Posts tagged farm

And time marches on….

Fall has fallen in our little corner of the Pacific Northwest. I’m a southern transplant, and though I’ve lived here for more than 13 years, I’m still surprised when the season changes in September instead of late October. Of course, I should be equally surprised that summer arrives in July rather than April or May.

Here, Fall means the return of cool weather and rain. The maples, oddly, start turning in early June, but most trees start their transformation now, in early October. Not much color yet. Not sure we had enough extreme temperature this year to kick off a big color show. Summer was shorter and cooler than usual. The few warm weeks we had were stunningly perfect, but there weren’t many of them. Those native to the area tend to crave those hot, over 90* days, and probably feel they didn’t get any summer at all.

No big updates for the Alexander family. Work has been steady for both of us. Jay played manager for a month while the senior managers were on vacation, and he hated every minute. Neither of us likes that particular career path. The dogs are doing fine, all healthy and happy. River is still torturing his siblings, but he is such a delight it’s difficult to be upset with him. Pax and Pflouff are happy, contented dogs, but River is the living embodiment of JOY. It’s impossible not to fall in love with him. Just seeing him makes me smile.

Life on the farm has been uneventful. Blue and Guin are down in Olympia, rather than here at the house. Blue, in fact, is no longer mine. He officially belongs to his 13-year-old soulmate, Heidi. They are amazing together, and I can’t imagine a better home-for-life for him. Guin doesn’t like to be alone, so rather than keep her here, she’s living a happy retirement and being spoiled by children who like to comb her long mane and tail. Without the horses, the farm is considerably less chaotic. I raised a small vegetable garden with sugar snap peas, tomatoes, and cucumbers. Corn too, but it didn’t do so well up here on the ridge. I planted roses too.

We haven’t done any work on the house yet this year, but Jay is anxious to start on the basement. We’re planning to gut it, floor to ceiling, so we can redo the electrical, add heat and air between stories, update plumbing if necessary, and move walls around. We’re going to move the stairs around too, which will probably be the most expensive part of the process — and definitely the most inconvenient. Not sure what we’re going to do with the basement floor, but I’m determined to get the leak fixed!

I’ve been working on my novel. Slowly. But positive, forward progress. I like it, and I’m determined to get it finished. In the meantime I’m living vicariously through my dear friend Sharon Fisher whose first book, Ghost Planet, will be published by Tor in November 2012. I’m beyond excited for her. She deserves every bit of her success (and I highly recommend the book!).


First day of vacation

Today was the first day of my THREE week vacation. (Can you tell I’m really excited about having an extended break?) I haven’t yet unplugged — from anything — but it was a fun, relaxed, productive day just the same.

The day started sunny and cold. The cold was expected; the sun was a pleasant surprise. After scraping the ice off my car, Jay and I were up and out early. The Whidbey Island Kennel Club is holding a two-day show at the fairgrounds in Monroe this weekend. I wanted to watch obedience, particularly Utility, and I knew that was a morning thing, so we tried to get going as soon as possible.

I love the fairgrounds, but I was flummoxed by the parking. Instead of parking in the exterior lots, we were allowed to drive in and park around the buildings. That’s great if you’re showing, of course, and it’s nice if you’re a spectator *IF* you know where the open spaces are. Getting parked was disorganized (though I did finally run into a helpful attendant), and I accidentally ended up parking as far from obedience as possible. Sigh.

It turned out not to be such a bad thing, though. They had a comfy shuttle bus driving laps around the venue, so we didn’t have to trek over. That was good because we didn’t get to the obedience rings until close to 10:00. I was afraid I’d missed all the Utility classes because they show first, but this show had a lot of entries. There were 20+ entries in Utility B alone! We actually found a couple of chairs and settled in ringside to watch the last 7 or 8 people in the class.

So. Much. Fun. I enjoyed all the performances (even — or maybe especially — the NQs), but it was really nice to see the nontraditional breeds. There was a Bernese Mountain Dog who was an absolute HOOT. He didn’t qualify, but he was UP and happy. We also enjoyed a Siberian in the Novice ring nearby. Every time his handler changed speed at heel or turned when he wasn’t expecting it, he woooo’d at her. Hysterical! Of course, that NQ’d him too.

There have been times in the past where I’ve been less than impressed by the handlers — people who took it all too seriously and blamed the dogs for mistakes. I didn’t see that here. These were people with great attitudes, and the dogs’ attitudes were great too. I was also pleased to see how many of them ran to their crates afterwards for high-powered treats!

We stayed in the obedience building for about an hour and a half. I could have stayed all day, but I had told Jay that we would probably be done by lunch. It occurred to me as I sat there, that I was having so much more fun than I would have had in the conformation rings. Conformation just doesn’t do it for me!

We did the walk back toward the car on foot so we could check out all the buildings and, most importantly, the vendors. We visited with lots of dogs, chatted with friendly people, and spent a ton of money on dog toys and chewies. After we hit all the buildings and emptied our wallets, we left in search of lunch. (It occurred to me on the way that I’d compeltely forgotten about River’s lunch. Yikes! Bad parenting moment.) We did a salad bar and a personal pizza, and then ran errands — grocery, pellets for the wood stove, and gas for the generator. Got home, finally, at 2:30.

The next hour and a half was spent working outside, doing the last of the work we needed to do to get ready for winter. We put away hoses and extension cords, broke down the container garden and put away the plant-related things, cleaned off the front porch, got the generator set up, drained the baby pool, and moved the outdoor furntiture from the lawn to the back deck. All in all, it was a good afternoon’s work, though I’m muddy now, my shoes are wet, and my feet are icy. The dogs got a good run out in the front part of the property too.

We got all the winterizing done just in the nick of time. It’s 38 degrees right now — same temp it was at 8:30 this morning. Trace amounts of snow are predicted up here over the next couple of days, with snow levels down to sea level until Thursday. The mountain passes are getting decent amounts of snow, and at least one ski resort has already opened. It’s a La Nina year, which means we should be colder and wetter — read: snowier — than normal. We’ll be glad enough for the pellet stove and the generator.


Farm update

I love our little “farmlette,” but it is definitely an ongoing project. We’ve been here six years, and we’ve tackled projects a bit at a time as we can afford them. Most of the projects have been outside, not so much “making it pretty” as improving the form and function with mud control, fencing, clearing, etc.

When we first bought the place, I took photos. Last year, shortly after our fifth anniversary here, I took the same pictures over and compared them. We’ve done a lot! You can see those pictures (originals compared to five years later) here:

We just wrapped up our projects for 2010. In previous years we’ve focused on improving the property. This year we worked on the house itself. The biggest project of the year was work on the sunroom.

When we tore out the side deck last year our contractor found a fair amount of rot at one outside corner of the sunroom. This year we asked him to fix that and to replace the cheap, horribly energy-inefficient windows. While doing that work, he found the room — an addition on the home — was built on a… subpar… foundation, so he had to add that to the scope. Since the source of our basement leak was in that area — and exposed because of the foundation work — we also had him fix the leak and install french drains underground on that side of the house. Oh — and we discovered during the project that the room had no insulation underneath, so our contractor added that plus a vapor barrier.

Here’s a picture of the sunroom now. The paint isn’t even because it isn’t paint — it’s primer. I’m not going to paint the sunroom until I paint the whole house, and I’m hoping not to do that until we replace the roof. (It’s a hideous green color, which limits my choice of exterior paint colors.)

We’re ecstatic about how it turned out. The room used to be unbearably hot in the summer, but this year it was the same temperature as the rest of the house! Hope that’s true this winter too. We’re also thrilled to have gotten the leak fixed, the foundation sealed, and the drainage installed. We also replaced the gutters on the house this year, and the contractor thinks that plus the drainage work should have completely resolved any flooding in the basement. We’re supposed to have a bad winter this year, so I guess we’ll put that to the test!

Another project we did was rebuild the deck off the back of the sunroom. The old deck was a nightmare. It wasn’t even with the door, so you had to step down a non-standard, too-high distance from the house to the deck. It had no railings, and the stairs were just temporary, non-standard steps we added when we trashed the side deck.

Here’s a picture of the new deck. It’s medium sized — just right to add a couple of chairs and a small table.

It has a lovely view of our pastures.

Oh, in those last two pictures you can see some new gravel we put down this year. That area was heavily trafficked by the horses, and the drainage was bad, so it got terribly muddy. That was probably the last of the mud control we’re going to have to do.

The last big thing we did this year was work on the front porch. When we took out the side deck we found rot — a lot of rot — in the support posts under the front porch. The more our contractor got into it, the more rot he found. Just about the only thing that wasn’t rotted was the floor itself. He replaced the support posts and built central stairs, but as you can see from this photo, we haven’t come close to finishing it.

Part of the reason it’s unfinished is because I’m not sure what I want to do. Finishing the porch will be part of a complete redo of the front of the home, so until I have an idea what the front should look like, I don’t want to do major finish work on the porch.

So that’s pretty much all we did on the house this year. Next April we’re planning to FINALLY gut the basement. The goal is to take it down to the studs so we can see exactly what’s in the walls. Then we’ll prioritize what needs to be done. Things to do include:

  • Bring in propane.
  • Rewire so it’s capable of handing 21st century power demands AND hardwire in a large generator.
  • Move the hot water heater.
  • Install duct work and a heat pump.
  • Change the layout.
  • Change the stairs.

And that’s all in addition to sheetrocking, painting, decorating, and furnishing!  Yeah. We’re going to be working on that project for several years.

Finally, here are some River photos. He turned 16 weeks old yesterday. Still isn’t housebroken. We put the dogs outside for a couple of hours this evening so we could go to dinner. When we got home I went in the back and opened the dog door. While back there, I asked River if he needed to pee, and sent him into the grass. He declined, and we came inside. He walked to my desk and peed on the floor.

I am at my wits end. I have NEVER had a dog like this. I don’t know what I’m going to do. He is a dream dog — perfect — other than this, but that’s like saying Ted Bundy was a great guy except for the little serial killer issue.


Five years

I realized yesterday that our fifth year anniversary in this house was last month. I decided to take some pictures and compare them to the ones I took before we moved in. Enjoy!


Seattle summer is hard to beat

Seriously — we have the best summer in the country. The winters may drive me insane, but the summers are to DIE for. This year summer started in mid May. It has rained a handful of times… 3? 4?… since then. A few days have been in the 90s, but most in the 70s/lower 80s. Bliss!

My container garden is thriving. It’s low maintenance — I don’t have to fight bugs or bunnies or deer or weeds. All I have to do is water it each day, and I’ve done that religiously. I *did* have a near-tragedy with my tomato plant when the fruit-heavy top snapped off, but I tied it to the post in a way that the broken ends of the stem met and, believe it or not, I think it’s going to survive!

The wildlife is thriving too. We have a pack of coyotes living in our woods. I don’t see them too often, but we hear them at night fairly frequently. The deer have had their babies, though most of the ones around here this year are adolescents. I’ve enjoyed watching a nest of barn swallows grow up. Last year I don’t think any of this bird’s babies survived — falls from the nest are common and fatal — but this year all four of the babies did well. They all left the nest today!

Work is fine. I survived a round of vendor layoffs at the end of Q2, so I’ll be there for sure through the end of September. Beyond that nothing is certain. We’ve been saving money, and so we’ll be okay if I have to take a few months off, but there are pros and cons to that. I would LOVE to have the time off so I can work on my novel, and if I could guarantee I could restart the contract at my current job in Q1 next year, I would jump on that option. But I know that there’s no way they can guarantee that they’ll be able to rehire me next year, and it’s far easier to extend a contract than to get approval for a new one.

The other downside to taking time off would be financial. Like I said, we’ve been saving, so we’re not worried about not being able to afford the time off, but it would prevent us from fixing the drainage around the foundation this year. I really don’t want to deal with flooding in the basement again this winter! I suppose that as much as I want some time off to write, being employed and warm and dry is more important.

As I mentioned, I really have been working on my novel. I signed up for an online writing class to get my butt in the seat, and it actually worked! I’ve gotten some good feedback too.