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Setting up a community in SW Oregon

 
Posts: 471
Location: Jackson County, OR (Zone 7)
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Hello,

My family and I are interested in relocating to southwest Oregon to establish a homestead.  We are currently living in North Carolina.  We would very much like to connect up with one or more families - either joining in with an established community or working to establish one from scratch.  To that end, let me describe our family and interests to get things started.

I am 38 and my wife is 36 and we have been married for 13 years.  We have three boys who are 10, 5 and 2 years old.  I grew up in Michigan, and have lived in Colorado, Oregon and Illinois before ending up currently in North Carolina.  I tend to be active, but not in a sport sense.  My time outside of keeping the family functional and work is usually spent on things such as:  raising fruits/nuts/vegetables, brewing, beekeeping, raising rabbits, martial arts, landscaping projects and reading.  My educational background is in the scientific disciplines – Microbiology, Neuroscience, Molecular Biology and Pharmacology.  My wife grew up in Oregon and has lived in New Mexico, Colorado and Illinois before North Carolina.  She also has a science background as well as a strong artistic/creative skill set.  Her other interests include:  photography, graphic illustration, biking, painting and reading.  We all enjoy hiking and generally spending time outdoors.

We are homeschooling 3 boys - ages 10, 5 and 2.  We've been on an independent path that pulls together the ideals of John Holt's "unschooling" along with the respect and self-responsibility articulated by Maria Montessori.  We homeschool with a group called FIAR,  which is a literature based group that organizes learning around a shared book list and schedules field trips throughout the state. It is a lively group that provides for good socializing and exposure to new places and ideas.

The basic premise of all of this is that we believe children learn best by following their innate curiosities and asking questions.  Each child is on his own path - and family teamwork allows for the boys to see the power of cooperation and benefit of each others strengths in the reality of day to day living. 

This style of learning allows for infinite paths... Our oldest is very structured and enjoys games involving math, sci-fantasy, and chemistry.  He needs music - whether piano, cello, or just humming.  Our 5 year old needs nature - especially insects.  He spends most of his time capturing, reading about, or playing insect or animal related games.  He learns best visually and is a motivated self learner but does not want anybody to "teach" him.   Finally my 2 year old is very organized and verbal.  He can speak at length and is presently fascinated with self-teaching the alphabet.

This summer - we put on an 8 part nature class that invited kids from our neighborhood to join us in exploring our acreage.  The older boys each were responsible for contributing to the success from compost critters to monarch butterflies, and we split the modest $ earnings from the camp as well.

I treasure that we live in a neighborhood that is bustling with children and homeschool families.  Doors are open, yards entwine and playmates have become extended family.  We have fun parties, learn a lot, and are very open to new friends.  Creating that in a new setting will be difficult, and I would like so much to have a village of self reliant people who can also ask for help, offer a meal, share a responsibility and offer guidance as well.  Setting festivals to coincide with harvests and seasons - from blueberries to salsa - to pumpkin fests.  Letting the children be themselves - with great respect for others - and the self esteem that comes with self responsibility and grounded passionate interests.

We are looking to build to the next level on what we have created here in our home in NC since moving here in 2001.  Our property is a bit less than an acre and about half of it is in mature hardwoods.  We have built up a large portion of the shaded area as a kids place to play and own.  The immediate neighborhood has about a dozen kids who are homeschooled, so there is almost always a group for them to play with once the chores and school time is done.  The other portion of the property is built up almost completely as an orchard for fruit and nut trees and berry bushes and large areas of raised beds for annual vegetables.  I have tried to incorporate as many permaculture concepts as possible, but I still consider myself a novice in this area.  We have a large diversity of types of producing plants ranging over 80 different types of edibles not including the annual crops.  I am a member of NAFEX (North American fruit explorers) and Seed Savers Exchange (an organization dedicated to maintaining and exchanging open-pollinated seeds).  We grow ~95% organically.  This has been to experiment and not only see what will grow well here, but to see what our family likes.

Ideally our next place in SW Oregon would be substantially larger, at least 5 acres.  Having additional room for more orchard and vegetables and grains is very important to us.  The soil in our area in NC has been a real challenge (red, acidic clay) so we are looking forward to fertile well drained soil.  In addition to flat land for growing crops, a woodlot (flat or hillside) would be great to have to provide additional nutrient capture, diversity and construction material/heating options.  I think we will continue to raise rabbits both for their fertility enhancing manure and high quality meat.  Chickens and dairy goats would be welcome additions to the homestead, if there are enough other folks working together to allow this to be feasible.  The honey bees have been very enjoyable to work with and I look forward to establishing a new set of hives.  A water feature is another area that we would like to have present on the property.  We currently have a small pond that is part of a swale/rain-catch system and the diversity of aquatic and insect life it has enabled has been fantastic.  If a stream/creek is not an option a pond in the new location would be a must.

Our thoughts on the timing for the move is in the early to mid part of 2010.  I am still wrapping up some pieces at work which will allow me to continue to work with the small pharmaceutical company that I have been with since moving to NC.  I think having me work (remotely) will allow for the family to just have one income and open up options for locations for the homestead.

Having one or more families with kids similar in age on the same property (separate houses) would allow us to all enjoy homesteading life more fully – through a tight knit community and better access to a wider set of skills than just one family can provide.  If something can’t be worked out on the same property, perhaps adjoining parcels could be purchased by each family to allow for a more “traditional” setup, but still allow many of the perks of an intentional community.

Eventually I would enjoy seeing a good sized village grow out of this with 100+ acres and ten or more families involved.  In this way we could provide a near sustainable setting with minimal transportation requirements to obtain other essential items or skills/services (health care, technical trades, etc… could all be represented in the community).  However, I am realistic enough to see this is a very unlikely near term possibility.  Starting with one or two families working together – and the networks they bring along with them, may make the difference in facing the challenges of the coming years. 

We are very interested in “alternative” construction options and are open to either retrofitting an existing structure or building from scratch to create a home(s) that are independent of utility tie-ins and comfortable, peaceful places to live.

Please contact me either by PM or posting in this thread if you are interested in talking or have any questions regarding further information.

Thank you!
 
                            
Posts: 41
Location: Colorado
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Kurt, let me know if you need any consulting for your new project in Oregon.  I do land planning and design (licenced landscape architect).  I also am a certified permaculture designer and have a background in ecoagriculture, restoration ecology, and various organic farming methods (SPIN, biodynamic, intensive, etc...).  Plus I lived in Oregon for 7 years (Portland area).  I do have to say that, at least in Portland, there's plenty of clay soil in the area!  We called it "gumbo."  Doesn't mean your new property in SW oregon will have that problem, but don't be surprised.  Even if it does, it's not going to stop you from doing great things!
 
Kay Bee
Posts: 471
Location: Jackson County, OR (Zone 7)
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Hi Kahunadm,

thanks for the heads-up.  It may be a good idea to get another perspective on the design plan once we get settled.  It'll probably depend on the skill set represented by the crew that comes together for the project.

The SW soils in the area we are looking at seem to have lots of rich, deep, sediment based soils.  they may be  little Light on the clay, depending on the final area.

 
                            
Posts: 41
Location: Colorado
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Oh, I didn't know you already had a group forming.  Are these other potential community members?  I was also curious about the area.  ...anywhere near Grant's Pass, or closer to Cottage Grove/Eugene area? 
 
Kay Bee
Posts: 471
Location: Jackson County, OR (Zone 7)
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Hi Kahunadm,

Sorry for the slow reply.  Yes, still looking for new community members to help get things set up.  I've had a few hits, but I think it will take getting the property and starting the process moving to really get others serious about joining a community.  too much inertia for most for some reason...

We're looking at properties ranging from the Myrtle Creek area on down through Grant's Pass and then down into the Applegate valley area.  Some beautiful property in each of these areas.  Trying to be choosy about picking the right one with a good mix of level ground and hills and access to surface water through springs or creeks, as well.

Strange thing, there was another post by a Gene Griffin that I saw last nite that pulled me back here, and now it's gone. 
 
              
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Kurt,
I did some checking and found many of the intentional community are further north around Eugene, etc. What I said about S Oregon being a great permaculture are still is true but only a hand full of truely intentional community still exist here. I have lived in Grants Pass and Ashland for only the last 4 months and love the Ashland area for permaculture and have found it very easy to meet and become part of the community here. I am considering moving out to the Applegate lake area to work on a permaculture project, it is beautiful there and have irrigation available which will make farming much easier with the Mediterranean climate we have. Let me know if I can help.
Gene Griffith
 
Kay Bee
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Location: Jackson County, OR (Zone 7)
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Hi Gene,

Thank you!  Glad to hear you find the area is easy to get to know.  We're very excited and motivated to get started.  I'd be interested to hear more about the permaculture projects you are working on, if you are willing to share some details.

Without trying to open a huge can of worms, I think what we are looking to establish is something different than what I think of as an intentional community.  Although I think some of them work and sound great, we're more driving towards establishing a local network of independant homesteads (even though we'd be happy to have them on the same parcel of land as we are) that work in a cooperative fashion.

 
              
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Well this may be the area foryou, we have an actice Farmers market pf organic farmers. Perhaps

http://www.siskiyoucoop.com/

Will give you some ideas.
Look forward to hearing form you.
Gene
 
Kay Bee
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Location: Jackson County, OR (Zone 7)
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Just wanted to bump this thread and post an update.

I'll be out in SW Oregon and looking at potential properties (big and small) next week.  A lot of good options out there.  We should be in a position to move quickly once we've chosen a site.  I'm anxious to get in to the new place and start getting a house up and some basic plantings in!
 
              
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Drop me a email when you are near Medford/Ashland and we can get together.
Gene Griffith
 
Kay Bee
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_grene_ wrote:
Drop me a email when you are near Medford/Ashland and we can get together.
Gene Griffith


Hi Gene,

Looks like this scouting trip will be pretty crazy looking at places and meeting with family.  It'd be great to meet up once we're back out after we've settled on a place.

 
Posts: 122
Location: Sacramento
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What about the Brookings area?  The farming is supposed to be exceptional.
 
Kay Bee
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Location: Jackson County, OR (Zone 7)
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I've heard good things about Brookings - unfortunately for us, it's too far from a decent size airport.  I will still need access to the airport for business travel.
 
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Hi Kurt. We are also looking for a homestead in So Oregon to live in a more sustainable manner and to raise our daughter in a more holistic environment. I'm wondering what you found when you travelled there, and if you decided to make the move?

We just got back from 10 days in Oregon and are weighing North vs. South. It seems like more rain to fill the well would be good, but both areas need irrigation in the summer and the Ashland area has the Talent irrigation district to help with that. I don't know if other areas have a similar irrigation setup...we looked mostly in the Corvallis area in the North and they do not.

Thanks for any insights you may have gained since your last post.
Liz
 
Kay Bee
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Location: Jackson County, OR (Zone 7)
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Hi Liz

Glad to hear you are considering a move to SW OR.  My family and I have finished relocating here and are enjoying it a great deal.

We ended up in the Eagle Point area (north of Medford), partly due to an interest in being a bit closer to my wife's family.  There are many beautiful areas throughout Jackson, Josephine and Douglas counties.

Hot and dry in the summer is just fine by us, having come from the humid southeastern part of the US!  Eagle Point does have an irrigation district, but if you are interested in this aspect, make sure you get all the info from the seller and then talk to both the irrigation district and the watermaster office, if necessary, to feel comfortable you have all the details.  Water rights are very serious business in OR, as in many places!

In terms of setting up a community, we were fairly disappointed in the state and county position's on the division of parcels.  Essentially, unless you can find the zoning already structured for it, division of a parcel is very unlikely.  In our case, the 80 acre piece is as small as it is allowed.

However, there is already a very active culture of small farms and permaculture practicioners throughout the area and we are eager to join in with the larger community, so I don't think it will be a long term problem. 

Let me know if you have any specific questions and I will answer as best I can.

Good luck with the search!

 
Liz Schmidt
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Thanks for the reply, Kurt.

RE: "...there is already a very active culture of small farms and permaculture practicioners throughout the area..." Did you find local groups or individuals? The only groups I've found so far are the Siskiyou Co-op, which seems to be primarily a CSA; and the Siskiyou Permaculture Resources Group on Yahoo, which I recently joined.

Also, did you find any irrigation districts besides TID and Eagle Point?

Thanks!
Liz
 
Kay Bee
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Location: Jackson County, OR (Zone 7)
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Hi Liz,

Both groups and individuals are in the area.  The Co-op is one group of seven farms I think that are in the Applegate valley.  Many individuals are spread throughout the area as well.  Some have responded in this thread in previous replies.  The Ashland area in general seems to be a hot spot for all things organic.  I'm still looking for permie people up in the northern section of Jackson county where we are, but I have no doubt they are around.  Many small farms all throughout the area.

I don't know of any other irrigation districts besides those two, but I haven't looked, really.  Unless the property you buy already has irrigation rights, I wouldn't plan on having any with the way OR rolls.  Look for a place with streams, springs, ponds etc... and plan on lots of hugelkultur 
 
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Kay bee if you would be willing to answer some questions about your comunity i would enjoy talking to you my email is antman1114@gmail.com
 
Posts: 25
Location: Whatcom County, Washington
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You should definitely connect with Jeff & Elise at TerraVita springs. It's a newly-formed regenerative project, permaculture farm and education center near Ashland. http://terravitasprings.com/
http://www.facebook.com/pages/TerraVita-Springs/379035802134607
and an article about them here:
http://www.mailtribune.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=%2F20121021%2FLIFE%2F210210305%2F1026%2FLIFE
 
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Although we are finding this thread late we are seriously interested in a project like this as we prepare to relocate and be as one with the land. Please inform how the project is going and if your initial prospects are manifesting.
 
Remember to always leap before you look. But always take the time to smell the tiny ads:
FREE Perma Veggies Book! - Learn how to grow the most delicious and nutritious food with the least amount of work.
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