First up I'm really sorry to make what I bet is ANOTHER location thread. I'm on pretty limited internet right now though so I can't spend as much time as I'd like filtering through all of the other posts. (Though I am trying to get through a few each day!)
So, that being said! I'm a long time lurker first time poster and I'm really interested to hear some opinions on the subject above. I'm currently living in very rural England. I'm moving to California within a few weeks and from there I hope to spread my wings and fly North. My dream is to dump my savings into a few acres of woodland to start a homestead. I've spent the last three years looking into various building techniques and I'm relatively sold on an earth berm/Earthship type concept. I know from experience you can build these things with the cold and wet of the north in mind.
My question then!! How far north am I going to be able to get and still practically be able to work the land for most of the year? We're quite blessed across the pond, it gets cold here but I've not had to deal with huge amounts of snow. The weather charts help a little but they really don't help me get my head around the conditions up there! I'm hoping to take a road trip to try and get an idea and feel for the area but as I'm sure everyone can appreciate, I'm not going to get half as much information from a quick look than I could from someone with experience living in that part of the world.
Vague? I know I know! Any help appreciated however. My long term plan is to use an aquaponics system along side forestry management to provide food and fuel for my family. I don't want to find myself struggling to keep the fishies from freezing though or stuck with a growing window of a few months in the summer.
I moved to Oregon in 1999 and just bought acerage in SouthWest Washington this year. You need to realize that both Oregon and Washington have very different climates depending on what side of the mountains you are on. The West side of both states tend to be wet, rainy, maritime type climate. At lower elevations, less than about 1000 feet snow is pretty rare and it doesn't stick around long. In fact, I think the climate is fairly simliar to the West Coast of the U.K.
East of the mountains, it gets much drier, and winters are colder and snowier.
Thanks David, that is exactly the sort of information I was looking for. I've been to Oregon but never spent a winter there. I'm really looking for a climate similar to "home". I can't be dealing with a lack of seasons as found in California! A lot of what we're looking at now is towards the northern end of Washington State, though of course every where is possibility. Climate seems to be a decent way to narrow down the possibilities and closely followed by permit issues and the like. I'm telling you, for the "land of the free" America seriously lacks in freedom. Tough walk ahead but slowly gaining knowledge and forming a plan!
Near water (the ocean, the Puget Sound, or major lakes) at sea level, south of about Everett, you usually have an 8-9 month growing season in western Washington. Farther north, in the hills, or far from water, it can drop to 7 months or bit less.
The Puget Sound area would probably be very similar to home, east side of the Olympic Peninsula a lot drier and west side of the Peninsula a lot wetter.
Yeah. East or west of the Cascade Mountains is a big divide.
Western WA has more in common with western OR than it does with eastern WA.
The Cascades keep the maritime climate on the western section of each state.
Milder summers and winters, and a lot more rain.
On the eastern side, the rains are less than half what the west gets.
Winters are colder,and summers hotter east of the Cascades.
In the west, severe frosts are not common, and the growing season (days between last/first frost) is much longer.
However, many heat loving plants (tomatoes & peppers) often have trouble getting enough warm days to mature.
Most of the agriculture east of the Cascades depends heavily on irrigation.
The western side doesn't get much rain during the growing season, but the cooler temperatures make it less critical.
Both western WA and OR have many small, independent breweries. The beers we drink here are more like Newcastle Brown than the typical paler brews most people associate with 'American beer'.
Another Oregonian here... with lots of land shopping experience.
I'd add that west of the Cascades is very much like England except for one very big thing - No rain in the summer months! That's three whole months, mini drought. I do not know how far north this holds true, but it is a characteristic of the PNW (Pacific North West). So around here you will want to plan for water. Hugelkultur (burying logs) helps a lot, but you'll want enough well+surface water in the summer months to facilitate your homestead projects. We do have pockets of land were summer water is very hard to come by, wells can slow to a trickle. With out a large water storage tank you cannot do laundry. I have 15 GPM well plus one pond, south facing slope and seasonal creeks. But my land's features were a hard find in my price range (under 170,000).
And because we are known to have hundreds of valleys (hills too of course) you'll want to make sure you've got sun exposure. It can be harder to find than you might think, depending on $. Places in the path of natural shade + lots of clouds can = lots of dreary cold days.
Lastly, most of the 'natural' soil is deficient in minerals, that is to say the minerals a tied up in the plant life. So study your nitrogen producing plants/trees, because you'll probably want to tweak the natural state of the land a bit
But we love it here in our oak tree forest. We get 'seasons' without extreme weather. You can garden year round with a very simple greenhouse system. If you rotational graze you do not need to grow/store winter hay. I live on a foot hill so we get just enough snow on occasion to look like a post card, and then it's gone the next day - beautiful.
The greater Seattle area has a lot of potential... Some sun lovers don't thrive here, but generally mild winters allow for year round production, although it may take a little encouragement. Plenty of water around here, too
I'm looking to get involved in a project, so if the Seattle area is where you're headed feel free contact me
I live in the NorthWest part of Washington on Whidbey Island. It is pretty hard to find a good area directly on this (bridge+ferry accessable) island, but just to the West is a great area.
On the East side of the Olympic Pennisula ("OlyPenn") has some prime land. Because our weather comes from the South-West, the North-East corner of the OlyPenn is sheltered by the mountains. It's drier than the surrounding area but it gets enough yearly rain to make it with a large water storage system to buffer you through the dry summer.
Optimally, look at the diamond with Port Townsend in the North, Squim to the NorthWest, Port Ludlow to the East, and Quilcene to the South. There is a lot of farming land backed into forests out that way that we've been looking at.
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