Monday, December 31, 2012

Searching for Land

A couple of weeks ago, Kelsey and I went on a lovely vacation to the Oregon coast.  While we were out there, we stopped by a couple of properties that were for sale near Astoria to check them out.  Unfortunately, one of them was definitely not for us, and the other was only just good enough to stay on "the list"... but it's no where near the top.  These couple of properties have put searching for the right piece of land at the top of my mind.  It's only about 10 months until Kelsey has a nursing job and we can move forward on building our homestead and our lives together, and even though I've been living and breathing permaculture and homesteading for the past 4 years, in some ways I feel as if starting up a homestead is sneaking up on me.

Sometime in January, we're going to drive out to The Dalles and check out a couple more pieces of land.  One of them is almost 50 acres, with a yurt on it already (score!), and that overall seems to be pretty nice.  It has a decent amount of south facing slope (maybe 40% of the total land area), but it also has a decent amount of north facing slope, so we need to check out the true lay of the land by visiting and figuring out just what angle the north facing slope lies upon.  If it's not too steep, it could make for a good potential homestead.  (North facing slope is usable and might as well be level as long as the angle of the slope is equal to or less than the angle of the sun above the horizon during the winter time.)

The other piece of land is a more affordable 38 acre piece of land that has AMAZING views of Mt. Hood and Mt. Adams.  It also has a building on it, though the building is unfinished and not very ecological.  Unfortunately, the property also sits around 2600 feet of elevation, which could limit some of the things I'm hoping to accomplish with a homestead.  Again, I don't really have a good feel for the slope of the land, which could make all the difference.

With both of these properties, it's important to look at them first before getting too excited about the size and/or price of the land offered.  Also, it's important to know exactly what I'm wanting out of land.  I think I have about a 90% idea of what it is I want, but the scary part is the other 10%.  In many things in life, the last 10% is just the details, but it's those details that can make or break a project/idea/dream.  And to be totally honest, even after 4 years of thinking about this, I don't really have the details worked out because it's nearly impossible to work out the details without already having the land you're trying to work out the details on.  So I'm feeling a slight bit of angst about the catch-22 I seem to be caught in.

In response to this angst, I have three major goals I'm setting for myself for 2013.

  1. I'm setting out to learn as much as I can able "real estate."  I'm not interested in becoming a realtor, but I am interested in becoming an effective and savvy buyer.  Negotiating offers, owner carried loans, due diligence, etc., is something pretty new to me, so I'm starting to try to learn everything I can about it.
  2. I'm dead-set on getting a Permaculture Design Certificate (PDC) this year.  I think that I might be able to make the 10% unknown shrink to about 5% or less unknown after a PDC, and that's enough to work with for sure.  (Honestly, 10% unknown is enough for me to work with, because I'm willing to be uncomfortable or even downright miserable for a little while if the unknowns turn out to be more difficult to work around than I thought.  However, I'm not willing to make Kelsey go through that, so I feel that extra planning and prepping are needed.)
  3. I'm going to do my best to learn the basics of carpentry this year.  While there are many other things that are long-run more important systems to build on the homestead, it's not a homestead unless it has a home on it.  And to do that in the ecological way I'm hoping to, I'm going to need some carpentry skills.  
If we happen to buy a property like the 50 acres mentioned above that already has a yurt or some other home on it, that'll make things much easier... but if we don't, I'm going to need to be able to build things properly with my own hands. I'm much more keen on building sweat equity by being a producer than I am working to earn money from someone else so I can pay it to a contractor to do something I could've learned to do on my own, so I'm focusing strongly on those skills during 2013.

Overall, even though I'm nervous, I'm very excited.  I've never felt closer to realizing my dream of building a homestead than I do right now.  I'm working on getting a better job, or just a second job, and saving as much as I can towards a down payment.  Kelsey is working hard at school, and will be making quite a bit more money than I am come October or November.  Once we're in that position, it won't be far off that we're feeling ready to buy land... and once that happens, starting a family isn't far behind.  I'm excited to start my "adult" life, and to begin building systems of resilience that will last and get better for 7 generations and beyond.  Thinking of it that way also helps me be mindful of the fact that it's ok if I make mistakes along the way, as long as I keep the end in mind.  Overall, I do want to minimize those mistakes to make things nice for this generation as well.  There are many things to balance, but that's what ecological design is all about.

I hope the New Year will provide you with as much excitement as it is promising to provide me.  What're you working on this year?  What major events in 2013 might shape your life for years to come?  What goals do you have?  As a brief plug for a website run by someone I admire, I'd like to mention that I'm sharing and working on my goals at a website called 13 Skills.  The idea of the website is to set goals to develop 13 skills during 2013.  I discussed a few of my 13 goals above in this post.  What are some of your goals this coming year?  Do you have any skills you're working on?  If so, head over to 13 Skills and post them.  You don't really have to hit 13 skills in 2013 if you don't want to, but what can it hurt to try?

Anyway, enough of the plug.  Let me know what you think about my search for land and my reservations and nervousness thereof.

As always, thanks for reading.  And Happy New Years!

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Put Carbon Back Into the Soil

The following video could be the most important talk ever given:


Obviously, there is a lot of technique that goes into properly managing pasture in order to use the soil to rapidly absorb carbon, but it's just something we need to start doing, and right now.  Personally, I plan on getting a copy of Holistic Management: A New Framework for Decision Making by Alan Savory pretty soon, and reading up on it.  According to Paul Wheaton and some of the other most knowledgeable folks I know, Alan Savory is the man when it comes to range management.  If you want to read up on it as well, please click the link above... if you order it from that link the Permie Homestead Blog gets a small kickback.

I'm working on a much longer post in which I will speculate about the ability of the excess carbon in the air to actually create a far more lush plant environment, but it's probably going to be a ways off (I actually see the potential for it to turn into an academic paper, if I ever take the time to research it enough and expand it accordingly).  For now, watch this video, and start thinking about what you can do to help start pumping carbon back into the soil.

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Preparing for Winter

Well, it's December 1st, 2012.  Only 20 short days until the Mayan apocalypse, right?  I personally don't think so, but who am I to judge?

I do think that fantastic opportunity may be available for those who are willing to seize it.  There are many folks who probably went off the deep end with the 2012 meme, and who will have generators, food, and other supplies that they will think they won't need after December 21st turns out to be just another day.

On December 22nd and after, when you talk to someone from Craigslist, or from eBay, or wherever you might be shopping around for a cheap generator (et al.), I encourage you to help broaden their horizon, and educate them on why their generator might be useful for them in a month, or 6 months, or a year from now.  They'll probably be caught off guard by you encouraging them not to sell the thing you contacted them about.  Only after you've given them a small lesson on why it's good to be prepared all the time, and they've declined your wisdom, should you then take advantage of the deal they're offering you.  Perhaps you'll plant a seed in their mind, or perhaps you'll get a killer deal on something that'll help you prepare for when a real catastrophe comes your way.  Either way, I think it's a win-win scenario from the perspective of both parties.

To conclude, I hope that the end-of-year times find you well.  Don't get caught up in the consumerist fervor that comes in the month of December (in the western world anyway).  Remember what this time is really about... spend time with your family and loved ones because it's so cold and dreary outside and there isn't much else to do.  Hunker down with a blanket and a book and be at peace.  The sun will return soon, and there will be work to do.  Enjoy the tranquil darkness while it lasts.