Friday, January 9, 2009

Everyone join hands and do the "Money Dance" so we can buy this place!

Gary the financial genius overlooked a few of the "new rules" (post-economic-bust) for mortgage lending, so we're on the ropes at the moment.  

Fortunately, he IS a financial genius, so if there are any financial rabbits still hiding in hats, Gary will find them for us.  It's not a "sure thing" though, so we'd appreciate any positive money prayers, good vibes, red candles, prosperity dances and anything else you can think of that might help us. 

Please, no more rain dances, though.  I think we got a little carried away with those on the last go-'round (this photo is the railroad bridge in Arlington, downstream from Haiku Farm by about 15 miles)

Up the hill a bit, things are much drier.  The Shelties and I went out to make sure everything was okay:

This little spring "sprung" out of a mousehole in the lower pasture.  I was pleased to see that the water is very clear.   It's not run-off from the surface, but rather groundwater that spouted up when there was too much of it in the subsoil

The mousehole is in the upper pasture, and is relatively dry.

No word from the mice, yet.   

Keep the good thoughts coming, everyone!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

We like to shop online; lately we've been shopping for a good TRACTOR

This is how we entertain ourselves and each other on these cold rainy nights: we shop for tractors.

I grew up in an agricultural county, and thought I sort of knew about tractors. Turns out that, aside from knowing that John Deere tractors are usually painted green and yellow, and Ford tractors usually aren't, I didn't know much about tractors.

I grew up thinking that tractors are huge complicated machines that only ga-zillionaires could afford to buy. Turns out that I was wrong about that, too.

I've recently learned that tractors haven't changed much at all in the past 50 years. The really high-end tractors with air conditioning and satellite communication devices are nifty, but when you just need to move a big heavy bunch of dirt and rocks from one end of the farm to the other end, a fifty- or sixty-year-old Massey Ferguson or Allis Chalmers or International Harvester can do the job just fine. These old machines are strong and tough and built to be stored outdoors and work hard all the time forever.

That kind of endurance and get-things-done-ism really appeals to me.

The tractor-buying public apparently isn't nearly as interested in new flashy trendy stuff as the automobile-buying public, and thus a tractor built in the 1940's or 50's is pretty much the same machine as a tractor built by the same company in the 1980's. They usually don't even change the color. I like that too.

(Point of interest: none of the tractor-building companies are applying for bailouts in Congress this season....coincidence? I think maybe not.)
And here's the really cool thing: old tractors don't cost a ga-jillion bucks. There are a bunch of tractors on Craigslist every week for under $4,000, and some are listed for as low as $1,500. Amazing, isn't it? I bet you couldn't buy a working 50 year old car for that price, no matter how ugly the paint was. And a tractor--unlike a car--expects to WORK for a living. I like that a lot.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

"Sacrifice Area" : no sharp knives or beating drums are needed here

Here in the Pacific Northwest, mud is a fact of life.  Mud is pretty much universal -- in parking lots, trails, backyards, and even in the house if dogs and boots aren't vigorously hosed off before you allow them indoors.  The mud in stable yards can be nothing shy of epic, and can get so deep and sticky that it sucks boots right off your feet...but there are mitigations.  

All it takes is money and time!  Simple, right?

Horses for Clean Water  is an awesome local organization that teaches horse owners how to minimize the mud--and thereby, keep the mud and manure out of the water table.  I read several of their articles today to refresh my memory about constructing a sacrifice area.  

A horse sacrifice area is not a place to ritually exterminate misbehaving equines.  Rather, a sacrifice area is an enclosure that is designed to be an outdoor living and play space for horses that does NOT grow that the grass can grow and recover from trampling feet and yanking teeth.  A sacrifice area can be as small as a regular horse stall (12' x 12'), or as large as....well, how much land is available?    

Since Jim and I will have about 4 acres of land for our two horses, we want to design a barn and sacrifice area that will cover less than an acre.   The barn will measure roughly 16 ' x 36', and our goal is to create a sacrifice area that will measure roughly 20' x 40'...which is, not coincidentally, the size of a small arena.   Since it's a play area, I want to play too!

The sacrifice area will start off as a large paddock space into which we dump as much hogsfuel as we can afford to dump.  

Wait:  hogsfuel?   I thought we wouldn't be killing any animals?


In the olden days of lumber mills, one powersource for the sawmill was a steam engine.  Steam for the engine was created by burning the parts of the trees that weren't needed as lumber--bark, roots, etc--which were chipped up and dumped into the engine's firebox.  The firebox looked kind of like a pig, and was called the "hog."  The stuff dumped into the hog is called hogsfuel.  

And hogsfuel, which is shredded bark and wood fiber, is good arena footing, and an excellent mud-mitigator!

Here's a link to a local farm that did some major mud mitigation.  

This is BEFORE.   

And this is AFTER:

No ritual drums are needed, either---just a bunch of $$$ to pay for a few truckloads of hogsfuel, and a bunch of time to put the stuff where it needs to go.  It's not glorious work, but it beats having mud so deep it sucks my boots off.

Monday, January 5, 2009

For mapgeeks like me, satellite images provide hours of great fun

It's true that I can entertain myself for hours poring over maps and satellite photos...especially if the maps and photos in question have something to do with finding trails, or figuring out where the heck we can put stuff on the new place.

(as always, click the photos to enlarge them)

So this evening Jim and I were able to settle down with our friendly neighborhood mapping software (SCOPI is a fabulous resource for land images in Snohomish County!) and my photo-editing software, and make some plans!

The first priority was to find the perfect place for the barn. After walking the property several times, we've got the spot picked out (shown on photo): at the northeast corner of the pasture, with the south-facing roof able to house solar panels.

The stalls will face south, and the hayroom will face east towards the driveway, so that we won't have to do any fancy manuvers to unload hay or to park the truck and trailer. We will have to build in some rolling grade dips in the new section of driveway to avoid having all the rain running down into our neatly-stacked hay!

We'll put up field fencing for the perimeter, in the big square, and cross-fence with smaller (and cheaper) fiberglass fenceposts and electric fencing tape to make smaller or larger pastures.

Then we have to decide which structures need to be torn down and/or moved.

I love the fire pit, but it's in the wrong place. Move it up to the bottom of the (new) garden and it's much better. Of course, that's probably a day or two of digging and brick moving, but what the heck. So far the only thing I'm moving around in real space is the keys on the computer keyboard, so the heavy labor isn't too difficult. Yet.

The greenhouse is in the SHADE, (the trees you can see in the photos are at the south and west) which is fairly pointless for actually, you know, growing green stuff. We'll either move the building to a better location, tear it down, or turn it into an always-useful bicycle garage .

Then there's the old outhouse. It's very quaint; with a caved-in roof and falling-in walls, though, it's not exactly a salvagable structure. But there must be something I can do with that adorable outhouse door with the crescent moon....ideas?

Sunday, January 4, 2009

this is the post for country folks who want to know about the outside

The parcel is slightly larger than 5 acres, in a fat L-shape (I'll post the satellite image when SCOPI comes back online, it's being tweaky tonight), with the house and driveway at the top of the L (to the east), and the pasture on the bottom.   

To the east of the house, literally across the road, is Ebey Hill, which locals call Ebey Mountain; the altitude rises from  330 feet above sea level at the house, to 350 feet at the top of the driveway, to 1650 feet at the top of the hill less than a half-mile to the east.  Yes, very steep.   The mountain is covered with logging roads and game trails that I hope will keep us and the horses busy for the next 40 years.  

Speaking of horses, there is no barn yet.  There is a small outbuilding that we can use to store hay at first, so that the horses can move in as soon as the fences are properly installed. We will build a small barn at the northeast corner of the pasture area, with pasture to the south and west.  We walked the pasture on the wettest day of winter (so far) and were very pleased at the lack of sogginess!  The sellers have kept the pasture in hay, but there hasn't been livestock here since the old dairy subdivided more than 20 years ago.  There are horses next door, and many other horses on the road, so we'll have plenty of equine neighbors.

There is plenty of neighboring wildlife as well.  Today was snowy, so we caught up on a lot of footprint gossip around the house, spotting tracks from deer, mice, moles, rabbits, raccoons, as well as tracks from the neighbor's cats and the seller's dog Daisy.   We also expect to see plenty of bluejays, eagles, hawks, and vultures when the sky isn't full of snow.

There are a number of outbuildings on the property, including a woodshop (soon to be Jim's computer lab) the pump house, and a woodshed, plus the afore-mentioned hay shed.  There is also a greenhouse that needs to be moved or torn down, a falling-down outhouse that we will take down, and a chicken condo.

At the top of the "L", between the house and the road is the orchard:  apple, pear, cherry and peach, black walnut and hazelnut trees.  There are also blueberry bushes and some winegrape vines that are apparently impossible to kill.  

And of course, there are blackberry vines.  Our first major investment will be a tractor, so we can trample down the blackberry vines on a regular basis...not that this treatment will kill blackberries, but it will at least cause them to speak respectfully in polite company.  We hope.

this is the post for city folks who want to know about the house stuff

Here's the basic info about the house:  it's a 2001 doublewide trailer built by Goldenwest Homes.  It has 1,782 square feet, three huge bedrooms, each with a walk-in closet larger than my first apartment, and two bathrooms (one is normal sized, the other would easily house a horse or two friendly ponies).  

The kitchen is approximately 5 square acres, with windows that view the pasture and the building site for the new barn.

For the truly geeky among us, it has R-19 insulation in the walls and R-38 in the ceiling (!) and a woodstove that HEATS the entire house (Colleen was wearing shorts and a t-shirt when we arrived in our multiple layers of polarfleece, wool, and gortex).  

There's plenty of natural light, and big double-paned vinyl windows.  We won't do much with the house for the first year or two, except possibly some interior color on the walls (white is soooo boring) because we think the outside work is going to take almost all our time and energy....but that's another post.   

Click the small photos to make them BIG.

While we were taking photos,snow rolled down the mountain to welcome us

Really, the snow followed Jim down the driveway, it was quite amazing!

I took lots of photos today while he was out taking the water sample and measuring everything with the GPS.

We found all kinds of stuff, including a treehouse--dilapatated, but the ladder up is still sound and the platform is repairable, assuming we can keep the BLACKBERRY VINES at bay. Jim is now searching for a tractor that has a flamethrower attachment....

There is a line of fenceposts already along the north pasture line, so we'll just need to put up field fencing and some "hot" electric tape there to keep the horses on the inside...and then get busy planting fenceposts on the west, south, and east lines. There is an outbuilding onsite already that we can use as temporary hay storage, so really, we can move the horses in as soon as the fences are up. Hooray!

I'll put up a separate post for all the city folk who want to know more about the HOUSE, and then a completely different entry for the country folks who want to know about the outbuildings. Cuz, I know y'all are all out there.