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.