Monday, May 30, 2011

This Blog Brought To You By......

Keybank: Unlock Your Possibilities.  

Just kidding!  At this point, we still have no major corporate sponsorship, even after we offered up naming rights to the chicken coop.  If you're interested, we have very reasonable rates.  

No, what you're looking at here is UNLIMITED FREE TARPS!  Let me explain:

We've been tossing around ideas of what to do about the tall, invasive grass that has weaved a thick carpet over our future garden area.  Newspaper, burlap, mulching and green manure were all discussed, but each of those options would require a significant amount of labor on our part, and would still leave us spot weeding.  Since we won't be doing any major planting until next spring at the earliest, we thought it would be great to tarp the whole garden, kill the grass this summer and then start claiming our beds and rows.  But where oh where to find 3,000 square feet of tarp?

In a spark of brilliance, Christy remembered a theatre she was working at, with not enough money in their budget, getting used billboard vinyls to paint for their backdrop.  See why I like to keep her around?  We simply called up Seattle's rep for Clear Channel Outdoors, who, after hearing our plan, told us to come pick up as many as we wanted!  We took seven tarps, averaging 20' X 60'.  In total, we got about 8,000 square feet of really durable vinyl tarps.  Just by asking!  AND they welcomed us to come back if we need more.  These will be invaluable when it comes time to building the house!

It took two and a half billboards to cover the garden.  After taking a lot of goofy pictures, we put the tarps advertising-side-down.  Hopefully we didn't pick the day Google Earth photographs our land...  I did leave one Amtrak billboard face up because, well, nobody cares about the railroad anymore.  After staking everything down (using the leftovers of our deer fencing for stakes.  How's that for thrifty?),  I used a pry bar to poke several hundred holes in the tarps, so as not to create a giant slip-n-slide and soak the land below the garden, which is wet enough as it is.  I'm hoping the drain holes will also help to keep the top soil healthy below the tarp.  

Notice the grapes we've planted along the fence?

As you might have also noticed in the pictures, we finally put up all of our deer fencing.  We then installed the doors that lead to the garden, and started building the trellis / pagoda / entranceway around them.  I'm not sure what else will happen to it, but I want a couple more out-of-place salvaged items worked into it.  Suggestions are always welcomed.  

And finally, there's the door into the chicken run, which we're both very smitten with!  What were we thinking?  We should have all the chicken wire up by tomorrow, which will complete all of our fencing for a good long while.  Phew! 

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Pictures of Spring Time at Mellish Fields West

Here's our legume pole, being watched over by a peaceful, golden frog.  It seems to be working,

Since our composting toilet was given the nix by the county, we've converted our privy into a tool shed. The kitchen hutch from the Yome was moved to the sink area, and the sink now lives in the greenhouse. The composting toilet is in the airstream, waiting for a house to live in.

We painted all of the pressure treated lumber on the greenhouse.  We also installed a cold frame from the Seattle house, which I'm thinking will become my arugula factory!

There's been a bit painting inside the greenhouse, which hit 90 degrees today!

 Here's an overview of the garden area.  The next couple of days are supposed to be lovely and we have James Green coming across the water to help us out, so we should have some progress to report soon!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

John Rants

Here in the great Northwest, this has been objectively, statistically, the lamest spring ever. I know, we're free of massive tornados and bursting levees so I won't complain too much. Actually, the cold wind and rain has given me some time to reflect. You'll have to forgive me if I get too pedantic or digressive, but the sound of the rain on this yurt, combined with the view of mist meandering through the foothills of the Olympic Mountains outside the window are very conducive to deviant daydreaming. In addition, Christy is in the city shopping for a wedding dress; nobody is around the bring me back to Earth except 23 lethargic chickens and 2 nap-prone kitties. So now, accompanied by Charles Mingus and a beer, I want to talk about where we are in this process of life-revolution, physically, bureaucratically and mentally.

Living outside of the city has already given me some new perspectives on sustainable living. I drove into Chimacum this morning for groceries. There's a corner stand there that almost exclusively carries local products, and by local I mean shouting distance. I passed two organic farms, two cideries and an apiary on the 8 mile trip. There was a farmer's market in the lot/garden next to the stand made up mostly of those local growers and artisans and even in the miserable, dribbling rain there were people, local folk of varying ages, attire and dirtiness milling around. Not just the hippy-folk and NPR listening Subaru drivers who tend to populate the larger urban farmer's markets. Farmers, fishermen, people who have been getting their food from their neighbors long before it became an ecological statement. In my muck boots and clothes splattered with sawdust, paint and chicken shit, I realized again that what we're doing is not as much a new revolution, a new homesteading movement, or a form of cultural activism. It's simpler than all that. We're just doing things the way they've been done for most of our cultural history, and we, like everyone else, have our own personal reasons for our lifestyle of choice. It may have evolved out of eco-consciousness, liberal guilt, urban frustration, a desire for accountability and to take the reigns of our planet away from the companies and systems steering it astray, but the end result is the same. And simple. It relaxed me.

I don't want to give the impression that this is a magical part of the state where plastic products don't exist, all the cars are electric and everyone harvests water and craps in buckets. Hell, I drove my inefficient old Toyota pickup (Trusty Rusty) into town. There are plenty of things in my own lifestyle and our shared culture that still need improving. As relaxed and happy as I may have felt seeing a local food economy function, I couldn't help but remind myself that what we should be doing IS cultural revolution. Even our little homestead seems a laughingly inadequate place to START addressing the larger, and more hazardous topics of the Earth. I don't feel like I need to go into them here; chances are, if you're reading this, you've got a pretty good grasp on the state of such things. I guess all I'm really getting at here is that I never want to get comfortable thinking that I'm doing the best I can to live responsibly. There are always more, and bigger steps to be taken, and the best way to approach those steps is by staying humble and concerned.

It's been easy to get wrapped up the step-by-step process of building our little slice of homestead heaven. I've worried at times that after all of the little compromises we've been forced to make, mostly by the county, we'll end up building just another house out of freshly milled lumber, tyvek and dry-wall, covered with a deep-carbon-footprinted metal roof, suckling on municipal power and water. Given the freedom to do so, our plans would be much more radical, for sure! But what do you do when the powers-that-be tell you that you can't get a permit without a septic tank? That you can't recycle all of your greywater? That you can't harvest your rainwater for potable use? That you'll be fined $525 a day for living in yurt? That a wood stove can't be your only source of heat in your house? I know the answer to all of these is to get involved in the politics and bureaucracies involved in making and implementing these rules, but that is a big, big machine compared to two raggedy-looking back-to-the-landers standing in the county offices. Tackling one of those issues could take years. Decades! What can we do in the meantime but play the game, appease their demands and try to do the best job we can, ecologically, within the given parameters? I've been trying not to feel like there's too much opposition for us to make the differences we would like to make.

It helps knowing that we're not alone in this. I take a lot of solace in reading the blogs, websites and books from other people who are heading down, or are farther along on, this same road. Sustainability is, after all, about community. A wide spread community of the humble and concerned.

Coming up on the next post: Less naval gazing and more doing-stuff! And pictures!

rain, rain, go away!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Making my lists and checking them thrice

This has been an exciting week on the creatin'-a-homestead front. We have had TWO nice days in a row (shocked sound of sarcastic surprise) in which to clean up Mellish Fields West and to take care of chores in Quilcene.

At Mellish fields we have been able to:

1) weed whack all of the big overgrown areas and mow the majority of the property, with the help of our lovely neighbor Dane.  The trees we planted were getting suffocated with all of this springtime activity, but now they can breathe easy.

2) paint the outside of the greenhouse. I did not like the look of the pressure treated wood, but we gave it a nice coat of a bluish-greenish-grey color.

3) move all of our stuff out of the Airstream and get it re-organized, making it a useful space.

4) turn our privy house into a tool/garden shed

5) get everything out of the Yome and prepare it to come down.

All of this, on top of our duties in Quilcene and sending out wedding invitations. Now I am making lists of all the things we need to do in the next three months. Here goes, in order of nothing in particular.


  • Take it down and decide what to do with it. This means taking down the stove-pipe that took us two days to devise a system for. I think that makes me the most sad. 

  • Finish the fence. This entails putting the actual fencing around the posts which are already cemented in place.
  • lay down something to kill the grass. I had an A-ha moment today. One year, when the theater I worked for had no money, we got a billboard company to give us their old vinyl billboards. They are huge, free, and will kill the grass just like laying down big tarps ( of course for the theater we needed backdrops, but that is beside the point). One hang-up we have had about newspapers and mulch is the level of acid they bring to the soil. This way, we can stake down the billboards, let them kill the grass, roll them up and then have them as tarps. They are recycled and free.   
  • Lay down said billboard signs
  • Build a few raised beds and delineate a walk-way. We have been collecting wine bottles to line a garden path. Our pile of wine bottles has raised a few eyebrows ( I am thinking of our spectic guy, who I love,  commenting on 'quite the pile'. He has also made some awesome comments about Johns hats)    
Chicken Coop:
  • Finish the fence around the yard. ( I think I am only adding this so that there is something easy to check off) Other than that, it is ready to be a warm sleeping place for people. We aren't getting chickens until we finish the house and move in. We have 25 chickens to keep track of in Quilcene.     
  • Well, build it. But to do that we have to get our permit and we are still waiting on it. In the meantime, make construction drawings. 
  • source materials for the siding and roof. 
  • get the foundation guy out. He will excavate the area, level the area, and pour the foundation. At the end there will be bolts sticking up for us to go from. Amazing. I am thrilled to have a professional doing this part. 
  • I am thinking that this shop will be up by the end of July. Does just writing it make it so?   
  • John promised he would not post about this anymore, but I didn't. We need to get a temporary power pole put in, and we have to make some alterations to the ditch that was dug.  A few more hoops... dance monkey dance.... and we are done. 
And then we have the wedding we are planning. Sometime in August, at the land. This adds a whole new list that I will not bore you with at this time. Mostly because I have no interest in this becoming a wedding planning blog. Needless to say, there are plans of tables being built and fallen logs being re-arranged. You know, normal wedding stuff. 

As I have no pictures to illustrate planning, I will leave you with a picture of this pear pie I made. It has a gluten-free gruyere crust and was amazing. I would happily share the recipe with anyone who has made it through this list!  


Friday, May 6, 2011

Two Steps back and a Big Jump Forward

Alright, we've got one week under our belt here at Tarboo and it's been great! The yurt is excessively spacious, it has a fully functioning kitchen, the showers are a lot warmer than the bagged showers at MFW, the toilet is pretty comparable, frogs still serenade us to sleep and we still wake up to the beauty of West-of-the-Sound Washington. We've found a rhythm with the chickens and enjoy their fresh eggs immensely. I managed to get the mower stuck halfway up a hill, but think I have a pretty good feel for the thing now. In general, we've made some pretty delicious lemonade out of the lemons the county gave us!

Obligatory Power Update: I'm done telling you how close we are to having power. Seriously. I will not get your hopes up as high as mine until I actually have something plugged in. Potelco, the outsourced labor for the power company, decided they didn't like the look of our pit and gave us a list of demands to fulfill before they grant us the privilege of their service. The contractor who did our digging has agreed to make the necessary changes, but is out of town for two weeks. That pushes our power back, most likely, another month. I will not mention it again until I have good news. This is getting ridiculous.

Permit Update: So far the only thing the powers-to-be have come up with to bully us around about is where we have proposed to drain the runoff from the roof. They want all types of (presumedly) expensive soil tests and official stamps for some reason having to do with the slope of the land. Now, our septic designer, Bill, is an outspoken libertarian. We need to avoid certain social topics in conversation, but he has been one of our strongest allies in the various struggles with the county and state. He firmly believes that we, as the crazy hippies we are, should be able to do whatever crazy hippy stuff we want on our own land. That's paraphrased. We asked for his opinion on their infiltration inquiry, thinking we might use this time to tell the county that we plan on capturing all of our rain water instead of letting it run off. He told us to keep that to ourselves, because they'll still want an infiltration pit, and probably more permits and paperwork for the catchment. Thanks Bill!

Life update: This will probably only come
as a surprise to those of you who don't know us personally and assumed we were already married. We aren't. But we will be! I proposed to Christy a couple days ago on a row boat (because that's how I roll) and she said yes (how could she not?). We're getting married in August at Mellish Fields West.

Life is pretty great!