Farm

March Homestead Update

March 18, 2018

Now that we are moved into our new apartment (see February Freeze post), we have had a little bit more time to devote to working on the farm. We received a wonderful boost when Lindsey’s parents came up for a few days and we hauled another 5,000 lbs of trash and recycling to the local dump. The mountains of trash and debris seem to be never ending by it feels like we are finally making headway. We also burned several piles of old wood and downed limbs and we are finally starting to see patches of earth that have been covered for the past several years.

Despite all the progress, homesteading is often taking two steps forward and one step back. Our RV (which served as a nice retreat for the in-laws and dogs) wouldn’t start when we needed to move it, and after jumping it a few times, I decided to just replace the battery completely. A couple hours and a $100+ later, we have a nice new working battery for an RV we now very seldom use. The next obstacle was the bus, our original project that got pushed to the back burner due to time and budget. Even gutted, the bus weighs over 18,000 lbs and after a couple of days of heavy rain we discovered that it sunk into the soft mud when we tried to move it. We tried to free it for a couple hours while Lindsey’s parents were here but it only seemed to slide further down the hill and put a couple of our outbuildings (and the bus) at risk. Luckily it dried out a bit this week and after another couple of hours digging out around all the tires and putting some gravel down, I managed to free the beast from its muddy tomb. We are hoping to clean the bus up a bit in the coming weeks and then try to sell it. While it would make an amazing mobile off-grid home, we have too many vehicles and too many projects at the moment.

In all of the trash and debris, occasionally you find a gem. We found an rusty old flatbed trailer buried in the blackberry bushes, but upon closer inspection it seems to be in decent condition. It needs a new deck and maybe some new tires at some point, but I was able to yank it out of the weeds with my truck and it seems to work fine. Can’t wait to see what else we find as we continue to clean and dig through the weeds and brambles on the farm. The chickens are loving all the cleaning as well as there is lots of fresh loose dirt, yummy bugs, and young green shoots to nibble. We are already talking about more chickens and Lindsey wants to get some Ameraucanas or Easter Egger mixes. While the chickens are mostly free range, we are setting up a large enclosed outdoor area for them to roam in safety that will also double as the apiary when we get bees in May. With bears, raccoons, feral cats, opossums, and who knows what else, we want to make sure our animals are safe. We also hope to get some goats as soon as we can get some temporary boundary fencing in place.

The house project continues to move forward (see Creating a Solid Foundation post) and we are hopeful to be able to start on major construction/remodeling this summer. Until then we will have plenty of work to do clearing blackberries, cutting down old damaged trees, continuing to clean and repair outbuildings, and prepping for new additions to the farm. Our goal this year is to finish the house and set the foundation for a self sustaining homestead. We will have well water (plus spring water backup or for irrigation) and septic on site and may look at solar in the future but for now we are lucky that there is grid power. And we would like to produce most of our food from our chickens, garden, and bees. Lindsey has been vegetarian her entire life and I have tried to embrace this as much as possible during the past year. Because of this, we will probably never have animals for meat and instead might utilize the pastures for rescue animals and/or field crops. I want to develop a large garden and greenhouse and we want to get into canning to keep us fed throughout the year. Eventually we hope to make a small supplemental income with the homestead through specialty crops such as garlic or herbs, or through crafts, woodworking, etc. A lot of ideas and possibilities!

Farm

Creating a Solid Foundation

March 11, 2018

One of the challenges in our remodel project has been what to do with the existing foundation. The house has a post and pier foundation with some massive beams but the house isn’t completely level and some of the posts are sitting on bare dirt. Several of the contractors we have talked to and our engineer have expressed concerns about the long term viability of the foundation. This week we talked with a company in Seattle that can add additional galvanized posts to support the beams and level the house. This could be a huge step forward in the project and we finally have a good path forward to keep the existing house vs tearing it down or building elsewhere on the property.

We have also been looking at ways to remodel the carport and incorporate it into the house redesign. One of the steps in doing this is decommissioning the underground oil tank and adding a new poured foundation, but this would give us an additional 480 square foot to work with. Currently we are thinking about moving the kitchen and mudroom/utility room to this spot. We are hopeful to have the foundation work finished and the framing and roof started by early summer. It has been an incredibly long process but we are still very excited about making this our forever home!

 

Family

Sunday Funday

March 5, 2018

Aaron is truly the guy I’ve dreamed of – he is just the best partner and friend. He regularly does things for me that totally make my day. We were really tired this last weekend from a stressful week, and Aaron told me he had something fun planned for Sunday. He surprised me by taking me to an early morning trip to a new Home Goods store in University Place – he knew I’d been trolling it for weeks waiting to see when it would open! To put this into context – Aaron’s likes shopping about as much as my dad does, i.e. he’d rather wait in a car than go in and look around (I introduced him to recreational browsing! Ha.). He patiently wandered the isles with me and carted around a huge Mason Cash forest mixing bowl I found for $11. It was so fun. As if that wasn’t enough, he took me to the Sew Expo at the Puyallup fairgrounds – I’ve been wanting to do that for several years and just haven’t had time before. Some of my favorite things from the Expo were the modern quilt designs, apparel fabrics from my favorite Seattle fabric store: Drygoods Design, and a WA-famous Fisher raspberry scone. I can’t wait to get into quilting and sewing more when we get settled.

Farm

Lady’s Eggs

March 5, 2018

We have three chickens now at the farm: Lady, Tweet Tweet, and Gardener. They’ve settled in to their new home and Lady is laying the BIGGEST eggs for us – they’re huge! Here’s one and a regular sized one for comparison. This one was a double-yolk too!

Family, Farm

February Freeze

March 5, 2018

After weeks and weeks of rain, we had a funny cold patch in February where it snowed almost every day for a week! It was fun to look out of the big bay window in our house and see a blanket of white across the yard. We closed the sale on our house last week and are happy to have that behind us, although it’s kind of bittersweet as we’ll always remember it as the first house we shared! We made another big life choice last week and decided to move into an apartment – it’s been difficult to be in the RV with very unreliable functioning of all kinds of things – water pumps, ceiling leaks, no real insulation, etc. All of this together has felt kind of emotional for us – we’ve been really trying over the last year or so to make decisions that will, in the long run, save us money that we can put towards our house. It’s hard when those things don’t seem to be working out well, and we have to backtrack. It’s felt like one step forward and two back at times. As I’m writing this, I’m thinking about all of the work we’ve done trying to get things going with the farmhouse and how many dead-ends we’ve hit – I don’t have the energy tonight to write about all of that, so I’ve put Aaron on that task for another post. 🙂 Anyway – we are now in an apartment in Bonney Lake, which is only 10 minutes or so from the farm. It’s wonderful to be so much closer, and that’s given us some needed encouragement.

Family

Aunt Evelynn’s Birthday Bonanza

March 5, 2018

In February, we took a fun trip down to Woodland, CA for my great-aunt-Evelynn’s 90th birthday party. Because it fell on a three-day holiday weekend, lots of us were able to make it – my parents, Casey and Jenn, Reed and Linda, Grandma, and a lot of Evelynn’s friends from church and the community there. We used the church’s fellowship hall for a brunch birthday party – we made egg dishes, potato dishes, fruit salad, punch, cinnamon rolls, coffee cake, etc. and had photos of her up around the room. It was fun to see people from so many different areas of Evelynn’s life all gathered together to celebrate her.

Aunt Evelynn called me a few days ago to tell me a story about growing up with Grandma that’d been on her mind. She and Grandma were young – I think 12 and 14, and Grandma decided to skip school with some friends. They climbed up something (I can’t remember now what it was – a lookout of some kind) and were then too scared to come down. Day turned into evening, and a search party was out looking for all of them. Finally they were found, and taken home – all of them hungry and tired and cold. Aunt Evelynn said the story kind of typified their personalities: even though she was older than Grandma, she was always a rule follower while Grandma was a rule breaker. 🙂 Grandma has pretty late-stage Alzheimer’s now, and so she isn’t able to remember these stories herself. It made me think about how we should be writing these down or recording them in some way so that they aren’t lost.

One of my favorite stories about my Grandpa Crawford on the other side of the family was of him growing up as a boy in Eastern Canada. His father was a baker, and Grandpa began working in the coal mines at a really young age to help contribute to the family. He also did deliveries for his father, and one day, he was out with two cakes when he slipped on a patch of ice. As he was falling, he knew he would either lose both cakes, or he could slap them together in an attempt to save them both. He chose the latter, but was then afraid as he made his way back to the bakery that his father would be angry with him – the cakes were no longer deliverable in that state! When he got there, his father surprised him by going to the cupboard, taking out a knife, and carving two big pieces of (now) six-layer cake. They sat and ate the cake together and had a good laugh.

Family

Whidbey Island

February 4, 2018

Aaron is turning 33 on Tuesday! I love these months while we are the same age. 🙂 I’m a tiny bit older than he.

We took a fun surprise trip to Whidbey Island this weekend. I didn’t tell Aaron where we were going – I just told him to pack for two days on Friday and we were gettin’ out of dodge! It was a beautiful drive up – we took the ferry and had hot chocolate and saw seals in the water next to the ferry.

Some of our favorite things about the trip:

  • We had dinner (twice!) at a little place called “Christopher’s” that was so good! Really amazing, local, fresh food.
  • We went to a drive-in movie theater and watched “Ferdinand” and “Jumanji.” It was so fun to relax in the car with the seat heaters on and listen to the movie through the radio!
  • Cinnamon rolls and coffee at “Knead and Feed” in Coupeville.
  • Greenbank Farm – they have a bunch of little art galleries, gardens, etc. and an on-site cafe with tasty soups and sandwiches.
  • Deception Pass – we drive home by going north instead of south across the ferry. It was grey and cloudy so I didn’t get a good picture, but it was such a pretty drive. We want to go back in summer when we can see more of the sights across the pass.
  • We stopped by a new Restoration Hardware Outlet on the way home – Aaron likes shopping as much as my dad does (he would rather sit in the car than shop), so I always appreciate it when he takes these little detours with me! 🙂
Farm

RV Troubles…

February 4, 2018

I feel like Aaron and I have been trying so hard to make things work getting out to the farm, and it seems like we keep making mistakes! We joke that at least we picked the right partner, even if we’re making lots of other mistakes along the way. 🙂

I had this sort-of-romanticized idea about living in an RV. I thought it would be fun to downsize, have a mobile home that we could take with us wherever, etc. And this might be the case if we were in a new, expensive RV! But we are in Honey, our lil’ 1987 oldie. It seems like every which way we go, there are new problems, each one that takes a day or two to fix! Among the issues we are currently dealing with:

  • The water pump in the RV is not working, so we don’t currently have water.
  • There is a little leak that we became aware of in the living area, which dripped water down onto a duvet while we were out.
  • The battery died from being parked too long and it took us several hours to get it going again.

Ugh.

Uncategorized

Iceland

February 4, 2018

Every January, I have a chunk of time off during PLU’s “J-term” schedule where I’m not teaching any classes. For years, my parents have been talking about wanting to go to Iceland, so we planned a trip together with Jenn and Casey! We had a really wonderful time during our 10 days there.

Some of the things we learned:

  • Travel in January isn’t bad (it could’ve been – but it wasn’t this time). My Southern-California friend Juliana laughed when I told her this, but the weather was “good” at mid-30’s to 40 F without snow or rain most of the time we were there! Traveling at this time had other perks, like no/few lines at touristy spots, plenty of places to stay, and cheap flights!
  • There are many, many hot springs in Iceland. We visited the famous Blue Lagoon and had a great time there; we also visited another more rural natural spa further north and had an equally great time for a lot less money!

Some of the highlights (I’ll try to organize these in line with the photos):

  • Beautiful paper village displays in Reykjavik airport.
  • Hofoi House: built in 1909 and one of the most beautiful and historic buildings in Iceland. It was originally a French embassy, and also the site of the meeting between Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev that marked the end of the Cold War.
  • Grotta Island Lighthouse.
  • Listvinafelag Hallgrimskirkju: uniquely architectural church.
  • Christmas decor: Christmas is a huge deal in Iceland! There are decorations up for months beforehand and weeks afterwards! Beautiful paper lanterns, string lights, Advent candles, etc. up in every window, and Christmas trees strung up on the sides of buildings. They also have fireworks celebrating the 12th night of Christmas.
  • Seljalandsfoss waterfall.
  • Little details you see popping up again and again – horseshoes above doors for good luck, and black ravens, also for good luck.
  • Rutshellir: one of 200 little man-made caves used to store produce (this one was for hay) throughout Iceland.
  • Skogafoss waterfall (Iceland is the land of waterfalls!).
  • Mom’s tacos. Food is VERY expensive in Iceland. It’s common place for people to pay $40/person at an average restaurant, not including appetizers/desserts/etc. We bought all of our food at the public market there called “Bonus” and made our own!
  • The little coastal town of Vik with the often-photographed red-roofed church.
  • Skaftafell glacier – this was so stunning. We got there just as the sun was rising and it was breathtaking.
  • Fjallsarlon glacier – the largest glacier in Europe. Can you see Casey in this picture?
  • Skalholt Cathedral – a pretty Lutheran church in Selfoss.
  • Kerid – a volcanic crater along the Golden Circle. We wouldn’t recommend seeing this one in winter – it was $30 to get in, and wasn’t too exciting frozen over.
  • Geysers in Geysir – we learned this is where that word originated!
  • I love Icelandic fashion! Lots of cool, muted colors in wools, linens, etc. So cozy.
  • Gulfoss waterfall – also part of the Golden Circle.
  • We had fun sampling and purchasing some goodies at OmNom chocolate factory. We tried different raw cocoa beans from different areas – Aaron’s favorite treat was a chocolate/licorice malt ball which we learned is one of the most popular flavors in Iceland.
  • Beautiful storefronts.
  • Translations – Icelandic is definitely the first language there!
  • Perlan glacier museum – this had all kinds of fun, interactive displays and information sessions.
  • I didn’t get any pictures of this, but the Icelandic horses were pretty much the cutest. Very furry, and with such a funny prance as they walk.

We weren’t able to see the Northern Lights, which was the only big disappointment of our trip. We stayed up several nights and were checking the hourly predictor-map – it has a cool numbering system that tells you how likely you are to see the lights from different places in the country, but with no luck!