Friday, November 16, 2012

Good Night Nine Trees (and Halloween Pics)

Time has once again flown by in its usual way.  Mid-November has arrived, and is emphasizing the difference between our farm in Eastern WA and our home in Western WA.  Here in Gig Harbor, the trees have mostly lost their leaves, a few hard frosts have arrived, and winter seems to be tapping at the door.  On the farm, winter has "done ready come".

We made our last journey to the farm for the winter (delayed by a few weeks while AdventureDad was playing in "the box" at Yakima), and put in a very productive four days.  The bulk of our time was spent putting French drains around 3 sides of our barn, in an effort to keep the dirt floor inside a little drier and channel the run-off from the roof (no gutters).  AdventureDad got to put in a couple hours running and excavator, which always makes a fun day for him.  The fun pretty much stopped there though... we worked in a driving snow storm as the mud got goopier and goopier, as only clay can.  However, we got the ditches dug out, and the gravel and pipe laid in, so we will see how effective it is in the spring!   In addition, AdventureDad winterized the tractor, and I tucked the orchard in for the winter with some dormant oil and burlap. 

It is funny, because despite how filthy, cold, and tired we were, we still enjoyed our time on Nine Trees.  (The girls are already begging to go back!)  It was amazing to see the storms come in.  We are on a high ridge in the foothills, so we can see the clouds sweep up the valley, and suddenly, they are around us.  This time it was an almost solid demarcation between storm and no storm.  One minute we were in the sun, and the next we were in the middle of a fleecy cloud with 5 feet of visibility and driving snow.  Pretty awesome!

Another awesome thing was seeing the well sitting there.  We ended up having to drill 890 feet, which is very deep for a well.  Most in the area are closer to 750 feet (still very deep), but we didn't hit much flow.  As I insinuated in my last post, we were pretty stressed.  With a well that deep, we were close to the end of our available funds, and the flow of 4 gallons/min was barely enough to claim a viable well, much less run a household.  However, the traditional method of measuring flow via pressurized air displacement is not as accurate in deep situations, so we opted to pay for a more expensive pump test.  Boy are we glad we did!  The pump test yielded a flow of 15 + gpm (probably over 20 but the driller's generator went out).  More than enough for a household.  Yay! and HUGE sigh of relief.
To wrap it all up, we hauled the camper home for the winter, where we can winterize it better, and I can clean it more thoroughly with the amenities of power and running water.  We felt really lucky, as this was probably the very last weekend that we could have gotten our work done before things freeze solid.

Of course before our jaunt to the farm we celebrated Halloween.  AdventureDad was able to come home 2 days early from his training exercise in Yakima to celebrate with us.  It was a pretty big deal, since he has only been home for 3 Halloweens (counting this one) since we have had kids due to deployments.  We had two little mermaids this year, which was incredibly adorable.  The city closes Harborview drive here every year, and all of the quaint little businesses stay open to hand out candy to the kids and cider, cocoa, etc. to the parents.  I will really miss this tradition when we move. but I know we will make new ones.

Overlapping all of this was an unfortunate knee injury for me.  I was washing our little horse trailer before parking it farther away for the winter.  I stepped off of the fender, as I had done several times already that day, but apparently my trajectory was wrong.  I felt my knee shift, heard and felt a loud pop, and fell the rest of the way to the ground.  I immediately knew something was very wrong, but all I could do was lay there for a few minutes and gather myself.  Livvy was cluelessly playing a few yards away, M was in school, and AD was in Yakima.  Needless to say my mind was racing as I suddenly felt very helpless (our house is in the country and isolated from our neighbors), although I had a feeling that I knew what had happened.  I managed to limp to the house (with Livvy solicitously and adorably holding my hand), take some ibuprofen, tuck her in for her nap, and rack out with some ice and an ace wrap.  This was only 2 days before Halloween and AD's return from Yakima, so I roughed it out until then, with my knee looking like it ate a cantaloupe for breakfast.  Of course as soon as AD returned from the box, he did an expert knee exam (one thing he's seen plenty of!), and confirmed my fear that I had done more than just sprain it.  An MRI early this week seconded it; a completely ruptured ACL and MCL, and compression fractures to my upper tibia.  I am currently impatiently working the military medical system with AD's help, which started with getting my robo-brace today (thankfully, as my knee has randomly and painfully been going out).  Next comes physical therapy and an orthopedics consult to decide when surgery will be (the sooner the better as far as I am concerned... I really want to just start the healing and rehab, a 6 month process!), but knowing this system, I doubt anything too exciting will happen until after Christmas.  Of course full updates will appear here :-).

And that is about that.  We are preparing for a much-anticipated journey back to Nana and Grandpa's house for Thanksgiving, where we will be sharing our thanks with my parents, my brother and his family, and in an extra-nice surprise, my Aunt and Uncle that I haven't seen for several years.  Of course more posts will follow that adventure!  Happy Thanksgiving to everyone near and far.

The Mermaid Sisters

The Start of the Snow on Nine Trees

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Falling into Fall

With our first days of torrential downpour, fall has officially arrived in the Pacific Northwest.  The push to get things done before winter is here, and I am woefully behind on all of those things I meant to do before it got soggy and muddy again, but here it is, ready or not.

October has been a delightfullly busy month for the AdventureFamily.  Early in the month we spent a wonderful long weekend on 9 Trees.  AdventureDad got a new layer of grass seed planted in the hay pasture, and we met the driller and started the well drilling process (it has turned into a bit of a saga, but I am waiting until it is all done before I divulge more... look to the next post for updates!).  This is huge for us... where we are the wells are incredibly deep, so it is an impressive investment in the farm.  It is also necessary to have the well so that we can get our building permits in the spring.  The thought that next year we will have our very own running water is awe-inspiring at this point.  Yay us!  We also took a "break" from work immediately on the property, and did some work clearing out the easement that accesses the bottom portion of our property (our acreage is almost 1/2 mile long, down a steep canyon, so an access easement comes through the neighboring lots to reach the bottom).  We hacked foliage, sawed trees, and cleared obstructions until we were exhausted, but we also got to spend a day in the woods, which the girls loved.  We also found A LOT of bear sign, re-confirming that the presence of black bears will be a part of our existence there.

After our sojourn in the farm, it was back to life on the wetter side of the state.  We went to a pumpkin patch as a field trip for Livvy's preschool, and then carved the pumpkin that evening before celebrating Livvy's 3rd birthday (AdventureDad had to leave the next day to be in the field for awhile, missing Halloween, so we did it a bit early).  My sweet baby girl is 3!  I can't believe how much life this happy, opinionated, silly, serious, loving little being brings into our lives every day.  There is no vestige of baby left in her, as she easily holds her own with her big sister and the rest of us as well.  Sad for mommy, but part of life, and it is a joy to witness her discovery of the world.

Last but not least, fall brings the close to my vegetable gardening season.  I am still hoping that a few of my heirloom tomatoes will ripen (although I did also do an early harvest and we had some DELICIOUS fried green tomatoes a few nights ago), but in general the crops are coming to a close.  The cool, wet weather invites mildew, and between that and the cool nights I am slowly losing the battle.  So, time to bring in the last few green beans, the last cuttings of broccoli raab, and the last zucchinis.  The brussels sprouts are swelling, the carrots are sweetening, and the potatoes are waiting patiently for me to dig.  I was hoping to store my parsnips in the ground a while longer (frost can mellow the flavor), but a suspicious wilting of some of the chard (as if the roots were gone), followed by a tell-tale hump in the dirt made me do a little exploratory digging, and I discovered that a busy gopher has been helping himself.  Most of my biggest parsnips fell victim, but I still harvested about 10 lbs worth... not bad for a square yard of ground!  (Parsnip is one of my very favorite winter soup ingredients, yummmm!).

Gathering Pumpkins is Serious Business
M's Pumpkin Was Easier to Subdue

The Family Lantern
Let the Drilling Commence!

As Three As Can Be!

The Parsnip Harvest

Apparently gophers don't like the skin...a perfect parsnip shell was left behind!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Sunny September

It just amazes me how fast this summer has gone.  How is it suddenly September?!  We have been keeping busy as usual, with life centering around both Gig Harbor and 300 miles away at Nine Trees.  The girls continue to be stellar travelers.  I am glad this crazy part of our life is happening when the girls are so young and take everything in stride so well. This summer the farm has been much more manageable as we are able to put some things off until next year when, things going as planned,  we should be moving into our brand new house in the fall.  After the initial hay-making flurry this spring, we are in a maintenance cycle at the moment, with the most pressing task being to keep the trees watered and alive through the heat of the summer.   Thanks to our generous neighbor's well, so far so good!  We also got the play structure finished, much to the delight of the Adventure Girls.  M has decided that it is the perfect house for her pet praying mantises (the girl doesn't have a squeamish bone in her body!) Activity will pick up a bit next month with some seeding and fertilizing, then we will be tucking the farm in for the winter.  The most exciting development is that we had a site visit from one potential builder last week, and we are talking seriously with another builder this week.  We should be making up our minds and moving forward with the initial steps toward construction before the new year starts.  I can't tell you how excited we are!
Back at the "other farm" in Gig Harbor, upon our return from a long weekend at Nine Trees, we were delighted to find that Marshmallow (our coronation sussex hen) has started laying.  We now have three laying hens, just waiting on Ava, the last one.  It is cute to see the tiny eggs that the youngsters are laying now.  I will have to show a pic one of these days!  I also discovered a nice large zucchini in the hoop house.  It has been so cool this summer, I am just not having a lot of success, but we did get our first ripe tomatoes, a couple okra, the big zuch, and a ton of green beans, so I guess I can't complain!  Time to get the fall cool weather crops in the soil too!  Just ordered the seeds, so once they get here I will have to hurry a bit to get them going.  Thankfully the hoop house should extend my growing season enough that they will do OK.
Saving the best for last, M had her first day of kindergarten yesterday.  Talk about a bittersweet moment.  How is it possible that my little baby can get on a bus, ride to school, spend all day away from me, and magically show up on the bus in the afternoon, all by herself?  Of course I couldn't make the change that quickly, so after putting her on the bus, AdventureDad and I drove to the school and met her at that end.  I am glad we did, because her class was certainly a bit crazy, and the help from me and a few other protective parents was welcome.  O missed her "sissy" all day long, but I get the feeling she was starting to see the up side to having mommy all to herself.  O starts pre-Preschool next week, 1.5 hours one day a week.  Not much, but a little start on socialization for her and a little bit of freedom for mommy.   Life just keeps changing!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Summer in Full Swing

I feel horrible complaining about our prolonged cool spring, given the sweltering heat in the rest of the country, but IT IS ABOUT TIME we had weather above 80 degrees for more than a single day at a time!  Yes, sunshine and temps above 80 for the WHOLE WEEK!  Now, in mid-July, it finally feels like summer.
So what have we been up to?  Well, after putting up hay on Nine Trees, which I think I mentioned last blog, the spring work was done on the farm.  We went out there again last weekend and set up a drip watering system in the orchard that is gravity fed from a cistern that our neighbor generously lets us fill from his well (until we get a well drilled next year).  The trees should benefit from the more efficient use of water, and I have hopes that the wind-break hedge that I planted this spring might actually survive and grow.
 Despite the hours in the car (six each way), the killer gas bills, the "roughing it" in the camper, and the consumption of half of our weekends during the summer, every visit we make to Nine Trees is like a balm for my soul.  It is such a fresh, beautiful, free place, and we are all in our element. I love that our girls are happy as clams playing out in the weather, the most thrilling things being a tiny spring with frogs in it and of course the gravel pile by the barn.  I love that we go to bed when it gets dark and wake up when it gets light, that we fall asleep listening to the crickets and owls.  I even love working on the land in the sweltering heat or the gusting wind. It is impossible not to stop and smell the roses.  It is also impossible not to dream.  This is where we are going to settle down for good! I love so much of what the military has given us... the friends, the overseas experiences, the perspective on life, but I will be SO happy to be able to stop saying "goodbye".   I will be able to plant a garden and watch the plants mature, make friends and watch our friendship mature, watch our family mature without the stop-hitches caused by deployments.  I will enjoy our last few years in the military, but I will enjoy it even more when we are done and living on Nine Trees!
OK, enough pontificating on my part.  The last thought of the day... thank you to my dear husband for putting the second planter box in my hoop house this year.  With the cool spring nothing would be growing yet, and here I am harvesting.  We have been eating lettuce and turnips for weeks, the peas are in fine form, and we had one of my favorites... stuffed squash blossoms... for dinner last night.   I love fresh produce!  Combined with the fresh eggs from our chickens, I can feed our family 1/4 of what we eat in a week right from our garden.  Enjoy the pics!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Beautiful Spring

Oh, Thank God for Nine Trees!  This last weekend we escaped the perpetual rain and sog on this side of the state for a gorgeous spring weekend on Nine Trees Farm.  Granted, it was our usual rush to get way too much work done in too short a time, but we sure did enjoy it.  We feel downright pampered in our new camper, and it makes our late-night arrivals so much easier when we don't have to set up the tent camper in the dark.  So, after an after-dark arrival on Fri night, we woke up to the calls of meadowlarks, warm sunshine, a slight breeze, and rolling hills covered in green grass.  Talk about good for the soul!  Unfortunately duty called, and we spent most of Saturday in the car, but for an exciting purpose.  We drove a little over an hour to the Tri-Cities (a conglomeration formed by Richland, Pasco, and Kennewick, WA) to interview/tour a company that is the top candidate for building our house next summer.  We liked what we saw, and we're about ready  to step off the ledge and get the whole process moving.  Exciting and terrifying all rolled into one!
After returning home, we went out to dinner with our only nearby neighbors and their visiting kids (they live about 1/4 mile away... the next closest neighbor is almost a mile down the road), and collapsed into bed exhausted once again.
Sunday morning was another gorgeous day, and AdventureDad hopped onto the tractor to begin a day of weed spraying in the hay field while I took the girls to the orchard to do some fence repair.  I got a section of fence that had blown over re-set, while M flew her kite and L pretended to be a baby deer in the tall grass.  Did I mention we have two of the most tolerant, toughest, most wonderful little girls on the planet?  Despite 6 hours in the car either way, they LOVE our trips out to the farm, and their enjoyment makes it that much more fun for AdventureDad and I.  We feel obligated to put up a play set for them at some point this summer, and that will certainly be a labor of love.  I won't complain about a little less playing on the dirt/gravel piles either.  The camper is awesome, but we still only have the water in our tanks to wash up with!
Luckily we were able to finish up and drive home Sunday night to arrive home at a fairly decent hour.  Hopefully that trend continues.  I long for the day when we make our final move out there and this craziness can stop!
Here are the pics from our little slice of heaven.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Our Little Princess

This is just a quick post to put up the latest picture of our biggest AdventureGirl. She just started pre-ballet classes at the YMCA, and of course is thrilled with the whole proceeding. I on the other hand feel like a duck out of water. Not known for my physical grace, not a dancer myself, and having never taken a dance class (thank goodness for my own kinder-gymnastic experiences at the Y or I would be completely hopeless!), I was shocked at how seriously most of the moms are taking this class. The age range is 3-5 people! Come on!!! Luckily M is oblivious to it, and we are meeting our goal of her learning a little more "mind over matter" when it comes to coordination :-) We'll see where it goes from there, but it certainly isn't worth an ulcer.

Not much else has happened of late. We all got hit with a double dose of the crud, and are slowly ridding the household of it. We also learned an unfortunate lesson about Dora (the dog, not the cartoon) and chickens, so now I am in the chicken-nursing business and Glenda is missing a lot of skin off of her back. No eggs for now, and I will be surprised if she recovers, but stranger things have happened. Luckily Cheep, Peep, and Banana are doing well, so there is hope of more eggs in the late fall.

AdventureDad also started putting together the second raised bed for the hoop house, and I am chomping at the bit to start my spring planting. We got a crop of turnips and greens over the winter, so I have high expectations for the summer !

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Big Red

So, the AdventureFamily has recently acquired two red things that will have an impact on our lives. The first is Glenda (the good chicken), named of course by AdventureDad. Glenda is a Rhode Island red who was an excess hen on a friend's farm. She has since moved in here, and is faithfully laying us a delicious brown egg every day. Of course we couldn't stop there, and we also have 3 chicks in the basement that are rapidly growing. Cheep is a Wellsummer chicken, Peep is a silver-laced Wyandotte, and Pep is a light Sussex. Talk about a mixed flock, and if they all turn out to be hens (there is a 50/50 shot on both Cheep and Pep), we will be drowning in eggs. Doesn't sound too horrible to me!
The other item is "Big Red", the "new" tractor. Several decades newer than Jimmy's antique, it is a bit more powerful, more reliable, and has a bucket on the front, all of which should make our life on Nine Trees a little easier.
We made our first trip out to the farm last month, and succeeded in getting the truck firmly stuck in the mud (yes, it was me). Thankfully our neighbor Rod is a lifesaver who happens to have an astounding collection of equipment, and he quickly rolled up in his bulldozer and pulled us out like it was nothing.
Since then, AdventureDad has had surgery on his elbow. He had an old injury from his first deployment that has slowly been worsening, and finally had to go in to have a collection of bone fragments removed from the joint and the nerve re-routed to a spot where it will get pinched less. I'll post the gory pictures later, but the poor guy had a purple arm from shoulder to fingertips. He's healing well now, although very frustrated at the slow progress (we're coming up on the 3 week anniversary), but it should pay off in the end.
We are now in the "pre-hay" season, starting to plan our trips out to the farm and figure out a timeline for getting the weeds sprayed, the hay cut and baled, and the seeds and fertilizer put down for next year. On top of it all, we are starting to tease ourselves with the idea of starting construction on our house this summer. A bit earlier than the original plan, but we are hoping it will give us time to do a bit more of the work ourselves. We shall see!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

AdventureGirl's B-day

Well, it has happened, another year has passed, and AdventureGirl is growing up. Simultaneously bittersweet and wonderful, this birthday really brought home to me how fast life can go by, and I feel thankful that I have two sweet and wonderful little girls to bring love and challenge into my life on a daily basis. This year we have actually been in one place long enough for M to have made friends, so we went all-out and had a rain-proof indoor party at a local place called Jump! that the girls both love. (Fortuitous since it rained all day!) Picture a giant room full of inflatable slides and bouncy castles and you pretty much have it. Nothing like non-stop jumping, sliding, and running to make a group of kids happy and cooperative! Needless to say they had a blast, and the parents got a nice chance to visit too. My daughter, a girl after my own heart, requested (without even a hint from me) a lemon cake with strawberry frosting, and I was more than happy to oblige.
Enjoy the pics!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

After the Blogging Sabbatical

Well, I am officially back at it again. My deployment-induced facebook fervor has died down, and I am suddenly finding less and less time to devote to keeping up with my FB account. I won't even attempt to update all that has happened since my last post, but in a whirlwind of run-on sentences; AdventureDad returned from Afghanistan this last spring, and we immediately embarked on a furious summer of crash-course hay farming. We have slowly been acquiring the necessary farming implements, (although the vast majority of them are older than even the most wizened member of the AdventureFamily) and this spring we put them to use on Nine Trees. Nana and Grandpa joined us in their camping trailer for a week of haying fun that involved more equipment repair than actual cutting of grass, but in the end we did have a trailer-full of fairly respectable hay bales, the last of which the horses are currently munching on in the barn. The first cutting was followed by the barn-building. Yes, the first structure is officially standing on our farm. Of course to build the barn we also had to put in an access road, so next step this summer is to apply for an address. Exciting times! After the barn was built (not by us), we embarked on a field-improvement campaign that involved enlarging the existing hay field (it's almost double now), putting down some new grass seed, and fertilizing. At the end of the season we also erected a wind barrier for the orchard (we'll see if it is still standing this spring) and winterized the equipment. That was pretty much our summer... fun and exciting for us, and a little hard to fathom for most of the people we know. We loved getting to know our place better, and we did not love the 600 mile round trip that each weekend out there entailed. The AdventureGirls logged more hours in the truck this summer than many commercial drivers ;-). Our ancient pop-up trailer was our home away from home, and the girls luckily tucked right in to camping with apparent enjoyment. Hope it stays that way, as we have another full summer ahead of us this year! The dogs also love the farm, as they have miles of unimpeded exploring to do, the culmination of which was Dora getting skunked three, yes THREE times, one of which involved dragging a half-dead baby skunk into the middle of camp. Apparently for her the burning mucous membranes and week-long banishment to the garage do not out-weigh the thrill of the hunt.
Fall was spent mostly around Gig Harbor, slowly accumulating more trees to plant on Nine Trees, putting up a hoop house in the garden, and getting things a bit more organized here. We had a grand Thanksgiving here with half of the immediate Duncan clan in attendance, followed by a Merry Christmas (sans snow) at Nana and Grandpa's in MT. We are now currently thawing out from our annual snow-dump, which involved 7 inches of wet snow topped off by a full day of freezing drizzle. Post was closed for three days, power was out all over the peninsula, and my hoop house and the ancient wood shed in our back yard were both flattened into pancakes. They even had to close the narrows bridge (our only direct route to the mainland) for a full day due to giant falling icicles. Now we are rapidly thawing (and flooding) in preparation for a new week, the first full one for awhile for AdventureDad, which is good because he had some time to recover from catching a piece of flying wood on the chin. A sore (but thankfully unbroken) jaw, 10 stitches (on the surface), and a sure-to-be-tale-inducing-new-scar-in-the-making were the result of a kick-back from the table saw which has resulted in a plethora of new safety measures in the shop. Push sticks, eye glasses, and ear protection were insufficient, so we now have added feather boards, jigs, and a plexiglass face shield to ward off future projectiles!
The girls have been in fine form all summer, with M taking to preschool like a duck to water and O deciding that she would leap from single words to full sentences in the space of about 3 weeks. I am sure as I get back into posting more AdventureGirl-related shenanigans will surface, but my momentum has been exhausted for the time being. Enjoy the picture, and keep tuning in as I'll be back soon!