Wednesday, December 15, 2004

And you shall find him lying in a lawn chair

People in our neighborhood in South Minneapolis LO-HO-HO-HO-VE putting up Christmas toys in their yards. I'm not kidding. This is where the Vikings flags hang proudly next to snowman flags and giant creepy inflatable gingerbread men. Yesterday as I was walking I SWEAR I saw a lit up Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus, but the manger must have been broken because he was in a half of a taped up lawn chair. Humorous or sacreligious? Discuss.

You know you're in the heart of a midwest winter when in the morning as you're rolling out of bed you hear on the radio that the temperature is 22 and think "Oh, good it's so mild out!"

Jay and I had a rocky Sunday trying to get the &$#@%* electric fence working at the farm as the bone-chilling wind spat ice and snow in our faces for a good 5 or 6 hours. I'm a little nervous that Jay might go and find himself a wife without horses now. That man is worth his lithe, fat-free body weight in platinum.

Bex and I got a light for the kitchen so we can get the flourescents out of there, and found a lovely new sink and kitchen counters. Our friend Jerry Osberg will be coming out this weekend with Mom and Dad to help us get some of the plumbing issues worked out. I will be working on helping the horses adapt to their new lovely home and keeping them from running through the as-of-yet un-electrified fence. On a good note, it looks as if we've finally pinpointed the problem. Fleet Farm is like this giant warehouse of farm supplies, really unlike anything at all I've ever seen in Oregon. It also has candy and clothes though, a very weird mix. But every time Jay and I go, I say "well this should be the last trip" and now we just laugh and laugh when I say that, because it's just so obscenely not true.

We stay at the farm for two weeks after moving the horses out there on Saturday, and I'm looking so forward to that. I get easily overwhemed during the holidays, and this feels like a perfect balm. We won't be "plugged in" out there, so it will be a while before I post again.

Cheers and light, everyone.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004


Originally uploaded by chrisnewhouse.
good times at the HOLIDAY PARTY last weekend...lefse and all. Http://

Wednesday, November 24, 2004


Originally uploaded by chrisnewhouse.
Pictures...remember to go here
to see all the pictures we have online.
I say "touche" to the girls and their comments. Though I'm not particularily worried about Flannery getting eaten by a racoon.
Would it look something like this?
(The link is working now)

Happy Thanksgiving from the Colfax Dumpster Gang!

Life in the City, Life on the Farm

Many of you have asked for more pictures! The digital selection we have is somewhat limited but below are a few of my favorites, not in any chronological order. I'll post some of life in Minneapolis soon, too. Once on this blog, I tend to forget to share much about life in "the city." In fact, our Monday-Friday is not spent merely showing up at jobs until we hop in the car and head back out to Colfax. Lots and lots of cooking and talking and happenings at our home - but I'm missing sharing it with you more.

Charis so eloquently shared some of her fears and struggles in her last blog, which by the way, is worth reading every word! I resonate with many of the same, especially the part about living in the present. It is easy for me to become overwhelmed with a hectic life. I want to slow it down so that anxiety and fear does not come to represent any one aspect of my life experiences. I want to slow it down so that we have more time in this odd limbo - living in our cozy Minneapolis house together, learning about renovating a farm, getting to know our city, getting to know our 36.5 acres, throwing dinner parties for friends in Minneapolis, laughing till we snort with our family, playing 'round the world ping pong in mom and dad's basement, throwing bbqs in the backyard, going to the Riverview Theater, driving by The Rail Station pub, both curious and appalled, shopping at our local grocery store on Lake Street with the most diverse population in Minneapolis, leafing through our cookbook library to make the week's mealplan.

A lot of those things won't change anytime soon, but together they represent this snapshot of the present. Maybe because we're at the height of farm projects do I begin to feel overwhelmed and a little intimidated. Yes, this dream just took off and happened so fast - wonderfully so. But that means that it's really HAPPENING and all those things we imagined just may not be what we hoped. Let's get real though - even if we find ourselves isolated in Colfax and without jobs and without visitors and without Flannery (ref. Charis' blog) - getting to that point has been and will be like no other experience in our lives.

When I was young, whining to mom about how LONG the school year was and summer break seemed to last forever, I distinctly remember her telling me that time would go by a lot faster as I got older. Never before have I felt the truth in that more than today. I am afraid for how much change is to come - how will the farm change me? my relationships? my marriage? our goals? - how will having children (some day) change me? my relationships? my marriage? our goals? - how will I have to accomodate a new lifestyle? how will I reach my friends? metro culture? All of these questions inspire new conversations about faith, values, family, community, acceptance.

My greatest fear is that I'll stop sharing and talking and writing about it. Honestly. Thanks for keeping me in check by demanding more posts! more photos! Keep asking questions and sending your comments when you are curious about what we're doing and saying. The safety net of your support is my dearest comfort. Happy Thanksgiving! I wish I could share turkey, cranberries and pie with each of you.

In October, we were visited by thousands of little red friends - this photo is but a slice of the infestation - sunning themselves by the barn.

This is one of my favorite pictures - the first time Charis and I saw the barn loft in August. This is the child-like excitement we're talking about!

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

A ridiculously long post from America's Icebox

If you're already one of the unlucky folks on my list of email recipients, you've already seen this bad boy, so just skip right over it. It's been requested that I add it to the blog for posterity's sake.



Hello friends!

It’s happening. No matter how I fight it. The accent is creeping in, and I hear myself – the nasal As and round Os – and there’s nothing I can do to stop it. Somebody send help right now. I’m starting to sound like Maahrge from Faahrgoo and it’s not pretty.

They’re telling me it’s been a ridiculously mild winter thus far, and Becca is convinced that I’m wielding some sort of X-Mannish power over the weather, as things got weird as soon as Jay and I showed up. After all of the warnings of super-humid heat and freeze-dried winters, it's been pretty lovely here: a 75-degree summer and now a brisk but sunny fall. Still feels pretty cold to me, as it doesn't usually get to 11 degrees in Portland ever, let alone in November. I'm crossing my fingers as I'm moving the equines to their permanent home at the new farm on December 18, and I don’t want any snow or ice on the perilous-enough-already county roads for that adventure.

Our new neighbors the Beyrers (you can learn more about them by visiting my other entries on this blog) have a son named Tryston, and he’s going to be feeding the horses from January – May on the days I can’t be there. As you can imagine, I’m thrilled about this development. Jay and I will be living out there during winter break to help get the horses adjusted.

I’ve been fortunate enough to pick up a few training clients at my current stables, and may continue on there once my horses are Wisconsin residents. I’m working with a three-year-old colt with tons of potential and a great work ethic and a nine-year-old gelding with some major issues – mainly based in defensiveness and disrespect. The woman with the colt wants to bring him out to the farm next summer for more intensive work, which would be a good challenge.

Most of our family and extended family was present for a giant work weekend at the farm on November 5 – 7, and a buttload of work got done. The blog has details and photos, but I have to tell you that with the help of the Cedarleaf gang and a few other lovable hangers-on we achieved greatness together.

We’re all still excited, but also weary and kind of worn down these days with so much work and travel. I suppose I’ve reached the phase where I have questions, and a few fears popping up every once in a while, some of them reasonable: What if one of us ends up hating this life? What if we have trouble finding jobs? How will Jay find a way to make music with others? How will we continue to forge community, with those directly around us (Minneapolis, Colfax) and with those already in our community who live far away (Portland, Corvallis, Scio, Independence, L.A./Oakland, N.Y., Seattle area, El Salvador)? How will we fit in with the farmers in our neighborhood? How do we collectively feel about hunting on our land (I’ll be blogging on this soon)? What if we run out of money? And some of them unreasonable: What if someone gets a brain tumor? What if nobody ever comes to visit? What if something evil resides in the cornfield? What if a raccoon eats Flannery?

I’m not a city girl, not yet a farm woman. How do I make it through the next 6 months, battling this restlessness? I know that sounds high drama, but you know me.

I’ve never been a person who has cared much for surprises, and this dream/adventure feeds that particular discomfort. I also hate leaving projects unfinished, and believe me when I tell you that this farm is one big unfinished project. This is good, because it means that I’m being forced to grow and stretch in new ways, but it’s also scary.

My biggest challenge, besides missing my peeps on the West Coast, has been to honestly live in the moment, enjoying this in-between stage for what it is and not just as some kind of purgatory or path to another destination. The people who ease that challenge are my darling husband and my two trusty housemates, along with other friends and family here. It has been an incredible relief to realize that the four of us can make this WORK. We are well suited to each other and still have lots of fun together on a regular basis, even with pressing logistical issues presenting hurdles day to day - we’re remodeling an entire farm, for the love of the lord! I am honored to be a part of a tradition that began with my parents, and am grateful for my earlier experiences with co-habitation and communal living: Jay’s and my time at Jaxonia and later with DWarren at our place on 55th. I believe these experiences, having been successful in their own special ways, opened the door to the possibilities for us. We knew it COULD work thanks to our time spent learning and reveling in community.

My work at Hopkins West Junior High has been a mix, but generally consists of fluorescent office malaise. People here in the Special Ed office are extremely nice and clearly overworked, and that’s heartbreaking. It also makes my job a bit of a struggle, as often nobody has the time to teach me much and the atmosphere mainly consists of wait … wait … wait … wait … wait … wait … EMERGENCY!!!!! … wait … wait … wait… you get my drift. The kids who come in to the office on a regular basis are simultaneously hilarious and sad, and are the most stimulating part of my day without fail. Mainly I get a glimpse of the high-functioning autistic kids who come in to do odd jobs around the office as a part of their schedules. Gabe sings symphonies to himself as he walks down the hall, touching each locker. Kyle loves it when catastrophe strikes: “THERE’S A BEE IN THE ROOM! A BEE!” or “IT SMELLS LIKE THE HEATER BLEW UP IN ROOM 100!” The atmosphere is often grim (no money, no time) sometimes joyful (food and snacks 24-7 with a big birthday treat emphasis) and many days chaotic. I feel depressed about “the system.” It’s like many of my temp jobs in that it has opened my eyes to the way a particular place operates (well, at least the microcosm I’m a part of). As a side note, I must say it has been interesting to actually see what a staff lounge looks like (wasn't that always THE most mysterious place when you were a kid in school?)

We were out at the farm over the weekend – Jay and I put up lots of fence that was either broken or non-existent. Now that we have two separate viable spaces for the horses to be, we can manage the pastures come spring. By the way, Bex, Chris, Kevin, Allison and Jay are honest-to-goodness rednecks now, having bucked 150 bales of hay off a trailer and into the barn. We also set up the box stalls, cutting out a piece of wall and fixing other small issues. Next time around I’ll gravel and mat, and I’m getting estimates today on what it will take to get my indoor arena graded. The farm is going to feel like the Ritz after the horses’ current situation! Saturday day was all about manual labor, and Saturday night was all about Hearts and chilly vodka shots and fresh orange slices for the loser. And the winner. Oh, and Jay, Chris and Kevin chasing some hapless cows around and hooting hysterically in the black of the moonless night at the neighboring farm.

One of the best parts of the weekend was the welcome addition of the woodstove: SO VERY COZY AND TOASTY. The gutters are installed too! Even without much legitimate furniture, the house is starting to feel like a place where a person could really spend some time. I have to also add that Chris’ friend Eric wants to make an observatory out of our silo. I’m personally leaning toward a Rapunzel turret. I’m starting the hair growth effort now.

This is all to say that even with windburnt eyes from mending fences in the chill and the abundant hay rash all over my hands, the farm makes me feel like a kid again – gleeful and a little wild-eyed.

Love and giant farm breakfasts with bacon to all of you dear people, especially if you’ve slogged through this thing to the end. It seems only fitting that I post this right around Thanksgiving time, because I’m ever so grateful for the role my friends and family each have had in my life, and for their support in the form of love messages of all kinds. I’ve been a HORRIBLE correspondent to many. My cell phone only seems to work at the top of a treeless hill, and half the time we’re at the farm, which enjoys no signal of any kind, rendering our new fangled technology USELESS. I don’t call people back. I’m living in a bit of a whacked-out fog. Mea culpa, mea culpa. Know that all are still loved like never before. We do have a land line just now set up at the farm: 715 658-1581. We’re there many weekends, but often outside, and there’s no voicemail yet. It will get better – I promise. Right now we’re trying to add photos and commentary to this here blog to keep up with the rapid pace of change in our lives. Good luck to us!


Monday, November 15, 2004


Originally uploaded by chrisnewhouse.
I found these pictures on the world wide web. I tried to mark our aprox. property lines. This view gives you an idea of how much forest is in this area. Although, from this perspective, you can really see how carved out it is too.


Originally uploaded by chrisnewhouse.
This digitized view gives you a good idea of what the topography is like.

sat2 copy

sat2 copy
Originally uploaded by chrisnewhouse.
Here's one from a bit higher up..

Thank You to family for Nov. 6

On November 5 through 7 we had family help us make giant strides toward our home being our home. THANK YOU from Charis, Jay and Becca, Chris

Tony - early rising, sawsall mad genius, stall removing, wall removing, tree cutter
Melanie - vanquisher of pine cones, cheeful primer and painter
Amanda - dragged enough branches to cover the St. Croix Bridge and allowed fresher air upstairs
James - cinder block escort, ax hurling, loft cleaning garbage collector
Ralph - blood sweating wood man with a great laugh
Becky - fearless, relentless paintaholic
Glenda - thorough, constant braided priming goddess
Caroline - cheerleading break conversationalist
Ted - philosophical tool user, patient wall tackler
Jeanine - tireless painter who kept us nourished with soul and food
Sheldon - patient, expert advisor
Jane - humorous, knowledgeable encourager
Erik - it is now safe to climb into the loft
Elissa - whirling dervish painting and stacking wood
Kelly - no more inhaling spiders in the barn
Rafi - ran so much he had to take himself for a nap
Bella - curious stick chaser


The farm is already party headquarters for the summer. Becky suggested the lower ceiling room of the barn as the art gallery. We are now creating party central headquarters for the winter. We have a room now that could seat 30 people. Ten extra leaves, some more legs and 20 more chairs, should make our dining room table complete.
I hear and see the room filled with jubilaint jam sessions and even intimate concerts. I have heard Jessica Williams in a room smaller than our dining room. Hey, I might learn how to play quiet, or I could pass out ear plugs. I envisions candles burning out as people read their writings, share their stories and display their art. Lucious meals can be enjoyed by many. The waltz, jitterbug, lindy, macarana, salsa, square and even a little r & b, has more than enougth room to strut its prowess. Prepare your art and prepare your time to visit.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Permaculture Possibilities

I have been reading a lot about permaculture lately. The basic idea is so simple that it kind of smacks against your brain in a "why aren't people doing this everywhere?" sort of way. Permaculture is a form of agricultural landscaping that attempts to mimic the diverse and balanced structure of a natural landscape. I emailed Marian Farrior at the University of Wisconsin in Madison and asked her for advice in how to go about learning more about permaculture and using it on the farm. She was the only person I could find in the Midwest who has anything to do with permaculture. It is primarily an Australian/European movement that has recently reached the East and West costs of Jesusland. Anyway, here is her response to my email.

Dear Chris,

I had a hard time coming up with a response to your e-mail, which is why it has taken so long. You are right -- permaculture is much more active on the East and West coast, and even in the South and Southwest. It has not really "taken hold" in the Midwest, maybe due to cultural preferences, maybe because the PC techniques for temperate climates are more difficult to demonstrate where there are weather extremes. The places that were teaching permaculture -- Grailville in OH, Michaela Farms in Indiana, are no longer doing so. All the classes and workshops that I tried to teach were cancelled due to low enrollment. There is a "Permaculture Guild" in Madison/Mt.Horeb, but I haven't been able to connect with those folks either. OK, I'm done with my complaining about this.

If I were you, I would visit the farms that are doing PC in the Midwest (and
just buy a few books for reference). That way, you learn from their
experiences (and not just book talk) and identify appropriate varieties of
plants and trees that would work in the Midwest (as well as building

Here's some resources for you:

Greg David at Prairie Dock Farm (a CSA) does Permaculture -- he lives in
Watertown WI and his e-mail address is He would know plant varieties and what works in the WI area.

Similarly, Martin Jelenc does PC and has an orchard -- he lives in Belleville WI and his phone number is (608) 832-6277 -- he could tell you what fruit and nut tree varieties grow in this area. Also, Mark Ludwig has a tree farm in Avoca WI and he does PC -- his phone number (last I knew -- this may have changed) is (608) 583-3036.

Kathleen Plunkett Black has been homesteading for years with her husband and children in Arkansaw WI, and she teaches PC and seed saving -- her number is (715) 647-3033.


There's a lot of info on the web, as you know. I like the simple books, like
Introduction to Permaculture by Mollison and Reny Mia Slay.
The Earth Care Manual, A Permaculture Handbook for Britain & Other Temperate Countries; by Patrick Whitefield looks interesting (though long) -- it's set up like a PC training course.

My friend Dave Jacke wrote a book about temperate zone permaculture
techniques and appropriate plant varieties (he did a lot of research) -- his
book should be coming out soon, and his e-mail is

If you decide to go the training route, the Permaculture Activist magazine
lists workshops and other resources:
Courses are expensive and take an investment of time, but they are a good overview of the principles, techniques, and design.

Another way to learn is to talk to "edible landscapers" or organic gardeners in your area -- they're doing PC without calling it that. If you want to make a living off your farm, that takes more planning and ingenuity, and I would have other suggestions (for example, check into Holistic Resource Management).

After talking to folks and visiting farms, then observe your place for a
year and watch how the energy flows through it -- water, wind, wildlife.
Then come up with a plan, applying the best ideas you've seen and match them to your needs. I've jumped into doing things without thinking them through, only to have to redo them later, so I'm talking from experience.

I hope this helps and isn't overwhelming! Let me know how it turns out....You can call me if you want to talk about this some more.

All the best,

Marian Farrior
Earth Partnership Field Manager

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Family Work Weekend: Ted and Ralph in a classic chainsaw shot. "Fun, dirty, sweaty, bloody and hungry," in uncle Ralph's words.

The kitchen transformation begins with Aunt Becky at the helm...

Aunt Melanie priming the pinecone cupboard doors...and priming...and priming...

Elissa, the fearless painting maniac!

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Saturday Sunset

Saturday Sunset
Originally uploaded by chrisnewhouse.
Just got back from a great work weekend at the farm. A LOT was accomplished, including tearing down a wall, making a ginormus wood pile in the garage, and painting just about every paintable surface in the house.

Friday, November 05, 2004

Sunrise 10.04

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

The Morning After

I'm having a lot of conflicting feelings today - after another roller coaster election and in the midst of a hectic life. I am entrenched in a busy work life in a heavily liberal environment. I allow myself to forget that there is a majority out there that thinks differently than the bubble in which I live. How do we (as a group, attempting to live an alternative life) reconcile our goals and ideas with a conflicting political and social environment? It's overwhelming until I allow myself to escape to this vision of living a slower, quieter, more removed life.

Chris and I took a walk through our woods at sunrise during the peak of fall color a couple of weeks ago. So far, that has been the most profound moment for me at the farm. We slowly trekked the hill, collecting leaves, stopping at each new type of tree to identify its name by color, leaf shape, breadth of crown, and bark patterns. The beauty and solitude among our trees was overwhelmingly of they were welcoming us to the community as we came to know them better. Down the path a ways, at the top of the deep stone hill, I came upon a grove of young Aspen so thick I couldn't walk between the skinny trunks. Their taut, golden bark and quaking leaves looked like costumes on a chorus. From the ground below, Chris hollered up to me, explaining that Aspen grow as one unit...each tree is a part of one organism, connected to its neighboring tree by an enormous, intricate web of shared roots. I instantly became arrestingly aware of how small I am under the powerful hand of nature, in awe of what I have to learn from its example of communal living.

In three days, the four of us will welcome a band of Cedarleaf family, who are opening their hearts, hands, and tool boxes to help us continue to transform the farm house and clean up the property. Today, Chris and Kevin are filling the shell of our living room with new insulation and drywall. (We have learned loads from Kevin's brilliant construction mind. Without him we might all still be standing around a crumbling living room, scratching our heads.) Last night, we did some hot tub shopping and are quickly falling in love with the image of our good friends and family sharing a glass of wine in our tub before taking a roll in the snow! Check out ...then give us a call to schedule your visit.

Despite the post-election long faces, we have much to look forward to. It's a beautiful, cold fall morning here, and I'm escaping my work desk with thoughts of trekking through our woods to visit the Aspen grove.

Saturday, October 30, 2004

I heart the new neighbors

Okay, so we went out to the farm today (we being me, Jay and Bex - Chris had to work, though he was there on Wednesday pulling the old drywall and insulation out of the living room - it's kind of a grizzled hollow shell now, which is bizarre!)and the neighbors dropped by for a visit. The Beyrers are this kickass family who lives down the road a piece and run several dairies out in our neck of the woods and own most of our neck of the woods (they're big on keeping it wild and protected). We dropped by their place a few weeks ago to bring a loaf of banana bread. They're incredibly kind and capable - role model farmers really - and even offered to haul our manure pile out for us next spring if we needed them to. They also have a stuffed (or perhaps riggor-mortified?) oppossum in the back of their truck for show and tell - and shock value.

Bill Beyrer's hands betray his decades and decades of farm labor and long days with the cows. He and his wife Sherri have three boys, the oldes of which wants to feed my horses for me if I bring them out to the farm before we move! He told me today! Yes! I imagine that will happen sometime in chilly December, so I'm busy getting de-icers for the water tubs and I'll be readying the barn next month, gravelling and matting the stalls and doing some cleaning. Next week, Jay is going to finish putting up the white electrical tape around the top of the fenceline for better visibility. I also have to find a hay source. At any rate, the new neighbors are my heroes and they're just so dang nice. They have all kinds of reasons to be a little snotty toward the crazy inbred communal-living city slickers moving in down the road but they're kind and friendly, offering help and general good vibes. Do you think they'd be creeped out if I hung out and helped them with their chores, or just followed them around grinning as they went about their day? You do? Oh.

By the way, we finished up with most of the painting upstairs, trimming the Siamese cat colored room and B & C's room, with Jay rolling the creamy colored room closet and the three of us trimming it in terra cotta (somehow it works). The gutters aren't on yet, so guess who's getting a call in the morning?

Time for bed. More later.


Sunday, October 24, 2004

Forget what they say - spackle is a girl's best friend

Hi all! I just spent the weekend at the farm and wanted to record my dirty doings. First of all, it was SCARY to be out there, because A) the cornfield is all pale and horror movie-ish now, B) there was a GIANT STORM while I was there, which was very cool during the day when the big gray thunderheads would move, all threatening, across the valley, and totally freaky at night when I could see absolutely nothing due to the fact that it is inconceivably dark out there once the sun goes down, and things were rattling and knocking around and I jumped when i saw my reflection in a window, and C) I left the CDs at home and had to listen to CLASSIC RAWK all weekend (Winger, Supertramp, Scorpions ARRRRRGHHHH!) because that and Lawrence Welk oldies are the only stations that come in well and Wisconsinites loooooooove their CLASSIC RAWK.

All that aside, I spent about 7 hours the first night finishing Jay's and my bedroom upstairs, making it look a bit like the one we did here in the Minneapolis house - it's kind of a deep red clay color called "spiced rum." Mmmm. Spiced rum. Mom says it looks like a womb in there (it's a very very small room. We'll be lucky if our bed fits. I'm not kidding). I, of course, did my signature copper wash, and i must say that although it is slightly "cavey" in there, I like it. What took about 6.5 of the hours was the *&#%@ trimming. I had to do two and a half coats because of the stupid blueberry-purple color that was on there before (which showed through the primer). At least we were able to get the wallpaper horse boarder off. I should say Mom did. Mom, by the way, is a painting WARRIOR. And she's happy the whole time. She did about twice the work that Bex and I did last weekend, and she was better off afterward, and brought gingerbread for all. I must learn her secret.

The next morning, after a fitful sleep (I had to open a window because of the paint fumes, but then my head got wet on account of the horizontal rain) I spackled, patched and primed the downstairs guestroom (crazy old wallpaper room) and the dining room so they'd be ready for paint for our giant family work weekend out there Nov 5 - 6 (my mom's sisters and their progeny will be on hand for outdoor and indoor projects of all kinds - WAHOO). I also rolled and edged one of the upstairs rooms with "raffia cream" - a lovely buttery color. The other two rooms are gray-blue "flint smoke" (B & C's) and a gorgeous siamese cat colored creamy/rosy brown. It's looking great up there. We've also decided on terra cotta walls and slate blue/terra cotta tiles in the kitchen with a bit of an italian theme (buh-bye stenciled pinecone hell!), and red for the dining room. The living room's still up for grabs and the bathroom - well we can't even think about that yet. It's too hard to envision anything beyond the NASTY grout holding things together in there now. We did score a very cool, very FREE clawfoot bathtub that will be perfect in there (Craigslist - go Bex!). The gutters are going to be up by the end of this month, and Chris is working on getting a woodstove. The hot tub, by the way, has been budgeted in, so that should be ready to go by mid-summer (potential visitors, take note!)

I have to echo a bit of what Chris said in the last post - it is a bit frustrating to have to work around some rather bad planning on the builder's part some 85 years ago. I know it always ends up being more than what you think. And even painting is a big task when ALL rooms have to be painted and trimmed. I still think that we're on target for getting most of the house work done by spring, so that we can start to concentrate on the ENORMOUS task of managing 37 acres. The curve will be very high, no doubt. I still can't wait to get my horses out there.

That's it for now. Time to tend to my aching bod. Perhaps a steamy bath.


Thursday, October 14, 2004

more pictures

The farm definately has a wild feel to it. That thought hit me again and again last weekend. I've come away from the weekend absolutely convinced that we found the right place.
The house needs some work. I think I'm a little dissapointed that we wont be building from scratch. I was getting excited about the idea of designing a house and all the thoguht and planning that goes into such a project. I dont want for us to get overwhelmed with potential improvements and become satisfied with putting bandaids and patches all over the place. If something is worth doing, its worth doing right, but I'm not sure we even know how to do things right. From design, to buying materials, to labor, there are going to be a number of ways to do things.
I have uploaded a few more pictures, but I decided to move them to a different site. You can check them out here:
enjoy, i'm off to Madison to hear Yonder Mountain String Band. Good times, I'm sure.

Friday, October 01, 2004

Making a List

I started a new journal the first week of September 2003. The first page is full of notes I took while sitting at Powell's Book Store in NW Portland during our tip to see C&J last summer...notes on communal living, farming cooperatives, organic gardening, sustainable living, eco-building, and on. September 2003 was when our idea truly hatched, then jumped out of the egg and began to run like mad.

Life seemed to truly take off then, and I hardly had time to put thought to page in my new journal. Only four pages after my excited scrawls about our new idea last year, I uncapped my pen and began again: September 25, 2004 - I lay awake on the air mattress in one of the tiny upstairs bedrooms of our new yellow farmhouse, looking out the window onto our first misty morning of farm ownership. Only one year and four pages seems unreal.

Jay and Charis described it most eloquently - the views, the smells, the dirt in the fingernails, the excitment, the anticipation...we're all feeling it and are bracing ourselves for a lot of good, hard, satisfying work in the coming months before we call the Colfax farm our full time home.

I started a to-do list of projects, which didn't even fit on one page. But we've begun to cross things off already...progress!...we tore down wood paneling, pulled up turquoise carpeting, brushed fresh paint over the peach colored hack job upstairs, yanked out layers of contact paper in the kitchen cupboards, discovered the "lovely old" behind the ugly '70s "updates"...let the walls, floors and ceilings breathe again after hiding under years of wallpaper, carpet and tile.

We've got some good video and photos of the process so far...will post them on this site as soon as we can get them up. Check back again soon!

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

My body's in the city, my heart's on the farm

I sent out an email to many already, so I don't want to double up on the info. I guess the thing that I want most to say is that now my greatest challenge is to live wholly in the present as we spend the next year (well, 9 months) in Minneapolis. Last weekend was a revelation: I want to live on this farm for the rest of my life, welcoming you to experience what I'm feeling, inviting you to become a part of what will surely unfold there.

The weekend, after signing all the necessary papers and being able to finally call the place ours, consisted of a celebratory champagne toast and hot dog roast followed by the best kind of work - some gutting, some painting, some reveling, some beer drinking and some skinny dipping the sweat off in the Red Cedar River. And some fun with the truck's four wheel drive mechanism. I want to be back there now.

Life is happening!


Monday, September 27, 2004

The farm is alive

I have held off in posting to wait for the unbelievable to be touched, seen, heard, smelled, and tasted.

glorious,, reverent, pastoral, sacred, inspiring, perspiring

The immediate awareness is the sound. It is untrue to say that there are not any sounds. The sounds are real and vibrant. They are not the sounds of car alarms, fire engines, obsentities yelled by passer-bys on the street. Crickets, trees swaying, breeze across my beer bottle making a whistling sound, grasshopper jumping from grass blade to grass blade, laughter, crackling wood in the fire, birds frolicking, coyotes screaming in delight, are what make my ears and soul ring.

Trees blaze with greens, reds, oranges and reach deep for sky. Hills caress the landscape in gentile and erotic fashion. The moon lights the valley enough to play frisbee. When the moon is gone, the Milky Way appears solid and bold. Morning mist covers the valley and trees cast through a black outline as if you are in the Serengetti. The giant matron of the land shimmers her leaves in the cool breeze.

Carrots the size of my calves and baseball onions were freed from the grasp of weeds waist high. The soil is moist and collapses in the palm of your hand. Wood is sharp and dry, ready for warming the exposed skin touched by the cooling nights. The Red Cedar River takes your breath away as it simultanously washes away sweat and dirt pasted to your skin. The morning and evening dew soakes through your shoes and socks.

Clean, clear and crisp are the smells that cleanse your senses. The nose stops running and becomes atune to all the greens, trees, airs surrounding the area. Old straw, hay and pulled weeds begin the composting process.

I climbed high into the tree and knocked down the ten apples on the tree (off year this year). The bitter yet sweet makes my whole body shimmer with delight. Juice runs down my chin and I can not believe how fantastic it tastes. Potatoes and onions add the wonderful additions to the meals and carrots generate a quiet, yet nutritious drink.

Despite alarm to all five sense, the joy that is flushed throughout my being, it all still seems unbelievable.


Monday, August 30, 2004


Everything went well with the inspection. The inspector thought
the house was in great shape and would last us for many years. He did
say that we should do some things right away: put gutters on the
house, fix some of the plumbing, and put in a hot tub. He was very
insistent on this last piece.
It was fun to be out there with nothing to do but walk around.
There were a couple of trees in the surrounding woods that were
starting to explode in bright colors. The beauty of the land really
struck me, as well as the solitude. Charis asked the owner what she
liked most about the farm and the response was: privacy. It definitely
has a wild feel to it. Ben (owner's son) said he has walked for miles
in the woods behind the barn without running into any buildings or
roads. "They go a lot farther than I can walk," he said. Whether or
not this is true, you definitely get that feeling being there. Becca
noticed that driving down the winding country roads to get to the farm
gets you kind of turned around and disoriented, and then you are
suddenly dropped in this beautiful valley of farmland and forest.
After Charis and I left, we drove a couple miles down the road to
the Red Cedar River. Its a nice river for canoing, tubing, fishing,
swimming, etc, and its close enough to walk to. This is a bonus,
considering that the "fishing creek" on the property is small enough
to step over.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Thanks for the Comments - Keep 'em Comin'

Thanks for sending your input and insight, comments and suggestions. Charis and Chris are meeting the inspector at the farm this morning, so keep your fingers crossed that they don't find any unpleasant surprises. We'll post more photos and news soon after.

Jeff - thanks for the info on wind power. Something we have looked into little, but are definitely interested in. Matt - your holistic farm philosophy/advice is a good reminder. We could greatly benefit from your gardening/market experience and so look forward to your help when the land is ours to start working. Anyone interested in an internship? - Becca

Friday, August 20, 2004

Comments? Answers?

If anyone out there reading this has any suggestions or comments or anything at all to say, please do so. We want to hear what people think about what we're doing. Does anyone have any ideas about how to make some money off the land? What is better: having goats or a cow? What is the best way to make cheese? What kind of truck should we get? Can we dam our creek to make a trout pond? How do we do it?

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Tubing, hackey sack, sangria, rivers, communes, FARM

I feel a little sheepish for not having written yet, but believe me when I tell you that the farm has been oozing out of my every pore (figuratively - heh heh). Frankly, I haven't written because I feel totally slack-jawed speechlessly overwhelmed. Every time I think about this journey I feel grateful. I can't believe that Chris, Becca and Jay are all so on board with the idea. I feel love, gratitude, and eternal joy when I realize I have a husband who includes high on his list of priorities "a home where Charis can look out the window and see her horses." What a gift.

Bex pretty much summed up our time on the river last weekend, but I have to add that the hippies we encountered were (though admittedly a bit loopy) looking at our transition like a completely inevitable, do-able reality, not some crazy, pie-in-the-sky dream. That felt good. It was also helpful to realize that not all rural America is Bush country. Especially this pocket of rural Wisconsin, where we would call home. We're finding more visionary types.

I have to tell you that this farm is ripe with possibility. Everywhere I look, I can see our future there, including friends and family to bust out the seams. I can see my spotted horse grazing in the lush meadow, and I can see the seeds of our family of four here sprouting together. I can even see us showing movies on the barn wall.

This has been and will continue to be a great adventure. I hope anyone reading this is ready to share in it.


We Bought The Farm! Really!

One of the things itching my thoughts about "the farm" all these months of incubation has been the transition from a life urban to a life rural. Some of my past negative perceptions of "rural": conservative socially and politically, closed off from city life, goofy home schoolers, lack of progressive culture. I was surprised and frankly in awe of the community we stumbled upon most recently.

This past weekend we had the incredible opportunity to camp on 250 beautiful acres of organic, communal farm property in Dunn County, Wisconsin. We meandered the trails, tubed the river, admired the garden, and soaked in the incredible landscape. We met members of the community who are progressive, open-minded, culturally aware, with a shared appreciation for the land, people, education and the need to live more sustainably.

We went for a second look at the 38 acre farm with the little yellow farmhouse and red barn just a few miles from our camp spot, and learned about the good neighbors, the landscape throughout the seasons, and the beautiful law within this tiny township that no farm property be less than 35 acres. Oh, the progressive thinking of keeping out the "progress" of housing developments! We could not have been more charmed by the feeling that we'd found OUR community and a bevy of resources from kindred spirits in the area who are happy to help us learn more about some of the things that are most important to us in this farm venture: growing and distributing organic produce and goods, sustainable building connections, natural horsemanship interest, excellence in education, a vibrant arts community, and on.

While the flurry of offers, counter offers, mortgages, inspections, moving, financing, etc. is overwhelming, I have to keep pinching myself when I realize how natural it all feels. It's almost a year to the day that Charis, Jay, Chris and I sat in their hot tub in Portland, giddy with the birth of our shared vision of living in community in the country. What an anniversary.

We're goin' up the country, baby don't you wanna go?

We decided to make an offer on the colfax place. After seeing it again last weekend with our friends Kevin and Allison, we came away feeling good vibrations. The owner and his son were kind enough to walk us around the perimeter of the property and answer all of our questions. They told us all about the neighbors, weather, soil, schools, septic tank, the ten acres of woods, the creek and the mosquitos. We also got to check out Ben's (the ownder's son) trophy he won showing his first prize goat at the Dunn Cty. fair.
After seeing the place again we went back to our campsite on the hay river (, did some tubing, some hackysack, and had a little pow-wow around the campfire. We mostly talked about what life would be like on the farm: what our roles would be, how we'd make money, what our involvement in the community would look like. But I think the place itself had already settled in our minds. So on the drive home we decided to call Millie (our realitor) and make a low-ball offer. The owners countered with a very generous offer yesterday, and we accepted. So now we just have to come up with a big chunk of change and we'll have ourselves a farm. Good times.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

Jay: How the idea became a part of epistemology

The summer of 1994 my life changed for the better in ways far surpassing all hopes, beauty and creativity. I met a woman of such fantastic beauty, charisma, heart and soul as I never dreamed imaginable. With her help I collected my bearings and set sail in a life with her. Never a looking back. I am the Jay I am today because of that woman and that encounter. I am the best Jay I could be because of that woman and that encounter.

We zipped and zoomed through the exterior into the real and true. It all occured at a horse camp. Horses, open land, trees, community were all the canvas for our art making.

One of the dreams that sprung forth was a camp for inner-city youth. A place for adolescents to touch the ground, sweat and eat the fruits of their labor. One of our dreams from that summer on was also to be in a place were Charis could walk out the back door of her house and see the horses.

Two years ago, Charis and I made a fantastic sojourn together across the Atlantic to Europe. Neither of us had ever been there, and we wanted to explore history, art, wine, food and people. All from a older, experienced place, and a part of our place in history.

We loved the month. My culinary approach, exterior presentation, and pace of lifestyle were all drastically shaken. We began in Rome by meeting our friend Julianne and explored for three days. Everything was huge. From there we continued to be smitten by the glorious Italian art in Florence: people, wine, food, paintings and sculpture. We departed from Julianne and spent two relaxing days in paradise: Cinque Terre.
We trained to Paris, through Avignon. Paris is a gorgous town, so intentional and congruent. After wearing out the bottoms of our shoes in Paris we jumped over to Western Ireland, and heard some of the best live music in Doolin. A quartet that played with passion, joy and drive. I stumbled home amidst the stars on an empty narrow road with blackberries as the border, thinking, "I could die now."
Scotland treated us to my favorite city and an amazing art festival: Edinburgh and the Fringe. Arts galore. From there we spent time with our friend Neal in London: flying over the White Cliffs of Dover, exploring Cantebury, seeing London from high in the eye and imagining Shakespearen plays in the Globe.
But then the trip took a turn to the rattling. All I had seen, heard, tasted was radical, lovely and so refreshing, but Sweden. We ended our four weeks with six days in Nord Stro, Skona. Charis' dad's family grew up there and some family was still there. They live out in the country in a town of an intersection and where the three families are within walking distance. The little girls, Karna and Signa, could run through the pumpkin patch to Olaf and Maryann's to get butter when needed. Being with family and in the country, drastically send my neurons, feelings and conceptions into a new birth. We boarded the train to leave and come home and I kept asking myself why are we not moving here. There was a horse barn for sale just across from the family mill. Why are we leaving here?

Well life got the better of me and it was so great to be back with friends, Portland and Cedar Lodge.

Then last summer we were blessed to be a part of Erik and Elissa's wedding up at Golden Lake. All the Cedarleaf family was there and we had a blast: dancing, drinking, swimming, talking and laughing. As we boarded the plane and came backk to Portland, I again asked myself, "Why are we leaving this?"

That time the question stuck and Charis became proactive. Chris and Becca came out to visit not five weeks later and we sprung them the question on top of Sleeping Beauty in Trout Lake, Washington. The idea blossomed forth in their hearts and minds as well and now here we are in Minneapolis (the stepping stone to the farm).

Is it exciting? Yes, I feel like this is so true and invigorating for my soul. The things I have come to treasure and believe in are all in this move: community, family, giving not taking, non-consumerism, hard-work, knowing where your food comes from, simple living, horses in the back yard and an open-door policy home.

Has this been easy? NO. I miss community in Portland, I miss my job in Portland (everything I believe in educationally is gone - the Cedar Lodge is the best example of teaching I know, and I left that for 120 students, teaching on a cart) and I miss music making and listening in Portland.

I hate that Portland had to be separated from this change, but I dream and hope to keep the people, ideas and sounds of Portland alive in the new farm, to take trips to refuel and pray to have many visitors every year.


Sunday, August 08, 2004


Originally uploaded by chrisnewhouse.

jay walking through the pasture

Originally uploaded by chrisnewhouse.


Originally uploaded by chrisnewhouse.
Charis thought this building might be a good arena for the horses.

Barn and house from the pasture

Originally uploaded by chrisnewhouse.


Originally uploaded by chrisnewhouse.

arial view

Originally uploaded by chrisnewhouse.
Here's an arial view of the property.

Saturday, August 07, 2004


Originally uploaded by chrisnewhouse.
And here is the barn with the pastures and forest behind it.

Farm By Colfax, WI

We went to look at a 35 acre farm by Colfax, WI, WI today. We all agreed that the area was amazing--rolling hills, lots of trees, creeks and rivers--and the place turned out to be one of the best we've seen. The house leaves a bit to be desired, but the rest of the buildings are in good condition. The land has a great mix of woods, fields and pastures, and the farm is situated in a very private location. Check it out at Listing #3139.

Thursday, August 05, 2004

house on 34th ave

We are all now living comfortably in this nice little Minneapolis house...Charis, Jay, Becca and I and the two cats.
Originally uploaded by chrisnewhouse.