There are at least two meanings to this blog title, which will become clear as this post progresses. For the astute few that still check in on our blog from time to time, it will not have escaped your notice that we haven’t posted an update since March of this year. We apologize, but this has been an incredible year, some of it good, some…not so good.
2015 had a very bumpy start, with the loss of no less than THREE cherished family members in the first few weeks after the new year. Thankfully, things then settled down, briefly, and then kidding season came roaring around the corner.
We are so incredibly grateful for a close college friend that offered to step-up, and stayed at the farm for a couple of our busiest weeks to lend a most welcome hand this spring. I think we may have worn her out, but it was a wildly successful kidding season, gifting us no less than 14 does, to just 4 bucks this year, and no kid losses. It’s difficult to ask for a more successful season than the one we had, and we’re incredibly grateful! I promised not to post a picture of her, but I lied. This photo is just too damn cute, not to. Don’t you agree? Sorry!
As kidding season settled into its predictable routine, show season started up, with week after week of clipping, bathing, and driving goats all over Northern California. Show season was very successful as well this year.
We finished two permanent champions, and have one more that just needs that ever-elusive “one more championship leg” to become a permanent finished champion. We also had not one, but two ‘best in show’ wins this year, one of whom was a beautiful doeling of our own breeding. Confirmation that perhaps we’re heading in the right direction.
However, as soon as show season had a lull, and I could stop to catch my breath, searching for a new location to move the farm to re-started in earnest. This year, we weren’t messing around. After three years of searching we’d reached condition critical. Do or die. Move this year, or we’re permanently, and very finally, done. I don’t say this to be melodramatic, but it is quite honestly the point we had reached. As if looking for new real estate in this area isn’t stressful enough, the potential finality of all things farm, more than added an extra layer of stress.
Sure, we could keep two does. Breed them, even, but if we can’t retain the offspring, there is NO point. There is no ‘breeding program’ if you can’t hold on to some of the next generation in an effort to improve your herd.
Not to mention, this is the second year we’ve abandoned the gardens due to lack of water, and the orchard is languishing, to put it mildly. After four years of an incredible drought, our poor fruit trees may be permanently stunted.
So for this year, it’s fair to say that the roller-coaster we’ve been riding was one of those old rickety, creaky wooden ones, and barely attached to the track. If you’re familiar with real estate, especially anything involving acreage, and commutable to Silicon Valley, you know just how difficult this task has been. I won’t bore you with the details, but I did blog about our frustration with the market previously. If it gives you some perspective on the duration of our search, and the level of our frustration, this is the post I wrote on this same subject two and-a-half years ago.
Despite the recent crash in the economy, in this area property prices have soared this year, and bidding wars are once again just part of the purchase process. The good news? This farm is finally worth more than we paid for it. The bad news? Banks don’t believe that land is worth more than you can spit on it. Acreage barely counts anymore, unless it comes replete with a mega-mansion. In California. Acres. Worthless?!?! Yes. Banks simply won’t take risk on sales involving significant acreage, despite the fact that those of us farming, or anyone with a land-savvy synapse in their brain, understands that LAND, SOIL, SQUARE FEET OF THE EARTH’S CRUST (not to mention water), is very much the limiting reagent in this part of the state. Dirt is worth…well, just that, from a lender’s perspective.
So this year has been a series of let’s make a deal. Make offer, get in bidding war (invariably against a developer), lose, move on. Rinse, and repeat. We did that more than once, bouncing from hope, to disappointment, and back to hope, and again to defeat and frustration. You get the idea.
Unfortunately, our quest to move the farm is not about “one or two more acres”, or a “nicer place to live”. It’s to move the farm…or…fold the farm. This location, plain and simple, is not working for us. We’ve outgrown it, and a feud with one neighbor has made living here incredibly uncomfortable. The rest of the neighborhood treats us as the local ‘theme park’, and loves us, and the animals. One neighbor flips out about bees, and can’t abide poultry, or livestock, no matter how small. When a neighbor makes noise, and nuisance complaints to the county about your animals, especially when you share an easement, there’s always a concern, in the back of your mind, for the welfare of your animals, as you never quite know just how far that neighbor will go to get their own way. Life is just too short to live with that day after day.
We’re not in violation of any zoning or building ordinances, and are not doing nothing wrong, but it doesn’t stop someone from becoming an incredible pain, especially when they clearly have nothing better to do with their time.
Despite the fact our existing location is rural, squarely in the middle of Agriculture-zoned land, and California has been a right to farm state since 2008, most ag land here is now stuck up mini-mansion land, and mini-mansion owners don’t like livestock, animal noises, or heaven forbid…poop. Most rural residents in this county seem to want sterile acreage. Lord of the manor acreage. Not real life up-to-your-shins mucking out stalls acreage. More faux I-own-ten-acres-of-just-a-view acreage. 5000 square foot houses, manicured woodlands, leaf blown within an inch of their lives, and no critters, wildlife, or livestock. Period. Anyway, I’ll stop there, because anyone that knows me, also knows that I could rant on this subject for days!
So, this time we were searching for a more remote parcel. Less neighbors was a priority, appropriately zoned acreage (easier said than done), and more contiguous flat land, if for no other reason than to help make our day-to-day chores MUCH more efficient. However, we’ve grown to love our privacy here, and love the woodland areas, too. We can walk the goats on any day of the year to an area of the farm where they love to browse on blackberry, redwood, and honeysuckle. What we didn’t want was a sterile, flat plot, with nothing but grass, and being able to peer directly into a neighbor’s bathroom.
After more than three years of hunting, we finally found a property that really REALLY suited our needs, and it’s not that far away! Perched on a plateau, on the side of a mountain, the house is tiny, but it’s sited on a secluded 18 acres with more browse than the goats could ever wish for. Unlike here, there is NO shared easement, the inner 8 acres of the property is fully fenced, and as a bonus, two sides of the property border on State Park land. This time we pounced, went in with guns blazing, and succeeded in quickly securing the offer, finally avoiding a bidding war. After dragging through the financial quagmire that has become normal these days, and the slowest escrow we’ve EVER experienced, due to the debacle that was the ‘boom’ a few years ago, and suffering through the most intrusive financial scrunity, yesterday, we finally obtained the keys! As such, we are now moving to a different mountain!
The new property is situated at around 1900 feet above sea level. There is an established orchard, with a variety of trees, including a well-established Meyer Lemon, Grapefruit, Limequat, Persimmon, various (albeit not heirloom) apples – but as California Rare Fruit Growers (CRFG) members we can remedy that over time, pears, grapefruit, plums, apricots…you name it. One advantage, at least for the Pomme fruits, is the elevation above sea level should help increase those all-important winter chill hours. Our apples this year, due to our incredibly warm winter, and our lower elevation, struggled to set any fruit at all. Oh, and this property has water. A LOT of it. Which is incredible considering how severe our drought has been.
For the remainder of 2015 our priority will be getting everything set up for moving the animals to the new farm. Things will be in disarray for the next few months, but we’re hoping the move will be final by Christmas. We do need to construct a new barn before the animals can move, which this time will require going through the permitting process with the county, and no doubt that will slow the process down. I will honestly, of everything here, miss the barn we originally both built for Lotus and Minnie, with our own two hands, but am very much looking forward to what the new property holds for us. We also need to install some dwarf goat-friendly fencing at the new location, so the blog will still be quiet for a while, but we’ll try to update from time to time on our progress. Once we’re settled, we should have no shortage of things to blog about, as we’re (almost) starting all over again.
After the last few years we’re hoping that now we’ve finally secured the location, that the worst is finally behind us, and although we’ll be insanely busy in the coming months, at least now we can make some forward progress! We are so excited to be moving the farm to a place we can finally call…home.