Greetings from dusty Windward!
We often joke about having six seasons here at Windward; the usual four plus a wet and a dry season. August may be the heart of the dry and dusty season, but every season has its uses, and we try to make the most of each of them. Come muddy March, one doesn't seem to remember the dust;, just how easy it was back in August when you could drive anywhere on site you wanted to.
We're about two weeks out from the Labor Day session of The Old School. Info on this session's classes is at TOS
If you can join us for the weekend, we'd love to have you. We had a really fun turn out for the Memorial Day session, with lots of old friends and some new friends that we were just getting to know; we're looking forward to the next session. They're taking on something of the spirit of an extended family reunion.
Before I start to bring you up to date on what's going on at Windward, I'd like to emphasise that Windward is much more than a bunch of on-site projects. It's easy to get caught up in the tangible details of an endeavor such as this, and to lose sight of the purpose behind the effort.
Windward is an intentional community of gifted folk who are committed to building a sactuary for themselves and like-minded people. Our role as a working model of this concept is important, but so too is our function of providing a sanctuary for those in crisis. When someone is overwhelmed, it often doesn't matter much how good they are at taking IQ tests. What they usually need isn't an answer, but rather a chance to back up and re-examine the question.
If you know someone who is in transition, who would benefit from a chance to get away to walk in the woods and watch a sunset or two, then I hope you'll keep this option in mind. Windward can help, but only if folks know that the option exists.
Most everyone's health here is good. Heather burst a disk in her back; she was in a major car wreck years ago, and it appears that there was residual damage. The doctors scheduled her for emergency back surgery, and everything went better than expected. Since then, she's been recuperating well and is getting around on her own, but has to be careful to not do too much too soon.
We just celebrated Fern's 84th birthday, and she's as sprite and active as ever. She's recently gotten a taste of the internet, and was able to use it to get in contact with a long lost relative and learn about grandbabies that she didn't even know she had.
Tamara just returned from a long summer trip back east to see kinfolk. She was away for almost three months getting to know grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and enjoying being away from home as only a 15 year old can. Came back with more ear piercings, but no tattoos ;-)
Joyce is swinging back into "author mode" since Simon & Schuster is going to be publishing her fifth book, Mothers, Daughters and Traditions. The theme of the book is how women weave generations together through the handing down of traditions from mothers to daughters. She'd conducted a lot of the research and interviews over the internet; just another amazing difference that being connected to the web has made here.
Windward used to feel like an isolated place, and to the physical senses, it still does. It's still a three hour drive into the "big city," and you can still look out across the hills and enjoy vast panaromas. But, when you need to track down a replacement part for the big commercial kitchen stove, the internet is there to put you in contact with the largest distributor of parts for that type of stove. The internet is a marvelous resource, and we're working to take full advantage of it.
I've been away more as my medieval coinage business grows. Last year, I expanded beyond the Society for Creative Anachronism events and did my first Renaissance Fair. This year, the coins will be featured at three RenFaires, and our first science fiction convention has taken them on. For those unfamiliar with my coinage, there's pictures and backgound info at USH Tokens
This year has seen a number of adjustments as the folks living on site have seen their income strategies crank up. Klickitat county has the highest unemployment rate in the state, so there aren't may job opps around, and it takes a bit of ingenuity and creativity to work out an income strategy that will cover one's personal needs.
Over time, each of us works out their own "income quilt," based on interests and abilities. This year has seen a lot of that effort coallesed into income. Generating the products generate that income is requiring ever more time, and that's taking some getting used to. Still, it's very rewarding to see one's plans come to fruition.
For example, Gina's background is in the adult care field, and she's found an adult-care home about 20 miles away where she works on the weekends. She's usually gone for about 48 hours, and that provides enough income to keep her dues paid and to meet her personal needs, plus it leaves her five days a week to work on the projects that interest her, which mostly consist of gardening, working with the critters and exploring interesting kitchen concepts.
It's the reverse of the normal work-a-day schedule where you labor Monday through Friday, and then get to do what you want on the weekends. Since our cost of living is low, we're able to get by on far less income than folks living the solitary lifestyle, and that means that there's more time to put into things that are more personally meaningful than economically profitable.
Gina and I are currently working on a somewhat fanciful/somewhat serious project involving what we call "Cookies Ready to Eat." Military rations are often called MREs, which stands for Meals Ready to Eat. We're working on making a palatable sugar cookie that utilizes a "flour" comprising 40% wheat, 40% corn and 20% soy bean flours. This blend provides all of the essential amino acids, and by using this blend, we should be able to produce cookies which, in addition to being tasty, also offer a nutritional edge. The project may lead to a marketable project, or it may not, but in the meantime, we're having fun with the concept.
Bob1 is up for a month, working on the off-grid energy system for his future home up in the area we call "the depot." We've long had an interest in renewable energy, but given the dirt cheap cost of electricity from the dams on the Columbia River, it was always something which had to wait while other concerns were attended to.
Well, we've finally made a significant start with the purchase of two sets of six L-16 heavy-duty deep-cycle batteries, and are now well into the process of establishing two off-grid, or at least grid-independent, power centers. Grid power is still cheap, and will most likely remain the cheapest way to get electrons into our batteries, but we'll be steadily weaning our energy dependence away from the power company. Over the next couple of years, we'll be adding generating capabilities in the areas of photovoltaic, wind, mini-hydro and steam. It's a fun project, and we're delighted to see it finally underway.
The cabins are coming along, although as usual with the way Windward works, it's hard for the casual observer to notice much. The primary achievement this summer involved the installation of four septic tanks systems for the cabins. Now that the work is done and approved, it's all covered up, and it's hard to tell that much of anything was actually done. We strive to preserve as much of the forest-like character of our land as possible, and the goal is to create the modern amenities without sacrificing the ancient beauty.
We're expecting to have the on-site work for the new power installations completed and inspected by Labor Day weekend. Once the electrical inspector "green tags" the work, the heavy equipment will come in to dig the deep ditch and lay the 7,200 volt "high tension" underground line another 650 feet. That will bring power to the cabin sites, as well as to Finney trailer and Danny's future cabin site.
Once the power line is down there, the conduit for the phone and video lines will go into the same trench, albeit a foot and a half above the power line. With power, water and phone due to be installed by the end of September, Finney trailer should be ready for use by early October.
Just to stay busy, there's lots of other construction projects underway. Bob2 has been preparing the Goatrium for the pouring of a cement slab floor. The Goatrium is a structure created by arranging three 40' steel storage containers as three sides of a rectangle. The inner space is 44' long by 20' wide, and arched over with a greenhouse roof. It will provide a much improved workspace for the dairy operation.
Dennis has been doing good work on clearing what we call the "North Umbrian Garden" (no good reason for the name; just like the sound of it). Two years ago we had the opportunity to purchase a strip of land along our northern border. That allowed us to set back our property line another 165 feet, and set our working boundary at a more logical place given the land contours.
Before the timber company sold the strip to us, they logged it heavily, with the result that there was a lot of woodsy debris that had to be cleared and burned. When we had access to a bulldozer, we had most of the stumps pushed up and piled, and after a year or two of work, it's going to make an excellent upper garden.
Since we're currently in the burn-ban season, Dennis has turned his attention to the floor of the dining hall. It has to be excavated and leveled so that it's at the right depth for pouring the cement slab floor, and there's many a load of dirt that has to come out before the cement goes in.
While we do actually use our backhoe as a backhoe now and then, it's most common use is as a great big self-powered wheelbarrow. When we're doing this sort of excavation, we park the backhoe near by and just load its front bucket with dirt. When full, it's off to whatever fill project we have underway. We recently installed a 500 gallon underground propane tank for Finney trailer, and fill dirt is currently going to backfill the hole and cover up the tank.
For two leggers, the new year starts in January, but for our four-legged crew, the annual cycle starts over again in late August. As soon as the heat starts to break, the mating cycle restarts itself as the cool autumn air gets the critters "frisky." For goats and sheep, a chill in the air spells romance.
It's an exciting time for us to as we plan who gets to breed with whom in order to enhance the next generation's qualities. I expect that the rams find the whole concept of two-legged interference most frustrating, but it does provide a bit of an insight into the ancient practice of arranged marriages.
For the next month, we'll be busy putting up firewood and getting the winter preps started. One of the things that newcomers find most strange about our lifestyle is the way that we work on summer things in the winter, and winter things in the summer. I sometimes think that it's this anticipatory aspect that makes living close to the land so meaningful. There's a lot of satisfaction to be had when looking at a full woodshed, or rows of canned food on the pantry shelf.
Well, that's pretty much a run down on what's going on here at Windward. We're doing fine, although we always could do more if we had another pair of hands or two to join in. If you know someone who's had enough of life in the fast lane, and who might be ready to try life down a country lane, please pass along the URL for our website.
With best wishes from Windward,