Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Fort Kancar: the Idea of a Compound

We have an overall vision for the farm. It is home. It is a refuge. It is the opposite of work. It is a place for us to unwind. For family and friends to gather...and do the same. A combination of the feelings that warmth, love, food, and coziness evoke. These are feelings and ideas. Not truly concrete.

As far as physical space goes, we want and have already begun to achieve a home that is unique, inside and out. It isn't physically the biggest house ever nor do we need it to be. With everything we do here, our goal is to have it well thought out and unique. We don't want it to look like a page out of a catalog, in that someone else could already have that look, in fact several people could. An item here or there is fine but if your design sense is dictated by ONLY what can be bought at a store the end result will be pretty sterile or at least not very unique. McMansions in McNeighborhoods everywhere look like this, inside and out, from landscape design to interior design. We certainly don't want that. Each item or plant that we place somewhere probably has a story behind it and was thoughtfully placed there for a reason. Thank you to those of you that ask about them.

So where am I headed with all this you might ask? We already have the land, we have the house, we have the barn. We're well on our way to a compound of sorts. What comes to mind when you think of a compound? Probably some crazy person "forcing" his/her followers to live on it, wear the same sneakers and drink the same "cool-aid" if the government doesn't wage war on you first. Perhaps a large stockade fence. Right?

Certainly not the concept we are going for. But think about the word compound. Compound in its essence is to combine 2 or more elements together to form something greater and hopefully stronger. The whole is a product of the sum of its parts and each makes the whole better. Now think of this definition in terms of the feelings and physical structures that I have just described above.

We have 3.5 acres here. There are millions of things to look at and explore. Why not take advantage of that? What if we thought big and outside the box. What if we had a guest house/studio on the property? Why not? We're not talking huge but say 20' X 20' at most. It can be done on a budget. It doesn't have to cost a fortune, especially if we use reclaimed building materials. Think big windows and maybe a solar unit to run off the grid power. Good for the wallet and good for the environment. I have thoughtfully determined just where on the property might provide the best view for a guest, or us, to wake up in the morning and overlook the farm. The sun, bathing the horses as they graze right outside your window. Stop and think about that. The sun would be rising just outside the window as the back of the property faces east. A place to make stuff? Why not?

Why not make this place, our home, a place that people want to come to and not want to leave (including us).

Why not?

I have been a musician for a long time. Not a great one but okay. I play the guitar and the bass, have a bunch of gear. Sooooo I bought a used drum kit the other day. Why? Because I have dabbled with drums before but I really wanted one to start my music room in the basement. Sarah can bang on the drums if she wants while I play the guitar. When my brother Todd comes over, he and I can make some music. Another reason to come here and not want to leave (not that we won't or don't ever leave this place but you get the idea, after all, it also gives you perspective). Starting to get the overall idea of a compound? The drum kit is yet another piece of the puzzle that we are putting together that is our compound. Yeah, lots of people have drum kits and don't pretentiously call their property a compound. Again, think of it as a small piece that makes the whole better. In those terms it's not just a drum kit or music room. Now think of what the word compound means to you...not so negative anymore is it?

Maybe a dirt jump somewhere for bikes or dirtbikes someday. Thinking about a vineyard as well so Sarah can make her own wine. Not huge but big enough. We have the opportunity to make this place wholly unique. We only live once, why not? We're not rich but you know what, one doesn't have to be to pull this off.

A combination of all these really great fun things to do that are ours. They are/will be on our property. That is the common denominator. When you are here visiting they become yours. We see how happy people are when they come here. So much to look at and explore and learn about. We know that we have a unique opportunity here at Czar of the Woods Farm (aka Fort Kancar as the compound has affectionately been coined). We want to make it as awesome as possible. Yea, that's right, I'm a child at heart. I want it to be awesome! This isn't just our house, it's an idea that can be as big (in scope, not physical size) as we can dream (and afford of course).

We are lucky to come home to this place, this idea, every day.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Time Stood Still or Bonfire and Meteors!

Have you ever had that feeling when you feel that you, and the immediate people that are with you at that moment, are the only people on the planet.  It's times like these when time seems to stand still and you're hopefully lucky enough to have most of the people that you love the most with you.  Last weekend I was lucky enough to have just that.  My brother Todd and my sister in law, Jenna visited from NYC and we had a great time!  That being an understatement.  The photos below are from the night that we (Sarah, my parents, Todd and Jenna) had a very LARGE bonfire while watching one of the best meteor showers I have ever seen, every 5 to 10 minutes one streamed across the sky.  It was a wonderful night that I will never forget.  
We also spent quite a bit of time at the Erie County Fair with them as well (it was Jenna's first time).  I have always loved the fair, especially its food and animals.  At night especially it is one of the coziest places I know as the animals wind down and the lighting is soft.  As a kid I loved the ride home from the fair at night as it meant a nap in the car followed by pretending to be the animals when I got home, using blankets as straw.  Now that we have our own farm I can experience this feeling every day so this year the fair was even more special to us.  And I truly have a reason to look at the tractors now!  

From left Sarah, Jenna, Todd, my Mom and my Dad.

Morning at Czar of the Woods...again

I can't write enough about how great mornings are at Czar of the Woods Farm.  Life wakes up every morning, takes its time, stretches, yawns.  The photos will say it all.

Czar heads out on this foggy/misty morning to have a bite of hay.
Midnight (wearing a fly mask that horses can see through) eating his breakfast.

Animal Update

All the animals of Czar of the Woods Farm are truly enjoying this amazing summer and are sad that its end is fast approaching.

Bad Blake, our barn cat, is one in a million!  A sweet heart of cat with a heart of gold.  If you see him tell him not to cross the street!  We don't like that!  Bad, Bad Blake!

Morgan, our Vietnamese Pot Bellied Pig, spends ~75% of her time sleeping and the other 25% eating.  She is on permanent vacation and I am jealous of her life sometimes.  She has it so good here!  Here she is sleeping in the doorway to her run (notice the pumpkin patch behind her). 
No we don't have a turkey but this wild turkey, a hen, has been around all summer and shortly after I got these photos she showed up with her 2 chicks.  So cute!
Bad Blake (lowe right) was very interested in this dinosaur looking bird so much so that he couldn't contain himself any longer and gave chase!

Nosferatu in Our Barn

I came into the barn one night recently and this little guy was stealthily buzzing around.  A little brown bat that eventually found roost.  I was thinking that it would have been funny if it were Dracula and I would catch him as he was transforming!  Luckily he is not a vampire bat.  Bats are really good to have around as they eat LOTS of bugs.  The brown bat has been experiencing problems and severe declines in population due to a white nose fungus (that originated near Albany).  Help them out, put up a bat house.  You might as well, they are probably already living behind your shutters.

Garden Update

What started out as a bare patch of ground and seeds in our basement has turned into some amazing vegetables this summer.  Our "pickling" cucumbers that ended up the size of small watermelons were so good!  We were eating cucumbers and cream just about every day for a while.  We have had fresh herbs all summer and now we are into the tomatoes, eating them in all kinds of different recipes.  
These little guys are a variety called "Lady Bug."  They are quite good.  Thanks to Pat and Dick for this plant.
Where there are horse there is manure, lots of it!  We used the aged stuff to grow are veggies in and some of the tomatoes are like small pumpkins.  We have so many that we can't eat them all.  Morgan LOVES tomatoes!  LOVES THEM!
This is our pumpkin/squash patch, also growing in aged horse manure, inside Morgan's run area.  It is turning into the plant in Little Shop of Horrors!  It is the great pumpkin patch.  Can't wait to see what we end up with from it.
and ps-if you want manure let me know.  I know a guy and it's free! :)

I've Been Waiting 17 Years for You!

A little while ago I posted about cicadas here, that zzzz zzzz you hear in the trees, and about how they develop for 17 years in the ground before emerging.  One day when I was eating lunch I was lucky enough to see one emerging from its exoskeleton.  I don't know about you but this kind of blew me away to think that this bug was an egg in the ground 17 years ago and I was seeing it emerge.  It would then climb into the trees, sing its buzzing song, mate and die.  It dried its wings for about half an hour before climbing into the tree.  I have never seen this process before yet I always find the empty shells.  There are thousands of these things in the trees out here!

Chicken Update

Our flock has been enjoying the beautiful summer that we have been having as much as we have!  They get to spend about 12-13 hrs outside basking in the sun and pecking around, looking for goodies.  Still too young (aside from our 3 yr old adults) to lay eggs yet they have gotten so big.  Once they are laying we will be getting almost 2 dozen eggs a day, please let me know if you want some.  What a gorgeous group of girls!
This is one of our Partridge Rocks...
This is our Buff Cochin (notice the feathered feet)...
This is our White Cochin that we call "Special One."  As a baby chick she walked kind of funny as cochins have really awkwardly shaped legs at that age that are almost too big for their body.  Hence, she was a touch special.  She has turned into one of our most stunning and beautiful birds.  Every morning the sunrise and every evening the sunset make her appear to be glowing.
For those of you that like Indian food, this is Vindaloo (as in Chicken Vindaloo-one of my favorite dishes that is the same color).  She is a Rhode Island Red.

I have always wanted a Chicken from the Erie County Fair so we got one.  A little Black Wheaten English Game hen that is incredibly tiny even full grown.  When introducing a new chicken to the flock they don't take kindly to new comers (hence the term pecking order) so she is in her own yard adjacent to the big chicken yard.  It's funny though at night they tolerate her just fine in the coop and on the roost.  Chickens become somewhat sedate during the night and are very relaxed.  You can barely see the little girl on the left (look inside the up side down 'V').
There she is...little SunButter (named after Sarah's favorite gluten free snack bars.  side note: Sarah was recently diagnosed with celiac disease, which means that she can't eat anything with wheat, flour, barley, etc which all contain gluten.  My dad was diagnosed with this ~22 years ago, and my uncle ~ 8 yrs ago.  It is hereditary yet I do not have it.  She is officially a Kancar now.  No we are not related...at least I hope not!)  We are going to get her a small friend soon...