Tom Shep

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since Feb 28, 2015
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goat bee homestead
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Recent posts by Tom Shep

Thank you Steven.
Wish I could do something like that, but because I'm moving to an area with higher land prices, I need to outright sell this one to have any chance of buying property up near Portland. (or Potland, as the typo serendipitously went)

Here is an Imgur album with some photos of/around the property

We have 40 acres - 34 wooded, 6 cleared.. it's a half mile deep plot of land running between other large plots that are 90% forested.  this was supposed to be our "forever home", but my company is relocating me to their Oregon office, so this has to go.

With the infrastructure and features we have, and our proximity to Nashville, Columbia, Murfreesboro, Franklin, and Clarksville (we're more or less an hour from all of those cities) - our market analysis results have ranged from $599k to $800k ..

We had a realtor who we asked to do a CMA for us approach with the idea of a church from out of state buying it and turning it into a summer camp for disadvantaged kids. they were offering over $700k, but they wanted to clear the forest, bring in horses, pigs, sheep, goats, alpacas, ducks, add more cabins, put in a commercial kitchen, and cycle a dozen kids in and out every 3 weeks to give them a "full country experience", which would generally ruin the very quiet/peaceful nature of this valley - and cause half the neighbors to protest/move.. So I haven't pursued that option.. I would rather the land go to someone who'll treat it with respect and care.

And of course, if we skip out on realtors, I can afford to sell lower since they won't take 7% off the top.

The house and guest house are on an artesian water supply - it's been bubbling out of the ground since the 60s at least, when this place was a trout fishery. Trout tanks are still present, but not in working condition. Price is prohibitive to restore them.

We have never used chemicals in the 7+ years we've lived here, nor had the people who lived here 20 years before we bought.. Chickens and goats are fed organic grain and hay as well.. The land is pure. "Better than organic", but not certified organic.

There are two ponds - once aerated trout ponds - now they hold bass, bluegill, redear - and at least three species of turtles, 100s of frogs, and eastern water snakes.. we've caught/released 5lb fish .. the smaller of the two ponds (both actually) could use an excavation and deepening - and my plan was to cut the separator and make them into one larger pond with a larger land area in the middle for the picnic table and burn ring, as well as a solar powered aerator to further keep the algae levels down.. we have blue herons there every day, lesser green herons sometimes, kingfishers that live here, muskrats, the odd beaver that wanders up the creek from the river.. and once in a while, an overwintering bald eagle. (not so much now that they ate all our ducks)

red-shouldered hawks that nest in the loblolly pines in the front yard every year - and escort me while I mow, dive-bombing within inches of me whenever I stir up something they can feed their young with.
several pair of Barred Owls living in the valley that chat up and down the valley most evenings
two pair of pileated woodpeckers that live out back
Last winter I documented 30 species of birds on our feeders.

we also have several hundred feet of creek frontage, down by the road. fair warning - it flash floods.. this year it's done so five times - which is atypical.. we usually get a flood like that every 5-10 years. We're trapped for 3-4 hrs while the floods recede, then I go get the tractor, scoop out the ditches, re-pack the driveway where it's washed out, and go on with the day.

There is a large dedicated garden space - currently fenced, but one might want to pull the fencing as it's a hassle to mow around and keep clear of vines. We had the fencing up to slow down the deer and turkeys, which mostly worked. note - it did not stop the woodchucks or raccoons.. at all..

There are three 3x8 cedar raised garden beds on the back porch for kitchen herbs. they're hugelkultur based, with logs/branches under compost/mulch/soil mixtures.

Orchard with pears, apples, apricots, peaches, cherries - I think it needs soil amendments and additional treatments, or a different combination of trees.. the pit fruits freeze off almost every year due to a late frost, and the apples have cedar rust. Pears are just starting to produce well. we have heirloom comfrey in several places, which gets chopped-n-dropped around the trees..

Blueberries - 4 large bushes that produced 4 gallons this year, 3 smaller bushes planted 2 yrs ago to enhance crop yield when they mature. Another patch up in the woods behind the barn where we cleared undergrowth and shrubs 5 yrs ago. they have been neglected and ignored - they were solely for forage and to encourage critters to leave the other patch alone.

Thornless blackberries - 3+ gallons of berries from them this year. After this year, the stand needs to be pruned and shaped (and probably could use another few loads of the goat manure compost) from the other side of the barn.

Grapes - concord, muscadine, and scuppernong. the Concords are 10+ yr old vine - the others are 3 yrs old and growing everywhere. they need reined in :)

Hazelnut bushes - 10 of them - just starting to produce nuts this year

Six hybrid pecans we planted 7 yrs ago. the bigger ones should start producing at 8-10 yrs - so soon

Mulberry bushes - two of them planted and producing well.

Two bottlebrush buckeye bushes - because they're pretty ;)
Three vitex bushes behind the pool - because they're pretty :) And fantastic mid/late summer bee forage
Fig bushes that produce late in season and freeze back every year. could probably winterize them if one cared to.
Witch Hazel bushes - recently planted, but medicinal as well as super early season blooms for silly bees
Wife has planted dozens of various medicinal plants here and there
We have an elderberry patch, but needs more mulch on their roots, and/or to be (re)moved
A stand of PawPaws have been planted, but will need attention and a few more years before they fruit
ginseng in the woods, wild and planted by seed four years ago to increase their numbers
several pounds of morel spore was spread in hopes of boosting morel production

We did a select cutting of the forest this spring/summer - there are now two areas in the back that could readily be converted to food plots for both deer and turkey - and there are plenty of both. the bigger clearing at the top of the  valley in the back could be a great building site for another home - you'd just have to go off-grid or pay for the poles to get power back there. Currently also 50-60 cord of firewood (oak and hickory) laying out there as tops...

natively, we have beech trees (two of them are century+ massive and regal), black walnut trees, american persimmons, mock strawberry, dogwood, sourwood (another mid summer bee food), tulip poplar (early season bee food), redbuds, acres of violets in early spring, that give way to acres of white clover..
several maples that can be tapped for sap in the spring - though TN springs aren't really conducive to that.
hickories by the 100s,
oaks by the 1000s (red and white), plenty of mast for critters to gorge themselves on

Currently have an apiary with a dozen hives, but those are bespoke so will not convey.

House is 2270 sq ft. 3 BRs. each bedroom has an ensuite bathroom, and walk-in closet. the master bedroom has two walk-ins.
The bathrooms have heated marble floors.
Center of the house is a great room with cathedral ceiling. The beams for the greatroom as well as the boards on all the walls were milled from tulip poplar wood cut here on the property when the house was constructed in the late 70s. The 4th corner of the 'big square' is a large den/office.

Half basement that is semi-finished. Laundry is in the basement, and we use it for storage.

Main house has three woodburning stoves - two on main floor (one is an old style wood-fired kitchen cook stove), one in basement. it is easy to keep the whole house heated with the wood and some fans for air circulation. (or, if the power goes out in an ice storm and the temps stay at a windy 20 for 3 days, everyone just camps in the great room in the middle of the house)

Kitchen has upgraded glass cooktop and double convection ovens. Microwave is 2-3 yrs old, dishwasher and fridge are 4? 5? I forget.

There are four closets in the great room - we use 3 for pantries, one for coats and brooms..
Stairs to the basement are lined with shelves for more pantry storage.

inground fiberglass pool has a new pump, new sand, new piping, and was drained and had an epoxy resurfacing paint applied to it 2 years ago .. goes from 3' to 6' deep . about 13' across, 28' long?(guessing) . It is surrounded by concrete deck and fence.

Guest house, which is 900+ sq ft, 1/1. also has a woodburning stove for extra/alternate heat. It also has an external 1/2 bath from when it was the bait shop for the old trout fishery.

Barn is 40x25 with a 25x18 lean on one side and 43x15 lean across the back. The leans need new roofing and some joists replaced ..

New roofs on both houses, and the main barn 7 yrs ago - 30-yr shingles
New HVAC on main house 3 yrs ago
new HVAC on guest house 1 yr ago

we've added 5 paddocks for small livestock such as sheep or goats. there are run in sheds.. 4 of the paddocks are on a central alley, for rotational grazing. the 5th is for quarantine of new animals. (our original usage, anyway)

there's a large chicken coop (10x16) we used to raise chickens/turkeys in, but we had to take down all the fencing to let the loggers through, so if you wanted to go with poultry, you'd need to add that back to keep predators out.

Thanks for reading!


Amy Arnett wrote:
Your descriptions remind me of a paper I read years ago about the evolution of consciousness. It argued that consciousness was an adaptation to deal with all the information about our environment that brains receive. That is was easier and more productive to "get a feeling" about something than to feel every single triggered nerve ending.  

Oh no. don't tell my wife I've evolved to become more productive. I'll never hear the end of it! :)

Seriously, though : I think it might actually be contagious - or at least learnable. 20 years ago she had no ability to sense storms or the like. Now when one's coming SHE feels them too, but looks to me to confirm "Hey. Is there a storm front coming? I'm feeling a bit odd today".
2 years ago
Adding my $0.02 (which is probably worth less than that ;) )

I'm sensitive to storms.. I get anxious, fidgety, pace more.. and get munchies - my body stocking up calories - a couple of days before /big/ storm fronts come through. The bigger/stronger the front, the more I react.

I've been able to stand out in severe weather and tune into and point out the direction/path of an F2 tornado 20 miles away, because of how it "felt" in that direction..

And sometimes I'll get asked "is there a storm coming? You're being a d!ck right now" when the anxiousness exhibits as a short-temper ... Friends recognize it in me, so I know it's not just my imagination.

Doctors - what do they know, anyway.. :D
2 years ago
I got halfway down page one, and realized I had seen some of that metalwork before. :)

Jim Cooper is a WIZARD when it comes to metal. I'm barely able to make a fire poker or pair of tongs.. Please tell him he's an inspiration :) I wish I could come scoop up those railings and lattice work out on the trellis and ... and ... and then work in his forge for Oh, 3 or 4 years.

I saw your farm posted last year somewhere else, and wished then I could afford it. Still wish I could afford it. Very glad you refused hunt clubs and the like. Kudos to you for that.

Tammy, I'm not sure Marianne has been hiding so much of his work. The metalwork is magnificent.

2 years ago
Hey J,

Thanks for the response.

I've been watching the politics - doesn't seem like any area is going to be free from exploitation or proxy conflicts ... or just conflicts from overcrowding and resource scarcity. Some might juts be a little further out of reach and "more trouble than they're worth" for the first round. I dunno. I dropped my crystal ball a few years ago and can't tell the future any more.

The current owners have been there 30+ years, had a very successful restaurant for awhile, before starting their downsizing. They run a scholarship program for local kids too, and are very embedded in the community. They have very large shoes that might be hard to fill. But I am still very interested in the idea.

Where you were is almost the same exact area as we'd be moving to, btw. within an hour or less from Ibarra. Definitely not down on the coast in the "desirable" strip along the beach where most "gringos" go to retire.

Did you make it down to the big market in Otavalo while you were there?
Hellloooo, Permies!

I've been emailing with a couple who have an all organic eco-hotel/resort in Ecuador. They're trying to sell it and downsize now that they're in their 70s, and pass the torch to a new generation. 40 acres or so, all infrastructure present... In an indigenous community.

Questions -
Does anyone have experience with getting visas/residence in Ecuador as a US citizen? How hard was it? how long did it take?

Anyone here done something like this? How did you supplement income beyond the "airbnb" aspect?
What was your experience with moving there? Unexpected challenges? Things you wish you knew?

Trying to farm the collective expertise and gain as much info and knowledge as I can so I'm able to make a well-informed decision.

Thanks all!

Thanks for that update! Very cool to see how it's doing at this point. Gives me a couple ideas on a stump I have to deal with, too...
2 years ago