Connie and Dave came up to visit us several weeks ago, and were helpful with things at our house (next steps in repairing the bathroom ceiling that fell through during the winter storms) and at the farm (trimming back branches around electrical cables). Connie took these beautiful macro photos around the property and I thought we had to share them!
We drove out to the farm this morning to check on things, and knew something was wrong as soon as we saw the gate to the driveway open. Someone cut the chain and lock with boltcutters, and kicked open the tool shed and the barn. Luckily, they didn’t seem to get into the house, and we didn’t actually see anything missing (there is so much junk there right now – nothing much of value to take!). It was strange that they likely drove in (why else break the gate – you can slip around it on the sides) but didn’t take anything that could’ve had SOME value – like the Crane sink, or the barbecue, or the riding lawnmower. We are grateful for that! We spent some time walking around to make sure everything was ok, and picked some spring flowers to take home before locking everything up again. We’ll be driving out more often to check on things – looking forward to having more happening there soon, so that it isn’t so empty!
One of the things I’m learning about Aaron is that once his interest in something is piqued, he goes 110% into research mode! In our efforts to get things going with the farm, he ordered about 40 used books on all aspects of home renovation and “green” living. He dreams of living completely off the land, wearing home-sewn clothes, canning, dehydrating pickling, and having as close to a zero impact footprint as possible! He now has a host of Excel documents detailing things like “planning out raised beds for gardening and researching companion planting techniques to maximize yield and repel pests and disease as naturally as possible.” (I just asked him to summarize this for me). 🙂
He surprised me with some books he picked out just for me as well – most on farmhouse style. He knows me well! One of my favorites is a book called “A Touch of Farmhouse Charm” by Liz Fourez – author of the blog Love Grows Wild. With all of the decor books out there, this one stands out to me because of the fun DIY projects inside! She has a whole list of things to make – from farmhouse signs, to pillow covers, to cake stands. Most of the projects are fairly simple, which I like – they can be done in a few hours! And the instructions are clear and easy to follow. Between work, farm, and wedding planning, there isn’t much time for additional things, so I’m looking forward to summer when life will be lighter and we can do some fun projects together.
Happy Sabbath! We are enjoying a quiet, rainy day here in Tacoma.
Progress on the farm seems to be slow… there are so many questions that are constantly popping up, and they all seem to depend on answers we don’t yet have. The farmhouse is originally a two bed, one bath home – so, tiny! We’ve been working on drawing up plans for several months now (many, many versions of plans) that add several more bedrooms and bathrooms to make it more of a family home. We are fine with the rooms being small – that’s part of what we like about the original home. But the additions we want need approval from an engineer because they would significantly change the layout and weight of the home.
Aaron scheduled a meeting with an engineer in Lakewood for yesterday morning. We asked Aaron’s dad, Dave, and my mom to come up to be at the meeting with us, as both of them have a lot of experience in different areas of home building and design. We couldn’t believe it when Dave called us on Thursday night and said there was a huge landslide on I-5 and he would be delayed by several hours. He waited, and waited, and waited in traffic to get off of the freeway and try to find another way around… and after many hours finally decided to turn back home. We were disappointed that he couldn’t make it up, but understood that it didn’t make sense for him to keep pushing north when there were so many delays. Then we got another phone call about an hour later – Dave was in a car accident that totaled his car! We felt so badly that this happened, especially as he was making such an effort to come help us at the appointment. Thankfully, Dave is ok and doesn’t have any physical injuries from the crash, even though it shattered his windshield and deployed his airbag!
The three of us – Aaron, my mom, and I – met with the engineer yesterday morning to talk about the options for the house. It was a helpful appointment, but like the ones before, left us with more questions than answers! There are all sorts of things we have to consider now – if you change more than 50% of a house in WA, you have to update the whole house to current standards/codes. Of course we want the house to be safe – but that means a lot of things, like changing the staircase to be a bit wider on each step and less steep… something that could cost several thousand dollars with moving walls, etc. to accommodate the new set-up. As Aaron says, “it’s one of those spiraling things…” Each change leads to more changes we have to make!
So our next steps mean that we need to assess for several things before deciding what changes to make on the house. Even though the original foundation to the house is in solid condition, we would have to supplement it to do the additions we hope for. This means having a crew come in and lift the house, pour additional concrete foundation around the post and pier, and then set the house back down. This is an expensive process, and can run between $10,000 – $20,000! So we need a quote on exactly what that would cost. We also need to have someone come out to assess the septic to see if we need to replace that with the new bedroom additions, and we need someone to check our spring water to see if it’s usable as is or if we’ll need to dig a well.
In the meantime, we are enjoying driving out each weekend to check on things… a few weeks ago, we planted several hundred daffodil bulbs that my dad gave us. It will be fun to see those spring up sometime soon. One of my students who knows we are working on the farm suggested we visit a store in Seattle called “Second Use Building Supplies” – we went last weekend and had so much fun! We will have. definitely be checking back regularly to see what they have. Some of the things that caught our eye were:
- Fir flooring that would match the original fir floors in the farm
- An old Crane sink – similar to the original one at the farm – for a hefty price! Makes us sure we want to clean ours up and use it!
- An old, 42-inch front door salvaged from a 1906 Capitol Hill house in Seattle
- Several multi-faucet trough sinks
- A clawfoot tub
- A gorgeous Viking range – it had already sold when we saw it, and had three “waitlist” tags on it!
The best news is that they just put a Second Use store in Tacoma – just a few miles away! So we’ll be checking in there regularly as well. I’m realizing that I’m kind of a “bargain bragger…” If someone likes something I paid full price for, I usually respond with a quiet “thank you.” But if someone compliments something I got a great deal on, it’s like “THANKS!!! You’ll never guess how much I paid for this?! It was such an amazing deal!!! Let me tell you about it!!!” I’m looking forward to what will be the most fun of this whole process for me – finding great deals on home things that I love! 🙂
Things are quiet at the farm right now. Aaron and I have been driving out every weekend to feed the several feral cats that live there to keep the mouse population under control. We bought a big auto-feed container that dispenses food as it gets eaten – it’s always gone when we check in, so either the cats are eating it or something else is! Hopefully the cats. When we were there yesterday, we saw one of them… a pretty, small, black cat who was very skittish and ran off as soon as she saw Fen. Fen was so funny… barking and growling with her hackles up. She thinks she’s Queen of the Farm.
Aaron is working away today on a foam board model of the farmhouse. We appreciate my mom who’s spent many hours creating multiple versions of drawings and layouts for us to consider! The 3D model should also help us figure out exactly what we want so that we can get plans nailed down. Aaron is working with an architect and engineer who will be coming out to see the farm soon to help us draw up the formal plans that will be approved by the city. We’re hoping to get moving on that sooner than later, as we’re sure that things will pick up for contractors in the spring.
During our visit yesterday, we spent about an hour walking around and thinking of ideas for things… we are looking at perhaps doing solar tiles for the roof (Aaron found out that Elon Musk is putting out new, less expensive tiles this spring – Aaron loves what they do, and I like how they look compared to solar panels, even though I find myself pulled back to the idea of a corrugated tin roof), painting two of the currently red outbuildings a pretty charcoal grey, maybe doing a circular driveway, and putting together some big planter boxes for vegetable gardening.
We continue to be daunted by the amount of junk around the farm… yesterday, we noticed a set of lawn chairs and a grill almost completely covered by grape vines in the front yard! Both Aaron and I have some time off in January and we may try to devote a good chunk of that to hauling things to recycling and the dump. We mentioned again yesterday how thankful we are for good family who came to help us do a very successful demo day a month or two ago.
It is stormy here in Washington! We’ve had several long, full days of heavy rain and winds that are expected to be 50+ miles per hour tonight and tomorrow morning. Yesterday as I was leaving for work, I heard water running in the bathroom (at home in Tacoma – not at the farm). When I went upstairs to check on it, I saw a huge portion of the ceiling was caving in! The latex paint had basically turned into a big water balloon holding gallons of rainwater that was leaking in from a hole in the roof where some of the shingles had blown off and the plastic panel underneath had either worn away or wasn’t put on properly. Luckily someone was able to come out right away to help us do a temporary seal so that it’s watertight for the rest of the weekend until a roofer can come out on Tuesday.
We drove out to the farm this afternoon to make sure that everything was ok and that no trees had fallen onto the house. We did see several downed trees and lots with broken branches, including one of the pear trees lining the driveway, but the buildings all seem to be intact.
Aaron just made a batch of homemade crockpot hot chocolate – yum. The recipe says it’s supposed to simmer for three hours… I’m thinking that could be a flexible estimate. 🙂 I’m grateful for Aaron, who’s helped me with so much over the last few days, cozy living rooms, candles, and a dry house! We hope everyone else is staying safe and warm in the storm.
Lindsey here! We don’t have too many new pictures to put up, as we are deep in the process of paperwork – many visits to county offices and phone calls to insurance companies and city services. My mom and dad came up to visit for a few days this week and spent hours working at the farm while I was at work at school! We appreciate them.
Some of the ongoing projects while we get all of the permits we need include sorting through the piles and piles of old things on the property. We are quickly learning that the family who lived there kept EVERYTHING! We’re up to a count of about 18 broken-down lawnmowers now, and in every cupboard and corner, we find new “treasures.” There is a landfill about three miles from the farm that takes most materials and doesn’t charge for recycling, so we are trying to sort old and unusable things into piles of metal, plastic, rubber, etc. We have a new (to us) trailer to haul things back and forth, which is helpful.
While walking around the property a few days ago, we came across five different LARGE piles of bear scat! We are obviously not in downtown Tacoma anymore! The fruit trees are dropping loads of dead-ripe summer/fall fruit, so I’m sure the bears are gorging themselves at night. We’ll be keeping a close eye on Fen as she roams around the property! One of the best parts of being at the farm is watching her barrel race around, full-speed, going as fast as her chubby puppy-body can take her. She loves it there.
There are few things that bring more excitement than demolition day. The start of a new project and the cleansing of the old trappings of a house long past its prime. For us, demo day started with tearing back a bit of the wall and ceiling shortly after getting keys to the house. To our surprise, the 1960’s pink sheetrock and old ceiling panels hid beautiful original cedar planks. This was on top of the fact that the ugly linoleum was covering gorgeous old fir flooring. A great find for a short day.
A longer full demo day was planned and we were overjoyed when several family members made the trek to Buckley to see our budding farm and help us tear down the mid-century façade. We tore off the rest of the downstairs sheetrock to expose the cedar siding, and made quick work of the dusty ceiling panels. We started the process of removing the old bathroom wall and a kitchen wall that will eventually add much needed square footage to an open concept kitchen, dining room, and living room. And finally we took down the old cabinets in the kitchen, making sure to salvage the antique Crane Kitchen Pride sink.
The demo exposed some potential new problems and challenges for the project, but also gave us tremendous hope and excitement for the beautiful old woodwork we hope to restore and feature in the final renovation. After filling 35 contractor bags and cleaning up the debris we called it a day and headed back to Tacoma. Demo day wouldn’t have been possible (or as fun) without the great support from our family and we look forward to the next step in this farm restoration project.
Aaron wanted to title our first post, “new beginnings,” and it really is for us! For the last year or so, we’ve been wanting to take on a project together and fix up a home, and a few weeks ago, we bought a beautiful old farmhouse in a town called Buckley about 35 minutes from my work at PLU. I don’t think either of us knew HOW big a project this would be, until it was too late and we’d already fallen in love with this 1930’s, Dutch colonial farmhouse on six acres. Some of my favorite things about it are the old fruit and nut trees around the property, the many small “outbuildings” including chicken coops, goat sheds, cow stalls, etc., the gambrel roof on the farmhouse, the spring that sources all the water, and the family history there. The last owners lived on the farm for about seventy years, building everything on the land themselves (they lived in a tent in the yard for months while the house was being built!). There’s an old milking shed behind the barn, a room with a concrete tub to put the milk jugs in to cool, four different chicken coops, and plenty of interesting farm tools – one of them is a “hog cane,” which looks a bit like a walking staff, but was used to steer pigs around the farm.
The home is tiny – two bedrooms and one bathroom. We’re hoping to do some additions that will add a bump-out on the second floor for a third bedroom and bath, and some space below for a covered porch. We are so thankful for family and friends who came to help us do a “demo day” last weekend where we were able to get most of the downstairs demo done – old, 1960’s cabinets removed, walls taken out, and many, many bags of old, peach-colored sheetrock removed. We found the happiest surprise of cedar shiplap walls and ceilings under the old sheetrock, and beautiful old original fir floors under teal and pink floral linoleum. We filled about 35 contractors bags! At some point, we’ll need to get a big dumpster in to get rid of those, and all the other things left on the property. Aaron was disappointed that the sellers took an old motorcycle behind the barn before leaving, but left us a broken down station wagon covered with tarps!
We’re excited to document this adventure together, and hope you can come visit us when we’re finished with our farm on Fettig Road!
Owning your own farm, living off the land, getting back to the simple life. For many, these phrases harken back to a bygone era, a time when social media didn’t dominate our lives, a reality star wasn’t running for president, and when your very existence was tied to your hard work and perseverance. For me, growing up on a farm provided so many opportunities and lessons, that it seemed natural to want to get back to that as I moved forward with the next stage of my life. A stage that involves a wonderful woman that shares this dream of having a picturesque farm in the country. This blog is a way to document the journey toward that dream.
As Lindsey (the wonderful aforementioned woman) is in a more settled job as a professor at Pacific Lutheran University, we decided that we wanted to find a piece of property near her work. And I began the process of finding ways to work remotely and plan a move from the Hood River area to the Tacoma area. While Tacoma and the surrounding Puget Sound area are beautiful, there are very few classic farmhouses on large swaths of land. Even buildable lots with a few acres are at a premium. We begin widening our search further and further out from the city center and Lindsey’s work. There were a few houses that intrigued us, such as the classic farmhouse in Orting complete with a flock of wild peacocks. But nowhere really felt like home. There was always something that caused us to keep looking. A railroad track nearby, close neighbors, the distance from Tacoma, the amount of work needed, or the price. We kept looking.
In June, Lindsey sent me a link to a property listed on Zillow. For sale by owner, 2 bedroom 1 bath on 6.5 acres. While it looked intriguing, it was extremely small and was in bad shape. Despite the acreage I wondered if this was any better than the previous houses we had looked at. Lindsey viewed the property first and instantly fell in love. “This is the one,” she exclaimed over the phone. She wanted to put an offer in right away so I made the trip north to check it out for myself. When I turned the corner and went down the driveway for the first time, I immediately fell in love as well. Pear and walnut trees flanked the road as the property opened into a hidden meadow. There sat an old Dutch colonial style farmhouse, matching barn, and half a dozen outbuildings. The land and buildings had seen better days, but it was clear that those days were filled with vibrance and purpose. The bones of the house were solid, hand built with love, care, and lots of hard work. The air was tranquil and it felt like you were miles from anyone else. This WAS the one.
The process of acquiring the house was as challenging as finding it in the first place. Despite putting an offer in the week it was posted on Zillow, we were second in line and had to wait almost a full agonizing month before finding out that the other offer fell through. With keys in hand we set about the process of cleaning, demo, and planning our remodel. Our goal is to add a second story bump out that will give us much needed extra space. This combined with changing a few things on the first floor should give us four bedrooms and three bathrooms. The task before us is hard but we are inspired by the pioneers of old that made their start on this very farm almost eighty years ago. Our farm. Fettig farm.