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A Costal Northern California Homestead

 
Posts: 34
Location: Coastal NorCal
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I'm intending to blog here about my general homestead activities. I'm a tech guy in my mid 40's, with roots in the US Midwest and Texas, now living in a Coastal Northern California small acreage in a semi-rural wildlife interface zone with a gardening crazy partner. Over 4 years ago I ended up at this property after an intense whirlwind of a journey that has its own story which I'm still writing as I reflect on it. In the time since then I've managed to lick wounds, learn about the land and the area, pick up some skills, weathered a pandemic, and most importantly gained some vision.

I don't particularly like what I do for a living, like most of us, it's a vehicle to allow me to live my life. Ideally, I'd like what I mostly engage in in a day to day basis have a more direct connection with my life, it's activity and results more tangible interwoven with my health, body, existence.  There's something very disassociating about typing shtuff into a computer for some obscure business objective I don't care about in order to get these numbers in my bank for life. I want what I do to be well integrated with how I live... also... I have some other high level values, here's a grab bag list:

local food and energy resilience
responsible land stewardship
independence
ecological sustainability
abundance in things that matter

So, here I am, and there I hope to go. And here's a pic of the main garden area, under development, and represents nearly the entirety of flat land at our disposal.



 
pollinator
Posts: 5207
Location: Bendigo , Australia
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plumbing earthworks bee building homestead greening the desert
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I have loved all my different jobs, maybe its an attitude thing.
Anyway, your block is interesting.
I guess it gets a limited source of sunlight because of the valley?
That creek suggested a short valley, is that correct?
does it flow always, would a hyraulic turbine work there?
 
pollinator
Posts: 1424
Location: NW California, 1500-1800ft,
433
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hugelkultur dog forest garden solar wood heat homestead
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Beautiful spot Juan! If you are anywhere near Crescent City, come join the Wild Rivers Permaculture Guild and our seed and plant exchange tomorrow! Either way, welcome to the area and permies!
 
Juan Montes
Posts: 34
Location: Coastal NorCal
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John C Daley wrote:I have loved all my different jobs, maybe its an attitude thing.
Anyway, your block is interesting.
I guess it gets a limited source of sunlight because of the valley?
That creek suggested a short valley, is that correct?
does it flow always, would a hyraulic turbine work there?



Yes, it's a short and narrow valley roughly oriented East-West. The sunlight is a challenge, but in the pictured garden area the sun goes away behind the Southern ridge from late October to mid March, so it's not the worst. If I can get up and make some growing spaces up on the South facing side of the valley, the challenge becomes a big advantage. But it'll be a lot of work, that's what the mini-excavator in the picture will be for.

The creek runs year round, but I don't think it's vigorous enough in Summer to put out much power, and with the Riparian restrictions around here, I doubt it'd be possible to dam it or do any construction to put it to work.
 
Juan Montes
Posts: 34
Location: Coastal NorCal
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Ben Zumeta wrote:Beautiful spot Juan! If you are anywhere near Crescent City, come join the Wild Rivers Permaculture Guild and our seed and plant exchange tomorrow! Either way, welcome to the area and permies!



Oh nice, I've been up there once. It's beautiful. We have a seed exchange in our area this weekend, I should go, but will probably be working in the garden instead, it's so easy for me to hermit. I'll have to take a look at your guild.
 
Juan Montes
Posts: 34
Location: Coastal NorCal
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Yesterday was the beginning of the harvest to clear out the beds to make room for all the starts looking for a place in the ground. And this weekend I'll have to make some more places for all the new plants, honestly not sure where they're going to go. I wanted to have some nice tall redwood raised beds built by now, but that just hasn't happened yet.  I think I'm going to clear an area this weekend, and dig some trenches in the ground and put in some gopher wire stapled to harvested round wood frames and call it good.

I just did not expect it, but of the early harvest one of my favorite things are the radishes. Radish top pesto is great with a garden pasta. And I'm looking forward to making fridge pickles with the radishes.



My partner made a lovely salad with garden greens and flowers, the first our-garden salad of the season and definitely not the last.

 
Ben Zumeta
pollinator
Posts: 1424
Location: NW California, 1500-1800ft,
433
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Well three unnecessary exclamation points and the wrong date are what I posted while waiting for the band to play at my first Phish show. Seed and plant exchange is tomorrow, Sunday 4/16, in Crescent City.
 
Juan Montes
Posts: 34
Location: Coastal NorCal
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Ben Zumeta wrote:Well three unnecessary exclamation points and the wrong date are what I posted while waiting for the band to play at my first Phish show. Seed and plant exchange is tomorrow, Sunday 4/16, in Crescent City.



You're a full out hippie, I approve! I don't really listen to Phish, but here (in Marin) the Dead have left a tradition in the form of a very active Phil Lesh and Bob Weir, and also a number of cover/jam bands in its wake.  I've yet to partake. How was the show?
 
Juan Montes
Posts: 34
Location: Coastal NorCal
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It was pretty successful weekend for projects on the homestead, having somewhat demanding full-time job, if it doesn't get done on the weekends, it just may not happen.

One coup was to make a lot of pesto for the freezer from the chervil that overtook the beds over the winter, pretty tasty stuff, especially combined with the wild garlic growing around here.

The bigger of the successes were a couple of beds I dug.  Ultimately I want to have a bunch of 2' tall redwood beds, easier on our backs for when we get older. But, we just have so many plants to get into the ground, so I made some ground level beds.  It's difficult around here to create new beds, because the ground is rocky and the gophers are very active, amongst other things. But, I had my mini-excavator to help with the excavation, and I had a number of materials sitting around so I didn't have to go to shopping.  The most interesting of materials is the result my first experiment, free hand milling for some of the wood the gopher wire is stapled to.  It worked out really well. I did it for the second bed down, wish I had done it for the first.







 
Juan Montes
Posts: 34
Location: Coastal NorCal
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Was primarily playing lumberjack this weekend. Finally got the three California Bay trees I downed off the hill--they were shading the garden.   Many more to go.  Not pictured is that I assembled and tested out a Chinese knockoff 92cc chainsaw for milling, and am in-process assembling the chainsaw mill and first cut guide.  If there's some pretty wood in there, I'm not letting it go to waste.

 
Posts: 46
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Super cool dude!! Love to see people following their heart. NorCal is a beautiful area. Would love to check out what your doing in person some time / if you need any help I'll be around !!
 
Juan Montes
Posts: 34
Location: Coastal NorCal
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It's been a while since I've posted here. The homestead has been moving along, very slowly. We have more fence up, more beds, and new food storage and shop area. The biggest development, though, is that I'm going to be transitioning in my job to part-time.  The details are still being worked out, but I decided this with my partner when I just realized that my life hasn't been working out with a 40 hour a week salary job.

There's more that's been on my mind, I may blog it here.  But for the moment, I'll post my latest small accomplishment, I started getting some saplings planted along the creek bank, finally. They're red alder trees that I intend to pollard.  And I want to interplant some shade tolerant beaked hazelnut between them.  It's been a long time coming.  The sleeves are to protect them from the deer until they get established.  And the big gap in spacing is because there's a yellow-jacket nest there, I'll be dealing with them later.

 
Posts: 45
Location: Traditional Lands of Akokisa (Houston, TX, USA)
8
forest garden food preservation ungarbage
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Reminds me of how much I want to visit Marin again, some time b4 I kick it. I lived there, in SR and Novato, for about 5 years, around the turn of the century. Hiked and drove around the entire peninsula a lot, all over. Let me know if there are any opportunities near your place for a quiet, unassuming  53 y/o "hippie", who left a piece of his heart there., and longs to see it again.
 
Juan Montes
Posts: 34
Location: Coastal NorCal
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This my first week as a "husband". I was really intrigued when I learned the roots of that word. In old Germanic, the roots of English before French and Latin were introduced "husband" as a word is not specifically gendered and also it isn't directly about a relationship between two people.  It directly translates to house-bound, a person who is a steward of the household, which especially includes the land.

And that's what I've decided to be, first a hous-bond, then a part time software developer, just to keep some money flowing. I told my boss that I wanted to scale back, he's supportive and will try to find a place for me.  This is not totally unexpected, he's a good guy, but also he screwed me over recently, which is one of the reasons why I thought it was time for a change.  Anyway, right now I'm on a 4 day workweek, and we'll be talking about going to part time.

And my girlfriend is cautiously supportive. She loves gardening and doing permie stuff. Also it helps that I've been miserable with my work and with life, and have tried several different attempts at making it work, and she sees that.

The main goal in the near term is to reduce expenses. From a hands-on homestead point of view this means prioritizing homestead maintenance and instituting some new things to reduce cost.  The focus this week was taking on laundry.  I have some improvements in mind, moving to handkerchiefs and cloth napkins, and doing line-drying when the weather permits.  But in the past the girlfriend did the laundry and there's no way I'd be able to convince her to take it on, and I didn't feel like I had the time, myself.

But now, laundry is my priority.  I've been doing it all week in anticipation for the hankies.  And I have some laundry line hardware in the mail, but it'll take some effort to get that setup.  I need to sink a couple posts and get some of the tick population in control in the garden.  But it's all progressing.
 
pollinator
Posts: 466
Location: Clackamas Oregon, USA zone 8b
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Juan, congrats on your foray into husbandry! you will be closer to your land, your goals and your growing now that you only have to do software work part time, I'm really happy for you!  And maybe if things at the homestead become lucrative then software can fully kick the bucket.

I like reading these blogs about what people are doing and growing and learning and feeling on their homesteads.  

We're not in a position to buy anything, much to my sadness, but our goal is to at least be able to rent something more condusive to our goals, our lease here in our apartment-with-a-patio ends in June and I'm working on finding us a place where we can have a yard and grow things, because my little pots are starting to not cut it anymore.
 
J Lucas
Posts: 45
Location: Traditional Lands of Akokisa (Houston, TX, USA)
8
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OMG.... I am totally a husband by that definition lol. Good on you.
 
Juan Montes
Posts: 34
Location: Coastal NorCal
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Riona Abhainn wrote:Juan, congrats on your foray into husbandry! you will be closer to your land, your goals and your growing now that you only have to do software work part time, I'm really happy for you!  And maybe if things at the homestead become lucrative then software can fully kick the bucket.

I like reading these blogs about what people are doing and growing and learning and feeling on their homesteads.  

We're not in a position to buy anything, much to my sadness, but our goal is to at least be able to rent something more condusive to our goals, our lease here in our apartment-with-a-patio ends in June and I'm working on finding us a place where we can have a yard and grow things, because my little pots are starting to not cut it anymore.



Thank you, that's exactly what I'm hoping for, transitioning to homesteading full time. But I need to spin up some production! I'm thinking about making some artisan crafts, I have some plans in the works.

I certainly hope you manage to find a bit of land for your household.  The PNW is definitely my favorite part of the country, and I might be stereotyping, I'm seeing Ren Faire and Oregon in your sig, Is there perhaps a maybe a hippie-ish collective in your future?
 
Juan Montes
Posts: 34
Location: Coastal NorCal
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The homestead work this last week was progressing pretty slowly.  The big project that I need to push forward is automated irrigation. But the task is pretty epic. Right now we have a "secondary" water system piped from the creek, going through buried pvc, and several spigots available on the property.  The previous owner set this up, and originally had a pressurizing pump, pump water from the creek downstream and into the system.

I converted it so that water flows, starting upstream, into a 200 ga tank. Then feeds into a pressurizing pump and into the system.  The ultimate plan is to use a solar pump to pump it from the tank uphill to the top of our property to two 300 gallon tanks I have already set, and use gravity pressure.

I want to reduce daily labor and have automated irrigation.  But this must be powered. And I could pepper a bunch of 9v irrigation controllers into all of our growing areas, but I am not interested in maintaining batteries in the long run, and I want to group this problem with another problem I have, garden path lights and also power for other uses.  So I'm setting up a whole-property 48v system, to reduce voltage drop, and I'm going to drop it down to 12v anywhere I install a controller. I'll start out by powering the system with a transformer, but eventually will switch to solar.

Whew, anyway, here's a pretty picture of a thing I found while cleaning brush creekside. It's an antique fisherman's float, the second I've found so far. I suspect people on the property here were collecting them and hanging them from some structure that no longer exists, they fell to the ground, and were buried for me to find.

 
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