Wow, it’s been almost a month since I last posted. I’ve been writing three blog posts in my head. Ratatouille as a winter stew (still to come). The saga of the four baby chicks born in the middle of October (all chicks have now gone to chicken heaven, victims to being stuck under Mamma’s wing unnoticed, a too cold morning, and at almost four weeks old, the last one to the neighbors cat…ugh. Enough said about that). And one about…oh yeah, moving 200 miles south.
Those of you following along may remember I have been living north of Spokane Washington since June 2010 while my husband has been living and working in Walla Walla Washington (200 miles south) during the week, and coming home to Spokane on the weekends. Why? It’s a long story that I won’t go into here. But after realizing that his job was really really great (so great that he got a promotion six months after taking it), that there was no way the job was going to move to Spokane, that there was no equivalent type job IN Spokane, and finally selling our house in Colorado, we decided to purchase property in Walla Walla.
Spokane is zone 5 (-30 to -20 max cold in winter). Walla Walla is zone 6 (-20 to -10 max cold in the winter). The Spokane property has limited water (not a great well, no irrigation ditch, about 27 inches of rain per year, mostly in the winter). The Walla Walla property has great water (a great well, access to irrigation water, and only a little less rainfall at 21 inches per year). Walla Walla averages about 10 degrees warmer year round than the Spokane area. I spent last winter dealing with deep snows in an isolated location mostly alone. The Spokane farmhouse is not well insulated, dark, and relies entirely on electricity for heat and water. A bright warm house with a wood stove and a husband to keep me warm at night had a pretty big appeal!
So, we purchased a slightly larger than four-acre property west of Walla Walla at the end of September and have spent the last month and a half making upgrades (all flooring and appliances replaced – can we say dated and SO not our style…oh yes we can), putting in propane for a gas stove (OMG, OMG, no more flat top electric stove, can I get a hallelujah), setting up accounts (hooray for DSL), and moving (for the second time in two years) all of our stuff (including about 100 jars of home canned goods), plants, cats, chickens and bees down to the new place one van/truck load at a time. (Moving the chickens was hysterical. We collected them in the late evening when they were easy to catch, putting them into dog carriers, cat carriers and a four drawer plastic recycling center, and then driving them to their new home first thing in the morning. Two laid eggs along the way, and eleven more laid eggs within about an hour of arrival. I had to roll down the windows of the van for an air exchange about every 45 minutes as 20 birds in boxes can get rather stinky. But all arrived safe and sound and ready to scratch through the fall leaves looking for goodies.)
The property here is amazing. The perimeter is fenced for goats. The front pasture (future home of the market garden) is fenced and already has a sprinkler system – and is feet away from the ditch irrigation line. There is a lot of mature landscaping, including two English walnut trees (I haven’t had a nut-tree since I left California in 1990). The growing possibilities are much expanded because of the better climate and water. The soils are great. Behind us is a piece of property under conservation easement that borders a creek. There is a garage, three stall horse barn and shop. Above the garage is a separate mother-in-law room that I plan on turning into a commercial (read inspected) kitchen so I can sell jams, herbs, breads etc. at farmers markets. The house is bright, well insulated, in great shape, and has a wood stove for supplemental heat. It’s all very exciting.
But the move is also bittersweet. It is hard moving to a new community. It takes time to put down roots and meet people. I was JUST starting to do that in Spokane. I had met several wonderful neighbors, worked with local 4H kids, and made some wonderful new friends at the farmers markets. I was starting to develop a following for my toiletry products. And I made my first real girlfriend in the Spokane area, Lauri. I think we might have been separated at birth, given our similar interests and paths exploring them. Lauri is the brains (and often the brawn, though her husband Steve helps) of Pleasant Prairie Farms. She sells garden plant starts, veggies, hand crafted barn wood signs and baskets (she also does custom signs), and now the most wonderful artisan breads. She can be found at the Spokane Public Market Thursday through Saturday. She is, literally, the hardest working woman I know.
We still absolutely love the farm north of Spokane. The location, the history, the energy of the place. We’re still unsure if/when we will sell it. For now, we’ll just button it up tight for the winter (don’t want to be a landlord to a tenant there during the winter – too many things to go wrong) and keep it. In fact, we just put a new roof on the place (including additional insulation).
So, this last year has been a huge learning curve. Time to think. Time to learn to live alone again and be in my own head. Time to be resourceful while we were paying two mortgages, rent in Walla Walla, and making other loan payments (it’s good to put those college budget skills back into use from time to time). Time to start a new business and learn that I really could do it. Time to plan. Time to market. Time to grow. Time to raise 20 baby chicks born in April (who are all still alive and thriving). Time to start a new hive of bees. Time to make sourdough. Time to make jam, and salsa, and canned tomatoes, and frozen chard/spinach/kale/green beans/peas/strawberries/blueberries. In short, its been a busy exhausting thrilling crazy year. And next year will be even better.
Now…about that ratatouille recipe.
Miles Away Farm Blog © 2011, where we’re miles away from Spokane, and are watching our old dog scratch a bed out of the vinca vine in the yard before laying down on this blustery 52 degree day.