14 June 2011


Another weekend up at the farm, and a lot of decisions were made. Good stuff.

So our home site is no longer our home site. We checked out the septic plan, and we would have been building on top of the leach field, or whatever it's called. Not awesome for a house (or for any structure that requires digging, since there are pipes down there). However, we already mostly cleared the area, so we decided to full-steam ahead and do a controlled burn of the felled blackberry brambles. Smoky work.

When one door closes, another opens. Turns out this area is going to be our animal garden! We plan to fence this area and put in a hen house and a goat shelter. In one of the "how to raise your own laying flock" books I checked out from the library, there was a picture of a happy chicken pecking at some huge zucchini. I'm excited to learn more about chickens and goats and their nutritional needs. I know the chickens will be stoked about the abundance of worms here.

Grizzly and Sunny (The Friends) had already cleared a bunch of poison oak, but it was seriously rampant. Grizzly decided to set out with the whipper snipper to avoid more contact. He was able to clear the whole proposed garden site and our new proposed home site, which will be right next to the garden.

Sunny and I spent some time turning over the ground in the little garden cage (DEER!). Hard work. Super hard. Clay!

Since the master plan is to extend the garden to cover this whole area (probably 6-8 times the size of the cage), and since we discovered how beautiful the area behind it could be for a home site (beautiful southern exposure), we decided that we should just get some kind of tiller in there and do the whole job at once. We'll need to improve the soil with some sandy loam and/or compost, so we'll till it in. Grizzly is working on securing a tiller, and Nick and I are looking into frugal fencing options. Grizzly had the brilliant idea to tie some cob work into the fencing for artistic/reinforcement/practice purposes. That will be our opportunity to discover our own perfect cob recipe! Exciting.

Sunny and I discovered (and have yet to explore in depth because we were without machetes) a Faerie Forest. Seriously, it's magic back there. Stoked.

My amazing uncle sent me this link to an article about an urban homesteader. How inspiring! I love that he read that article and thought of me.

So, what else is there in news from the home front? The kids were pretty bummed to come back, especially Eli. He did not want to leave the farm. I did my best to explain to him that we're going to spend a few days at home working on stuff for next weekend, and then we'll be back up there in a few days, but he was just plain sad. He woke up this morning telling me he wants to go back to Grizzly's house. In 6 weeks time, we'll be up there full time. Until then, we'll work on patience.

10 June 2011

Negatives to Positives

I started a post a couple of weeks ago about the troubles I was coming up against in the parenting realm. It was all negative and no hope or solutions. I just finally decided to delete it the other day.

Lately, my interactions with my kids have been a dream come true. Nate has been going out of his way to be helpful. His emotions have been so manageable for him, even when Maya has been super grumpy in his direction - usually he explodes right back in anger (or maybe passionate sadness?), but lately he has been really compassionate and able to just let it roll off of him. It has been amazing.

Maya is really an amazing person to have in my life. I have discovered that I take her for granted sometimes, because most of the time she is so easygoing and positive and sort of sets the tone; when she's not, I really notice because things get, well, hard. I'm working on being more attentive and affectionate with her during her happy, easygoing, seemingly well-adjusted periods so that she never feels like she needs to "act out" to get my attention.

Eli. He's a kid! The baby stuff is all dropping off of him, and fast. He is getting so good at vocalizing his feelings and needs and wants instead of doing the babyish demanding stuff. He is getting into doing things for himself, and that is super fun. He is just about 3 1/2, and he is figuring out just how capable he is.

Life is so good.


I already knew exactly where our home site should be, but Nick was a bit unimpressed by the blackberry brambliness of said location. But then, you know, we checked it out. And my place turned out to be the place. Well-drained, lots of winter sun, access to the septic tank, almost as much space as we feel like clearing.

Nick got right out there.

He carved out a path, then a big ring around the outside, then savaged the middle. He made it look easy. The kids watched from a safe distance. (The area in the middle is the cleared area. It was all more or less level with the stuff around it.)

Late in the afternoon, the littler two kids got hungry, and I brought them inside to clean up and eat. Nate seized the opportunity to ask his dad if he could have a go with a machete. And because Nick is awesome, he said of course. Check out my boy, the wilderness tamer. It looks like quite a feat.

Yes, I had to have a turn. And I'm a bit of a dork.

I haven't really ever spent any time on any project similar to this one. Like, not at all. I haven't "cleared land" since I was a little kid with a big stick in the "Ghoulie Forest" in my apartment complex. But it certainly looked fun. I went in hard, and after about 40 seconds I was pretty sure I was done for the day. Once I got into a rhythm though, it was really, really fun. Super rewarding, progress easily measured with the eye. I hacked for a few hours, using muscles I didn't know I had, until my hands could no longer grip the machete.

The next day, Nick got back out there and cleared for a few more hours. For the most part, the area looks like blackberry bushes shredded on the ground. We're hoping that when we go back, it will all be really deadened and flat so that we can clear it all out and start to level.

I decided to work on some steps down to our home site! The hill isn't super steep, but if we're spending all summer walking up and down, it will be a slippery slope. That was my day 2 project.

Can't wait to get back out there and hang out in the backyard.


On May 22nd, Joplin MO was hit by a devastating tornado. According to cbsnews.com, it was the "deadliest single U.S. twister in more than six decades."

That night, my sister Laura called me from the Joplin Walmart with a shaky voice. The roof had just been torn off while she and her family looked up into the eye of the F5 tornado that roared above them like a horrific monster. She didn't know yet if she still had a house, or if all of her loved ones were alive.

Since the tornado, Laura and her partner Toby have been working tirelessly to help their friends and their devastated city. The high school my niece was going to start at in the fall is flattened. Their grandparents' house is gone. Everyone in the city knows someone who is either homeless or dead. I'm floored at the destruction. Watching this video, I feel so incredibly grateful that my family is safe.

Laura had saved up a few thousand bucks to come out to Oregon/Idaho for a family reunion this summer. We were all (and I mean ALL - aunts and uncles, cousins, nieces and nephews, sisters and brothers-in-law, and my dear mom) looking so forward to seeing her and her girls, and meeting Toby. Most of us haven't seen her since at least 2005, and for a lot of the family it has been longer.

Laura's car was destroyed in the tornado. She'll receive an insurance check probably, at some point, but it won't help her get here next month. She had to use some of her savings to buy herself a new (to her) car which still needs a little bit of work before it can go on a long journey. Toby has been spending his days helping people who have lost their homes - doing handyman work (for free), transporting and storing things, trying to help people find things they need. As it looks now, they aren't going to be able to re-save enough money to replace what they have lost through this tornado. Without help, they won't be able to come out. According to Laura's calculations, they need about $1000 more to be able to get here (and back).

So here's the dealio. I want to help them out! I know so many generous souls, and there are so many people who love Laura that I know would be willing to help. Here's a list of what they will need in order to get here:

~ gas cards
~ restaurant gift cards
~ motel vouchers? They'll need a stop each way.
~ cash.

Any ideas, leads, or straight-up donations would be much appreciated!!

I love you Laura, and I can't wait to see you.

09 June 2011

And now for something completely different...

Things are better than they have ever been. Life is amazing.

We have been trying out how to make this happiness sustainable. We have been blessed to have not had to work very much since we've been in the US, and because of that time together we are learning and discovering the most interesting things, fully self-lead discovery. Nick thought that he didn't like to learn new things, but he is discovering new interests and ways to explore them. He is, truly, a new man.

The conversation about income had to happen at some point. We do still live in "the real world" after all. We only needed to talk a little bit about the subject to come to the conclusion that since life was feeling so just right already, our answer must be to be doing what we're doing already, but on a commercial scale. For example, we're loving getting into frugal, super wholesome eating. We are sprouting all kinds of legumes and our staples are fresh daily almond milk and wholegrain organic spelt bread. Nick loves all of his kitchen processes, and he loves sharing all of our amazing food with people. Surely we could find a way to do what we're already doing and find a way to make some money from it.

Our idea was to get a small farm thing going on. We both want to work, neither of us are averse to earning our keep, but it's super important to us to do this on our own terms. For us, we need to be close to our children, and the children could fully and happily participate in a small farm operation. We could finally start to grow our own and work towards the self-sustainability we have been talking about for years. Maybe we could even progress to an on-site cafe/restaurant - completely farm to table. Nick would love that.

I got very, very excited about this farm idea. The main obstacle was, again, the money stuff. So we don't have the money and we don't want to have a mortgage. How on earth were we going to find ourselves the 5 acres we decided we would need to start a small farm? We were optimistic that just the right thing would happen. We waited it out.

Enter The Friends. The Friends live on 5 acres in McMinnville. Between them, they have a bunch of kids and a huge desire to homestead, and not nearly enough time or human-power. They are looking for community, self-sustainability, healthy vibrant lives, and natural upbringings for their children. We mentioned our farm idea, and we spent a few weekends out playing with them, exchanging visions and ideas, and experiencing such peace while the kids were blissfully outside in fresh air and dirt for days. We all, almost shockingly quickly, decided that the very best idea would be that we share their 5 acres with them and do the farm thing there.

We will need a dwelling, and that money issue still exists, so we easily landed on cob building. Our research immediately reinforced that decision. (Check some of it out; I'll throw up some links at the end.) Cob is easy: anyone can do it and it is safe for kids. It is very cheap, being made from the soil we will accumulate when we clear the land, clay which is abundant there, sand and straw. It is a real physical effort which I can only imagine will mean that it will be incredibly rewarding. We can incorporate passive solar to efficiently use the sun to heat our house, solar panels for power, rainwater tanks for water. What an experience it will be. I mean geez, imagine designing your own house, quirks and all, from the earth up. Cob requires a good solid roof and a good solid foundation, and all of the information one could possibly need or desire is available on the internet. People who take on cob building projects clearly love the process so much that they have to share it all, because their stories are everywhere. The fact that so many people seem to add extensions to their houses every year makes me feel so excited to get started.

We already spent a weekend out there starting to clear the land. We go back out this weekend to really get down to business with land-leveling and gardening. I can't wait.

Stay tuned...

Meka's Cob Cottage

Another random 'building with cob' video

Cob Wiki article


The Year of Mud

07 June 2011

Nate the Night Owl

We have finally let go of a "bed time" for Nate.

So many things have been changing around here. We have been implementing a lot of the parenting ideals we have aspired to since we became parents. One of those things has been to (finally) respect Nate's body clock and let him stay up with us until he's ready to go to bed. Most nights.

The thing that really made this easy was that Nick and I don't watch TV anymore! We have a TV, and it has never been hooked up to cable (or even the antenna), but we still downloaded shows that we wanted to watch, and most nights we were both home, we would watch some shows after the kids went to bed. Lately though, life has been super interesting, and we have been reading and talking and listening to music instead. When Nate started asking to just hang out instead of going to bed, we had no reason to say no!

Sometimes we do feel like watching a movie that we think might be too adult or intense for him, and we ask him to go read in bed instead of read hanging out with us. Now that we're showing him so much more respect, he is happy to head off to bed early when we ask him to on occasion, and he completely understands because he has no desire to watch a movie that is going to scare him. Win-win.

Usually he reads, if we're reading. Or he'll chat, if we're chatting. Or if everyone is kind of doing their own thing, he might get a bit more creative and build an epic marble run, or draw a picture.

Bottom line: Nate is rad and I love having him around.