A Few Highlights from the Past Two Years

Posted by Deborah on June 22, 2011

There’s a lot of ground to cover to bring a visitor to this place up to date with our story of Huckleberry Farm. If you came here today, much of the evidence of progress would be buried beneath ground, have been carted away, or painted over. And there is still much to do–we don’t even have a complete bathroom yet! Without having kept a journal, a log book, and a disciplined photo record we too would have forgotten the incremental changes that have taken place between when we fell in love with it as we first rounded the bend of the drive almost two years ago and now. We’ve sent periodic progress reports to friends and family who have expressed curiosity, mild amusement, and occasionally astonishment, at our persistence. We did this not because we think what we’re doing is so extraordinary and deserves attention but because we are not alone and the things we experience on this land are to share. Our simple discoveries here, personal and practical, echo the meaningful in everyone’s life.

It would be tedious for me, and boring for you, to have me list all the sequential events, trials and accomplishments that have led to the state of the farm today even though Carl and I find them endlessly fascinating and love to pore over our past journal entries and photo folders, exclaiming with glee or chagrin or relief. Better to give you a visual introduction, a small glimpse of our early months and hints at what followed. The photographs were not taken for art’s sake. Many of them are uncomposed, simply a record of a moment of progress, or the pride of completion. Captions and dates should help to orient the events in time and purpose. My desire is for subsequent writings, by necessity and design, to refer back to earlier experiences, eventually fleshing out this photo-skeleton.

This was the view from about the middle of the property facing west on August 12, the day after we first discovered it.

The fields were dense with grass and flowers. 

After we’d made an offer on the place, on  the day of  our “due diligence inspection”, September 16, 2009 Darcy Kline, the real estate agent spent a very wet afternoon with us tramping through the forested and untrailed wilderness above the property in search of the source point of our water system, to no avail.  We continued with our offer to buy the place, in spite of realizing there was no running water to the house.

We took possesion on October 5th, got married in Portland on October 16th, and spent our first night at the farm on November 6th.  The next day a work party of adventurous and loyal friends began the clean-up that would expand as the winter months revealed what was underneath the verdant summer foiliage.

The greenhouse disgorged four pick-up loads of trash.

By January, in our search for a way to lay the water pipes to the creek, we found that below the huge Black Walnut tree there was a deep and diverse dump, as well as smaller ones on either side of the greenhouse.

We hired an excavator, Norm, in February (that’s Carl above with one of the five TV tubes we found) to help with the removal and ended up taking out 24 cu. yards of mud-covered trash, along with many more pickup loads, and 72 cu. yards of green debris.

While we dealt with the dumps and tried to plan a water system, other obstacles had to be removed.

For example, a very tall alder tree had at some earlier time been felled into the very large black walnut and left there.  Carl took his chain saw and cut off the lower end, and with the shift in weight the alder see-sawed the other way and he was able to cut the other end, and then it swung again and again until the entire tree was in smaller pieces on the ground.

ByApril we were laying pipe in 300 foot trench running from the house to the creek.

but it wasn’t until July,

after we’d built a shed to house the pressure tank

and a shelter for the pump in the woods, that we had water to the house.

In the meantime, the severely overgrown land was continuing to grow.  Dozens of very old holly trees were completely infested with ivy to their crowns, alders had become immense towers of the choking evergreen vine. 

And english laurel “hedges” had grown into tangled groves of deep, dank darkness. We needed a place by the front door for a woodshed but before we could build one the laurel covering the spot had to go.

So Norm returned and took out 108 cu yards of laurel to expose the bay and the sky to the northwest.

That’s my mother reveling in the view.

I think I’ll end here for now.  That was nearly a year ago and in the meantime we’ve put in a woodstove, steamed all the wallpaper, torn out the bathroom, moved walls, jacked up the house on the south side, torn down the old woodshed and built a 300 square foot shop with hydronic heating….and more.  It’s not been easy, sometimes scary, mostly daunting but satisfying, all the opposites you can imagine–beautiful/disgusting, shivering/balmy, fragrant/stinky, exhausting/exhilirating.   I can’t come up with opposites for wet and painful….