that the basement is not that deep. After conversing with Clint a bit on this, we decided to keep the basement relatively high. This will allow the septic system to drain better, and will position the deck views and loft views that much higher.
Lastly, we decided to add a couple grand to our budget and get a door added to the basement on the north side, right next to the deck stairs. We figure this is money well spent to increase the flexibility and utility of the basement space. As Margaret says, who knows, we may fully finish it one day and have it as a air bnb.
But with the basement relatively shallow, we won't need any fancy trick with the french drain, walk up steps, etc.