As we move into the 2015 growing season, you will be hearing much more from Nick. Here is his first ever blog entry. Huzzah!
Happy New Year to everyone back home in Alaska. It has been about seven months since our last proper blog entry where we announced the big move to our own land in the community of Haines as part of the next step in providing Alaska grown vegetable seed. Now that seed starting season is upon us, it seems like we are due for an update. Okay, well overdue. One difference this year you may notice when your seeds begin to arrive is the point of shipping: Leah’s hometown of Phoenix, AZ. Don’t worry, we have not become permanent snowbirds or fled the North entirely, just spending time with family while we are temporarily houseless. We will be returning in Haines this spring to continue working on our home and land. So where have we been? Let’s begin where we left off…
Some of you may have noticed that at some point over the last year our plans to build a tiny house changed into a yurt. The combination of easy assembly, a large and versatile living space, and the acceptance under building code were the most attractive features. We will be explaining our plans more extensively in future posts. We chose to purchase our yurt from an Alaskan company and picked it up in early summer with only minor trials and tribulations. My parents kindly allowed us to leave it stacked and tarped throughout their yard in Anchorage until it was time for the move.
I arrived in Haines in early July driving our truck, packed to the gills with camping supplies and tools, while Leah followed a few weeks later in a similarly overloaded 17 ft U-Haul containing the rest of our worldly possessions (including the yurt itself). The first couple months in town were a hectic blur. There were conversations to have with the borough, contractor, and utility companies, neighbors to meet, a camp to establish, and of course, the actual work on the land itself.
As you may have heard –or know from firsthand experience- precipitation in Southeast Alaska was excessive last summer even by the region’s lofty standards. In July, Haines’ precipitation was somewhere around 3 times higher than average, and as a result groundbreaking was pushed back to the very end of the month. When the time came to begin work, the clouds parted, temperatures jumped into the 70’s, and four days later we had a short driveway, a building site, and all our utilities in place. Just in time, it turned out, since the next day it began to rain and rarely let up for the rest of the season. We lovingly started referring to our building site as “the mud pit” and channeled our energies towards the future garden space as opposed to trying to fight nature.
Our land was completely forested with Spruce and Hemlock with a few Birch thrown in. Being a portion of the original Anway homestead, the trees all came in at the same time and were about the same height with very little underbrush. After seeing what the construction equipment did to the topsoil, we recommitted to developing by hand as much as possible as prescribed by permaculture. This will certainly slow things down but the extra time will pay off immensely by minimizing soil compaction and allowing us to utilize all of the features already present on the land including a small seep, two natural terraces, and well drained gently sloping soils. During the coming spring and summer careful observation will undoubtedly reveal aspects we hadn’t yet considered which may drastically alter our current plans for the space. It’s an exciting and daunting position to be in.
By the time early September arrived, bringing with it even more rain, it had become clear that little progress was going to be made in the way of construction and we made preparations to depart for the winter. One of the biggest concerns in leaving was finding a mill to utilize the pile of logs sitting to one side of our driveway. Luckily there was no shortage of options in Haines and we quickly found a friend open to milling in exchange for lumber. It is extremely satisfying to know that a good portion of trees cut down to make space for our home will become a part of it. With that sorted, we departed town for the winter with a full storage unit, two bikes, and far too much stuff in tow.
So, where have we been since mid-September? That’s for next time. For now, we are excited to open the 2015 season with 5 new varieties, a colorful handpicked beet mix, and all the old favorites. The online store opens tomorrow. Here’s to another great growing season and a slightly drier 2015!