Saturday, April 30, 2011

Quilcene, Chickens and a wheelie person coop......what?

We have arrived! The Georgetown house is gone gone gone. We are living full time at the farm in Quilcene and settling in nicely. The cats adjusted pretty well.  They had a terrifying ferry ride and then did this funny head bop walk around the yurt upon arrival. We had already moved in all of our furniture and so everything smelled familiar and they promptly took naps after about an hour of the head bopping dance. Now they just want to go outside but they are going to have to wait a few weeks for that. Until then I am left wondering what it must be like to be a cat, stuck in a Yurt and listening to all of the crazy bird sounds right outside. Since it is a tent, the birds sound very very close. And plentiful. It is a huge change from the planes, trains, and trucks of Georgetown. We have one cat, Doc, that has always been this tightly wound spring. Full of tension in his muscular little body. He has turned into a relaxed puddle of a cat already. Makes me think about all that "ambient" city noise and the effect it has on people as well as cats.  They can also hear 25 chickens clucking away and see them freely roaming. Aren't they cute though?

We have decided to take a week or so and not work on much. Focus on getting settled, adjusting, and keeping the cats company. I wonder if we can actually do this for a week. My answer has already arrived. We have decided to build what we are calling a Wheelie -Person Coop.  Basically we would like a place to sleep at our land when we are there for the weekend. We can pitch a tent but that will get old, not to mention cold. We are very far north. So we thought we would get a frame of a trailer that we can hook up to the truck and build a little house on it. It is temporary because it is portable and we can always drag it to the back of the property, hereby known as "the back forty". When I say little, I mean LITTLE. Like 4x8. But we are excited to be super creative with it since no permits are involved. . Also it is something we can build while we are in Quilcene waiting on our permits. That and the garden will keep us busy for the next month while we wait on permits.  Did I mention we are waiting on permits? We already have someone standing by to pour foundations! 

As far as the garden goes, living elsewhere has put the growing aspect on hold. I think this is good. The whole area has a thick layer of grass and with some time on my hands I am thinking about the best way to prepare it.  My thought at the moment is to lay down coffee chafe, cardboard and then cover the whole area with mulch. This will kill the grass by next spring and we can turn it all under. This will also make the soil more acidic so I will need to test the balance first. The other option is to roto-till the whole area and plant a green manure, like buckwheat. Then turn that over in the fall. We still will have some plants in a few raised beds, but the garden will be very small this year.  Please pipe in with any thoughts about the best treatment for preparing a 3000 sq ft thickly grassed area.

Here are some more pictures of our new home! Enjoy!  The next post will be a complete list of all the projects we have in mind. I think it will be hilarious to see it all together.





Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Power Update

I'll keep this short, and if you make it to the end of the post, there's a cute picture of Teagan the cat. No cheating!

It's been about six months since we decided on tying into the grid. Again, we still plan to generate our own energy from solar panels, and are hooking into the grid to get rid of a wasteful bank of batteries. Getting the grid to us has proven to be an amazingly convoluted process involving the energy company, their outsourced contractors, the county department of community development, easements with two neighbors and an excavating contractor.

Our ditch is now officially dug, with 2'' pipes run 460' across three properties. Part of the ditch was dug twice due to a miscommunication with the neighbors, and the last 12 feet required a pump because the waterline is so high around here. The ditch ended up costing about $4,000. We thought about doing it ourselves with our neighbor's backhoe, until we realized all the liability of digging on other people's property and the danger of hitting power or waterlines already in the ground. Not worth it.

Now we have to wait for the energy company's subcontractors to come out and install a vault, which could take another two weeks (not the 5 days I was originally told), and I need to get ANOTHER contractor, a licensed electrician, to come out and install a temporary power pole. That brings the number of parties required for us to plug in up to seven. The total cost of power is going to be about $10,000.00. It adds up quick! I have to keep reminding myself why we decided to plug in in the first place, which I still think was the right decision. I can't wait for this process to be done with, though!

And that's the scoop on the power debacle. Here's your cat picture:

Saturday, April 16, 2011

How To Despalier an Apple Tree

This is the first in an ongoing series called "Homesteading Tips I Wouldn't Necessarily Take From Us If I Were You"


The apple tree we bought last fall is an espalier, meaning it's been trained to grow horizontally along a fence. We bought it not for it's training, but because it has six varieties of apples grafted to it, which will add some surprise and excitement come fruiting time, and spread out our harvest a bit. We figured that in absence of a fence, the tree would forget it's training and grow upwards, like it has secretly always wanted to.



Not the case. It's become apparent that the heavy apples in our tree's future will simply weigh down and possibly damage the dangerously unsupported branches. Adding injury to insult, our deer neighbors have been having their way with the first of it's springtime blossoms. We had to step in. Somehow.

We made a teepee-like structure over the tree out of some dead alder limbs we had lying around. Using twine, we tied a series of slings between the alder limbs and the branches of the apples tree, hoping to encourage the branches to grow both up and radially. We then wrapped the whole contrivance in deer fence. Time will tell if our tree can really kick it's horizontal habit. In the meantime, it looks like it's being forcefully interrogated. If you have any idea if this will work, by all means, chime in.

Our deer neighbors don't seem to have a tooth for plum, cherry or peach blossoms, each of which we have in abundance! It may be cold and wet, but it's still spring! My beloved maple tree is even starting to bloom.



Over the course of the next two weeks we'll be moving out of our house in Seattle and into a yurt on a lovely farm in Quilcene, Wa. I can't wait to post some pictures of our new temporary home, it's canvassed abode and it's resident poultry. Stay tuned for that. Also stay tuned for the first electrical appliance plugged in at MFW, as the trench for our power line is just about done. The electric company should be out by the end of the week to plug us in. This is the home stretch! I think it should be a mitre saw, but Christy thinks it ought to be a sander....

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

And the Winner is.......

  PLAN D ! ( loud applause and cheering)

We are moving out to Quilcene! We are going to be care-takers on a sweet 25 acre farm! The farm is 19 miles from our property so we will be able to commute to our land with no problem and no ferry ( which is already getting crowded with tourists).   We will be letting out the chickens, watering the plants, mowing, and generally keeping an eye out on things. The owners, Jim and Teri, come out on the weekends but live in the city during the week.  We both feel like this is a perfect solution. We will be able to get to our place easily, not pay rent, learn from their farm and their knowledge, be able to leave our property when our project feels daunting, and even have a place to have a hot shower! And it is lovely . We are moving in slowly over the next two weeks  and are officially out there full time in May.

The next bit of good news is that we submitted all of our drawings for the house and the shop, septic plans, health inspections, and every bit of paperwork! We can expect lots of phone calls and then hopefully permits in 26 days. YEAH! (more cheering) This was not an easy task. We have been to Port Orchard twice already to submit, but they do not want to deal with us. We have learned that they like to deal with Contractors. Each time, they have given us more confusing paperwork and then send us on our way. This time we came prepared ( they still gave us 10 more pieces of paper to fill out) and did not leave until the package was accepted. The lady who helped us seemed quite confused at the idea of a composting toilet, but she put the application through. Hopefully the shop plans come through faster and we can get to building! John literally cannot wait to have a flat level surface on which to build. And running extension cords across the grass is getting old.

So that brings us to the next topic; power. This is not the happy tale I would like to tell. It is one more mess on the pile-up. We have been trying to run power out to the property since we bought it nearly a year ago. John has been conducting the orchestra of people that it has taken to locate existing power lines, navigate a trail through 300 year old cedar trees,  and to sign and notarize easements. Not to mention finding someone to dig the 425 ft trench. So the orchestra has been tuning for the past few months and John keeps saying that they are just about ready to play, and this week they finally struck the first notes. The sun was shining and we got the locate. We walked the intended route with our neighbors three times. The contractor and his excavator came out and broke ground. The digging had begun.  Music to our ears.

John and I left to submit our application and get on a ferry back to Seattle, planning on celebrating with a crab dinner on the water. On the ferry ride home we get a phone call from the contractor. Our neighbor, who signed and notarized a legal document allowing us an easement to run power, has come home and "freaked out". He says we are not where we agreed to dig. ( We are exactly where we talked about) He says we are 2 ft onto his property ( 2ft that backs up to an acre of blackberry bramble and.... this is not a fence. The lines are being buried 3 ft underground). He is insisting that we back fill the trench, 200ft already dug, and move over 2 ft.  As it turns out, this has been an on-going battle between our two neighbors and no one clued us in.  The battle started out as one neighbor creating an easement to save some cedar trees and one neighbor only caring about where his property boundaries are. And we are now stuck in the middle. On the way home we heard that song, "stuck in the middle with you" and it made me laugh.
                              
                                Trying to make some sense of it all,
                            But I can see that it makes no sense at all,
                               Is it cool to go to sleep on the floor,
                         'Cause I don't think that I can take anymore
                         Clowns to the left of me, Jokers to the right,
                              Here I am, stuck in the middle with you.


So John is out there now, attempting to come to some agreement  between two neighbors and a dispute over property boundaries, while an excavator hums nearby. All of this could have been talked about while the orchestra was tuning. In fact, this issue was the orchestra tuning.  I decided it was best for me to stay home and let John deal with the Joker and the Clown. He is way more polite.

So I leave you now with a picture of Seattle spring!  Aren't they lovely?

Friday, April 8, 2011

Mellish Fields Forever

Welcome to our new domain, MellishFieldsWest.com! Update your links accordingly. For those of you new to us, this blog was once YomeSweetYome, in honor of the half-yurt-half-dome we intended to live in until the man told us "NO!".

How have we been taking this recent torrent of urine on our parade? In stride! We put up a pretty good fight, made some friends and learned some important lessons, like not talking to health inspectors unless absolutely necessary. Since we plan on doing a bunch of stuff that the county will not like over the next few years (greywater systems, salvaged building materials, ect.) it seems in our best interest to roll with this particular punch and take the Yome down.

You can look back to the first couple months of this blog to get an idea of how much that's going to hurt us to do, but we know the Yome will have a new life in the future. Once we have our certificate of occupancy and no more inspectors are stopping by, it will become our accessory studio. As far as our living arrangements whilst building this homestead of ours, we have a few back up plans. Let me break them down for you, in no particular order:

Plan B: We insulate and spruce up the airstream trailer to live in. We couldn't use the wood stove, but we could run electric heat in the winter.

Plan C: We apply for permits to build a small (10 X 12) cabin, knock it out over the next couple months and live in that.

The potential problem with both plans B & C is that they might not let us do either of them without a septic system installed. Attached to the recent inspection of our proposed septic plan (which passed! [and again, which we hope to never install]) was a note informing us that our composting toilet is approved ONLY for use inside the future house, and is not allowed in the lovely privy we built for it. It would be infuriating if I had the fury left in me.

This brings me to the out-of-the-blue Plan D.

Plan D: Shortly after we were kicked out of our Yome, we were forwarded an e-mail from a friend of a friend. A couple who owns 25 acres in Quilcene, Wa. They live part time in Seattle, and are looking for caretakers to look after their chickens, garden and yard. Quilcene is on the Olympic Peninsula, across the Hood Canal Bridge from Kingston and about a 25 minute drive from MFW. We've been talking to them about the possibility of us...... ready for this?...... living IN THEIR YURT and tending their flock in exchange for a free place to stay. In addition, they're willing to pay us a stipend for doing extra work around their farm, and being the handy people we kind of are, that gives us built in income. Not only that, but 3 acres of their land has been functioning as an organic farm! The learning possibilities are numerous!

We're heading out to the farm tomorrow to talk some more with them, experience the commute and see the place. If this goes well, we'll be moving out of a Yome and into Yurt. I don't think it will affect our building schedule too drastically, it will free us up from having to install the infrastructure we would need to live in our land before starting the house, and it could offset our living expenses while doing it. Touche, universe. Touche.


In the meantime, we have all the necessary paperwork to apply for a building permit for the house! An architect is currently drawing up the plans for our wood shop on the super cheap, and should have them done by Monday, so we can apply for both permits at once. As soon as they're accepted, I've been given a reasonable quote for the pouring of the shop foundation, and Christy has a good lead on some salvaged materials to build it with. We may have a functioning wood shop very, very soon!

And I'll leave you now with a quick and stupid-easy recipe for Christy's favorite home-preserved veggie:





Pickled Mustard Greens

Also called Dua Chua, Swan Tsai, Som Pak or Burong Mestasa, depending on where your recipe comes from.

Cut out the thickest part of the stem and chiffonade the leafy greens into 1/2'' - 1'' strips. I like the taste of younger greens, but Christy likes the fibery texture of older ones.

Pack the greens into mason jars.

Thinly slice a few hot peppers. I like to use Thai Birds. Put 2-4 slices in each jar.

Heat up enough white or apple cider vinegar to fill each jar and dissolve a little bit of sugar and an even littler bit of salt. Resist the urge to add exciting spices, as the flavor of the mustard greens gets buried easily.

Fill up the jars with the piping hot vinegar, cap 'em, set them in the dark and wait a couple of weeks. They're spicy, bright and earthy at the same time. It's a great garnish for any stir fry, although I've seen Christy eat it with plain rice, quite contentedly.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Metamorphosizificationing

We should have things running smoothly again soon. Sorry for the confusion! In the meantime, you can check out this article from Seattle's City Arts on Christy's scene shop, and see a picture of the giant steel tree she designed and built!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Metamorphosing

The blog may be acting weird over the next couple days. We're cleaning things up a bit, adding some pictures, adjusting some facts and moving to a new domain name. Don't worry, you'll still be able to find us by going to yomesweetyome.blogspot.com. It seems everything in our world is in limbo right now: getting ready to leave seattle, losing the yome, Christy's car eating the big one, and plans B, C and D (I'll elaborate soon) battling it out in our heads.... So our blog is temporarily in limbo, too. Like us, it will bounce back better than ever.


P.S. www.FuckYouWe'reSquatting.com is technically available. Don't count on it, though.