Friday, March 6, 2009

WE BOUGHT THE FARM! Hurrahs and celebrations--then, bring in moving trucks!

It's been a long, crazy time of it, but at last the sale has closed and Haiku Farm is ours!

I've been a nervous wreck for so long, it's hard to believe we actually can start moving.

This message is a repeat of info I sent by email to most of the civilized world, but it's got the FAQs for the next few days on it. I hope to add photos tomorrow!

We'll pick up the key to the house tomorrow morning. We washed out the horse trailer this evening so it will be pressed into service tomorrow to move boxes and furniture. This is also the time in our lives where we remember why we BOTH drive pickup trucks.

We hope to be sleeping in the new house on Sunday night, but we'll pretty much play it by ear.

Did we get a good interest rate?
Yes, we did. We paid full asking price for the place, because it was already priced below market value ("new market value", not "market value last summer" price). The sellers paid most of the closing costs, and we were able to buy down the interest to 5.5%. Not quite as low as prices available last January, but still pretty dang low.

Is there a barn?
Nope, we still gotta build that. Fences too. This is the time where, if you've ever had a hankering to lend a hand, we'd love your help...or heck, just stand around and tell us amusing stories while we pound fence posts.

Fellas who like to show off their skills with power tools, I am prepared to admire your skills.

Folks with heaps of t-posts and bent-but-usable gates and other fence parts buried under that blackberry bush behind the barn, please call me and I will take that stuff off your hands (and even destroy some blackberry brambles for you in the process). Sky Evans has designed a lovely build-as-we-can-afford it barn for are on the blog!

Doesn't it rain/flood/snow a lot in Arlington?
Sometimes. the polar bear population is still pretty minimal, though. During the big snowstorm in December 2008, the new place had about an inch more snow in the fields than our house in town...and the road got cleared a lot faster. The property itself is on high ground and not in a flood zone, but the main access bridge does close in high water. There's a "back way" around, which is a pain, but do-able.

Can I come visit?
Absolutely! We hope to have an RV station installed eventually; there is already a flat place to park trailers and/or campers and we can run electricity and water out to our friends with homes-on-wheels. We'll also set up the most comfortable futon in the world in a spare room for visitors who don't bring a house with them.

When will the horses move to the new place?
It depends on a lot of factors, including the weather, but we're hoping to bring them home at the beginning of May.

Thank you to everyone who helped us through the process with words of encouragement and fingercrossingcandleprayers. We hope to host a party this summer so y'all can come and spend a day on the farm with us.

For now, it's time for bed: we've got a big weekend planned!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

What is a satoyama? And will there be any totoro there?

First the house sale update: Everybody is saying "Friday", two days hence, and we really are getting closer. However, I've thrown my heart at this thing too many times to re-start the countdown, so this time I'll just say "maybe Friday and maybe not", and when we really DO finally close the sale, I'll get busy and tell everybody the good news.

Back to the title of this blog entry:
Jim and I escaped from moving and packing and all that financial gimcrackery earlier this week by watching a sweet little Japanese movie for children called "My Neighbor Totoro." If you haven't seen the film, I recommend that you go rent a copy the next time you're feeling blue, because it's lovely and the animation is amazing.

The story concerns two little girls who move with their father to an old house in the Japanese countryside. In exploring the trees around their house, the smallest daughter, Mei, discovers a gigantic fluffy forest spirit living in the largest camphor tree. She and the spirit become friends. In Japanese, Mei calls the spirit "Totoro", which is a Japanese-small-child's mis-pronunciation of the word "troll".

I'm not sure what kind of "troll" this kid thought that she had found, since trolls aren't indigenous to Japan, and the fluffy oversized owl-rabbit doesn't look anything like the trolls found in my scandinavian picture books.

Anyhow, it isn't really a troll, it's a totoro: a benign forest spirit living in the satoyama region of the woods.

Aha, then what is a satoyama? I'm so pleased that you asked that question.

A satoyama is the border zone of arable land at the foot of a mountain. In Japanese writing, the word "satoyama"
is a combination of the word "arable or livable (farm) land" (literally "farm" + "earth")
and "mountain." The Japanese now recognize this type of region as exceedingly valuable for biodiversity, and more than 500 conservation groups currently work to preserve satoyama. Many species of wild animals, birds, reptiles and insects live in the border zone between the wild mountain and cultivated farmland, and satoyama also houses some of the last remaining old-growth trees in Japan.

Remember that I was marveling at the unusual geography surrounding Haiku Farm--well, it's a satoyama! The photo above shows a satoyama in Kyoto prefecture...but it looks a lot like our neighbor's place, with the farmland spreading out from the bottom of the mountain.

I'm not sure how much "old-growth" forest is left on Ebey Mountain, because the top is owned by logging companies and the State of Washington. Our state sells trees and mineral rights in order to support education, so the state itself is actually a gigantic logging company.

However, you can bet that I'll be riding my horse up the mountain this summer, looking for stands of old-growth timber.

And while I'm up there I'll be watching out for totoro!