Halfmoon's journal

Where are you and where are you going?
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George the original one
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Re: Halfmoon's journal

Post by George the original one » Fri Jan 20, 2017 7:39 pm

My in-laws are in their 80s with 40 acres and a downsized herd of cattle. Fortunately they have a heat pump rather than using their woodstove! She is not in any condition to maintain the place, so it's he who keeps it going. He made an effort to look into moving a few years ago, but ended up deciding the work to move was greater than just decaying in place, so made a few more home renovations to enable an easier passage.

halfmoon
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Re: Halfmoon's journal

Post by halfmoon » Fri Jan 20, 2017 7:41 pm

Hi, Lucy!

I'm so glad that you joined, and I love the Halfmoon Saga title. I also joined so I could comment on another journal (@last_digit_of_pi). Warning: it's a slippery slope. I expect to see a blizzard of posts from you now on. :D

I get the parental pressure to move back home. For years, my father used to urge DH and me to move from Seattle to some depressed town in Pennsylvania. His argument was that houses could be bought very cheaply. My response: there are reasons for that.

halfmoon
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Re: Halfmoon's journal

Post by halfmoon » Fri Jan 20, 2017 8:00 pm

George the original one wrote:My in-laws are in their 80s with 40 acres and a downsized herd of cattle. Fortunately they have a heat pump rather than using their woodstove! She is not in any condition to maintain the place, so it's he who keeps it going. He made an effort to look into moving a few years ago, but ended up deciding the work to move was greater than just decaying in place, so made a few more home renovations to enable an easier passage.
This is the scenario that keeps me up at night. I'm 21 years younger than DH (and haven't been through debilitating bouts of cancer), so I actually have more stamina. The problem: our chosen lifestyle is somewhat labor-intensive. More critically, it relies hugely on DH's mechanical expertise (lawn mowers, tractor, brush cutters, well pump, generators, solar system electrical, chainsaws, etc.). I'm pretty sure, though, that moving into town would be the first step to sitting in front of the TV all day.

halfmoon
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Re: Halfmoon's journal

Post by halfmoon » Fri Jan 20, 2017 10:58 pm

THE HOMESTEAD/ACCUMULATION YEARS

CHANGING COURSE, continued:

I forgot to list one huge item in our non-negotiable requirements for land purchase: the property could not be recently logged. Timber rights and logged-over land are the Hydra of the western US. Some properties don’t come with timber rights, which can be a shock for purchasers when a second party comes in and cuts the trees. Some come with timber rights, but the owners have logged the land shortly before selling. This might be a careful calculation of timber revenue combined with residual land value when the decision has been already made to sell. Other times, I think it’s more subjective: a loss of love for the land when the trees have been cut.

Back to looking at the land for sale.

As we followed the real estate agent up a steep mountain road into state forest, I became increasingly excited. It’s hard to describe how the land gripped my imagination. Pine, fir and larch thickly dominated the ground with an occasional gap over precipitous cliffs revealing the valley below. It was a dream realized.

The agent pulled off onto a dirt track, and we walked into the 40-acre parcel. Rude awakening.

1. Northern exposure very challenged for solar and useless for gardening.
2. No running water or existing well.
3. State forest road running through the property.
4. Recently logged and not cleaned up, so timber slash lay across the land like Pick-up sticks.
5. Bonus: old toilets, broken glass, abandoned vehicles and a Visqueen-wrapped outbuilding referred to as the “Plastic Palace”.

Sensing our lack of enthusiasm, the agent said we should look at a nearby parcel that might be available.

halfmoon
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Re: Halfmoon's journal

Post by halfmoon » Sat Jan 21, 2017 10:46 pm

We looked at the other parcel next. It was 17 acres with a south-facing slope on a nice creek. Access involved driving through the creek at a wide, shallow spot (still not cool). It came with the requisite abandoned vehicles and a tiny 3-sided outdoor shelter made of unpeeled logs. We loved it, of course. ;)

We wanted to make an offer immediately, but it wasn’t so simple. The owner was hard to reach and hadn’t actually indicated a desire to sell, let alone listing the property. The agent said he would write him a letter with our offer. We okayed the offer and returned home. Then we began to think….

Chances of buying the 17 south-facing acres were dicey. We didn’t like the 40-acre property on many levels, but it was certainly more available. We absolutely loved the area in general, and it was clear that opportunities to buy there were limited. How should we choose?

After some discussion, we decided to make an additional offer on the 40 acres while leaving the offer on the 17 acres standing. Asking price on the 40 acres was only $20,000, so buying both wasn’t inconceivable. Being us, we offered $18,000 on the 40 acres.

Despite my previous negative points, the 40 acres did have its positive features:

1. A seasonal creek ran along one side. It wasn’t like the creek on the other parcel, but still.
2. The land had some natural wet spots (per geography and vegetation) that suggested the possibility of a well or spring.
3. Not all of the large trees had been logged. The owners had dreamed of building a log home, so they’d saved some nice fir and larch to harvest later. They also left the big old ponderosa pines and aspen because they (thankfully) didn’t have much market value at the time. Finally, there was a "real estate cut" along the road. This means logging very lightly and leaving the larger trees so it looks good at first glance.
4. The building site we’d identified had a nice view of mountains on the other side of the narrow valley.
5. Most importantly: location. The parcel was surrounded on 3 sides by state forest and was on the very edge of private land ownership for the next 100 miles or so. This meant that state forest, national forest, designated wilderness and national park were our back yard.

The divorcing couple accepted our offer. We bought 40 acres in our version of paradise for $450/acre. Now began the real work.

enigmaT120
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Re: Halfmoon's journal

Post by enigmaT120 » Sun Jan 22, 2017 1:03 pm

I remember reading somewhere that northern exposure is good for fruit orchards. Helps keep them from blooming too early (and getting caught by a late frost) or something like that.

halfmoon
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Re: Halfmoon's journal

Post by halfmoon » Sun Jan 22, 2017 7:18 pm

@enigma,

I think that's true. Some orchardists wrap their tree trunks in white material (or paint them white) to keep them from absorbing early spring solar heat. The property we bought and moved to, however, was at 3500 feet elevation and not very suitable for growing things that didn't naturally occur there. We were tired of gardening, planting trees and working our tails off at that point, and we swore that retirement would be an end to excessive labor and cultivation. Oh, how we humans love to kid ourselves... :lol:

Farm_or
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Re: Halfmoon's journal

Post by Farm_or » Mon Jan 23, 2017 8:07 am

We have a nice orchard of 30 trees. A lot of extra work! Some of ours are painted because we occasionally get a sheep that loves the bark. But most of the time, we only put weiner lambs in there since they have never harm the trees

halfmoon
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Re: Halfmoon's journal

Post by halfmoon » Tue Jan 24, 2017 8:56 pm

OUTTAKE

WILDLIFE ENCOUNTERS:

@enigmaT120 and @Farm_or have detoured my thoughts from the primary story to orchards...and from there to wildlife. I blame them completely. :P

We used to have an orchard, and we have one now. It's undergone some changes, though. When we moved to our first place in the homesteading phase, we promptly planted about 20 fruit trees: 2 cherries, 1 pear and the remainder a variety of apples. There was an existing Italian plum thicket near the house, and we pruned that down to 2 shoots. We firmly believe in the adage that the best time to plant a tree is 10 years ago.

The trees grew well despite our benign neglect and eventually began to produce. Then began the Fruit Wars. The first line of assault consisted of steller's jays (DH calls them flying pigs) eating the cherries and pecking at the apples. Then came the raccoons, who climbed the cherry and plum trees to harvest fruit and store it in our pond outlet pipe (automatic food washer?). Coyotes and deer picked up the fallen apples, but all assault paled in the face of the major artillery: bears.

I love bears. They look like huge, furry dogs with big butts, and their antics can appear comical. They're all business, though, when it comes to food. They climbed some of the bigger trees, breaking branches and digging deep claw marks into the trunks. Our Asian pear was skinny but covered with fruit, so one bear climbed almost to the top and then slid back down, breaking every branch as he went. The tree was left with a little pouf of leaves at the top like a poodle's haircut.

The trees that were too small to climb were pushed over to facilitate apple harvest. The smallest apple trees are along the forest edge, and these became over the years a lurching line of fallen soldiers still stubbornly producing fruit for their abusers.

We have a conflicted relationship with wildlife. After the Chicken Wars, we decided never to kill predators again (including fruit predators :D ). Our final solution was to cede the old orchard to the wildlife and plant a new one surrounded by serious fencing. Defeat With Honor. We called the fenced area The Compound (also known as the fruit tree prison), and we planted apple, peach, plum, cherry and pear trees. The Compound also houses 18 blueberry bushes, gooseberries, currants, 2 rows of raspberries and 3 garden beds. We ran electric wire around it and have a charger hooked up, but we've never needed to turn it on. Yet.

Now we enjoy seeing wildlife in the old orchard and even have a game camera mounted there. A couple of photos (grainy and blurry, as game cameras are):

Image

Image

I mentioned in another post that we saw a cougar swagger through our property about 18 months ago. I wish we'd taken a photo, but we were just dazzled by the sight and couldn't think. We also see bobcats, owls and pileated woodpeckers on a regular basis. It's a privilege.

One last story. DH may have given up the old orchard, but the plum trees by the house were sacred. The bears eventually discovered those, and they eventually became brave enough to initiate nighttime raids. DH was furious; he loves plums.

One night, we were returning home late after being gone for a few days. DH was convinced that bears were stealing all the plums in our absence. He raced up the driveway and came to a stop with the high beams lit, intent on spotting a larcenous bear or two. We didn't see anything under the trees in our headlight beam, but once out of the car, we heard a low growl in the darkness. We froze. Another growl, more insistent...but our flashlight's small beam didn't reveal any huge, hairy beast under the trees. I scrambled frantically into the house for our big spotlight, dropping the door keys just like those ditzy people in horror movies and imagining a bear charging on DH. I finally found the spotlight and ran back outside with it. Nothing to be seen. Then another growl sounded, and we finally realized it was coming from up in one of the trees. We raised the light. There were 3 baby raccoons and a furiously growling mother.
Last edited by halfmoon on Tue Jan 24, 2017 9:32 pm, edited 1 time in total.

OTCW
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Re: Halfmoon's journal

Post by OTCW » Tue Jan 24, 2017 9:32 pm

halfmoon wrote:
George the original one wrote:My in-laws are in their 80s with 40 acres and a downsized herd of cattle. Fortunately they have a heat pump rather than using their woodstove! She is not in any condition to maintain the place, so it's he who keeps it going. He made an effort to look into moving a few years ago, but ended up deciding the work to move was greater than just decaying in place, so made a few more home renovations to enable an easier passage.
This is the scenario that keeps me up at night. I'm 21 years younger than DH (and haven't been through debilitating bouts of cancer), so I actually have more stamina. The problem: our chosen lifestyle is somewhat labor-intensive. More critically, it relies hugely on DH's mechanical expertise (lawn mowers, tractor, brush cutters, well pump, generators, solar system electrical, chainsaws, etc.). I'm pretty sure, though, that moving into town would be the first step to sitting in front of the TV all day.
My grandfather was a farmer. When he moved to town late in life, he kept a huge vegetable garden and greenhouse. Did fine with that transition until his late 80s. Couldnt handle the garden anymore, and went downhill fast.

halfmoon
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Re: Halfmoon's journal

Post by halfmoon » Tue Jan 24, 2017 9:50 pm

OTCW wrote:My grandfather was a farmer. When he moved to town late in life, he kept a huge vegetable garden and greenhouse. Did fine with that transition until his late 80s. Couldnt handle the garden anymore, and went downhill fast.
My grandfather was an urban farmer. He kept a huge vegetable garden (no greenhouse), and my grandmother canned all the excess. Every year, he chose something that supposedly wouldn't grow in Pennsylvania and planted it. Two things that stand out in my mind are cotton and peanuts. It was a revelation to me that there was a plant producing cotton balls and that peanuts grew undergound. When my grandfather pulled peanuts out of the dirt, I was astonished. I had imagined in the back of my mind that peanuts grew on trees and the shells were some sort of packaging. :oops:

When my grandfather turned 89, he went to his doctor and complained that it was getting hard to turn over his 1/2-acre garden by hand in the spring. He died a year after.

halfmoon
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Re: Halfmoon's journal

Post by halfmoon » Mon Feb 06, 2017 6:42 pm

I've been consumed with year-end accounting and meetings, so I dropped this for awhile. I hope there's still some interest in my tale. :(

THE HOMESTEAD/ACCUMULATION YEARS

We signed papers on the land in December, then drove up through deep snow to our new place to celebrate Christmas. We stayed there in the van for a couple of days, building a big rock-piled outdoor fireplace, stomping around in the snow (didn’t have snowshoes or skis yet), dreaming of the house we’d build and generally freezing our butts off. The only time we were actually warm was when we visited the people who lived in a log cabin on the parcel below ours. They had moved away by the time we moved in (therein lies a tale), but that Christmas their lantern-lit home was a lovely pool of warmth.

When we returned to the van on Christmas night, the thermometer read minus 20 Fahrenheit. We went to bed clothed in down and wool, propane heater running full out, but we just couldn’t get warm. DH was feeling sick due to the elevation, and our Weimaraner was shaking despite multiple blankets. We finally decided to drive down the mountain in the dark and seek warmer pastures. DH crawled across the dogs to the front of the van, turned the key…and the engine refused to fire. Everything, from battery to oil pan, was just too cold. This is the moment in the tragic couple-freezes-to-death movie when things look bad. :shock:

Ah, but our hero (DH) had installed a second battery in the van to power our lights, and he had a button on the dashboard that connected the auxiliary battery to the primary one when pressed. With the power boost, the engine caught and held. Happy ending.

All this drama didn’t take the edge off our enthusiasm, though. DH and I shared a weird desire to push ourselves, so battling the elements was just rocket fuel. Back home, we sat down and ran through some estimates of what it would cost us in time and money to fence the land, build a livable house, set up a solar/battery system and figure out what to do about water. There was one inescapable conclusion: we needed to work for another year before we could move.

DH was hesitant to dive off the no-more-income cliff anyway, so he took the news well. His loving wife? Not so much. Every part of me wanted to leave that hellish, stressful restaurant job and move to the mountains immediately. My in-home accounting business was going fine, but it also provided plenty of stress. It didn’t help that Seattle was in the middle of its 9-month rainy season, traffic on our hour-long commute was getting worse, our neighbors started a legal dispute over the easement road, DH’s son kept calling us to bail him out of trouble….I just wanted it all to magically go away.

I cried every day for a month. Not all day, but at least once a day. I began buying lottery tickets, which in my normally rational mind is worse than throwing dollar bills into a fire (at least the burning money will keep you warm for a moment). I finally snapped out of it. Feeling sorry for myself because I had to wait until age 34 to retire seemed kind of ridiculous. Besides, we had a house to build.

LucyInTheSky
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Re: Halfmoon's journal

Post by LucyInTheSky » Thu Feb 09, 2017 10:02 am

I'm still with you!

halfmoon
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Re: Halfmoon's journal

Post by halfmoon » Thu Feb 09, 2017 3:35 pm

Thank you, Lucy! Since you came up with the Halfmoon Saga tag, you HAVE to stick with me. :D

saving-10-years
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Re: Halfmoon's journal

Post by saving-10-years » Thu Feb 09, 2017 5:06 pm

@halfmoon, each story you tell dangles the threads of another story to come. So many things you talk about resonate with me, although I have led a far less adventurous life. Dug in for more stories (and yet more).

Hope that your life-as-accountant is now safely done with year end.

halfmoon
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Re: Halfmoon's journal

Post by halfmoon » Thu Feb 09, 2017 9:03 pm

saving-10-years wrote:So many things you talk about resonate with me, although I have led a far less adventurous life.
Oh, I don't know about the less adventurous part. I seem to recall something about you dealing with 25 first-time birthing ewes... :shock:

I wish I were done with year-end, but one client-perceived crisis after another seems to persist this year. We also just adopted a miniature border collie who was being sadly neglected by some neighbors. We'd been patting ourselves on the back for remaining dog-free the past year and having more freedom. The universe despises a vacuum. ;)

George the original one
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Re: Halfmoon's journal

Post by George the original one » Thu Feb 09, 2017 10:10 pm

halfmoon wrote:
saving-10-years wrote:We also just adopted a miniature border collie who was being sadly neglected by some neighbors.
Oh, good lord! Border collies left to inattention produce the most interesting tales... I sure hope yours has not reached the stage of writing its own adventures.

We had a neighbor who was best friends with his border collie. Then the neighbor passed away and his wife was no substitute, so the dog went looking for a new companion without the fine widow's permission... by sneaking out of the 2nd floor window whenever she wasn't looking. Yes, 2nd floor! We played host a few times during the dog's escapades, making sure no harm befell it. Widow did wise up fairly soon, after about dog's 4th visit to us, and got things squared away so she was dog's new best friend for the future!

halfmoon
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Re: Halfmoon's journal

Post by halfmoon » Thu Feb 09, 2017 11:12 pm

George the original one wrote:Oh, good lord! Border collies left to inattention produce the most interesting tales... I sure hope yours has not reached the stage of writing its own adventures.
Umm...exactly that stage. He's about two years old and the sweetest little thing you could wish for. The former owners acquired him on Craigslist at six months because they'd just bought a house on 10 acres, so of course they Needed A Dog. They were gone dawn to dusk and couldn't understand why the Dog couldn't happily confine himself to their unfenced land boundaries when left alone. After numerous calls and trips to retrieve him across the countryside, they started tying him up all day. When he managed to escape, they bought new and tighter collars. The day he arrive at our place, his collar was practically choking him. He'd chewed through his rope to escape, because Border Collie.

So, there's that one little flaw where we can't let him off a leash when out walking. We have 30 acres, but I don't think he's impressed. We're working on it.

Thinking of interesting adventures: we took him to the local rail trail the other day for a stroll. When I got out of the car and opened the back door to leash him...no dog. He was gone. I was completely mystified (and a bit freaked out) until I saw the open window on the other side. He had pressed the electric window lever, opened the window and jumped out. I need more coffee to keep up with this one.

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Riggerjack
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Re: Halfmoon's journal

Post by Riggerjack » Thu Feb 09, 2017 11:42 pm

All my dogs have been trained to the property lines. It's easy enough to do as puppies.

Piss in a spray bottle, spray the border you want to enforce, reinforce consistently. This is how dogs mark territory, so it is a pretty easy way to train. I recommend that you tie a ribbon or come up with some other visual cue, to ensure you are training to the same spot, and spraying accurately. Walks a few times a day is necessary. once he has it down, new areas can be established in a few days.

Of course, I was working with lab mixes. Way less energy than border collies. I highly recommend frisbees and tennis ball throwers. We had a Belgian teveran as a kid. Shepards just run too much.

Jason
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Re: Halfmoon's journal

Post by Jason » Fri Feb 10, 2017 12:36 pm

I'm REALLY trying to keep an open mind here, but I don't ever see a pair of upright bears and suggestions to piss into spray bottles as entering my comfort zone.

halfmoon
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Re: Halfmoon's journal

Post by halfmoon » Fri Feb 10, 2017 1:01 pm

Riggerjack wrote:All my dogs have been trained to the property lines. It's easy enough to do as puppies.
Yeah...we're amost 2 years too late on that one, but we may try it anyway. This one loves to hunt like no other dog I've seen. He goes into some sort of zone when he catches a scent, and all else is lost. Speaking of things lost: we just had him neutered (sorry, guys), and we're hoping that will help with the running off to find ladies part. I doubt it will dull his appetite for other sorts of hunting, though.
Jason wrote:I'm REALLY trying to keep an open mind here, but I don't ever see a pair of upright bears and suggestions to piss into spray bottles as entering my comfort zone.
Oh, you've just begun to stray from the comfort zone. Go on over to the toilet paper thread, then you'll see how boring this journal is. :o

Jason
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Re: Halfmoon's journal

Post by Jason » Fri Feb 10, 2017 1:26 pm

Well, based on what I've seen so far, I'm guessing that in the toilet paper thread, pictures of bears are used for pedagogical purposes.

Let me first work on a general bear acceptance and then we can address the possibility of me shitting like one.

Baby steps.

George the original one
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Re: Halfmoon's journal

Post by George the original one » Fri Feb 10, 2017 4:52 pm

There's a difference between bear and bare <ahem>

Jason
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Re: Halfmoon's journal

Post by Jason » Fri Feb 10, 2017 6:05 pm

Maybe. But if so, bearly.

halfmoon
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Re: Halfmoon's journal

Post by halfmoon » Fri Feb 10, 2017 6:15 pm

I can't bear these puns.

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