the final march of the carpenter ants 

My husb and his many voices are so funny. Here we have a vlog from him, entitled “the final march of the carpenter ants”. There are three parts but you get the picture with part one. He didn’t do his voices in parts 2 or 3 so they aren’t as fun anyway. Too bad he didn’t get a video of the mouse using him as a human highway yesterday…

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all kinds of discoveries

I’ve fallen a bit behind in blogging because our progress has exceeded my ability to write fast (and I scheduled some of them to be published in the future which threw things off a wee bit). So, all of this is a huge long update covering last Thursday to present. 

In his deconstruction, Paul discovered a multitude of mouse-chewed electrical wires, saving us from a potential future fiery demise. He’s an electrical genius and planned on replacing everything already and I’m glad for that.

This is the old bathroom sink location. Remember the wonky cabinets, blue sink and medicine cabinet? Now look a little closer and what do you see? Copper pipes. The realtor told us there were lead pipes going from the well to each cabin. Nope, they are iron. He told us that both cabins 1 and 5 had all lead pipes. Nope, cabin 1 has copper. Cabin 5 has a crazy mishmash of copper, PVC, iron and PEX with a possible lead bit that is in the parts after the house and before the septic. I should have Paul write about the construction stuff since he actually uses proper lingo. Anyway, cabin 1 will not be replumbed but cabin 5 will and we already have the supplies. Yay!

Then we discovered this (Paul discovered!)… rotten ceiling boards. Did I already share this picture? Moldy, water damaged and rotten enough to poke a broom handle through. So, we don’t have to do the plumbing we thought we did but we do have to replace a roof we didn’t think we had to. I’m going to research custom metal roofs for both cabins, but it’s probably out of the budget. I’d love them for clean water catchment! 

Thursday afternoon was hot and we went adventuring and swimming and found a fourth apple tree we hadn’t previously seen. So much abundance grows here and we haven’t planted any edibles yet!

We found a hobbit tunnel through the trees that looks like a crescent moon in our avoidance of the huge subterranean wasp nest. 

And of course spent a bunch of time at the creek.

A million rocks stacks surround the swimming hole. Well, more like ten, but still. They’re huge and beautiful. 

The rains came Friday and a new leak sprung in the roof of the bedroom addition of cabin 1.

Drip. Drip. Oops! But the water heater was drained and removed and is ready to be moved to cabin 5 so we can have hot water and a functional laundry space. Cabin 1 will soon have a brand new on-demand water heater.

I had actually never entered the laundry room until Saturday. This is peering in over our new washer and dryer through the “office” (or school room) of cabin 5. The flow is: cabin 5, laundry addition, cabin 4 “apartment” addition. Cabin 4 is the worst and half the floor is on the ground below the dwelling (4 and 5 are on post and peer and having some issues due to a pipe that broke and was probably spraying everywhere under the house, rotting and ruining everything for a year and a half or so).

Because of this, that addition has some floor and foundation issues but nothing some new pressure treated 6×6 posts, concrete piers, some bottle jacks, and a genius man can’t can’t fix. He wouldn’t let me help so I made a hefty pot of beef stew to nourish him with, and cleaned out the rest of cabin 5’s bedroom. It looks like thunderstorms are coming so we may need to sleep inside 5 awhile as 1 gets completed. Kevin 5 is clean and rodent free, no mold or mildew and perfectly adequate to dwell in. It just has the aforementioned Foundation the issues and oddly sloped floors in a couple places. And a couple cruddy windows that need to be replaced but whatever. We’ll get there.

Yeah, it’s a laundry room project and a half as it was never finished…

But we found a cool old piece of furniture (under a funky slab of wood). It kind of matches my grandma’s old buffet that I have and that makes me smile. 

We’ll have these pretty ladies (thanks, mama!!) set up and functional AND hot water in cabin 5 in no time. No bathroom in this cabin until spring though. (Don’t fret for us — we’ll have a full and complete new bathroom in cabin 1 by the end of October.)

This is not functional or pretty, and not a place I’d enjoy hanging out naked. Cabin 1’s shower. There’s a hole in the ceiling quite close to where Paul found a snake living in the wall. Dead snake by the time he found it, but still. I’ll be bathing with no snakes.

I know it seems we’re jumping all over the place but there’s logic to our seeming madness. All of cabin 1 bedroom addition and bathroom are 100% ready to realign the walls, close all rodent/snake/bug entry points, rewire, reroof, insulate, drywall, etc. 

The rest of cabin one is almost ready to start deconstruction on. This is looking out from the bedroom, through the bathroom and into the living room of cabin 1. (I should do a cabin explanation post!) The door on the left is to the deck.

This is the awesome view from the deck. It will be surrounded with fairy lights so we can sit there at night and watch the deer go by, from the forest through the lower field. There’s a family of 5 deer that like to spy on me when I pee in the night. It was a little disconcerting at first seeing their sets of eyes and not knowing what they were but I quickly realized it was just sweet, sweet deer. Phew. Made me jump a little. (Hopefully I don’t ever see eyes and discover they are connected to a cougar. There are apparently a lot around here.)

It’s been an on and off rainy weekend and I found myself suddenly grateful for the plastic bags left behind. I need to get myself some insulated Muck Boots ASAP! We all do!!

We’ve discovered we have lots of newts, salamanders and crawdads. Plus two woodpeckers and a bunny, three stellar jays, geese and wild turkey. 

An abundance of lichen covers everything, indicating we even have some of the best air on earth.

I hadn’t previously thought about it but another discovery is the lack of recycling here. We are HUGE recyclers and tiny garbage accumulators. This means a weekly trip to the recycling center, or at least a couple of times a month (which requires old school separation of all things). And, plastic bags are a thing here. Portland outlawed them forever ago and I thought it was a statewide thing. Nope! We forgot our reusable bags and paper wasn’t even an option. We’ll certainly not forget our cloth bags again. 

planning and decisions 

We have a lot to decide upon as we build, create, and plant our farm. Before we moved here I drew about a half million layouts but now that we’re here, plans are being tweaked as we observe animal trails, water flow, sun vs shade, wind patterns, etc.

This was going to be made into a chicken coop (though I couldn’t decide if the layers or breeders would reside here) but now we’ve decided that it will be a tiny house for two wee goats. But that’ll be awhile. 

We’ll build two chicken coops in the spring, before we get goats, but at least we now have a plan. They’ll be mid-field on the westernmost edge, parallel with the neighboring chickens. He wants to build a chicken tunnels between the flocks.

Below the hens a bit will be the irrigation pond (and ducks and geese, but that may not be until spring of 2019 as we have plenty else to do and we’re just three humans). The slope to the lower fields will offer some amazing gravity-feed power to the water flow.

The property used to have a sixth cabin (actually more, but it was divided into three parcels once upon a time). These are the remnants of cabin six, from behind. This was going to be for goats but now it’s going to be one of the seed starting areas until we get our big greenhouse (awesome all day southern exposure!), and eventually we’ll get water and a sink in there for a processing area. You know, washing the dirt off the carrots and such.

This is the front side. This used to be the third bedroom of this cabin and it’s far more sturdy than it may appear. (Those doors are awesome and I can’t wait to reuse them!)

The whole area in front of it is the old concrete foundation and originally we planned to put a blacksmithing area there but we decided that it’s too close to neighbors. We only have the two close neighbors but they certainly don’t need to constantly hear the banging and tippy tapping of metal being pounded. 

In front of that is the old living room area, complete with huge fireplace. We’ve decided to make this into an outdoor oven and grill area, and build a simple roof over it for a covered community picnic and potluck area. Obviously this one will be awhile as we have five cabins to fix up first, chicken coops to build, a goat house to refurbish, a  livestock guardian dog house to build, a root cellar and pond to create and four million things to plant first (etc).

Oh, and that apple tree we found the other day is almost unburied. Once that’s done, we’ll trim her dead and mossy under branches to help her to thrive. 

a few edibles and medincinals

We’re still getting to know the land and discovering more of her wonders but we’ve learned that there is a lot more already growing here than we realized. 

We had a hawthorn tree at our old house and I was so sad to leave it. I planted it just over ten years ago and it was easily ten feet tall. It was a different type as this, with black berries (black hawthorn or douglas hawthorn) instead of red like we have here (common hawthorn, thorn apple or may tree). The berries are good (though you don’t want to eat too many) and are amazing for the heart. They’ve been used to treat heart disease for centuries. We found some berries from our black Hawthorne on the hood of our car the other day so we are going to have an abundance of both. We probably already have at least two dozen hawthorn trees here.

We also discovered what I thought were four wooly lamb’s ear plants but it’s actually thirty-eight!! They aren’t big, but they’re lovely. Lamb’s ear has been used to treat wounds both because it absorbs blood and because it has antibiotic and antifungal properties. Awesome! We don’t need to buy bandaids anymore. 

We have an abundance of blackberries. Three or four different cultivars at least. Fat juicy sweet berries, compact tart berries, etc. Yum! I’m going to make an abundance of blackberry jam and preserve next year! And cobbler. And omgosh, blackberry syrup!! We have about a half dozen maple trees or so (we’re going to walk the land and catalog all of the plants and trees… seriously).

As previously mentioned we have an abundantly productive gravenstein apple. A fresh apple a day. Pie. Dried apples. Cider!

I discovered a second apple tree on Monday (which ended up being a no cabin work day*)! I’m not sure what kind yet, other than red… It’s buried behind a serious thicket of scotchbroom, dead queen ann’s lace and miscellaneous vines. We’re unburying her. Apple butter. Applesauce. More (hard) cider!

I already mentioned the two bartlett pear trees. We’ve only ever had asian pears so this is a real treat (though by the time we got here there were only two pears left). I’m not a fan of canned food, but I’m going can my arse off anyway so we have a nice winter stock every year and goodies to share with the neighbors. 

This lemon balm needs love. And to be moved because it’s in the middle of a garden walkway that needs to be mowed. Oops. I love it tea though and will revive it, plus plant a few more here and there.

We also have plantain (but no comfrey!?), horsetail, a possible black currant (I’ll get back to you on that), wild carrot, obviously, four hundred billion acorns (which I’ve never tried yet), and…. I’ll just do another similar post part two soon to fill you in on the rest. We can gloss over poison oak, ivy and sumac, and stinging nettle. Actually, I love stinging nettle.

Does anyone know what this is? Our realtor said it was lobelia but it’s not.

*to clarify, a “no cabin work day” does not mean a no work day. We started our new compost area which we’ll finish building soon, cleared a heaping pile of scotch broom away from the “new” apple, installed a new mailbox which included drilling all new holes and procuring new hatdware because it was for a post not a bar, visited with three neighbors, made too many phone calls for boring business stuff, did dishes, cooking… it seems like I’m mostly cooking and playing.

dreams, tidy kitchens and tearing down walls

I dreamed of this place before we found it, about four or five times. I even drew a map, which is almost identical to the reality of the property, with a couple of things mirrored. In my dreams though, there was a barn and a shop, plus four cabins and three septic systems. Funny that there are five cabins and we’ve considered turning cabin three into a shop. And three septic systems. 

I told our neighbors of my dream and the barn. One of them looked at me weird and asked where it was in my dreams. I told him and he laughed. That barn in my dream, I told him, was actually fallen down and more like a pile of barn wood with a roof. I  “That’s right where the barn was, and it collapsed several years ago.”

I smiled.

This week was abundant with company. Our friend Jake came, as previously mentioned, then my mom came yesterday (no tent living for her, she stayed at a cute vintage hotel in Cottage Grove, missing our gorgeous cool misty morning).

Moms brought foods for the cupboard (and some kick ass shredded chicken with peppers and a whole taco making spread because we moms are awesome at feeding people), and helped me get cabin five’s kitchen in order so we can use it whilst remodeling cabin one.

She didn’t bring all of that, but the good stuff like cookies, cereal, oatmeal, tortilla chips and beef jerky (for the guys). 

We even set up the little temporary indoor dining area with the previous owner’s belongings. This will be handy with the return of the rains… when the nights are anticipated to be in the 30s and we may have to sleep inside (no mice in this one!).

Paul started in on the demolition of cabin one’s bedroom. No wonder this place was so infested!! Gaps everywhere… 

It was a freaking mouse highway in the walls. Open holes to outside and 2×4 beams on a 4×6 sill. 

Nothing is aligned, either. Look at the gap between the closet door frame and the corner at the floor and follow it up. (And then take a moment to admire his handy tool storage wall.)

This is that wall from the outside. Everything is slanted.

The first closet is gone (and more things totally misaligned). Closet number two will be gone tomorrow. The configuration was dumb so we’ll rebuild them, or it, more logically.

Insulation here and there all willy nilly, none elsewhere. Paul pointed out a spot of ceiling water damage to be repaired. And roof repair round two. (He repaired the whole room of cabin one already, just not the bedroom addition yet.)

A mishmash of crazy. And another place the light shines through (and point of entry for creatures you don’t want living in your home).

More cheap to add to the dump pile. We so need a truck!

Off the bedroom, there’s a cute deck that also needs to be repaired but it is surrounded by western red cedar, doug fir, oak and hawthorn trees, and overlooks the NE edge of the lower field and the forest beyond.

I’ll remember to take a photo of the view from there next time.

We’re beat. ♡ Dinner and creek time!

the blessings of neighbors and friends

I seriously don’t believe we could have been blessed with more amazing neighbors. 

This is a shower, the likes of which we hadn’t seen in two weeks. Creek bathing (with Dr Bronners soap) and stove-warmed soup-pot sponge baths have been our cleansing methods since arriving at the farm.

This warm-seated toilet and shower/tub are off their back porch. The “outside” bathroom. Bliss!! We were invited to use it anytime. It was hot and wonderful and such a gift! Skip a real shower for two weeks and you’ll understand. 

The bathroom has the sweetest door and iron slide lock… and it has inspired our future outdoor bathroom (but first we’ll have an indoor bathroom, of course).

Not only are we gifted with bathroom usage, both neighbors are always gifting us with an abundance of hot cooked meals, grapes, fresh laid chicken eggs, made this morning grape juice, home made hemp and coconut oil salve… the list goes on. We cannot wait until we’re more settled and established and can be more reciprocative.

And then there are our friends who come down from Portland to hang out, share meals, camp with us and help with general chored like limbing the western red cedar that was touching the house and stacking the wood for future camp fires.

Our friend Jake was here for three days and helped gut the last bits of cabin one, and stack stuff. ♡ Wood and stones. Dump stuff. He’s got mad skills.

Love our neighbors and friends! 

My mom’s coming today and we’ll get cabin five’s kitchen whipped into shape in no time too. Excited! 

concrete, snakes and misalignment

Pretty much everything is out of cabin one and the demo is beginning. Some carpet has been ripped out, some walls have been investigated  (we’re taking this baby down to studs!). Many gross things have been discovered. 

Originally I was going to spare you all the aforem”gross things” but realized then that you won’t be able to fully grasp or appreciate the drastically amazing progress without them.

That mold I mentioned from the improperly installed wood stove and stove pipe? That’s the result. We wear masks inside, don’t worry.

The husby started getting happy with a sledgehammer. The smaller hole to the right near the floor was rodent created. So nice of them to help!

As we progress, my eye twitches and my mind goes a bit crazy. Not with thoughts of mold and mouse droppings, but with the misalignment of things. The window isn’t centered in the wall, and the toilet isn’t centered under the window. Ugh! We can’t move the toilet but we can move the window and put shelves to the left so everything is aligned for my OCD mind.

The sink and mirror aren’t aligned either (and this is the last of the previous owner’s belongings to purge).

The carpet is starting to be removed. The floor in the bedroom addition is pretty perfect. Awesome. 

Thankfully there is no asbestos tile like there is in cabins two and five, but mastic… fun! 

Snakes? Long story short, use no more than four squares of tp at one time when using the toilet or you’ll have a significant plumbing issue to interrupt your day. (AND before you pee outside, especially if you’re a lady, look for snakes. Tip: just because it’s not moving and it looks dead, doesn’t mean it’s dead. I met my first foot-and-a-half long baby snake two days ago.)

Our first dump run pile is ready to load up and get out of here (except we gifted our truck to our old Portland neighbor so this will require a bit of thought and planning).

A lot of you (family in particular) are surely thinking wtf are you thinking!? But a) this is the grossest cabin and we’re 1/4 of the way through and b) we have never in our lives found more stunning land than what we have here. Ah, and c) (the biggy!) we’re so happy here!

(I may not be proving my point entirely with is this pic, but a wasp was swarming our faces. Trust me, I’m happy!)

Even our angsty 14 year old boy is elated to be living here, even in a tent and with limited privacy. (We have fiberoptic internet now which certainly doesn’t hurt either.)

At the end of the day, we live in paradise! 

With deer, hawks, eagles, turkey, rabbits, and other beautiful creatures. And so not so lovely ones too, but I’m accepting the balance. 

We already have a small abundance of food (two Bartlett Pear trees, a Gravenstein Apple, blackberries, lemon balm, all kinds of stuff!)…

The nights are beautiful beyond words with a million stars in the sky. We can even see the Milky Way on clear nights!

Oh, and our pup couldn’t be happier either! 

The gross is temporary. The beauty is forever.

I’ll just leave you with this thought, shared with me by a beautiful lady friend of mine:

week one progress (and trusting your gut)

What a productive first week we had on the farm! So productive, in fact, that I spaced writing a blog post. Whoops. We’ll all three try to be better about such things.

We now have running water in the kitchens of cabins 1 and 5 (hot water in cabin 1!). No bathroom water yet, except one toilet, but soon.

We got the roof of cabin 1 totally cleaned and repaired. (By “we” I mean Paul did whilst I cooked and washed dishes like a pioneer lady after boiling my own water.) He and our amazing neighbor almost got the roof of cabin 2 totally done too, but… an illusive hornet’s nest made itself known and our sweet neighbor was stung four times. We felt horrible! So that roof is on the back burner for the moment too.

Cabin 1 is almost totally cleared out. A literal entire car load of paper was recycled today, and we have probably 5 car loads of donations, plus a metric ton of king sized mattresses, entertainment centers, mini fridges, couches, etc. to find new homes for too. We’ll be ready to start ripping out carpet and drywall this weekend  (except we’ll probably hold off until Monday as we have company coming Friday through Sunday). I would have gotten way more done today but I found a dead mouse in advanced decay in the kitchen (not that big of a deal), then made the HUGE mistake of opening one of the fridges that haven’t been turned on in about a year and a half (pretty big deal), and then got soaked from the waist down (in my only pair of jeans) in slimy brown sludge from coffee pot remnants (that’s what sealed the deal for me). I took the rest of the day off from purging to cook, do dishes and clean the crap out of cabin 5.

My biggest lesson of the week: trust your gut. I say “it’s going to rain tonight.” Husband says “check your app.” Weather app says 3% chance of rain. I say no, it’s GOING to rain. Everyone should have just believed me. It rained. And four days later it’s still raining. Our camp spot is now referred to as tarp city. It sounds so lovely, all the pitterpatter of drips and droplets. 

Oh! We now have a functional kitchen! I don’t think I’ve shared that yet. Definition of functional kitchen in this particular case means two burners and cold running water. It’s awesome! A non-1970s stove is our next purchase but in the meantime it’s been a huge blessing to be able to use my favorite huge pan while cooking (the camp stove is too small for its enormity) AND we can heat up our coffee in a water bath when we get distracted and let it grow cold. I really ought to hunt down our coffee maker, but in time that’ll happen. ♡ Boiling water makes me plenty happy for now. 

Every afternoon, rain or shine, we adventure together as a family, looking for new things we haven’t yet discovered…

We found our new favorite picnic spot.

And have discovered more AMAZING trees.

We enjoy finding nature treasures…

And of course at least go pop our toes into the creek if not more.

Bliss!

We’ll get more interior shots of the progress of cabin 1 soon. As of today we have internet!

we live in a faerytale setting

Every morning we work our booties off to get the cabins habitable, cut and trim overgrown paths and respectfully purge the many items that were left behind. Then, every afternoon we explore before dinner.

There is no end to the amount of magic that can be found here and every day, several times, we find ourselves totally in awe of what we have. We were in love with this place long before most of the true magic ever even revealed itself to us.

A short walk through the northernmost edge of the lower field beyond long rows of old oak and hawthorn trees, blackberries and wild flowers, you find an overgrown path through a part of the forest we hadn’t yet traversed. Paul went ahead with his machete to better clear the way for us.

Once you reach the other edge of the forest, you’re greeted by the most amazing rock formations with hundreds of circular holes filled with ludicrously smooth black rocks.

And then you see the magic! This little faery pools with three miniature waterfalls that pour into it, surrounded by wild purple Sayers and decorative grasses.

I could seriously live here. I mean we DO live here, but I could live on the rocks right here, right next to the water.

To the right there are several more waterfalls, all about three to five feet tall, that open up to the creek where an enormous perfect circle hole is. It’s like a cold water hot tub fit for eight adults, where we can sit sipping something tasty at the end of a hard day.

We started to build a sweet little altar to leave our gifts of gratitude to mother earth and all of the nature spirits who inhabit the land. We found some gorgeous agates in the creek and added them after I took this photo. 

This little area has billions of baby salmon so we didn’t walk through it, of course.

Hopefully this video works. It almost makes you feel as if you’re there to watch it.

Right across from those magical faery pools is a perfect little mossy stone area, to lay or relax in with a loved one. It’s sloped so perfectly that you can see the water flow even while laying down.

On The way back home I noticed two more maples that I hadn’t looked up to admire on our way down (the path is still rough so I was paying close attention to my footing). I imagine we’ll have to find out syrup tap soon! In the meantime, I just loved sitting in their shade and huge presence. 

The amount of love, awe, magic and bliss that we have experienced in the first six days of living here are enough to last a lifetime, and the thought that we can live here forever is beyond anything we ever dreamed we could “have”.

camp kitchen

Many of our family members and a few of our friends have asked this how we are cooking when the cabin with power doesn’t have water and the cabin with (cold) water doesn’t have power. We have a camp kitchen… which is what we’ve solely used the first six days.

A fancy at least two decade old two burner Coleman propane camp stove. I can kind of foresee missing having an oven and four burners pretty soon but I’m pretty in love with this stove. We’ve had many adventures together over the years.

That’s a picture of our camp set up before we got fully organized. I should take a tidy picture.

So… we have running water in cabin one but no power yet, which means the water is ice cold since we haven’t a water heater. And at this time of year it reeks of sulfur. Unless you like egg water, you don’t want to drink it. And even then you really don’t because that cabin has galvanized lead pipes, which is our next huge project (I’m sure Paul will do a plumbing post). Cabin five has power (and of last night a semi-functional stove!) but no running water. Or oven. So I walk back and forth the 137 steps each way whilst cooking if I need to wash my hands, rinse a spoon or procure more water. It’s great exercise compared to my old kitchen where it was only 2.5 steps from stove to sink.

As a temporary $310 fix for the sulfur/lead issue, we bought a Berky water filtration system. Sulfur well filters are in the $1000-3000+ range. We did a ton of research and a lot of people said a Berkey would not remove sulfur while others said it would remove “at least some”. We can tell you firsthand that, at least in our case, it removes 100% of the sulfur smell and taste. Great investment! These are the best water filtration systems on the planet and well worth the money. You can even make stagnant lake water drinkable.

Now I just boil some Berkey water and fill the sink to do dishes and boil more for rinsing. It’s so much better than the first several days of washing in cold water which didn’t seem entirely safe or sanitary. I feel like a pioneer lady, except for the fact that I’m heating the water on an electric burner instead of a wood stove.

That was kind of boring to read, I’m sure, but now you know. 🙂