Thursday, November 19, 2015

Making a New Garden: Finding Land

Big changes are afoot. As my husband and I enter a new phase of life together we determined that our priorities are to live life to its fullest potential. That means no regrets for our decisions nor longing for what we should have done. What we both want above all else is peace - peace of mind, peace and quiet at home and abroad. We want to enjoy each other and our lives together in a meaningful and connected way. We want to breathe fresh air. Therefore, this is the first chapter in our story where we move on from Chickadee Gardens in the heart of Portland, Oregon, to a new adventure. We love our Portland home and garden but growth often requires sacrifice.

For over a year we have been actively searching for a few acres to either build a tiny house or remodel a small, existing farmhouse. After a long search, we were mentally exhausted and ready to take a break from looking. Then in September we found this:

Two acres in Saint Helens, Oregon, about a 40-minute drive from Portland. Cool house, too. We closed on it last week. I've been waiting for it to be official before bringing photos of our new home to the world. So as we have keys in hand I now gladly share these images. Some were taken in September, the rest this past weekend when we took possession and began the arduous task of moving our belongings 33 miles west by north.


The house is an amazing bonus. Sure, it's not a tiny house nor a small farmhouse, but we couldn't ask for anything better. It is fairly new and, as you can see, full of character. It's smaller than our old home which is fine by me (less housework), built by an artist some 14 years ago, it has since been lovingly taken care of by a woman who is now ready to move on to another phase of her own life so she passed it on to us. Well, she sold it to us. At any rate, it really requires no upgrading so we can move right in, and I can focus on the garden.


There is a bit of existing garden here, but mostly it is open grassy fields on the western half and large trees and hedgerows on the eastern half. We have grand plans for our new property -- we foresee a large vegetable garden and a even larger ornamental garden that is visually connected to the surrounding landscape. We also want to leave some areas wild.

We foresee chickens, bees, and hopefully lots of wildlife. As with the current Chickadee Gardens, this new garden will also be for the critters -- the insects, the birds, chickadees (and certainly squirrels and rabbits), and for us and our friends and family.


The adventures ahead of us are plenty. This is our forever home where we plan to live out our lives. I want to take special care to garden sustain-ably and to consider every move before simply digging in. I want to plan thoughtfully to make decisions now so that it gets easier as time goes on rather than making mistakes at the outset costing us time and money.


The driveway up to the property, appropriately littered with autumn leaves.


The eastern half of the property, which was completely covered in tall grass the last few times we saw it. Now mowed by the former owner, we can see what we've bought. It's an area with several trees surrounding its borders and grassy open areas. This is where the greenhouse will eventually live as well as the vegetable garden. The colorful building is my new garden shed. I think it might end up painted like Casa Azul at our Portland home.





We are so lucky that there are at least two large oak trees on the property. I do love them so. We will have an arborist visit to examine all of our trees to determine which ones need to go, as there are a few that are obviously dead or dying and are a hazard to the house if they should fall. Let us hope the oaks are okay.


A labyrinth made by the last owner. It's 50 feet across. I love it, yes, it was certainly a spiritual exercise for the last owner, something I deeply respect. But I will reuse the rocks in other places in the garden and think of her and this special place every time I see them. I do want to honor the richness of the meaning here, perhaps I can do something in my own way somewhere else on the property. It will all develop organically over time.



The previous owner built this vegetable garden right off of the back deck. It has a deer fence around it so this is where my new plants will live until we have our grand deer fence built around the perimeter of the property and I can start getting them into the ground.


David and our new best friend Ron, the fence guy, doing a walkabout around the property this weekend. We like him a lot for he is willing to clear some brush and build us a fence on the whole property. Hooray!


Some of the beauty in this place is in the many trees, I look forward to learning what they are, for I am not so fluent in tree talk.







Looking west to our gate and driveway. The white fence is the neighbor's fence.


The northern border looking east. There are several rows of Douglas firs, some of which are dead and have to be removed. We also need to clear space for the new fence.


Even though this berm is on the north side of the property, it gets a good amount of sun. I look forward to designing and planting here, so close to the house. I have many ideas already, but surely they will flow in and out of me until the right one takes hold.




Some of the leaf litter. I am so excited to see this. I plan to leave it in place to compost on-site. I am considering sheet-mulching the entire western half in time, for the more I learn about permaculture the more it makes sense.


Looking south from the eastern wild lands. The building in the distance is the southern neighbor's.


I met a few of the neighbors this weekend. This happy lot came right over to say hello. I look forward to getting to know them (and hopefully giving them the occasional hand-full of treats).


I put this in because I consider it an auspicious sign. Our cat Hobbes' nickname is Bigbee for a big bumble bee kitty or also a big brother. I also have a wooden kitty a friend gave me nicknamed Bigbee. This piece of equipment is in our new neighbor's yard and I just couldn't resist a photo.


A look back at our new home, photo from September.



Same view taken this week.


We are so grateful to be able to take this immense step in our lives together and to have such an amazing place in this world to call home. I plan to document every stage of development with the new garden here on the Chickadee Gardens blog, so I invite you to come along with us on our adventures and learn and grow with us.We look forward to bringing our slow changes to you as often as we can in this series. We are both very excited.

David's note: The inside is just as interesting as the grounds. Perhaps we will feature it one week soon. I am very pleased not to go through a remodeling project. A couple of new gutters here and some nail-hole patching on the inside walls is about as much "fixing up" as we shall have to do. David is very happy. Meantime, we plod on moving into our new home and new life. Haha, as to the Bengals, well, we have some ideas how they can enjoy the property, too, but, like the home interior, those ideas and outcomes will be shared here at a later date.

That's about it for this week's Chickadee Gardens blog. More to come. We promise. Until next time, happy gardening!

42 comments :

  1. So exciting, and a little sad too right? How much more space is this than you had at Chickadee Gardens? 5x? 10x? Too much to count? Congratulations!

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    1. Hi Alan, well - had a lot that was 50 x 100 feet, now we have 250 x 350 square feet. So, a lot more! Two-plus acres in total. Thanks for the congrats!

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  2. This is wonderful -- so exciting. Best wishes for all peace and happiness as you make your forever home in this beautiful place!

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    1. Thanks, Luisa! So kind of you :)

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  3. Anonymous8:04 AM PST

    I'm so happy for you both and can't wait to see all of your posts on your new adventure. Thanks for taking us along your wonderful journey.

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    1. Thank you for coming along for the ride! We love sharing....thanks for reading and commenting, too!

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  4. I am new to your blog and am looking forward to experiencing this new garden with you. Thank you so much for sharing it and welcome to your new home. Best wishes, Astrid

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    1. Thank you Fishtown Planter! We appreciate that you read the blog and commented. Thank you for your kind words too, Astrid. All best, Tamara and David

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  5. Yay, what a gorgeous estate!! I am so excited to see what happens! Oh and adopting some permaculture principles make a lot of sense for such a big homestead. Gotta love chop-n-drop and letting leaves and organic matter rot in situ for the critters and the land to benefit from :)

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    1. Woo hoo! You said "estate!" I don't know if we can live up to that....hahah...and getting a thumbs up from Fifi re: permaculture is the best! When can you come out and play in the dirt with me?

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    2. whenever you guys are ready! :)

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  6. Congrats on passing papers and taking ownership! You are going to have so much fun building a new garden. Sheet mulch is a great way to make new beds.

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    1. Thank you Alison! It will be fun, no doubt! Hopefully many garden blogger gatherings will be held here very soon.

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  7. This is great, congratulations! I'm almost jealous on your two acres of land. I suppose you have so many ideas for the garden that you don't know where to start. Fortunately we are going into winter and you can all think it over, and we are looking forward to your plans and its implementation.
    Wish you a lot of success and fun!

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    1. Thank you, Janneke. You are right, the ideas are swirling around me and I don't know which way to go, but as time passes, ideas grab me and feel right. I will do just that, think allll winter long about every little thing! :)

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  8. Congratulations on making the move official! I'm in love with the new house for all those windows. It must be nice and bright inside. And that berm! What fun it will be to design that. You have a nice mix of trees there, and all the accompanying free mulch and compost. It's nice that they are scattered a bit throughout the property. My parents' house is surrounded by a wall of big firs, all pushed towards the perimeter, with a big empty space in the middle that I'm trying to fill. I'm so looking forward to seeing what you and your husband do with your new acreage.

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    1. Thank you Evan! The house is pretty cool and yes, it is very bright and airy. You'll have to come out and see it soon! I'm open for ideas if you have any, as I do love what you're doing at your parents' home.

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    2. I'd love to visit once you're settled. Design is such a personal process to me. It depends so much on individual taste. But it would be fun to bounce ideas around. Thank you for that nice comment. Sometimes I'm happy with how things are progressing in my parents' garden, and sometimes I just feel like it's a mess!

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  9. This is so exciting!!! I'm very happy for you both! It is a big change but a life full of joy and connection with nature. I will enjoy following the garden progress :).

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    1. Heya Lisa! Thank you so much! A huge change, but a welcome one. Thanks for reading as always!! :)

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  10. I am so happy for the two of you!!!

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    1. Lila!! Thank you so much, you were fantastic. Folks, if you need a real estate agent in the area, this is your woman!

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  11. So conveniently located relative to Joy Creek and Cistus ! Congratulations and looking forward to your adventures.!

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    1. Ohhh, yes indeed. Scary close. Great close! Yay!

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  12. congrats on the new place, what an exciting thing for you...love the shot of the tree with all the lichen on it. that means the air is good and healthy there as lichen does not like pollution.

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    1. Hi Free! Thanks for reading and commenting. I like that photo too and was hoping that the lichen was an indication of good health. Yay!

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  13. Getting the keys is a landmark moment! Your new property has great bones. I know you'll make the most of all that space.

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    1. Thank you for your vote of confidence, Kris! Now where's mine....it's pretty overwhelming!

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  14. I'm breaking out in a cold sweat. You're moving forward with my dream, but at the same time, it's horrifyingly scary. So, so scary. Of course, that's my own fear causing the heart palpitations. ;) All that land looks like heaven, and once you're settled, it will be so fun, albeit work, to make it your own. I'm super excited to follow along!

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    1. Aaaw, Mindy, you are the sweetest. It is scary and exciting at the same time. I hope you can come out and garden a little with me someday. After all, I am close to Joy Creek and Cistus Nurseries :)

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  15. I remember that morning when you and David had just gotten your offer accepted, and you made me swear to secrecy. I'm thrilled that the stress and uncertainty of the purchasing process is behind you. Now starts the fun! Can't wait to come out and see it in person! So exciting!!!

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    1. Hee hee....yes, that seems like a million light years behind us now. Thanks for being a part of my big secret for so long Anna Bean! xo

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  16. You closed! You got the keys! You closed! You got the keys! You got the keys! You got the keys! I am so happy for you, hopefully all that stress about the sale going through is behind you now. Yippeee! I can't wait to get a tour...

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    1. Yaaaay!! Wanna come play in my garden, Danger?? As I am setting aside a bit of land for Anna's adventures, I can dub a piece "Agave Acres" or something like that for you :)

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  17. A new home (aww, who are we kidding? -- a new garden!) is so very exciting! You are going to have so much fun figuring out what you want to do with all that space. I can't wait to see Chickadee 2.0 evolve and look forward to your posts about it. And as a side note, I'm so very glad I got to see Chickadee 1.0 during the Fling. :-)

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  18. So incredibly exciting! The potential and promise in all that land is a bit daunting, I know ( from just 7500 ft or new garden 8 years ago) but you are up to the challenge! It will be so much fun to see Chick2 develop - thanks for taking us along on the ride! (I'm also looking forward to seeing the interior.) congratulations!

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  19. So exciting, I love the style of the house which will make a great backdrop for a new garden. The land and woods are awesome too. Looking forward to following the new garden.

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  20. So exiting for you both ! I wouldn't know where to start ? It's lovely as it is . I think you'll have to host the next swap so we can all visit ?

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  21. Tremendously excited for you both! I'm looking forward to following your adventures. Having lived in Columbia Co. for quite awhile, I can say it's a scenic place with lot's of wildlife. You'll love the diversity of birds. I miss it. Big Hugs!!

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  22. That is a very cool house and a great property. Congratulations! It reminds me of my mom's place in Coos Bay. We just moved out of the Portland area a year ago and let me tell ya... you are going to have all kinds of wildlife in your yard. Well at least until you get your fence installed.

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  23. Wow, so happy for you. Space! Quiet! Sweet fresh country air! So happy for you. Enjoy the journey.

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  24. Congratulations on your new property! It looks like it has lots of undeveloped places for you to do whatever you want. The property line deer fence sounds wonderful, it would make my life so much easier to have that for my 2 acres in SW Washington. I don't seem to see any of the nasty blackberry vines that we battle all the time, either. I like all the windows in your house.

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