Tuesday, August 31, 2010


I started work again yesterday and was immediately greeted by 90 minutes in my car. Ugh.

My drive isn't terrible. It is 33 miles one way and picturesque throughout. It takes me exactly 42 minutes door to door, day in and day out. Unlike my Seattle commute (Cap Hill to Skyway,) it never varies. There's never an accident or construction to turn a 20 minute drive into 2 hours of hell. But I just can't get around feeling like I'm wasting a huge part of my life driving and flipping through the radio listening to NPR or sports radio or the 80s station.

Zoo and I did our budget last week and found out that we were spending about 25% of our disposable income on gas. Driving and eating up gas is one of the lifestyle costs of living in the country. Still, it bugs me.

So I decided to start biking part of the way. This morning I drove to Brickerville, up and over the N. Fork - Siuslaw River Rd and parked by the bridge in Minerva. Hopped on the bike and did the 12 miles to school in about 45 minutes. It's a beautiful ride. The gradual decent down the N Fork starts in pure coast range forest and quickly opens up with the valley into a string of pasturages. Little homesteads, barns and cows fill the flatlands and the hills above feature various stages of logging from clear cut to mature forest. Finally, it all levels out into a broad estuary rife with ducks and geese. The weather this morning was perfect. Fog clung to the hills, but slowly burned away as I rode. A hint of blue sky was overhead when I pulled into the school parking lot.

So my commute now takes a good bit longer, but it doesn't feel so wasted.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


Our house is heated solely by wood, so getting the firewood is a big chore. As typical, we forgot about it until August and then panicked about getting enough. We had four truck-loads (about a third of a cord each) already on this side of the creek from a couple trees we dropped in 2008. Over by the loafing shed, we had a mess of big logs where the county had cut some of our trees for a new culvert. I hand split (with Mark and Billy's help) about half the wood and Ray and Billy got the other half with a rented pneumatic splitter. Adding in last year's leftovers, we had fourteen truck loads. They'll sit out on the point to dry until the rain comes at the end of September, then into the shed. Will it be enough?

Sunday, August 15, 2010


I've been thinking a lot about homesteading lately. Obviously, where we live has the biggest influence on me, but recently, I read a bunch of literature about it. Opal and Helen are obsessed with the Little House on the Prairie books, I read The Worst Hard Time about the Dust Bowl and I am currently reading Out of the Dust to Opal. (Helen doesn't like it.) My grandmother (b. 1918) and grandfather (1920-1999) grew up in Hoover, Texas. (Try the Google Earth view - it looks just like the real thing, even though its 2-D.)

The convergence of all of this is people trying to make it in agriculturally marginal location. The Deadwood Valley wasn't homesteaded until the turn of the century, largely because it was so inaccessible and the amount of arable (flat) land so small. The homesteading in the Southern Plains took place around the same time with the big boom happening during the Roaring Twenties. In both cases, families only tried farming for about a generation and then gave up - spectacularly in the case of the Dust Bowl. The last person to really make a go of farming in Deadwood was Tom Alexander and he maintained that it'd have been impossible with a family. It was just too hard and too marginal.

Where does that leave us? Muddling through to a way that is sustainable and sustaining. I read and hear about people who get fanatical and produce all the food they consume for a year. We could do it - but I don't think its either sustainable or sustaining. The amount of work and energy it takes for your return (you really want to give up coffee and tea?) mean that eventually you wear down and quit. Sustainable should mean truly sustainable: it worked for Mizu's folks, it'll work for us, then the girls, then their kids and on and on.

We are on a middle road right now. Our household is five adults and three kids, with my folks living just across the creek. Two of those five work outside the home, one runs the garden, one is engaged in remodeling the house to accommodate everyone and one is parenting the girls. It's a really nice balance. It'll change as everyone ages, but perhaps there is a consistent core we can find.

That's the project of 97430...