Friday, January 28, 2011

Other People? Oh Yeah! Other People!

John here. It's been an exciting week!

The Soundrunner, the passenger ferry from Seattle to Kingston, stopped running due to engine problems and some political dispute with King County, which is a bummer. I learned this from chatting to one of the operators of the boat over a whiskey while I was naively waiting for the 6:00 running. They plan to start-up again by spring. Since I was out at the land without my trusty rusty pick-up, I opted to spend a few nights in the Yome, sadly, Christy-less. The upside of the adventure, aside from some unseasonably warm weather, was the opportunity this gave me to meet some locals and start getting to know the community we intend to become a part of. Homesteading and sustainable living, in our opinion, is as much about being active members in a community as it is about the choices and projects you make on your own. Not to mention the wells of information you can tap into just by taking your head out of the sand!

Through conversations at one of the local bars I've learned that it will be easy for us to sell our extra produce at the nearby farmer's markets! Laura the Lesbian Landscaper (tm) informed me that Rye Grass would make a nice ground cover for areas we aren't farming and don't want to mow. There's even a local woman who is happy to bring her horse out to the land to munch on our overgrown grasses in exchange for the, uh, fertilizer. I also learned that Alder trees, which we are flush in and can't really use for building or burning, are currently going for more money than cedar or fir! Apparently this is due to some curing process that makes them harder and desirable. Anyways, we've probably had half a dozen big Alders fall over in the wind this winter, and have a dozen more that should probably come down soon. We never considered them to be marketable timber, so we're excited to think of them as a revenue source for MFW! That, along with our farmer's market stand, is starting to make life on the land without 9-5 day jobs all the more attainable!

On top of all this, we have some younger neighbors renting out one of Dane's rooms (four rentals in two houses next to us here-to-fore referred to Danelandia) who are not only OK with looking at our greenhouse (they're the only people who can see us), but are excited to help us out in the garden! We plan to meet and have dinner with the other peoples of Danelandia when Christy and I are next yomeward bound. Our neighbors to the west are a bartender and a carpenter who own 20 lovely acres and a some funny looking miniature horses, donkeys and mules who stop by from time to time, and are also very friendly and have a portable mill we intend to help operate!

Good to know we have friendly people around! Through some blog surfing, I came across someone who calls herself "KitsapFreedomGardener", and has a wonderful blog called the Modern Victory Garden. A new term for an old idea, and a like minded individual for sure. Excited to find someone homesteading on our tiny peninsula, we shall attempt to befriend said gardener. The website has a ton of helpful information on gardening, particularly in our climate.

Speaking of community, let's talk James Green. James is a good friend of mine from way back in high school in Southern California. He went to UC Santa Cruz around the same time I headed north. He and a friend stopped by MFW a couple months ago and helped us put the greenhouse together. Charmed with our area and undertakings, and done with Santa Cruz (a town with a time limit, from numerous sources), James is planning to come up here and get his hands in our Northwest dirt to partake in the laborious, and hopefully rewarding experience of forging a modern day homestead! We have plans to build a cabin in the back 40 of the land for him to stay warm in while becoming the first participant in the Mellish Fields West Intern and Slave Labor Program (tm). I have visions in the future of more cabins for people to stay in, perhaps on weekends and sunny summer days to help garden in exchange for produce, or just hang out and enjoy the scenery.

All in all, our concerns of being lonely once we move out to MFW full time are starting to subside. Really though, I couldn't ask for much better company than Christy.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Click Click Click.... tick tick

Things are clicking right along at Mellish fields and John and I are making plans all over the place. It has been a couple weeks of just solidifying all of the "we'll just...". We'll just... dig a trench. We'll just ... get some power. We'll just... build a greenhouse.

We have finally decided to hire a man, Randy, to install the trench running power out to the land. We have to go through the property of two surrounding neighbors and after talking with them we decided it was best for a professional to dig the trench. Our plan was to rent an excavator and dig it but we have to cross a road and run through their lawns. When they expressed concern, we listened. So, all the paperwork has been signed, mapped and planned, and we shall have power soon!

Meanwhile, we have finished the short walls of the greenhouse and installed benches. The greenhouse is such a wonder for me. I have wanted a greenhouse for so long and this one is so unique, I could not be happier with it. I wish we had done a little better with the foundation, as there is one section that looks like Wonkas house. We had to, sort of, counter rake the door and one the windows so that the building would be square and the door could perform it's required function. However, we put it in the exact right spot! The sun hits the long side of the greenhouse for the most hours possible during the winter months! We were so happy to see the sun shine directly on it, like a little ray just for us. Given our precise way of deciding where it would go, this is a bit of a miracle! I am itching to start some seeds and to see how it actually works. The how -a-greenhouse-works part of the process is still a bit of a mystery to me. Don't get me wrong, I have read about how a greenhouse works but, for me, there is always a learning curve between reading and doing.

We now have the house plans and have been building a scale model of the house out of foam board. The thought was two fold. One, we get to see the house in three dimensions and two, we spend considerable time figuring out how to read architect-ese. The process has been difficult, but I am feeling much more confident in our abilities to build the house as we are constructing the scale model.

Seriously though, all toys aside, building the model has been integral in learning how to see a house being put together. When we make our framing plans, we will be very intimate with how the house is constructed and what is depending on what. When we finish the roof and stop playing with it like a doll house, I will post more pictures of the whole thing. We are going to try to make a little scale model of the whole she-bang.

As far as the big move is concerned, time is starting to slip quickly. My last day of work is in the middle of April and we are hoping to be permanent residents of the Yome by May. We are throwing away as much as we can, and setting aside stuff for the goodwill daily. We are hoping to arrive on the land with just the stuff we need. So if anyone needs kitchen ware or clothes or more random crap around their house, simply let us know.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Exciting New Plans for the New Year

Well, us nor'westerners are back and slowly defrosting from that east coast nor'easter. It was fun spending some time at our old stomping grounds, but neither Christy nor I are accustomed to spending so much time away from power tools, big fir trees or our cats. It was a pleasant feeling, upon return, to realize that we each missed MFW more than our rented home in Georgetown. We were itching to finish off the greenhouse, start building a chicken coop, source deer fencing for the garden and spend some quality time huddled near the wood stove, playing chess before falling asleep to the lulling sounds of frogs, ferry boats and blah de blah blah..... OK guess what?!

We have house plans!

Our recruited architect, Brandon, finished up the drawings and had all the loads calculated by an engineer while we were gone. We picked them up as soon as we hit the west coast and are simultaneously giddy with excitement and nervously overwhelmed by them. They look great, fit our aspirations well and shouldn't pose any problems when it comes to permit approval. The nervousness stems from how foreign a lot of the notations and details are to us. It's going to take some real time, effort and research to start feeling like we actually comprehend everything that's in there, neither of us having much experience with building plans. Luckily, effort and research are things we are very familiar with, and it should only be a matter of time until we're fluent in blueprintese. Hopefully...

In an apprehensive tide of optimism, we took our plans straight to the county permit office. Of course, they had no interest in even looking at our plans without a septic design included. And although our septic-less proposal is more or less complete, it has not been submitted to the powers that be. Even if it had been, those powers have made it painfully clear to us that the unlikely acceptance of such a plan will include a lengthy, lengthy trek through various departments and over mountains of paperwork. In light of this potentially dream-stalling situation, we have decided to make a compromise...

For a fee of roughly $2,000.00 (God, it sifts so quickly through your fingers, doesn't it?) we will have a septic system designed, but not installed, by a local firm familiar with our land. With the design, we will be able to get a building permit for our house. With that, we will be able to start construction on the house while we argue our case for not installing the septic system we paid good money to have designed. Compromise is not one of my stronger suits and, I'm not gonna lie, it hurts a little. So it goes, and, I'm starting to believe, so it will continue.

In the meantime, while the ground is frozen, along with our larger plans, we will try building a cardboard
mock-up of the house, which will be documented here soon. There's a chicken coop on the drawing board and shop designs being researched. We recently spent our coldest night in the Yome, and I'm happy to report that we slept and woke up comfortably warm. Granted, it took each of us feeding the wood stove three times during the night, but I've just about learned to throw a log on without fully waking up. One of those homesteading skills you just can't teach....

As a final note, or plea, I must admit to a problem we've been having. Our canvassed abode has apparently created fertile-crescent-like conditions for mold. Twice so far, after extended absences, we've come yome to find walls, furniture and even the floor sporting fungal shag carpeting in hues that just don't match the sheets. This shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone familiar with life in the Great Northwest, but it's been disheartening to say the least. It only takes an hour of scrubbing everything down with vinegar to hold the hyphae at bay, and I'm confident that it will be less of a problem when we're living in the yome full time and constantly running the wood stove. In the meantime, though, we're openly welcoming any suggestions or tricks you may have for mitigating our mycelial metropolises.

P.S. The mountains are out....