Sunday, April 15, 2007

land o' Goshen

I am 'home again' — back to our California house where I've lived for 30+ years. This week I set up appointments to get bids for a new fence, exterior painting, garage door, and some other fix-its. The alpaca Farm is now the pretty carrot dangling before us, urging us to sell this home to a family who will love and care for it as much as we have.

Jennifer's youngest daughter is almost four — as old as Jen was when we moved here in '76. Paul was two then, and he could walk under the pull-out chop board in the kitchen. Now he's 6-ft-1 and drives a Honda Element to service his wholesale clients.

I saved the doorjam with marks of their childhood growth through the years. Now I am ready to move from this home that has served us so well and on to the next era.

Mike was born in Oakridge, just 35 mi from our farm. So this move is a return to his roots, and a parallel to mine in east Texas.

Our alpaca farm, near the tiny town of Goshen, used to be called Goshen Hole Farm, so we're trying to learn more about it. The house and barn were built around 1900. Mike has been investigating (online) the little towns near our farm and gleaning some of their history. Goshen was originally a stage coach stop, and later a train depot. Interesting stuff...

There's a long, chatty article about the Goshen Truckstop Cafe, and another one about a local truck driver, Main Street Mahlon.

One of our neighbors lives on property that once belonged to her grandparents, and she remembers coming to visit the lady who lived in our farmhouse, her grandma's friend. She recalls lots of colorful carnival glass pieces in the windows, catching the sunlight. The farm lady gifted her with one of them that Sandy still has in her china hutch.

The next little town 5 miles south is Creswell, population ~4500. I've learned about going to the recycle center/dump that will become part of our routine. I intend to go to the library and do some 'hard copy' research of the area. We made friends with owners Kent & Laurie of The Coffee House, where we'd go to hook up to WiFi and check our email before we set up DSL at the farmhouse. Very welcoming folks!

And 14 miles south of our farm is Cottage Grove, the area I'd first centered on for alpaca farm possibilities. Actually, there was a 60-acre farm there that was just beyond our financial reach, but the exquisite old home and barn beckoned us. Whenever we'd go to look for property, we'd stay in Cottage Grove to 'test drive' the commute to Eugene. It wasn't bad, but the short 5-mile drive is so much easier now that we found our place. And that much more convenient to veterinarians and other services we'll need, too.

I've arranged to have our hay field mowed. The next time I'm there, I plan to have the Lane County Extension Agent out to make recommendations of where to plant fruit trees, garden, grape vines, and where to locate the poop pile/compost, according the the drainage pattern of our land. We are watershed-conscious and want to ecology of our land to work for us and for our neighbors.

Today we are taking a break from packing/planning to make a batch of 'Son of Toad Spit' stout beer. At least that's the name on the recipe, but we're calling it Movin' Out Stout.' We'd already bought the ingredients (from the Homebrew Store in Eugene) and need to use them. I joke that "it's a beer kit, you just add water" — the right amount of water at the right temperature for the right amount of time (the recipe is included with each batch of ingredients). Now we're waiting for the 1-hr boil before proceeding to the next step: cooling and decanting into the carboy with yeast for fermentation. I love the smell of the hops in our kitchen! It will be fun to baptize the farm kitchen with it, too. We may just have to grow some hops...

And we need to transplant a few rose bushes that grow along a fence where we want to fill in with hedge. They'll go nicely in our former vegetable garden in the back yard, a nice sunny spot making the yard a bit more formal. It's progress towards that carrot!

Monday, April 9, 2007

barn again

Recently we watched a tape of the PBS presentation called Barn Again. It highlighted the history of barns in North America, the various heritage styles such as German ones with stone walls on the first floor, round barns, etc.

The big red structure with arched peak roof was the first truly American design. Many of these traditional barns are still structurally sound and are being 'remodeled' for more modern uses. That is what we intend for our stately 1900-era beauty.

Once used as a cattle barn, hay feeders remain and the big sliding door is functional. We value the craftsmanship and want to maintain the design integrity as much as possible. Some doors are missing, but the basic structure itself is sturdy and usable. Rough cement flooring in half of the barn is ideal for sheltering the alpacas and helping to keep their toenails worn down.

We will build a chute for safe restraint of an animal during vet checks, and install a scale. The electricity needs to be reconnected. I haven't discovered a water pipe out there yet, but that would certainly be handy. We are considering putting in a cistern to collect rainwater, to use for the animals.

Readying the barn and pens is our priority, since the sooner we can bring our herd here, the less agistment fees we will be paying. A neighbor had her sheep barn redone last year, opening up one side, enclosing the other. I am grateful for efficient guides in this department!

Yesterday I met a neighbor who told me of an old man who used to ride his bicycle around here. Joe hasn't seen him in quite awhile, so he has probably passed on. But he remembered hearing stories of how the man had met his wife will visiting this farm in the 40's, and that they had been married here. Our neighbor across the street lives on property that used to belong to her grandparents, and she remembers, as a child, visiting the lady of this farmhouse with her grandmother. If these walls could talk!

We will continue to create stories as our family comes to visit and grandchildren romp in the fields. Life stretches forward through us and our choices.

Saturday, April 7, 2007

from city to Farm

After nearly two years of searching for a home for us and our alpacas, we found Our Farm in the gentle hills just south of Eugene, Oregon. It is a 'return to the neighborhood' for my husband, who was born in nearby Oakridge, and a reflection of my east Texas roots (same annual rainfall as Tyler!). Our serendipity list of 'the perfect place' evolved and now we are on the next leg of our journey: the transition phase of selling our house while simultaneously getting the farm ready with fencing and barn set-up.

Thank goodness for the Internet! Networking within the alpaca community and my spinners guild, we have discovered new friends here who offer welcome recommendations and information. People are friendly and helpful, so I feel both supported and capable as we move into rural life from technology jobs. It is a big change for us, but one that we have longed for and planned for.

So I sit here typing on my laptop, gazing out onto our pasture and the neighbor's pond (with Canada geese), envisioning our herd of 16 fuzzy creatures munching and frolicking. This morning's rain reminds me that the days will be different than we are accustomed to, for us as well as for our animals. Can hardly wait!

Tomorrow I will visit another nearby alpaca ranch where they are setting up new fences, to learn where to buy materials, how to set the posts and gates, and savvy layout for good herd management. This all comprises our next steps before we can bring our animals here.

We have agisted for two years, and I will be quite excited to actually live at the same place as our animals. For me, going to alpaca shows has been like Camp Alpaca, enjoying them for days at a time. So I look forward to the daily routine and interactions, like a kid looks forward to summertime!