Gone Fishin…

You wanna know something frustrating? We still haven’t caught a fish. We have tried. LOTS of times. And there are supposed to be steelhead and salmon here. People, who know more than us (the gas station attendant in Taft, the bartender at Shuckers etc.), have been giving us the play-by-play since spring as the Salmon were on their way down from Alaska… tracking them as they apparently hit the Colombia River… and estimating that we should have begun seeing them swimming up the Siletz late March/early April. Actually, telling us all of this in envy since along with quite limited public access, we live on one of the few rivers in this area that allows fishing during the Spring Run… supposedly due to the number of fish!

Map of public access and bank fishing areas

Map of public access and bank fishing areas

As you can see…. fishermen care about this river. They talk about it, they study it, they fish on it! What are we doing wrong? We are 10 miles from the ocean and we are in the tide-water. You do want to be out of the tide-water to find where the fish hang out, but during all the salmon runs up from the ocean in spring and early summer, not only should they be passing right by us…. we have read that they should be hanging out and resting right here while the tide is changing.

You may recall a few glimpses of our efforts off the dock. Before we could enjoy it, Mitch had to machete all the overgrown grass and blackberries to make way for Fred to float it down and tie it up.

As we work away at becoming experienced fishermen, we took a break last weekend (for Mitch’s birthday!) to see how the pros do it. We went out on an ocean charter with Captain’s Reel in Newport to catch rockfish and ling cod. OK… did I mention they’re pros? Captain Chad has a fish finder radar and a bunch of friends on the radio. The result being that he knew exactly where to go to be sure that all 8 of us on board could literally drop our line and pull up either one or TWO rockfish within a minute! Mitch and I fell short of our maximum daily allowed by one (with 13!). I didn’t realize how fun fishing was… catching the fish is quite a bit more exciting (to say the least). In fact, a few minutes would pass without hooking anything and Chad would tell us to pull up the lines so we could go find some more! I thought fishing required patience…

And then it’s back to our dock for another fish-less day. We’ll keep trying… letcha know if we get somethin!

Xo, K

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Summer is Here!!

We are so excited summer is here that we haven’t even had time to post! Farming (like anything) is easy in the SUN! I can understand the benefit of working hard in the spring. Now we can just sit back and watch everything grow!

Here is an update… in photo form of progress from Mitch’s hard work, as well as the inherited cherry and apple trees that we didn’t have anything to do with. We are already enjoying fresh greens. Lots more bounty to come soon… I especially can’t wait because, frankly the grocery store/produce situation out here leaves much to be desired.

Speaking of small-town living… when we moved out here, I did worry a bit about leaving the city. I was concerned that we would be lonely and that there wouldn’t be much culture. A sacrifice we would have to accept if we wanted to get more space. Little by little, we are being exposed to how untrue that is! Of course, we are new to the area and don’t know many people, but the more we get out, we realize what a fantastic community surrounds us.

A couple of weeks ago, we visited an open house at the Jennifer Sears Glass Studio where you can blow your own float, paperweight, even glass bowl! They gave us wine and snacks and we got to meet some amazing people, including Kelly Howard, who is an artist and glass art teacher, and also manages the studio. Across the street at the Volta Gallery, there are some truly incredible pieces. It was great to see all the working artists!

Mitch then planned an incredible day that actually served to redefine my idea of culture and richness. We went on a whale-watching tour with Dockside Charters and even though we didn’t get to see any whales, Captain Lars was the epitome of a soft-spoken, informative and wonderfully caring individual.

We followed that up with a visit to Oregon Oyster Farms on our way down to an Aveda spa experience in Yahats at the Overleaf Lodge. Where from the soaking tubs, we DID get to see whales! Since I was blind-sighted by this surprise… on arrival, I was thinking, ‘WHAT is a gorgeous spa like this doing way down here in Yahats??’ But I quickly understood. I feel sorry for the spas I am used to in the city who have no cliffs with crashing waves, no whales, no beautiful drive on the coastal highway to get there… nothing!

Lastly, we enjoyed a 7 course tasting-menu at Restaurant Beck overlooking the Whale Cove on Depoe Bay. Whoa. I don’t know how to describe that meal with my vocabulary. I’m surprised how speechless I am… seriously.

We finished out the night in the bus under the stars. I don’t want to gush, but we just LOVE living out here. There is always culture… it’s obviously just different everywhere you go.

Good morning!

Good morning!

Xo, K

Coming Soon… Veggies!

Before we kick off the weekend and get back to work, I have a garden update to share from LAST weekend. The last stage of the garden I shared was a long time ago! We have made a lot of progress since then, but more importantly, we are beginning to have the right weather. It takes patience to wait for Pacific NW sun to show up!

After we tilled up the plot we chose, we started lots of seeds and then… waited.

I thought we would be putting the seedlings in the ground over a month ago. But we kept waking up to frosty grass, so we had been waiting and waiting… Mitch planted a bunch of the babies just before we left for Cali and after a couple of days of sun, it rained (read: DUMPED!!) for 2 weeks. So the conditions still weren’t ideal by then (Mid-May).

Last weekend, with the promise of sun for the foreseeable (as far as you can forecast) future, we stocked up and put some good, strong, established plants in the ground. We were lucky to get lots of naively grown veggies that were started in greenhouses around the Central Coast by some of the most skilled gardeners in the area.

The first stop was the Newport Farmer’s Market. Lots of goodies and yummies… our favorite: Gathering Together Farm with their delicious produce and amazing salsas. We picked up a bunch of herbs and some tomatoes grown by Blue Heron Farm.

Next, we went to the OSU Master Gardeners Plant Sale. This was incredible because all of these plants were grown locally by experts who were happy to share advice. Looking into the Master Gardener program when we first moved here, was where we discovered the Permaculture program Mitch is completing.

I learned that EVERYTHING around here is grown in a greenhouse during Spring. That is very good to know. A project for next year… an incredibly exciting one, that seems so obvious! We will be able to get a head start on everything and even grow some stuff year round! A solution to the 2 month growing season I am used to out here (ie. my summer garden every year in Portland which seems to yield a thousand tomatoes all in the same week.)

Planting and weeding was quick and easy (for me!) and doubled as a sunbathing session (Mitch did everything).

So, I have said this before (and revealing much about my personality), farming is a slow process. It takes lots of time and patience… but nothing could be more satisfying than watching as each thing comes together.

Xo, Ken

Sometimes you need a friend with a tractor….

Fred on the tractor

Fred on the tractor

Exploring the Land

With Mitch taking the Permaculture class, we have been adventuring around the property more and more to check out what exactly is going on here.

I hope you find a little walk through the property as interesting as we have. It is hard to believe the amount of natural diversity covered in such a small area.

Beginning from the beach, you cross the Siletz Bay Wetland Refuge.

Then you climb more than 800 feet in 2 miles through a collage of deeply wooded forests and clear-cuts and then quickly drop about 600 feet back down for the next 2 miles. This side of the mountain dead ends into a dramatic bend in the river, creating a secret little peninsula. It’s a place where cell phone towers don’t reach, where cable and gas companies couldn’t justify running their lines and where the mail lady can only deliver to mailboxes placed in clusters.

Going down our totally hidden driveway, you come out of the trees and into the open space that gradually drops to the river. We are bordered by a creek surrounded by old growth trees. To understand what I mean by old growth… these are old springboard notches. And there are 30+ year old trees growing out of their stumps.

From the high ground at the house, you wind down to the wetlands (which Mitch mentioned here) through the center. The land rises slightly again before dropping into the bank of the Siletz. Framed by the creek and with a yearly flood in the lower field, the property is ever-changing and we expect that these explorations will be full of new discoveries as the seasons change as well as year after year.

Studying the soil, the water movement and the sun’s path, Mitch has discovered so much about the dynamics of the property. Move ten feet and you will be standing on a completely different type of ground. These are soil samples from the upper field, the wetlands and the lower field. Once settled, they are worlds apart!

Pretty amazing, huh!? Here is what he determined about the way the property is made up….

Soil Map

I am not sure what we will end up doing with this information… guess that is what his class is for! This was previously a dairy farm. When the farm was inherited by the next generation, they retired that business and no farming was done. A neighbor told us that they used the coop to grow pheasants, which was a program set up by Oregon State University years ago to replenish the bird’s population. We also know that the rows of alders were planted in an attempt to continue to receive the farm tax credit. It seems that in this climate and location, there are very limited options for sustainable growth. That is hard to wrap my head around… looking out at vast green and abundant life everywhere… how can it be so hard? Obviously, as with everything we are trying to tackle out here, we have a LOT to learn.

The last thing we noticed on our recent trek is a little sad… this is a before-and-after series of a beautiful tree near where you enter the property. I am not sure which storm managed to break it apart… there have been so many! Although sad, it is definitely not tragic. As you can see, there is no shortage of breathtaking beauty here.

Hope you enjoyed the tour!
Xo, K

Barn Cats

We got some new friends last week! We picked out these kitties from the Lincoln County Animal Shelter… Isaac and Poblano were by FAR the coolest dudes there. An important part of this adoption because we are not really ‘cat people’. Mitch has never ever had one! I was shocked to find that out.

These really are the coolest cats. They are clean and cuddly, they don’t mind sleeping out on the porch and they are already investigating their best vantage points to hunt from! Sorry suckers… you little mice are gonna have to get moving.

The first couple of days were funny… trying to make sure they don’t run away, introducing them to the dogs, etc. Here is a quick series of some of the antics.

We have had good luck slowly letting everyone meet for short supervised visits and then giving everyone a break. So far so good! Now we can let the dogs out and the cats know to get up in a tree. The first time that happened, we thought Poblano was stuck, but he came down on his own.

THEN, we took all 5 (yes, as in FIVE) animals to the vet. That was a serious fiasco, but totally my kind of fun. Our new amazing vet, Dr. Malter was incredibly informative, patient (5 animals… remember?) and most importantly made us feel like really good parents with a whole pack of healthy pets!

Ok, that’s all the info I can give before I start sounding like a crazy-cat-lady! As my dear friend Ali aptly stated that she thought we may be becoming hoarders! Eeek… noted, thanks Ali.

Xo, K

Visitor From the City

Our wonderful friend Dave visited last week! We don’t get many visitors all the way out here, so it was a very welcome surprise!

We haven’t really entertained anyone here yet… except ourselves… and my parents two weeks ago… oh yeah, and a whole slew of our closest friends for our annual Friendsgiving celebration (which was before moving here)… well, we still feel new to hosting either way. Plus, I had to work all week and it was horrible stormy weather. But that didn’t stop us from filling 4 days with tons of fun! Here are a couple of highlights.

We went to Rogue and did the whole brewery tour (everyday at 3)…

Rogue is an incredible company. Check out their farm activity… it’s amazing to see a business that has had so much growth and success, make time to pursue the slow, extended aspects and methods of their trade too!

The boys fished for a day while I worked. No camera or fish, but hopefully lots of tips and experience for next time! We also geared up and made a (seriously!!) good effort at clam diggin. Not only are we licensed and now equipped with all the important tools, we studied up on where to go and the behavior of the razor clams. We headed out with enough time to hit the beach at low tide. And… we found nothing. Not a single hopeful bubble. And did I mention it was storrrrrrrmy?

On Saturday night we enjoyed a good old fashioned dive bar hop!

Thanks for the visit Dave! Come back anytime and tell your (ahem, OUR) friends!! Hopefully next time we’ll have more luck with bringing in some bounty.

Now I am looking forward to moving these giant chickens out of here:

3 weeks old!

3 weeks old!

And into here!! ASAP (Right Dave?).

Xo, K

Our Expanding Farm

What a gorgeous week we have had! The beautiful sunny weather was the perfect chance to start on our next project… the garden! Mitch tilled a 17 by 36 foot space straight out from the coop…

Then we had the amazing, knowledgeable, incredibly helpful and so so friendly family at Blake’s Coastal Nursery deliver this beautiful black compost.

Delivery from Blake's

Delivery from Blake’s

Nate (Blake’s son) couldn’t have been more patient, answering (a million) questions and giving detailed advice about what to plant and how to make it successful in this coastal region. I picked out waaaaaay too many seeds to plant and Nate pushed us to make some better, more practical choices. He also directed us to some great resources, like OSU’s Newport Extension who have done all the work in figuring out what goes in this particular area and how to keep it alive.

Today, Mitch will start a Permaculture Design Certificate course online. The course will take him through an entire agricultural design plan. He will learn how to plan around any climate, and to build a plan of any size. I cannot wait for his updates on the course and what he builds as well as all the other student’s plans.

Before we can plant the seeds, we need a fence to keep the pests out (it’s like a broken record). Also, the chickens will be moving outside soon into a heated coop, with a clover-covered run (also Nate’s suggestion! Along with a genius plan for how to make sure it can grow before the chickens eat it… stay tuned). The run will lead to the garden so that we can easily let them wander through… tilling and composting for us. Although supervised so that hopefully they don’t have a chance to eat up all the new little seedlings. Farming’s biggest challenge seems to be trying to control the circle of life/food chain to protect all of our chosen plants, animals, pets and visitors from all of the many unwanted versions. We are thinking about introducing a new predator… a couple of barn cats! I hear that they are the most effective pest control for rodents and birds and that they are smart enough to keep themselves safe. But that will be the ultimate in self-control for me… making the kitties sleep outside?? It seems so mean! Guess you have to be tough to be a farmer. And patient… what am I going to do while we wait for the these seeds to spout?!

Xo, K

Ready for Spring!

I have just returned from a week in Germany. I was attending the International Dental Show in Cologne, which happens once every two years. It was an incredibly busy and productive week. We enjoyed staying near the unbelievable Dom (<–link to really well done virtual tour)

iPad snap of the Dom with snowflakes just starting to fall.

iPad snap of the Dom with snowflakes just starting to fall.

On the first day, I was surprised by a snowstorm that lasted throughout the first part of the week! I don’t think I am alone when I say that I have had just about enough of this arctic air. I returned home with high hopes of warmer weather and signs around the property that Spring is among us. While the signs were certainly not everywhere

Sure enough, we have had (very) few small, but worthy sightings…

While we wait for growing season to begin, we will continue to explore our new terrain. As I mentioned before, we live among some heavy logging. Across the way there is a massive clear-cut that was replanted a decade ago. A mile down the road, there is a brand new one… previously fresh, fallen branches are still drying out. Sometimes a Great Notion was filmed on the Siletz River up our road in 1971… written by Oregonian Ken Kesey about a typical logging family in this exact area. Read the book (if you can find the time for the 736 pages) or see the movie, which to me perfectly illustrates the time warp that can be felt all around in this area. From the rustic, weathered and rusted homes, vehicles, buildings and roads; the mentality of living off the land as a way to survive, rather than a hobby; the hard work and the skill that is required to maintain what you have; how little opportunity there is for economic stability… the 90 miles to Portland feels like a thousand. It’s an interesting contrast to experience.

Here are some pictures from our clear-cut trek on a gorgeous sunny day (hello Spring!).

Next up! Our chicks and my dad and mom are arriving tomorrow!!!

Xoxo, K

After the flood

sunsetWhenever I hear something about wetlands, it seems like it’s something about their declining health or complete disappearance. I’ve never really thought about them forming or how that would even happen. Well, one way is to have a neighbor’s culvert back up for a year and let the creek feeding the river do the rest. Our lower field, between the cabin and the river, is about 30′ below the rest of the property – and it belongs to the river. During really heavy, prolonged rains or quick melting of snowpack in the coast range, the field floods and joins the river for a while. Otherwise, it is mostly dry except for the lowest spots where the water table is teasing the surface and is a little soggy. lil froggiestadpole pods Until a couple of years ago, that is… that blocked culvert had slowly backed up the tiny creek into the field and formed a fairly large wetland area. It created a fertile area for young fish, tadpoles, birds and beavers. Even though our neighbor finally cleared the blockage, something has changed the behavior of the water because it no longer drains as it did before and has left a swampy gauntlet to cross to get to the river.new wetlands This is going to make it tough to get the tractor down there to mow once the grass starts growing. The upside is we have hundreds of ducks that overnight here now. There is also a pair of herons that like to stop by every once in a while and flocks of geese who layover on their way to wherever they’re headed. budding wetlands I may have to build a small bridge over our new wetland so that we can get the most use of the lower field but overall it think that it is a good development and I look forward to seeing it progress. -MJ