Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Goodbye and good ridance 2014

The truth of the matter is that 2014 has been hard. There have been bright spots, but they have been so overshadowed by the hardness that sometimes it is hard to see them, to feel them, to remember them. 2013 seems so long ago. 2015 can't get here fast enough. And all we can do is hope that somehow 2015 will be better than 2014 has been to us.

From the start, looking forward to 2015 tells us things will be different than usual. Baby boy will be arriving when I should be focusing on getting my garden starts started, he will be a newborn as things outside are getting going. Orchard pruning, garden preparing, fence fixing, all will be things that won't happen this year. We haven't decided what to do with the gardens this year. After all, what with the flooding/debris flows last summer, they aren't in the best of shape anyway, and who knows what this summer will bring in terms of rain events, although we are pretty convinced the debris flows will not happen to that extent again, at least for many years and even then it would be another post-fire-type event. Then, although the mister will be on day shift for the first 6 months, he will be on night shift for the last 6 months, so even if we got a garden in between birth and new-babyness, harvest would be seriously challenging for just me with 3 little kids.

The laying hens should have been replaced last summer (they haven't laid since my birthday in late September), and so definitely should be replaced this summer, but again, I can't decide if it is worth the extra effort this year, or if we should just relegate ourselves to buying eggs for the next 2 years and put chicks off until spring/summer of 2016 when things hopefully will be more settled and under control.

Similarly, with the irrigation still being completely broken, pigs are in question. How do we keep them happy and wallowing and watered with no irrigation. Sure we have the well water from the house, but I'm not at all sure how good our well actually is in terms of using that much extra water, on top of the extra we will use just to keep the raspberries and strawberries and fruit trees going.

The good news is that 2015 will be my last year in any portion of pregnancy, yup, three will be plenty for us. So that is one thing that I am extremely excited about, and I'm looking forward to getting back in shape for the last time post-pregnancy, etc.

A lot of things I'm looking forward to will be simply in the planning stages in 2015, for 2016 and 2017: camping, hiking & canoeing trips with the family, getting nearer and nearer to our house being fully paid off, doing more adventures with older kids and less financial obligations each month, planning a big trip to celebrate being mortgage-free. All of these things are things we are dearly looking forward to and dreaming about, but they won't come to pass in 2015, although the steps we make throughout the year in 2015 will be what allows us to get there in 2016 and 2017.

However, at least 2014 is over with, and hopefully things will be upwards and onwards and easier from here! Happy New Year to you and yours, and I hope your 2015 is filled with good things :)

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Farm cat

A couple of months ago, likely mid-late September, my husband came home one night later than usual (this was before he switched to night shift), and found a black/grey cat in the carport. He almost did away with it, but didn't want to wake me to that unexpected noise, and by the next morning, I'd convinced him that since we have the chickens, gardens, and yard fenced, having a carport cat wouldn't cause cat-dog interactions, and wouldn't be likely to have cat poo in the gardens, and I wasn't too worried about my chickens from a cat.

Anyway, I figured the cat was an abandoned or fire/flood refugee cat, likely partly wild or feral, but would be great at controlling our rodent population without resorting to poison like I had been on the brink of for a good six months to a year, after a mouse chewed the kids car seat straps (unsafe costly inconvenient event, that). I picked up some cat food at the feed store, and we started feeding it. For the first while it wasn't eating much every night, and some nights it didn't eat anything at all. By the start of November we'd convinced ourselves that it must belong to someone down valley, and be wandering up. But that would be about 3/4 of a mile, which didn't seem like it would be conducive to a long-lived cat (lots of hungry coyotes around here!).
First picture, first daylight sighting, on the right side of the door opening. She came out to visit us from somewhere in the mess of a garage, hungry for attention, happy in the sunlight.
But we kept feeding it, as the group we thought were possible owners were renters who wouldn't be staying the winter, and we figured maybe we would be adopted when the renters left. Then Little M spotted a calico late one afternoon, shortly after sunset. We followed it and it ran up valley. We were puzzled, but wondered if there were just a fair number of cats roaming around after the fires.

The calico started coming nightly shortly after dark, but that was all we were seeing of her. We started assuming that she, too, must have another home. Then last week we saw the black cat for the first time since that first time my husband saw it. And there was the calico with it. That's when we put it together where they must be from. A quick phone call to a neighbor up valley and it came out that they used to belong to the folks up from us whose house and outbuildings burned in the initial push through of the fire that first night. The cats had been rehomed to one of the adjacent neighbors in their little group of three, and were supposed to be staying in their barn. In fact, these new owners said that they had never seen the calico out of the barn.
Giggling sisters sledding down the hill, photobomb courtesy of the calico cat

Well we felt really bad and stopped feeding them, not wanting to put these two in danger of coyotes, tempting them down for food, especially after dark as they had been doing. We assumed it would end, the nightly visits. Little M was devastated, and I started keeping an eye out for people needing new homes for barn cats. Then one night my husband left the garage door open over night, and the next morning he saw the calico cat stalking/playing in the field beside the garage.

Not wanting to shut her in the garage, not knowing how much time she was spending in there vs in her 'old' barn, we left the garage open, but didn't see her again. Then yesterday/night we got about 7 inches of snow, our first snowfall, and with it dumping down outside I assumed she would have headed back home. Except there she was, looking for food, right on schedule. I checked tracks with flashlight, and saw some coming out and then back into the garage (I assumed). I went back out with some food, and went to the garage, then came back, and with no new tracks out of the garage, there she was in the carport, friendly as could be.
Thanks for the breakfast, and the petting.

I rethought it, and she must be staying in the carport, and have ventured into and out of the garage, the tracks I assumed meant she was living in the garage. I called Little M out, and she was able to pet her as well. I have no clue what prompted the change, before last night anytime we rattled the doorknob when she was eating in the carport she would be off like a flash, but suddenly it snowed and she decided she liked us.

Anything interesting on your mitten? Treats perhaps? No? Oh well, back to breakfast.
Today we were out playing in the snow, and she was out with us the whole time. I don't know whether to assume she's now adopted us, or if she will venture back and forth still, but she's a cute friendly little calico, and I know exactly how Little M feels about her ('can I go back out and check on my cat?' - all day!). We will never have an inside cat, so outside she will have to stay, weathering the cold, snow, wet, heat, coyotes, cougars, and all. But from all accounts she's always been a barn cat, which is why her initial owners weren't able to take her with them where they are staying now while they figure out what their next steps are. So maybe she will be fine. And hopefully she will eat lots of mice and no birds and snakes... As a biologist I have a very hard time with outdoor cats, but in our situation, where I was on the verge of putting poison in our vehicles for the mice, which I feel has worse/bioaccumulating/longer term impacts on the ecosystem, I guess I'll have to live with her eating some birds and snakes. As long as she kills mice while she is at it...

The pictures here were the first I was able to take of her, today, the first time in daylight that I had more than a fleeting glimpse of her, during our frequent excursions outside to play in the snow, and 'take care of' the cat, who Little M has of course named Golden Rabbit, although she generally just calls her Cat, or The Cat.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014


We found out after the fire evacuation that we were expecting a third baby - due in late March/early April. We hadn't quite decided if we wanted to try for a third, and were definitely planning to wait another year, but the stress of the fire apparently changed my body's mind. Oops! We are very excited, especially because we recently found out that this third (and last!) baby is a boy!

Obviously I've been pretty absent around the blog these last few months, there has been a lot going on to get our property back in shape after the fire and flood, and being pregnant on top of that has been enough to handle. Now that I'm past 20 weeks (and the shingles episode of weeks 17+, yikes!), and my energy level is getting back into the normal realm, I'm hopeful that I will begin to post more regularly again!

Yup, definitely pregnant. Starting to not fit in anything but pregnancy shirts, and even some of those are too short! Yikes third pregnancy!
I certainly have a backlog of fun pictures to put up, as we did manage to have some fun this summer and fall :)
About when I started visibly showing, during a visit to my parents home in Ontario Canada earlier this fall (pics to come!)

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Inspiring blog post titles & random ramblings on

I read a title to a post the other day, and without reading the actual post, the title just fits where we are at these days: When the dream comes true but the reality is slow and ugly. I mean, wow. So fitting. Not in any particular way I can describe, but it is exactly how I am feeling about our present. Although of course I might use different/stronger language to describe the reality than 'slow and ugly'. (stupid and stressful? irritating and heartbreaking? you get the point!)

Regardless, we are moving on from the fires and the debris flows/floods. Moving on from the bummer summer. Moving into fall, keeping our fingers crossed for light gentle fall rains, for a snowpack that doesn't melt all at once, for spring regrowth that quickly starts holding the soil together. Looking forward to snow and the peace and calm and quiet that falling snow lends to our landscape.

We haven't decided what to do with the gardens yet. The lower garden got scraped off, but I couldn't bear to put the energy into it to rake, hang fences back up, and seed a fall cover crop. I just didn't want to sink myself back into it not knowing what even the rest of the fall would look like. Not knowing if we would decide to start a garden elsewhere (but where?) next spring, or wait a year to see if the majority of the debris/dirt/rocks were down from that chute. The side garden we will likely keep going next summer. It is big enough that apart from the soil being much poorer than what the lower garden had, and the weed bank being MUCH larger, we should be able to plant everything we want in it.

It is funny, initially when we started the side garden, I imagined letting the lower garden go back to grass, to pasture, so maybe this will end up happening after all. After all, the side garden is much easier to defend from future debris flows, compared to the lower garden, where defending means putting up a berm to keep the debris flow material on our neighbors property, where the flow originated from. They aren't the friendliest of neighbors even now, and I imagine that could send them over the edge into certifiably crazy.

And if we do pigs (currently dependent upon the irrigation for our little valley being repaired which isn't looking all that good) next summer they will be on the east side of the property, about where we had the pig the first year. They are just too smelly to have in the garden, beside the play structure. Besides, we have plans down the road to have a little patio type area in the garden, which definitely means no smelly pigs along side! We'll just have to haul the manure across every fall I expect, which is quite worth it to have the smell and the flies on the downwind side (most of the year) of the house.

Anyway, that is our little update here!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

When it rains it pours

So Thursday evening last week I was supposed to go to book club about 20 minutes away, but part way there I had several signs that it might not be the smartest move, so I turned around and came home. Little did I know that the danger wasn't where I was headed, it was to my home. Not even an hour later we had self evacuated with no notice (aka grab kids, the baby's carseat, the dogs, get out into the truck, worry about seatbelts and installed carseats down the road while the driveway is still somewhat passable while fearing for the house's future) due to extremely heavy rains bringing debris flows down off the hillside to our north.
As the flood waters moved across the alfalfa field next door.

One flow came down headed for our garage, and split, coming down our driveway, across the chicken yard, through the side garden, and down on through the pig area. The other part of that flow veered to the other side of the garage, and went down the field there to join with the stuff coming out the bottom and side of the pig area. Another flow came down just on the other side of our property, and curved in and took out our lower garden. Then the creek and some irrigation lakes let loose and the bottom and middle fields flooded, and were covered with silt and mud.
Blurry photo of the entire alfalfa field covered in flood waters, as darkness fell on the landscape and the heavy rain finally started to let up a bit.

When we left for the first time that evening, we didn't get far. Another much larger flow had eroded the road, and was mohawking water, mud, rocks, and other debris. We call the drainage up above it big valley for a reason, but we've never seen it flow at all, let alone that much. Later on, after returning to our luckily still standing and not impacted house, we were evacuated again by the county, as they were concerned about not knowing whether all of the irrigation dams had blown, or what was in store for the rest of the night. We went to a coworkers cabin and spent a restless night, returning in the morning to find all animals accounted for, although pens and gardens were all rather the worse for wear.

Debris flows on the left of this picture met at the bottom of the garden with the flood waters, which swept across the entire lower and part of the middle field, bending fence posts clear to the ground if they weren't swept away entirely.

We've mostly dug the salvageable produce out of the gardens, but clearing the 1.5-2 foot deep sand/silt/debris off the top may have to wait until we know more about whether/how often these flows will happen in the next few years before the burned areas revegetate.
flows swept through the chicken runs, underneath the chicken coop, through the garden, pig pen, and then down to meet with the flood waters.
We are hoping that this rainstorm, which produced the heaviest sustained rain (about 2 hours of steady very very heavy rain, perhaps the heaviest we have seen here), and which got stuck for several hours on top of us/the drainages that feed down to us, was an anomaly, but we aren't sure how optimistic to be at this point.
The lower garden was covered in about 18 inches plus of debris and sand, totalling squash, zucchini, lettuce, and making harvest of onions, leeks, carrots, and potatoes extremely challenging. Not to mention knocking down and covering the garden fencing.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

A Grocery Envelope Update

So it seems like it was almost two years ago when I last updated on where we were at with our grocery budget. A lot has happened since then, after all we added a new member to our family (Baby E, who likely should be upgraded to Little E as she has been walking for about 4 months now, and is really a baby no longer!), and the kids both have gotten older & bigger. So we've increased our food needs, but we have tried to keep with the same approximate monthly budgeted grocery amount (well, I've upped it about twenty bucks).

So I thought it might be helpful to share what has happened in the last two years that has worked, some of which I figured out from what didn't work as well. Leading the list of what has worked is using just cash. At the beginning of the month, or the last week of the last month, I go and take out our grocery budget in twenties, and put it in an envelope. At first I was just using an envelope from the bank, or a recycled one from the mail, but at some point I saved up for and purchased a zippered fabric envelope (from here back before she started her new shop and mostly closed down Gussy Sews). The grocery money being in a real zippered pouch is great, there is room for a pen, sticky notes, old receipts, and best of all, it looks fabulous AND doesn't need replacing every couple months to avoid loosing small change!

Once money got even tighter (ie once we were trying to stretch our purchasing power to feed bigger mouths, and once food costs really started inching up noticeably here in the last 6-8 months), what worked even better was to divide the monthly money up into weekly amounts. Before I started doing this, I was starting to get to the end of the month, and be on pretty basic rations, or not be able to get more milk for a few days until the next month, or I would end up starting the next month's money a day or two before the end of the current month just so we had enough. This way, it is much much easier for me to ensure that I'm not buying (and eating!) higher end meals in the start of the month and running out before the end of the month.

After a few months of doing that, I realized an additional trick that helped even more, to have a twenty set aside just in case (if we ran out of money one week, if we all of a sudden needed a bunch of more expensive bulk things all at once, etc). And the hope with that twenty, was that that hopefully wasn't used in a given month, and so was thus moved into a 'pantry' type envelope the following month, available for purchasing staple-type items that we use often when they are at deep sale prices. My goal with this was to gradually build up a sort of pantry at home, purchased at the lowest price I've seen items, that each week I could 'purchase' from at that low low price, thus replenishing the 'pantry' envelope, and thus money from that week's allocated funds to be gradually put towards more elaborate menus, or heck, just more food as the kids' appetites grow!

My thinking overall was that eventually we would get to a place where our limited funds in the grocery category wouldn't be so limiting, so we could eat pricier meals, or so we could reduce our grocery budget and put that money into another category instead.

It was all working fairly well although I was still struggling with the pantry twenty some months, both in terms of saving it, and in terms of keeping those pantry items separate and 'paying' for the at home back into the pantry envelope - it was a bit trickier than I was anticipating, and thus not all that user-friendly. But then the fire happened, and most of what was in the fridge had to be tossed at the end of the 8 days without electricity, with only intermittent generator power that was especially non-existent at the beginning. Luckily the freezer contents (we have a stand alone upright freezer next to the fridge that keeps a lot of produce and lots of meat) fared a bit better, although some less dense stuff had to be fed to the pigs as it lost its consistency/got freezer burned although as far as we could tell it all stayed cold enough to be safe to eat.

So obviously during our evacuation we used more grocery money than we had allocated for the month, and I was able to flex things around to give us the grace to do that, but even after our return, this month, I've found that we are struggling to stay within the budget, as there are a bunch of fridge items that needed replacing, on top of the usual stuff, and then there were a bunch of things like chicken stock, half cans of beans, etc, that were frozen in the little freezer on top of the fridge, and I just tossed those outright, so I'm finding that a lot of things that I would typically grab a small amount from the freezer, instead of making or buying a whole bunch, just aren't an option right now.

So now I'm having to decide do we drop down to cheaper meals (more beans & rice type things, and less meat) for a bit, or do I up the grocery budget for a few months until we get things replaced. Sigh. Decisions decisions!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Getting back to 'Normal'

2 weeks after the fire almost took our house out, a new fire, started by a spark from the rim of a flat trailer tire, took out 10 more homes a little ways further north of us, growing to slightly over 500 acres in just a few hours. These people, some of them friends and acquaintances, had mere minutes to get out, and were not in any way in harms way even a half hour before.

During the two days after, a crazy series of thunderstorm cells moved through and sparked another bunch of wildfires, thankfully most of which were quickly contained, but two of which are still burning and providing a second influx of crazy smokey air to our little valley.

Up our little side valley, the storm that moved through didn't start any new fires, after all, there really is not much left to burn, but it whipped the air around like crazy, causing grey-out conditions at our house several times over the course of the afternoon, with all of the ash, dust, and dirt that the wildfires left behind blown up and around.

Today, of course there is still a tree stump visibly smoldering on the hill above our house, and a second series of thundercells are supposed to be moving over the next few days. We are all pretty exhausted of dealing with the constant extra vigilance that is required, the smoke, and the stress.

I'm ready to be past the phase of looking at pictures and remembering what the background looked like before, ready to be done the firsts - first full moon rising through the blackened burnt dead trees on the far hill slope, etc, and move on into the new still natural, will be green again someday soon, normal. After all, fire is a natural part of the habitat we live in.

And on the up side, there have been many beautiful sunset shots, and the gardens are doing really well with all of the heat we have been getting (I can't remember a day where the high temp wasn't in the 90's or over 100).

The house is slowly getting put back into a relatively tidy place after our evacuation, and the up top neighbors, who lost their (second home) house to the fire, have had sightings of their two lost horses in the last couple days, indicating that both survived the fire (previous to that we suspected only one had, and hadn't seen him in over 2 weeks). So, life is moving onwards, and things will recover, slowly, with time.

However we are all pretty much ready for winter to come, for snow to fly and put out the fires once and for all, for clear cold nights, and for the return of the bright bluebird sky days that this area is usually known for. Ready for time to fade the stress, to blur the old memories of green forests full of trees, and to allow us to be fond once more of this newly changed landscape we live in.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Before, During, and After

So I likely haven't mentioned exactly where I live on the blog before. But the story I'm going to share today lets that little secret out of the bag, so here it is. I live in Okanogan County, in Washington State.

On the east side of the Methow Valley, towards the south.

The east side that has been devastated by the so-called Carlton Complex wildfire.
Last official acreage I saw had approximately 250,000 acres burned. I can't even fathom that many acres. Except I can. It is almost the entire forest I know between here and my husband's work, between here and the larger town we stock up in once a month or so. Much of the forest is black. Moonscape. Charred beyond recognition.

Approximately 300 structures burned, I'm not sure if that is inclusive of barns and outbuildings or not, as in the last couple days as deputies were finally able to get around and drive the roads to check on houses, and that number doubled from 150 to 300 overnight as they realized the extent of the damages.

Luckily, three times lucky to be exact, our house survived. The gardens, apart from pig-caused damage due to loss of electricity for over a week, survived also. The chickens and pigs are doing well too. But the rest, the riparian along our little creek, the forested north-facing hillslope, the sage-brush dominated south-facing hillslope, charred beyond recognition in most places. The pines just north of our house by the pullout, torched (and responsible for the second attempt on the house).

At least three of our neighbors, one being a part-timer, have lost their homes. Two in the initial roll through as the Cougar Flats fire steamrolled south aided by high winds and extremely hot & dry conditions, and ended up on top of us, prompting a very short notice level three (get out right now) evacuation with no other notice than the smoke plume getting closer and closer behind the hills to our north. The other may have been due to a poorly set back burn, which also almost took our place out.

We were so very lucky in that my husband was able on Friday to go to the house and see if it was still standing from the huge fire that forced evacuations Thursday late afternoon, and his presence is honestly the only reason why the house is still standing. He witnessed the secondary fire come down the hill slope just to our north. Torch the large pines. He left, as the fire spotted across the road, melted our old white fence, approached the house, and as he was thinking it was all over, that it was just too dangerous and hot, and with only him, luckily at that point a neighbor and two locals out sightseeing drove by, and together the four of them went back and saved it, running buckets of water from our (luckily gravity fed thus still functioning without electricity) irrigation water, and the neighbor (who lost his house later that day, although he is a part-timer so it wasn't his primary residence) offered the use of his mini excavator to run lines around the house to stop any more fire from slowly burning grasses up to the house.

Then the same friend who helped us load a second vehicle of our possessions in the moments before we had to evacuate on the day before, came down and helped my husband finish up, get the animals into safer locations, complete the lines around the house and fields. And then the fire picked back up, spotted way across the alfalfa field to the south hillside, and they had to leave quickly as it got too dangerous yet again. My husband drove to me and the girls thinking that it was done, that the house was sure to burn.

But it pulled through, all their work paid off. The house was still standing Saturday morning. We were so lucky to have those neighbors, friends, to help us. We stayed with those friends for 2 days after we were evacuated, before I couldn't handle the constant stress of fires all around us, constant huge mushroom clouds of smoke southwards in the direction of our house and my husband's work, and the constant noise of the airplanes and helicopters flying overhead as they were fighting the fire. I then left with the girls and dogs to the other side of the mountains to stay with my sister-in-law and her family live. We stayed there a week, and returned on the weekend, to see the house for the first time in 9 sleeps. To see my husband in the first time in 7 days.

We are fine. Shaken, mourning, overwhelmed at times, but overall we are grateful to be alive, to have our house, to be ok. The community is rallying, moving from disaster, crisis, on into recovery, repair. We are so thankful for our friends, our neighbors, our family, the firefighters and first responders, and so heartbroken for those who lost their homes, their possessions, their livestock to this fire.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Family Canoe Number One

We went for an afternoon in the canoe the other week. It was the girls first time in a canoe I think, definitely Baby E's, not as certain about Little M, she's been in a sit-on-top kayak, but I am not certain of whether she has been in a canoe or not. Anyway, we went up to our favorite local fishing spot, which is a small lake nestled up high in the woods.

The canoe did great, the mister and Little M caught two smallish fish (the lake is stocked), and the baby did alright for the most part, with a break in the middle for me to go for a bit of a hike up the nearby forest service road while she napped on my back.

Overall, I would say our first outing was a success. Things to do better at next time mostly just includes timing it earlier in the day so the littlest one isn't desperate for a nap! Also, the mister has to my knowledge never paddled a canoe for any distance before, and since I've got to be up front with Baby E, he needs to be steering in the back. Let me just say that his J stroke was non existent... So we need to remedy that at some point...

I'm hopeful that we will be able to get out at least one more time for a day trip in the canoe, maybe a day that will include more paddling than fishing and floating around, and I'm even overly optimistic that maybe we will be able to get out overnight... Of course, overnight would require some gear that we don't quite have all together yet, but again, I'm overly optimistic that we might be able to patch somethings together and make it work... we shall see :)

I spent a lot of time on the water in my teen years, and I'm quite comfortable paddling for extended trips in the backcountry, in kayaks or canoes, and so I'm not worried about that aspect of things at all. It's more getting the gear together, and figuring out sleeping arrangements so that we can manage the youngest during the night...

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Irrigating the side garden

When I started actually planning the side garden layout over a year ago, one of the things I thought about was how were we going to keep it watered. You see, the old garden, or as I've been calling it, the lower garden, is right beside the main 3" irrigation pipe going down to the middle and lower fields from our turnout. That makes it simple to run a hose off of the irrigation line and set up 2 sprinklers, one on each end of the garden. We don't have them on a timer, but every morning, or every other morning, I make sure to toggle the valve on the hose off the irrigation line to turn the irrigation water on to my garden for about an hour give or take.

I've wanted a more user friendly and automated set up, but the irrigation water is rather sediment-filled. In fact, chunks of various sized crayfish are common (and sometimes whole, live crayfish - the other day I had to flush 4 live ones out of the grass irrigation riser in sequence!)... The hose and simple sprinklers we have in the garden currently don't get clogged up often, but a timer with a screen on it would definitely need more unclogging maintenance, likely making the time savings actually nonexistent! What we really need is a screen/filtration system, but that would likely then necessitate a pump, so at the moment we aren't quite going there yet.

The side garden, though, is located much closer to the house, and further up the slope from the irrigation pipe, so in terms of water pressure off the irrigation system, we would likely have trouble getting even the low pressure sprinklers in the lower garden to work up there. So that means watering off the house well water. I don't have a problem with that, after all, we keep the small patch of grass near the house and orchard watered using well water. But it seemed like I could be more water efficient in the garden by using drip irrigation or some sort of smaller sprinklers directly on plants, and thus avoid watering the paths, thus saving all that water (and avoiding all that weed growth!).

Initially in the lower garden I had planned on using drip irrigation, but without a filtration system on our irrigation water, that just wouldn't work. I realized this after several summers ago we put drip irrigation off the irrigation pipe on the orchard, and not even a year later the drip line was so clogged up that it was basically useless. It makes sense, the drip tubes are 1/4, plus all the little drip holes are even smaller, so even fine sediment would build up and clog them, even without the chunks of crayfish!

The benefit of having tried the drip irrigation in the orchard is that I had a bunch of semi-functional parts on hand last spring when we were setting up the side garden irrigation. I used much of what we had on hand up while assembling a workable system to irrigate the (then smaller) side garden. Of course, I had to go bit by bit using house water and basically flush all the drip irrigation tubes out, but it worked alright for the raspberries, 2 rows of strawberries, and peas, plus a loop around the rhubarb and in the herb circles.

This spring I purchased additional drip lines, and some drip emitters, as with the doubled area, I was needing more areas irrigated. It was working alright, although the drip lines for the herb area was the dregs of the old orchard stuff, and was piecemealed together and most was not functioning at all, let alone enough to keep the area wet enough to really fill in. But it was working enough to keep the plants in there alive, and there were a couple extra spots to fill in marigolds and some other flowers and herbs.

But then the bottom row of tomatoes started getting pretty wilty, and I realized that we needed two runs, to operate at different times, so that there wasn't so many drips off of one hose. At the moment I've ordered another timer, with several outlets, so that I can have the main single timer on the house, and then split it down by the chicken coop and have several different systems going in sequence every morning. This way I hope to be able to add microsprinklers to the herb area, and have the tomatoes get enough water. I expect the irrigation system in the side garden will take me several years still to nail down the right components and such for each sort of plant/pot, especially as the garden expands over time to completely fill the fenced area, moving the pigs to another area yet to be determined, but I think we are on the right track now!

Friday, May 23, 2014


When we bought our place, we knew we would need some sort of fenced area for the dogs, so they could be outside with us more, and outside unsupervised more. Over the almost 5 years we have been here (and how it has been that long I have NO idea!!), we got used to the lay of the land, and moved things around (like the chicken coop), and established new garden spaces, and slowly we worked out where the fence would go, and what it would contain. We decided that it made sense to have that fenced area for the yard, for the kids too, so that there would be a 'safe' area where the kids could play, with the dogs out with them. We decided that having the existing orchard separate made sense, and having the new side garden and chicken area, as well as the lower garden, adjoining the yard also made sense.

I can't speak enough of the benefit of letting the space work as it is for a while, and making updates and changes slowly, once you see how you use the place, and what the strengths and weaknesses of the different areas of land are. As a result, we're pretty happy with where the fence is going in, where the gates are, how the overall area works within the larger landscape of our property, and how our play, garden, and living spaces work within the fence.

Building the fence has definitely been a learning experience for us, one we have taken slowly, and one that has shaped us in more ways than we likely realize. We started the fence 2 years ago (!), redid the posts last spring, and finally are at the last stage in the final side. Much of the fencing material was free, either fencing and posts existing on our property in other areas, or as trees cut into poles, mostly from our property. Early on, I bought a great book - Fences for pasture & garden, by Gail Damerow, which really helped as we imagined and installed the fence. The details were especially great for figuring out things like H-brace tensioning, which I had never done before.

Just as we have learned from installing the fence, so to has my husband learned from building the gates. His first gates were flimsy things with short lifespans, but these latest gates have been things of beauty, with the strength necessary to last.

Although at times we get frustrated with the number of things still on our dream list for this property, and at the slow progress we seem to be making, when we sit back and look at the pictures of when we moved in, and compare those pictures to how the place is now, we are somewhat awed of what all we have accomplished, even if it isn't near done, or quite under control yet!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Photo annoyance

Since the story of my life right now seems to be that in order to do what I want/need to do, I first have to slog through any number of other tasks to get clearance to do the thing that I am wanting to do, of course I've been trying to post for several weeks now, but have been low on space on my computer to download pictures to accompany a post.

Of course, clearing more space on my hard drive means moving old pictures across to the external photo drive & associated back up flash drives, but that means I needed to fix some broken links, and I had been putting off doing any moving of pictures until I weeded down the number I had. These are photos from when Little M was born, and I had been at first insistent that I would first, before moving them, work up some photo books to have printed. Of course, she was born over 4 years ago, and no photo books have yet manifested, so likely I need to accept that I will have time for that sort of activity later in life, but not right now, and move on (ie get the darn things off my hard drive).

Of course, doing so resulted in iphoto loosing the links to the photos I was trying to download, which meant yet more time spent wading through photo files, moving them around, and re-importing them. Talk about a pain in the rear! I've had several of this sort of problem with iphoto, but since in reality it is due to my overloaded hard drive being just too full, I guess I can't really blame iphoto. I'm not sure I will ever really get used to being so far behind on things, but the reality of having small kids is having limited time, and limited money, which for me has definitely meant being behind on any number of things, thankfully none are really critical, which is likely why I get behind!

Perhaps later this week once I have the photo files sorted back out, I will post an update on our spring - May is my absolute favorite month here, so I've got lots of fun photos to share, and lots of associated adventures.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

These days I'm...

Saying goodbye to my beloved Irish Water Spaniel, Tia, my constant companion for over 9 years. She had what turned out to be a cancerous mass removed from her leg last fall, that unfortunately came back in her lungs with a vengeance in the new year, and we let her go a couple weeks ago as it was clearly her time. We went on a nice hike with her the weekend before, and it is nice to have that memory of her in the woods with me right up to the end, just like old times.

Feeling in awe of this large garden space to work with, and constantly admiring the new additions that keep making it more and more a creative space for us to grow in: yarn for the birds to use for their nests, garden spaces for Little M to grow plants in, haybale compost piles, and the fun continues.

Going on a backpacking trip for the first time with the four of us, just up the hill, and loving tent time at dusk with this crazy-hair girl.

Also loving this little cutey on my back on the way up. Not so much loving the midnight hike back down as we realized three in my little tent is too many, and realizing in order to make it through the night, let alone on a multi day adventure like we've been hoping for this summer, we would need a slightly different approach to gear.

Feeling proud of these little cactus that I've started from seed intermittently over the past 8 years.

Watching fresh life appear on herbs I had worried were dead in our early very cold spell last winter before we had any snow covering.

Watching the moon set over the mountains as the early morning sunlight starts to fill our world.

Starting SO MANY seeds with this little monkey!

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