New toy – a Trail Cam!

Aramis coming out the back door - again.

Our male cat, Aramis, apparently likes to go outside at night – a lot.

Yesterday, we received in the mail our newest toy – a Moultrie trail cam.  Jim picked up batteries for it on the way home from teaching last night, and before we went to bed we attached it to a tree just outside the back door, aimed right at our doggie door.  I figured we’d have maybe eight or ten pictures this morning, but we actually found FIFTY on the card when we retrieved it!  Apparently our back dog and cat door sees a lot more activity than we realized.

For instance, our male cat, Aramis, who is seen in the picture to the left, seems to go in and out of the door about every hour or so.  I should have realized this, because during the night he most often can be found sleeping on my hip.  He doesn’t sleep the night through, though – he is a cat after all and cat naps more than sleeps for long periods of time.  He generally leaves me several times during the night and I have usually been able to tell what the weather is like outside from his condition when he returns.  I’ve referred to him for years as my “Weather Cat” because as the old joke goes “if he’s cold, it’s cold outside, if he’s wet, it’s raining, if he’s got little ice balls on his fur, it’s snowing, if he’s all ruffled up, it’s windy…”  Since he immediately jumps up on me as soon as he returns, I generally get an all night long weather cat report on outside conditions.  (Luckily I am always able to go back to sleep quickly each time, or I’d be a mess every day and he’d be locked out of our room at night.)

Back to the trail cam report…  According to the time on each photo, Aramis went outside at 11:33pm, 11:56pm, 12:04 am, 1:46am (cat-napped on mama for a short time, apparently), 4:13am (bit longer cat-nap on mama), 5:12 am and 5:16am.   Gudgekin only went out twice that we could see, and seems to have stayed out longer each time.  The pups went out once in the night and once early in the morning around 5ish.  We need a revolving cat and dog door, apparently.  I wonder if they make that kind.

We’ll keep the trail cam on for the next few days until we leave on our next trip to Washington, and learn how it works and what kind of photos and videos it can display.  We plan to leave it near some of the trails once we get out there again, and each time we return, retrieve the photos so we can see what kind of information we can gather on the animals living on the new place.  I suspect we will find that there is a lot more activity than we expected out there, too!

Some of the fun stuff!

Besides packing and cleaning and working two jobs, there are some fun parts to this whole move.  Well, besides getting to go out and romp around on our new acreage.  🙂

One of the fun parts is picking out what kind of interior we want to have in our new home.  We’re buying a manufactured home which will be made to order once we have the construction financing and permits in place.  So one afternoon last week, we met with the manufacturer – Kit Homes – for a tour of their facilities and a chance to look at paint, cabinet, floor, door and counter swatches.  Here is what we picked out.  Image

The cabinet door at the bottom of the pile is the color our kitchen and bathroom cabinets will be.  We could have ordered different colors in each of the rooms, but I really wanted the whole house to coordinate and look like a harmonious whole.  And the color is lovely – a nice reddish brown called “Red Provincial.”  The laminate flooring will also be warm reddish-brown, and a shade or two lighter than the cabinets.

The other swatches are the linoleum flooring for the bathrooms and utility room, and the formica counter tops in the bathrooms and in the offices (We’re having built in desks done to save space and keep the harmonious look to the new place going into the office areas.)  The lighter colored marbled block is the kitchen counter top we picked out.  It’s called “Canterbury” quartz, and it’s gorgeous.  It’s hard to see in the photo, but it has small copper flecks running throughout.  I think that will pick up the reddish color of the kitchen cabinets nicely.

The linoleum we picked out is called “Magma” but we’ve nicknamed it “Chameleon” because no matter what color wood you put it next to, it just works.  Knotty light pine, honey oak, walnut, Red Provincial cabinets, maple – it looks fabulous next to all of them and each brings out a different set of colors in the tile.  The smallest swatch is the interior wall color.  We picked a creamy white for the walls, because with all of the darker materials we wanted those to be bright.

We decided not to have carpets in the new house.  For one thing, carpets are actually pretty nasty – if you lift one up after it’s been installed for a few years, you will see enough filth underneath it to keep you from ever wanting to sit or lay on one again!  For another, it would be hard to keep them clean with all of the indoor/outdoor trekking that will probably be going on.  And, lastly, it’s hard for pets and spills to ruin a carpet if you don’t have any!  We do plan to have room size rugs, but the nice thing is you can move those to clean underneath, and if something trashes it, you can replace it.

So, it’s not all work, work, work here, just almost all work, work, work as we prepare to move to our new life in a few short months.  Oh, and we close on the property tomorrow.  🙂  So that’s definitely going to be a cause for celebration!

Packing and labeling boxes means – we’re moving!

I think it’s finally beginning to sink in that we are really going to do this, because all of a sudden I’m getting the urge to pack.

The plan:  Over the next four months, I’m going to go through each room separately and pack up and label all the stuff I want to take.  (We’re hoping to get rid of around half of everything we own at this point in our lives…we just have way too much stuff for the new house.) All the stuff I don’t want to take will then be sorted into two piles – “throw away” and “give away.”  Might be a bit backwards, but it’s working so far!  I went through my part of our bedroom last week and this week I’m doing the greenroom and the office.  Hopefully, I’ll have these two rooms under control by the end of the weekend.  For now I’m leaving boxes in the rooms in which they were packed, but soon we will begin to empty out the den and that will become our boxes staging area.

It will be good for us to pare things down.  We moved here with two household’s worth of “stuff” and kept most of it.  Now we have another 9 years worth of combined “stuff” added on top of that.  The current house is pretty big – with the garage it is around 3000 square feet.  The new house will be around 2400, and that’s including the front porch.  Luckily, we’re going to be able to use one of the bedrooms as a storage room, so that will help.  But each of us need to take the time to thoughtfully go over what we own and reduce it to the point that it will fit in our own closets, and not spread out over the house or clog up the main storage room, which is mostly going to be dedicated to pantry and kitchen tools.

I’m hoping that the further we get into this phase, the easier it will be to keep the house in good shape for showing.  Right now it’s kind of hopeless.  :-/

It’s hard to garden from afar

But for now, that’s all we can do, so I’m trying to spend the time wisely.

I’ve been spending a lot of the past few weeks reading gardening books – in particular, books about gardening in the Pacific Northwest.  I’ve gardened in the south, on the west coast in a couple of different areas, and in Texas, where the Imageweather can change from summer-hot to blizzard – literally – in just a few hours.  But I’ve never gardened in an area that has so much water.  It’s also a maritime climate, which will be quite a change from most of the other places I’ve gardened, which tend to be more on the desert side of things.  I figure a little bit of research before jumping into the deep end is probably a good thing.

In addition, I’ve been trying to find out as much about the land as I can before we move out there.  I was able to take a small soil sample the last time we were there (that’s part of it in the picture to the right) and do a very simple soil composition test on it.  The results are the soil from that area of the forest is a sandy loam with a bit of small gravel mixed in.  Which is pretty good, actually, because all of the rain there means the soil needs that more open structure in order to drain properly and not stagnate.  The soil sample I took came from a small trench someone dug in a semi-cleared area.  The trench was a couple of feet deep, and the soil looked to be pretty much the same from top to bottom, so I think that not only is the soil composition good, the soil depth probably is as well.

I will take several more soil samples while we are out there next, and run this test as well as some simple soil chemistry tests on them.  Almost all of the soils out in that area are nitrogen-poor and acidic because the steady winter rain washes all of the nitrogen out of them.  We will likely be spending a lot of time building up the gardening areas with compost and other soil amendments, but we prefer to garden that way anyway, so it’s not a problem.  We garden exclusively organically, so we tend to throw all the clean organic matter we can find into the garden every year until the soil is fertile enough to grow our annual vegetables with only a little bit of side dressing.

Holding Pattern

So this week we’ll be taking our second trip to the property.  It’s not actually ours yet.  We have an accepted offer, financing, and are progressing toward closing.  However the bank that owns the property is quite behind on doing the things they agreed to.  So we’re in a bit of a holding pattern.  Neither of us has ever built a house before, so we’re sort of learning about the process as we go.  There’s a lot to do, and it all has to be done in a certain order with all the proper permits.  We’re just getting a handle on this now and are beginning to wonder whether it might be worth just hiring a general contractor to work through the details.  This week’s trip is in part to make that sort of decision, and in part to let our son Will see the property.  Thus far he’s only seen pictures.  I think he’s going to like it, a lot.

The Basics

So let’s start with the basics.  When we say “Big Woods” we mean 70 acres of forest in the foothills of the Cascade mountains.  The land is gently to moderately sloped with several streams running through it.  At least two of the streams are year round, we aren’t yet sure about the others.  Because of the streams, about half of the land is protected as wetland or buffer area.  The land was logged some time in the late 90s except for the buffers on the two main streams.  However, large trees were left scattered throught the rest of the lot.  This combined with the “copicing” of many large bigleaf maples and a generous rainfall has the regrowth beyond where one might expect it at this stage.  The stream buffers typical of climax forest in the area.  The predominant conifer is Western Red Cedar mixed with a smattering of Western Hemlock and Douglas Fir.  Deciduous trees are mainly a mix of Bigleaf Maple and Alder, there’s a healthy dose of Vine Maple in the under-story.  And then there are the brambles.  The logged areas are thick with Himalayan Blackberry, or, as we like to call it, “Kudzu of the West”.  Some of the thickets are beginning to be shaded out by the regrowing trees, but even there, the remaining vines are treacherous.  The older parts of the forest are thick with their own brambles, Salmonberry.

P1030269We’ll know more about the vegetation as spring progresses, and everything buds out.  For now we’ve only seen it in the wet season, though the rime from frozen fog is gorgeous.

It suddenly occurred to me today…

… that we as a family are about to begin one of the greatest adventures of our lives (well, except for finding each other and becoming a family in the first place) yet, we haven’t been keeping a real record of what we’re doing thus far.  I want to remedy this oversight – hence, this blog.

ImageJim and I always hoped eventually to buy some land and move to live on it permanently “some day.”  But an amazing set of circumstances during the past year has allowed us to not only find a nearly perfect piece of property for our needs, but also allowed us to move to live on it far sooner than we would have ever believed possible.

This is our story.  This is our adventure.  This is our new life.  I hope this blog will allow us to share that new life with family and friends as well as others who also share our dream of living and working in the forest.