More farm news in such a short time, because even more has happened! We can feel the momentum now. Last year we made a decision to get a couple big projects done first as the visible progress would show the town we were there to improve the land and also make the farm a bit more user friendly for friends and family. Our big spring cleaning weekend was a blast, and we have been up at the farm much of June working away.
Summer is in full bloom here. The fields are full of bright flowers and the grasses are tall and lush. We got to watch the big sky change daily between thunderstorms and bit puffy white clouds and at night the fireflies come out in full force and the frogs sing us to sleep.
With most of our trips being work work work, we wanted to create a weekend for the kids where there was more parental attention and time together as well as producing something fun for them. So on fathers day weekend, we started the tree house. Jesse (our awesome friend, web designer, and graphic designer) was with us for this project as she loves repurposing items as much as we do! This tree house cost nothing except for the huge lag bolts and screws we bought to make sure everything is secure. We are now trying to figure out what material would be best for the railings.
A shed that collapsed a few years ago plus cleaning out the future summer kitchen provided us with a lot of wood and nails to create the fort. We picked a tree that looked sturdy, is near the future orchard, and had grown over some chains and metal, so it had an interesting element to get the imagination going. The first weekend we got the main platform built, and (John being John) there are many more stages of building to follow. This last weekend John accomplished stage two. The kids worked with him as well as us adults, but it was mostly John’s concept and execution of the project. He loves creating and building, and the end result will be very happy kids and endless hours of exploration.
Besides the tree house, the dangerously unsupported silo is down and the concrete from that is being scattered on the field where the driveway will go to add stability. We truly are determined to use EVERYTHING!!! We are in discussions with a guy that will deliver the 11 truck loads of rock we’ll need to make the driveway. It will be a big investment but is necessary to get things rolling for the bunkhouse and farmhouse build.
We spent a good few days clearing out the space for Dani’s orchard. Most of the hard labor was meticulously tearing out fencing that was fully attached to the ground interwoven into the tall grass roots. Digging out buried wires was important as mowing over any sort of wire can be very dangerous, and we fought through stinging nettle and huge thistles to pull out old snow fence, and random pieces of trash.
Cleaning, clearing, mowing…
…and now a cleared area for the first fruit trees to go in! Another benefit of mowing is that is allows the land to dry out and reduces the overall wetness of the property. Letting the prairie winds clean up some of the dank helps reduce bugs and sludge.
And check THIS OUT!!! There is no house! John has worked hours and hours on the tractor smoothing out the dirt, battling muddy patches, removing rocks and making a perfect campground. Next we just need a layer of black dirt and grass seeds. Once we figure out how to hook a hand pump to the well, we’ll plant a few trees here, too, so it will be nice and shady and have some color in the autumn.
This tree was right next to the house and is still standing, we hope it survives!
We added a member to the family this month, a darling Rhodesian Ridgeback named Freya. She has already become an amazing addition to the farm. We are training her to be off leash and know her way around, and she is already protective of our pack. When she is an adult, training her to be with the kids as they play out of earshot of us will be such a stress reliever. With bears and cougars and wolves and coyotes in the woods, she will give us a lot of peace of mind. Plus, she is a DOLL (and she loves playing in the tall grass).
Freya already sleeps in a sleeping bag with the kids, and enjoys resting by the fire. She has claimed one of the camp chairs as her own already and can be found snuggled in a hammock during the hot afternoon hours.
We worked with the kids on hatchet and axe training and fire building skills…
…discovered that our grasslands produce awesome smoke bomb mushrooms…
…ate lots of s’mores and played with fire…
…and took some time in the heat of the day to play in the creek.
When we packed up to come home the kids were all asking to stay one more day, which made my heart soar.
We got a bit of community uplift this past weekend as well. The house being gone (and especially the way it went) is getting us a lot of attention. I’ll be honest, we were feeling pretty alienated from the town, but this last visit a couple different neighbors stopped by to introduce themselves and give us encouragement to keep going. They were genuinely interested in what we were doing and appreciative that someone was finally putting some life back into this property. The bar, The Bear’s Den, is open now and the entire town just feels a bit more awake.
So next things on the list. We got our Hippo Roller so we can easily transport water around the property. This allows us more flexibility with planting trees and seeding the campground in the dry months. We need to figure out how to equip our electrical pump with a hand pump so we can stay off grid.
We have partnered with an amazing group of hunters that will trade manual labor for exclusive use of the land and we are incredibly excited to work with them. They are ethical hunters that love learning how to live off the land and manage native forests. I’m seriously over the moon we found this group. It truly was kismet.
The fate of this shed is dire…we just aren’t sure when it will go. Plans are to replace it with an open air shelter that can serve as a picnic pavilion and a place to have shade and hang hammocks.
The building we think we CAN save is what we want to turn into the summer kitchen. Securing the walls and making it really stable is daunting, however. We cleaned it out, have figured out where we want to put things, but just looking at the place makes me instantly overwhelmed at the scope of the project.
Why yes, that IS a whisk embedded in the concrete floor.
The driveway and bunkhouse build are going to cost us…a lot. So we’re figuring out how to handle the expense (good thing we paid off those credit cards, eh?) and how to get things done as cheaply as possible without sacrificing quality. All the while, taking walks in the prairie, naps in the hammocks, playing with the puppy and kids, breathing the fresh air…and pinching ourselves that this dream is really happening.
Thank you for taking this journey with us!!! We would appreciate you subscribing to the blog and spreading the word about Gatherhaus to anyone who might be interested. Some big things are in our future!