Posts tagged building off grid homestead
An Unexpected Turning of Tides
 

I have become wary of laying out plans for the future, because not only do people hold you to those plans, and the plans rarely go as planned, but setting expectations also creates room for disappointments.

So I’m learning more and more to have a loose idea, but to expect inevitable variations to occur.

Life is forever evolving, and often is not so straightforward as to abide by our mathematical planning on calendars and calculators.

Tiffany Davidson Homesteading Blog Washington State

Tiffany Davidson Eric Smith Washington State Homesteading Blog Travel Blog

We were moving along at full speed, making money, putting it back to prepare for a cabin build in Spring of 2019 on our new land.

Last Autumn, we arranged for a vacation to surprise loved ones in Kentucky for the holidays. Eric arranged work in KY, and his employer here in northeast WA had no problem with him leaving for this time, promising not only would his job be here when we returned, but that they would provide winter training since we’d be arriving back in the dead of winter (Eric’s route is, WAS, through the mountains of northeast WA and British Columbia, with plenty of steep mountain grades - terrifying in a car, let alone a huge semi truck hauling 100,000+ pounds).

We arrived back to our home in WA in mid-January, Eric set out to work as scheduled, despite that commute being 1.5 hours one way, through icy mountain roads, it was the price we were paying to live in this wilderness we so love.

Work went as planned for a couple of days, then as a winter storm fell over the area and mountain passes became treacherous, Eric reached out to his managers to schedule the day of winter training he was promised.

One manager speedily rushed him through a tutorial of putting chains on the truck, in the parking lot, amidst a blizzard, and the chains ended up being on backwards(!) and they claimed this was winter training.

Tiffany Davidson Washington State Photography

The disappointment set in and now we were in a pickle. NO way was he going to drive without winter training, not only to protect his own life, but the lives of others out on those roads.

Days went by where he was loosely made to believe that he would get training at some point, until eventually his managers turned condescending and unprofessional, all the while we were in a bit of a panic because Eric’s paycheck was suddenly… not happening as expected. With every week that went by, thousands of unmade dollars also went by, and the pressure was on for me to take on more clients to keep us afloat so that we wouldn’t have to tap into our emergency savings.

When Eric persisted with his employers, asking: “why not just send ____ with me as promised, for ONE day of winter training, and we can all move on as planned…?” the response given was that they “didn’t want to endanger TWO lives!” — so you can imagine the frustration of all of this. We live in a place where going out and simply getting a new job isn’t exactly… realistic. So there we were, our second income just completely removed from the equation, in the middle of a snowy icy winter, totally unsure what the next best move was.

Tiffany Davidson Washingtons Last Frontier Homesteading Blog Rural Living Photography

I’ll save you the details of weeks of despairing and worrying and thinking and more plans-that-didnt-go-as-expected and the decision had to be made…

The decision to move.

I can’t tell you how difficult it was to decide this and to set our jaws about it.

All of our efforts for the past couple of years have been to get to this place, this northeast WA wilderness, and be able to live comfortably in it.

What a sobering realization that: we still are not ready.

Tiffany Davidson Washington State Photographer Homesteading Blog

To live a good life in this land, it seems you must either be born here, marry into a family who was born here, be very wealthy, retired, or getting some kind of regular check that does not rely on the local economy.

Or you can work online, which is the route I have taken, but Eric is still reliant upon the local marketplace for his income.

Tiffany Davidson Washington State Photographer Homesteading Blog
Tiffany Davidson Washington State Photographer HOmesteading Blog

So we have moved!

The place we’ve chosen to move to is a place that stole our hearts last year when we visited, and it’s a place that - despite being much more populated than the northeast portion of the state - still retains a rugged and remote feeling (especially on the western side).

We are living on the Olympic Peninsula, and we have every intention to enjoy this place wholeheartedly for the myriad of natural wonders it has to offer.

Tiffany Davidson Washington State Photographer Homesteading Blog Olympic Peninsula
Tiffany Davidson Olympic Peninsula Photographer

What about our homestead plans in northeast WA?

They remain. But they have been slowed down.

This year, we hope to achieve a fenced-in garden area and to get a dowser out to the property to check for water availability so that a well can be dug. Maybe more will get accomplished than that, but those are our goals for 2019 on the property.

Just a few months ago, our goal was to have a cabin built on the property in 2019, but that can no longer happen.

Building a homestead from scratch with cash takes time. And it takes being closeby. So our plans are definitely delayed.

But who knows what the future holds. I have a lot of projects underway, and in my line of work it’s sometimes difficult to predict the payoff amount and timeline. So perhaps the homestead development will move faster than we could possibly foresee at this moment.

Like I mentioned at the beginning of this post, I’m learning that for my own life, loose ideas work better than concrete plans.

So this is a surrender of sorts, and a letting go and letting life unfold as it does.

Tiffany Davidson Olympic Peninsula Photographer Homesteading Blog

I’m certain that in a few years, I will read back over this post and smile to myself, having never could’ve imagined the way that things ended up unfolding. And that awareness brings me a certain sense of relief and humor :)

“How wild it was, to let it be…”

Tiffany Davidson Travel Photographer Olympic Peninsula Homesteading Blog
 

Welcome!

Tiffany Davidson.JPG

My husband and I are working to build a Nordic-inspired homestead in the Washington wilderness slowly with cash and no debt. You can follow the journey here!

I write about:

  • wilderness living

  • our homestead journey

  • health & wellness

  • adventure travel

  • cozy homemaking

  • wild food foraging

  • DIY & craft projects

  • making a living online from home (or anywhere)

  • natural living

  • my own recipes from scratch

  • and much more


My hope is that you will find some nugget of inspiration here.
Thank you so much for stopping in & please come back often. The kettle's always on...

x Tiffany


INSTAGRAM:


Disclosure: This website uses affiliate links, meaning: at no additional cost to you, we earn a small commission if you click-through and make a purchase. We only feature products that we believe in and use ourselves. Your support means the world to us and allows us to host this website.
So thank you :)


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We Bought Land! [An Exciting Update On Our Journey To Building An Off-Grid Homestead From Scratch, Slowly & With Cash]
 
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Time moves slowly, and yet so fast.

It seems like we’ve been redesigning careers, working, saving money, and browsing properties for sale for an eternity, yet at the same time it feels like it was just yesterday that we even seriously set goals and began this journey to building an off-grid homestead from scratch.

If you follow this blog, you’ve watched as we setup completely new career paths, finally made the big move to this wilderness we love so dearly, and you know we’ve just been plugging away - working a lot and saving as much money as possible.

Now, a big step has been made in this overall process - WE BOUGHT LAND!

This is a big accomplishment and we’re so happy to finally meet and begin to get acquainted with the land we’ll build out our dream homestead on over the course of many years. Now we have a canvas for all of our imaginings to play out on and it’s such an exciting new dynamic!

I wanted to make a post here to document this pivotal moment and introduce you to our land.
In time, many more pictures will be shared, videos too I’m sure, so be sure to follow us on Instagram if you’re interested in a more intimate look into the process.

In early Spring, we’ll begin building a small cabin to live in, so this winter will be spent brainstorming, designing, and gathering materials. There’s a lot to learn and a lot to do and we’ll share what we glean with you as we go.


Welcome to our beautiful piece of the earth…

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Where is it?

Situated about one hour northeast of where we currently live is an area we fell in love with earlier this year - the Okanogan Highlands.
This area is desolate and beautiful, so very peaceful and inspiring. Once you emerge into the Highlands, it feels like you’re in a dream and like you’ve gone back in time simultaneously. Some combination of golden light on rolling highlands, the vast spaciousness, old abandoned pioneer cabins tucked in the landscape like a memory, the crisp cool air, the snow-capped Cascades far in the distance… all combine to create a place that we both feel is altogether unique and distinct from anywhere else we’ve ever been.

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How much land?

We purchased 20 acres, mostly wooded, with open area at the bottom.
Aspen trees line their way down the property spilling out into a grove at the bottom, pointing to the strong possibility of water being not too far below the surface, while the majority of the property is coated in Larches, Pines, Douglas Firs, and even a few Maple varieties.
We have already found fresh scat of black bear, elk, moose, coyotes, and a single cougar (who might even live on the property in a cave we’ve yet to explore, we’ll know more once we get a trail cam set up in January).
We’re also really looking forward to exploring the geology around the property…

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What will you do for water?

This will certainly involve a lot of trial and error.
We have a few different ideas in mind:
First - we are going to try to catch rainwater, despite the minute amounts of rainfall this area gets. We’ll see how it goes.
Second - we will likely try to dig a well if water is determined to be close enough to the surface. As mentioned above, the Aspen trees seem to be a good indicator that we do have water close to the surface.
Third - over time we will purchase cisterns, which we’ll bury, fill with water, and gravity-feed to the home and other areas as needed.
I plan to utilize permaculture strategies for growing food that create the need for less water, such as hügelkultur and other solutions.

 

What about electricity?

We plan to be off-grid, and will likely start off with just the essentials - a wood stove, oil lamps, and lots of beeswax candles.
Over time, as we save more money, we’ll begin to incorporate more substantial off-grid power systems such as wind and solar. Fortunately, our climate gets over 300 days a year of sunshine!

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How will you work online?

One of the reasons we ended up deciding on this property is because it’s in view of a rare satellite. The way Internet works out here is usually: if you have visible line of sight to a satellite (which are usually placed on high peaks), you can probably get Internet. Otherwise, it’s doubtful.
We shouldn’t run into an issue accessing Internet once we’ve built the necessary infrastructure for a company to come out. Of course, we’ll be without power for a while as we save to afford off-grid power setups. So, there will certainly be a transition period where I may have to find other Internet solutions for a while. (Another reason I’m working hard now to establish passive income!).

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When will you be living on the property?

Our plan is to begin building in early Spring (2019). We plan to build a small cabin - just 14x14 to begin with - which will eventually become an Airbnb one day after we finish our larger cabin.
We’re deriving inspiration from older Nordic home designs, but with modern touches (wooden cabin, painted black, big windows, large platform deck, etc.). Over time, we plan to build a sauna, several studios and work spaces, more small cabins for family to stay in… so we should end up with a proper Scandinavian village in the forest sort of feeling :)
(And you’ll be able to come stay and enjoy it yourself if you wish, thanks to the Airbnb platform).


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I hope these pictures and questions answered have been enjoyable to read or inspiring in some way on your own journey.

If you have any other questions, please feel free to leave them in the comments below!

And if you’re interested in this sort of thing, we hope you’ll subscribe to the blog and follow the journey as we build an off-grid homestead… from scratch… slowly… with cash!

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Until next time ~

x
Tiffany


OTHER POSTS YOU MIGHT ENJOY:

 

Welcome!


TIffany+Davidson+Washingtons+Last+Frontier+Wilderness+Living+Homesteading+Hygge+Blog+Inspiring+Beautiful+Blog+Life+in+Washington+Homesteading+Off+grid.png

My husband and I are working to build a Nordic-inspired homestead in the Washington wilderness slowly with cash and no debt. You can follow the journey here!

I write about:

  • wilderness living

  • our homestead journey

  • health & wellness

  • adventure travel

  • cozy homemaking

  • wild food foraging

  • DIY & craft projects

  • making a living online from home (or anywhere)

  • natural living

  • my own recipes from scratch

  • and much more


My hope is that you will find some nugget of inspiration here.
Thank you so much for stopping in & please come back often. The kettle's always on...

x Tiffany


Disclosure: This website uses affiliate links, meaning: at no additional cost to you, we earn a small commission if you click-through and make a purchase. We only feature products that we believe in and use ourselves. Your support means the world to us and allows us to host this website.
So thank you :)


YOU MIGHT ALSO ENJOY:

The Route We're Taking To Begin Homesteading With No Debt (& Our Progress So Far)
 
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It’s the first of October, and I figured probably time for an update since our last one!

The purpose of sharing these updates is to show glimpses into our homesteading journey, so that when someone visits this site years from now and sees us living on our land, working from home, with beautiful plants and animals and hand-built structures dotting the landscape, living the dream essentially, and all with no debt… they can go back and see the beginning, they can see the steps we made and the time that it all took.

Not only does this make things more realistic, but I think it could also help people brainstorm ways of accomplishing similar dreams for themselves.

SO WHAT HAVE WE ACCOMPLISHED SO FAR?

It was this time last year that we really started to get serious about things. At that point in time, all we knew was that we wanted to live in this very wild and remote place where we could enjoy the slow pace of life and the inspiring landscape. Since then, our plan has ripened and become more and more clear.

The lifestyle we’re working to create is so far from finished, it’s just in the beginning stages really, but we have made progress toward it and every single day we continue to inch a little closer.

Let’s take a look back at what we’ve accomplished in the last year toward our off-grid homesteading goals!



BEGAN NEW CAREER PATHS [SUCCESSFULLY] THAT ALLOW US TO LIVE WHERE WE WANT

It was around this time last year, having just returned from the wilderness of northeast Washington (where we now live), that I sat in a coffee shop in a little town in Kentucky wondering how in the world I would ever be able to live in that remote wilderness that I loved so dearly full-time. How could I really make a life there, and a good life at that? With three people per square mile, jobs are few and far between.

I had no idea that just a couple of months later, I’d be making a full-time income online. It’s amazing what could be around the next corner if we’re willing to give it our all. You really just never know…

Read more about how I self-educated to be able to work online from anywhere here. I’m slowly working on an Ebook that will outline the details of exactly how I made this happen, so sign up for the newsletter to make sure you don’t miss out when I publish it.

Here’s a little coffee shop I found just north of here in Canada a few weeks ago where I can go get some work done when I need a change of scenery.

Here’s a little coffee shop I found just north of here in Canada a few weeks ago where I can go get some work done when I need a change of scenery.

The September view from my desk. What a difference a year can make!

The September view from my desk. What a difference a year can make!

 

A few months later, in January of this year, Eric decided that getting his CDL would be the best (and quickest) way to be able to live and homestead in a remote area. The few jobs that do come available out here often require a CDL, and at worst he could always go over the road then return here on days off.

He signed up for a really reputable CDL school which ended up being only a few miles from my father’s home in Wisconsin, ironically, and in February of 2018 we transitioned there for a few months while he completed the schooling and training.

Now he works for a wonderful local company and has probably one of the most beautiful routes that a truck driver could have - driving through the beautiful Washington and British Columbia mountains all day, then returning home to me each evening. We expected he would have to go over the road and we wouldn’t see each other for weeks at a time, but things worked out in the very best way they could have.

Does he want to be a truck driver forever? Of course not. Eventually, Eric plans to write music again and to hone a craft— he’s especially drawn to woodworking and blacksmithing— and turn those things into his full-time work. But, for now, our lines of work allow us great freedom to live where we want while making lucrative enough incomes to save for buying land and building a homestead in the near future.

Check out my blog post How To Make A Full-Time Income From Your Off-Grid Homestead for some more ideas to help your brainstorming.



RELOCATED OURSELVES & ALL OF OUR BELONGINGS TO THE AREA WE PLAN TO HOMESTEAD

For us, this meant going across the country, from the South to the Northwest. We moved 2,300 miles away!

This was a big move and took a lot of planning and preparing on our part, all while beginning entirely new career paths.

Living for a full year in an area before buying land in it is very important - I realize this now more than ever.

The specific places we now know we want to buy land near have evolved since we’ve been here and we’ve met local people who tell us about certain areas and point us in the direction of land for sale that is not listed on the Internet.

So moving here was essential, even though we aren’t yet ready to buy land or start building.

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ARRANGED A LIVING SITUATION

At the beginning of summer, I wrote an update to let you all know about our current setup. We’re still in that same setup and plan to stay in it until we’re ready to start building.

It is essentially an RV on our friends property that they’re letting us stay in as a kind of work-trade, and out of the simple goodness of their hearts.

We’ve been tempted many times this summer just to rent our own place, but were able to talk ourselves out of it each time remembering that all of the money we would put toward rent could be put into our little savings box instead! Besides, actually finding a rental home out here is… not realistic.

I have to say that one of the biggest sacrifices we’ve made throughout this whole journey so far is not having our own place - we both miss it terribly and long to have our things and our aloneness and more space. But this is a crucial part of the journey to having our own homestead — saving money! So, if it doesn’t contribute to that goal, we try to steer away from it.


WINTERIZED OUR LIVING QUARTERS

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We just finished winterizing the RV, using strawbales, and we still have to purchase a few hundred dollars worth of supplies to insulate the water hoses. This winter might be a little difficult - living in an RV with paper thin walls in a climate that sits under feet of snow for six solid months. Our biggest concern is the above-groud external water source…but we’ll see how it goes!

Again, sacrifices like this might have to be made while you work to save enough money to buy land outright and build your own house, which is what we plan to do within the year!



ACQUIRED HUNTING & FISHING LICENSES

This will help cut down on food costs while familiarizing us more and more intimately with the landscape.

In fact, as I type this, my husband is out with a friend hunting deer and grouse! After working sixty hours this past week, and not getting in bed until after 11 last night, he was up at 4AM to go hunt. Let’s hope it’s fruitful!

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WHAT’S NEXT?

Here’s our to-do list between now and next Spring:

  • Sell the 2wd Honda Element

  • Purchase two 4wd vehicles (one rugged truck and one that is better-suited for travel)

  • Save money! This means working a lot and minimizing expenses as much as possible

  • Start milling lumber to build the house with (this will require buying an Alaskan sawmill & appropriate chainsaw)

  • Find land

  • Build a small livable cabin so we can transition full-time to the homestead!


    It might not sound like a lot, but these are pretty great feats. The route we’re taking —to build a homestead slowly with cash— requires a lot of time and patience before the rewarding payoffs start trickling in. Once this list is completed, we will have a home (with no debt or monthly payment!) and land to build sustainable systems on that will feed and nourish us in all kinds of ways. From there, we can install off-grid power systems, huge gardens, build more structures for personal shops and studios, and just have fun with it!


SO YOU WANT TO BEGIN HOMESTEADING BUT AREN’T SURE WHERE TO START?

I would suggest doing the following:

  1. Figure out the area you want to live long-term on your off-grid homestead

  2. If work options aren’t available in that area, or you want to be able to work from home, start researching how to make a full-time income from your homestead. I’m not talking about filling out surveys and making a little here and there, I’m talking about self-educating and really skilling up, then beginning to do work for people, thereby building a portfolio slowly, and taking it from there. I managed to do this in under a year, and so can you. Check out:
    Self-Educating To Be Able To Work From Anywhere and How To Make A Full-Time Income From Your Off-Grid Homestead

  3. Minimize expenses and save money - if you don’t have a budget and you live paycheck to paycheck, you’ve got to do better. Sorry. Even if it’s $20/week, you can do without something and put that money back. Saving $1,000/year is better than zero. Going through life with no budget, making impulsive buys for short-term dopamine release, will not get you anywhere. Sit down and list out your monthly expenses (including bills of course but also food, gas, miscellaneous things that tend to come up, etc.), then subtract that from your monthly income. Whatever is left is what should be going into a Savings envelope. Seven months from now, you might come across acreage for sale with owner financing available but they want $1,500 down. Budgeting and saving now could be the difference in whether or not you can buy that land then.


A goal this big doesn’t happen overnight (which is why most people have 30-year mortgages). But it can happen in a year or two, and debt-free, if you start educating yourself now and outlining a solid plan of action.

If you have any questions at all, please don’t hesitate to leave them in the comments below. I’m more than happy to help in any way I can. We’re all on this path together, after all.

Until next time ~

x
Tiffany


 

Welcome!


TIffany+Davidson+Washingtons+Last+Frontier+Wilderness+Living+Homesteading+Hygge+Blog+Inspiring+Beautiful+Blog+Life+in+Washington+Homesteading+Off+grid.png

My husband and I are working to build a Nordic-inspired homestead in the Washington wilderness slowly with cash and no debt. You can follow the journey here!

I write about:

  • wilderness living

  • our homestead journey

  • health & wellness

  • adventure travel

  • cozy homemaking

  • wild food foraging

  • DIY & craft projects

  • making a living online from home (or anywhere)

  • natural living

  • my own recipes from scratch

  • and much more


My hope is that you will find some nugget of inspiration here.
Thank you so much for stopping in & please come back often. The kettle's always on...

x Tiffany


INSTAGRAM:

Disclosure: This website uses affiliate links, meaning: at no additional cost to you, we earn a small commission if you click-through and make a purchase. We only feature products that we believe in and use ourselves. Your support means the world to us and allows us to host this website.
So thank you :)


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Should-less Sundays (and My Wild Huckleberry & Maple Scone Recipe!)
 

Sunday morning I made the mistake of checking my email soon after waking. I know better, but I did it anyway. And of course, there were a couple of emails from clients needing me to do things, and of course, I felt my people-pleasing strings tug at me hard to fulfill, to satisfy, to fix

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But [ah, years of deep inner work does pay off] I was able to gently remind myself that today is Sunday and no, today was not for work and meeting demands and shoulds. In fact, how about we just designate today Should-less Sunday? What would that look like? 

Maybe instead of putting check marks next to words on a to-do list, we just quiet these busy minds and let our bodies guide us today, effortlessly gliding between one thing and the other, following the invisible tug of the things that nourish us.  Approaching the day with a curiosity and setting aside the planning mind, "Here's what we'll do today..." can be saved for the other 6 days of the week, can't it? 

Swimming sounded nice, but did we really want to drive all the way to the swimming hole, on this hot day (we don't have air conditioning in our vehicles)? I'll develop a new recipe today, I thought, but even these enjoyable scenarios were shoulds - I was catching onto myself. 

With constant awareness, I meandered through the day, letting the minutes unfold as they did, rather than reigning over them. (My husband was very pleased with this new approach).

The irony of it all? I accomplished plenty that day. But, the way I went about it and experienced my day was drastically different. If I had to pin a word to it, I'd say presence was the key differentiator. 

Moving from minute to minute with no plan, I still ended up:
cleaning the filter on our air purifier to get it good and ready for this dusty summer that's upon us, I handwashed some linens and hung them to dry on the taut new paracord clothesline Eric hung for me, I began a new wild sourdough starter using rye flour grown here in Washington, practiced hand-sewing, and delved into the art of sun-dyeing with natural dyes. That evening, after yoga, we enjoyed a delicious dinner by candlelight and then (because my mind wasn't allowed to tell me I should not do certain things) we enjoyed the season 7 finale of Game of Thrones (any other night, I'd decline saying there are other things I ought to do with my time). 

Oh, and I created a new recipe...

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Dear reader, this is not just any ol' recipe. This is hands down, the best scone recipe we've ever tasted. Eric went on and on and on with each bite he took (with enough moans to make a gal get that certain cock in her brow!), so since he isn't here to toot my horn for me, I guess I'll have to do the honors. 

I wanted to use some of the wild huckleberries we've been foraging lately, and I'm not big on sugar, so I opted for organic maple syrup instead. You must promise me that you'll try this recipe. Please. And if you don't have wild huckleberries, no problem, just use fresh blueberries or wild berries from your local landscape. But most importantly - enjoy, enjoy, enjoy (and be grateful that we have these amazing things called tastebuds!).

 

Wild Huckleberry & Maple Scones

Ingredients:
3 c all-purpose flour (I use this kind)
1.5 TBSP baking powder
1/2 tsp sea salt
1.5 sticks grass-fed butter (6 oz.), cold
1 c wild-foraged huckleberries (or blueberries)
2 TBSP lemon juice
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 c raw milk (or grass-fed whole milk)
4 TBSP maple syrup
1 egg + 1 TBSP maple syrup (to brush over scones before baking)

Instructions:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and sea salt. 
Cut in butter & incorporate into dry ingredients using fingers until combined, making sure that pea-sized pieces of butter remain in the mix. This is an essential part of getting the scone to feel scone-y. Here's a good demonstration of how to cut in butter if you aren't familiar. 
Add berries to mix, gently combine using hands. 
In a separate bowl, mix lemon juice, raw milk, vanilla, and maple syrup together, then pour over the dry mixture. 
Using a fork, toss everything together gently, making sure to work the dough as little as possible until a dough ball forms. This prevents scones from being too dense. 
Roll to 1-inch thickness, cut out individual triangle-shaped scones and place on parchment-lined baking sheet. 
Brush tops of scones with a mix of 1 egg & 1 TBSP maple syrup. 
Bake for about 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. 
 

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Enjoy, in joy. 

x Tiffany


 

Welcome!


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My husband and I are working to build a Nordic-inspired homestead in the Washington wilderness slowly with cash and no debt. You can follow the journey here!

I write about:

  • wilderness living

  • our homestead journey

  • health & wellness

  • adventure travel

  • cozy homemaking

  • wild food foraging

  • DIY & craft projects

  • making a living online from home (or anywhere)

  • natural living

  • my own recipes from scratch

  • and much more


My hope is that you will find some nugget of inspiration here.
Thank you so much for stopping in & please come back often. The kettle's always on...

x Tiffany

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Following The Berries
 

Life has been pretty low-key around here this last week, as we settle back in from the Olympic Peninsula trip and brace for the dry summer here in the Inland Northwest, which has been felt making its entrance the past few days, dust & heat on its shirttails. 

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I'll just cut straight to the chase and tell you: summer is my least favorite season. Heat, in general, any temperature over 70 degrees F, takes from me. It plays out like a legitimate mathematic formula, where every increase in degree removes a percentage more energy and creativity from my spirit. I blame it on northern European DNA, an ancestral lineage of northern coastal people, but I don't recall being so put off by heat until my mid-20s so it could just be hormonal. (Isn't everything?)

Give me snow, cold, overcast, mist and fog any day.  Which is one of the main reasons I moved to the Northwest in the first place, but Inland Northwest summers are scorchers. The interesting bit, and how summer days here do differ so much from the Kentucky summers I grew up in, is the humidity factor. 

Humidity is typically so low here in the summer months, meaning UV rays are the real culprit. If you can get out of the direct path of the sun, the temperature drops significantly because the air around you isn't full of moisture to hold the heat. I know firsthand that in a place with humid hot summers, like Kentucky's, there is no escaping the heat. It consumes you. No shade tree will change things. But here, nights and days are drastically different. Many nights, sleeping with windows open, I wake chilled and snuggle ever closer to my furnace of a husband for comfort, and most mornings call for long sleeves, pants, and socks until roughly 10AM. From there, until about 7PM, ick. Give me shaded forests, cold mountain lakes, indoor tinkering, and Breathe oil on everything. But thank goodness for the evening respite. 

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I guess I write all that in a state of mild dread, since our local forecast shows this being the last mild and overcast day in the foreseeable future. So, here we go! The rest of July, August, and most of September will be hot, dry, and if anything like last summer - smoky. Then back into misty and overcast for a month or two, and finally - full on winter. Winters here are very predictable: snow begins falling in December and keeps falling until March or April. No melting happens during that time - what falls turns to snowpack and it's not unsual to measure snow on the ground in feet, not inches. And we love it! This winter I'm planning to start cross-country skiing through the forests, and I have some ideas brewing that revolve around proper hibernating in an inspiring way... stay tuned.

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Despite not liking heat, I do love summer, because summer means blossoms and pollination and fruition. We plant people can hardly stand ourselves - planting seeds like lunatics (I don't have an actual garden this year while we exist in this transitional phase, but my container gardening situation is turning out to be more fulfilling than expected) and foraging all our spare hours away.  

Last night began the huckleberry frenzy. If you've never tasted wild huckleberries, I'd tell you to imagine the tastiest blueberry you've ever had, and then add an extra note of deep purpley grapeness on top. That's how a huckleberry tastes. When it comes to foraging sugars off the landscape, they're my favorite - hands down. And with a husband who eats a giant bowl of berries (usually blue) after dinner each night, the more berries we can gather, the better off we are. 

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During huckleberry season, we can be found in the forest almost every evening, hunkered over with a basket beside us, beginning at the lower elevations and moving higher as the season progresses, following the berries.

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From the daily bounty, we'll each have a bowl full with yogurt, and then freeze the rest.  

It feels really good, dare I say natural, to forage nourishment from the land you live with, but I have to say you do forage a lot more than that, my favorite: quiet contemplation. Gathering huckleberries seems to build space for inward reflection and housekeeping of the psyche to unfold.  A space that feels different somehow from the quiet moments found inherently in day to day life. I think there is something to be said about interacting with nature in this way. Beyond just taking a hike through a landscape, when you forage you are included in the landscape. As humans were for hundreds of thousands of years, until just recently. For my own life, these interactions are vital for a kind of growth and inward expansion that I haven't been able to mimic in books or conversation. 

I've just begun a book that expands on this notion, I believe, so hopefully I'll be better suited to write more on it later. 

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Other projects happening around here this week: attempting to make my own wild sourdough starter, making a small batch of sauerkraut until I manage to unearth my big proper crock out of storage, more and more and more broccoli sprouts of course, planted more zinnias, lavender, and tomatoes, still on the hunt for wild elderflowers, finishing up an embroidered folk banner and pondering how I want to go about displaying it on the wall, and of course my usual work. Oh, and quarts upon quarts of nettle, jasmine, and peppermint tea - my favorite summer teas. Served cold. 

What are you up to?

x
Tiffany

 

Welcome!

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My husband and I are working to build a Nordic-inspired homestead in the Washington wilderness slowly with cash and no debt. You can follow the journey here!

I write about:

  • wilderness living

  • our homestead journey

  • health & wellness

  • adventure travel

  • cozy homemaking

  • wild food foraging

  • DIY & craft projects

  • making a living online from home (or anywhere)

  • natural living

  • my own recipes from scratch

  • and much more


My hope is that you will find some nugget of inspiration here.
Thank you so much for stopping in & please come back often. The kettle's always on...

x Tiffany

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Exploring The Olympic Peninsula, A Sweeping Sensory Experience
 

We set out from our quiet and remote northeastern corner of Washington early in the morning, making our way through hours of desert-like sagebrush, through forests, and then over Snoqualmie Pass, having made the transition to the lush wet forests of the western part of the state. 

We hit an unfortunate two-hour-long traffic jam around Seattle (The Curse of The I-5 Corridor), but at least wild foxgloves decorated the side of the Interstate, allowing for some enchantment still to be found. 

Finally, we reached the exit for the Olympic Peninsula and things began to slow down and grow wilder. Smells of car exhaust dissipated and marine smells from the Hood Canal drifted into the rolled down windows.

Ah yes, much better. 

The traffic jam resulted in us missing the reported Best Oysters on the Peninsula - Hama Hama Oyster Saloon, on the Hood Canal. So we journeyed on to our first destination: Sequim (pronounced Squim, like squeeze + him), where we were pleased to find the Salty Girls Sequim Seafood Company. After a long day of driving, we settled into our seats and grinned silly grins over dozens of delicious local oysters from the Hood Canal.

Thus began our full sensory experience on the Olympic Peninsula. 
Taste. 

Sequim Seafood Company Raw Oysters Hood Canal Olympic Peninsula Washington
Sequim Seafood Company Raw Oysters Hood Canal Olympic Peninsula Washington
sequim Seafood Company Olympic Peninsula Hood Canal Washington

After we'd had our fill, with one or two daylight hours left, we took to the backroads to explore some of the lavender trail. Of course, the farms would be closed by this hour, but who knew what beauty we might run into that didn't have business hours, so on we drove.

And yes, right into beauty. 

Through a bucolic countryside, with well-spaced old farmhouses, and homemade signs urging drivers to be mindful of wildlife...

Olympic peninsula Sequim Washington Farmhouse Countryside Life in the Washington Wilderness
Olympic peninsula Sequim Washington Lavender Trail Life in the Washington Wilderness

Right into fields of lavender and poppies. 

I think if I was confined to growing only one flower the rest of my life, it'd be poppies. They embody the old Slavic fairytales in my mind - this combination of darkness and intrigue, sultry beauty and sheer joy. 

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And juxtaposed alongside the poppies were fields of lavender...

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You can imagine the sensual raptures, I hope. The vision of these deep rich paper thin poppies. The serene aroma of lavender. 

Dear reader, it doesn't stop there. 

Out beyond these rapturous fields was the Salish Sea, all aglow in the sunset, golden orange, sparkling, and making its way, via the Strait of Juan de Fuca, out to the Pacific Ocean (the very word pacific means calm and peaceful) and this combination of sensual experiences was almost too much in the way of beauty.

This, I came to find out, was the way of the Olympic Peninsula - just when you were bearing witness to so much intense beauty, more, and then a bit more would get ushered in on top of it all. So, as Mary Oliver puts it, you felt nearly killed with delight. More than once I found myself making pained expressions in the face of beauty - a curious response if you ask me.

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We wound our way back through the seaside-countryside to a local lodge where we turned in for the night. 

The next day, we woke to a signature overcast day on the peninsula - our favorite kind of weather. 

From Sequim, we set out north and parallel to the Salish Sea. Maritime scents filled the air - salt, fish, seaweed - and we dreamed out loud about how we had both always felt a calling to the water, an old-fashioned seaside life where a great deal of our sustenance came from the water, and how we weren't exactly sure where this feeling of northern coastal nostalgia came from. Scandinavian and Irish ancestral memory? Who knew.

Our passion and longing for forest and maritime life were being introduced to a place where the two worlds weren't mutually exclusive but existed side by side. 

The dreaming and sighing and sticking our noses out the window carried on as we continued north into more remote parts of the Peninsula. 

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Hours later, after many pit stops to touch wildflowers, sniff the sea, and get more espresso, we came to Neah Bay - a stormy little fishing village on the Makah Indian Reservation. From there, we made our way to the most northwestern point in the contiguous United States - Cape Flattery. Finally, we would see the Pacific Ocean again, but this would be our first time seeing the Pacific this far north, and the first time seeing our beloved Washington's coastline. 

A great deal of Washington's coastline requires a hike to reach the beach. It's really an aesthetic cherry on top - you don't just park and walk out onto a beach, no, you pull on your Muck Boots (take note: you will need Muck boots to enjoy the Olympic Peninsula thoroughly), and you clamber through a rainforest before emerging out onto a coastline that can only be described as mystical. All of it is pure fairytale, I tell you. 

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This was only our first stop and we were well over halfway into the day, so we took in the view one last time and scurried back up to the trailhead - watching our step on the wet stones and wet roots. 

From here, we went off the beaten path to the Shi Shi Beach trailhead. We honestly didn't know what we were in for - the trail was very muddy and longer than we expected (about 3 miles one way) but so enchanting that we didn't mind the mud. Again, I was so very thankful for my Muck boots (which, mind you, I wore with a long black linen dress - Tiffany hiking attire at its finest). We only passed a few other hikers along the way, and I couldn't help but notice how carefully they were having to navigate around the mud, while I was able to stomp right through with wild abandon. 

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After more than an hour of hiking, we fumbled our way down steep switchbacks and emerged from old-growth forest, past a watchful raven, onto a northern beach that felt full of story. 

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Someone got a little rowdy with the bull kelp, but we won't name names.

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And in the wake, about 30 feet from where I stood, a seal bobbed around, her deep dark eyes penetrating to some tender part in me. If you've read any of the old Selkie folktales, you'll know what I mean. 

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By this time, we were well into early evening with the same hike back still ahead of us and a decent amount of driving to reach our destination for the night. 

So with much hesitation, we left the beach and became consumed again by the forest, talking about how we would come back and spend a lot more time. Soon. 

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We headed toward the small town of Forks where we'd be staying for the next two nights while we explored more of the coast and the rainforest. 

A bit of context for this next little portion of the tale: 
Many years and what seems like a lifetime ago, I lived in a little log cabin on 30 acres which was landlocked inside of 300 acres belonging to a Zen monastery in northern Kentucky. Zen Forest, it was called. My neighbors were Amish families, Vietnamese monks, and Wendell Berry. 
During this span of time, I began blogging. These were the good old blog days of old, with list style layouts that you had to scroll all the way through before reaching the next post. Most of us back then used Blogspot. 
I established online friendships back then with several other bloggers that endure to this day. One of them was Forest Lass (that was her name at the time, now she goes by __wolf_queen__  on Instagram). Sara is her name and back in the blog days of old she lived on a quaint farmstead in Turkey where she raised turkeys, gardened, and shared bits and pieces of her rural life, much like I did. 
Years ago, Sara and her family moved to America. She's now married and living in Vermont, but where did she happen to be this particular weekend? The Olympic Peninsula. 
We didn't arrange a meeting because we were both only there for a limited amount of time and trying to squeeze in plenty of adventures I assumed. I had no idea where I would be when, whether or not I'd have cell service, I didn't want to intrude on her time, I'm introverted anyway, and all that. So before leaving home, we simply grinned (via emojis online) and said Wouldn't it be funny if we ran into one another? and Have a great time exploring! and that was it really. 

End of context.
Back to the evening after we'd been exploring the coast all day, having just arrived into Forks. 

By this time I was looking like a proper hooligan - all drenched in rain and salty sea air, hair hanging down in strings, wet sand-covered dress, mud-covered Muck boots, and a goofy elated grin from the day's adventures. 

We were tired and rather hungry but Forks offered few options in the way of dining. There was a pizza place, the hotel receptionist told us, but that's about all at this hour. So off to the pizza place we went!

I went in to order while Eric stayed at the car to switch into dry socks and organize the car. As I stood in line carefully thinking out the 5 toppings I'd choose - spinach, garlic, pepperoni, black olives, jalapenos - a fellow walked through the line on his way to the bathroom. This fellow was unmistakably Sara's husband who I'd seen in Instagram photos. I had a few seconds of the confusion a tired brain feels when it's somewhere very unfamiliar but recognizes a face, then I began to look around the restaurant, deeply humored at the irony and happenstance that was taking place. This huge peninsula, and here we both are, unplanned. How perfect. My eyes drifted over all the tables full of people before spotting a solo person in a booth, with dark thick hair. I left my place in line and slid right into the booth with Sara, who looked at me shocked for a couple of seconds before realization set in and we both laughed and embraced. Zen Forest and Forest Lass meet in the flesh, and the odds! It was wonderful. 

Sara oozed a sincerity and a sweetness that bolstered my affection immediately, and I'm sure if we lived near enough, we'd become the greatest of friends. 

Isn't that a great story though? I loved this chance encounter so much, and the organic way it worked itself out, free of control. 

That evening, bellies full of pizza, and deeper in love with the peninsula, we enjoyed the deepest sleep, despite being full of excitement for what lay ahead tomorrow. 

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The next day, and the sunniest one yet, we made our way to the coast again. Rialto Beach this time, and our minds were on one thing: tide pools. 

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Rialto Beach had two things really going for it in our book: 1.) no extensive hike to reach the beach (which was important only because this was our last full day on the peninsula and we planned to venture into the Hoh Rainforest that afternoon) and 2.) tide pools that were reknown amongst marine biologists.
It sounded promising. 

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We walked about a quarter mile down the beach, en route to a large rock formation that seemed appealing. It looked like a place where maybe we'd find a few tide pools?

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And folks, the following is an example of what I mean when I say the Olympic Peninsula delivers waves of beauty, and just when all is perfect in the world, another element sweeps through and knocks you off your feet a little more...

Atop this rock formation, beautiful in and of itself, were bald eagles. We counted about six of them living up there - perched in trees, flying around, and... singing. 

Singing?!

Where we live here in the northeast of Washington, it's not unusual to spot a bald eagle or hear one calling in the distance. But I have never heard an eagle sing

These eagles were singing, in the way a songbird will sing, but in their very eagle way. I looked around on YouTube to find an example of the sound, but couldn't find anything that really captured what we heard. 

And then (remember - waves of beauty), a golden eagle flew through and perched on top of the rock formation with the bald eagles! 

Just too much. 

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And then! Walking toward the right of the formation, along the bottom, we stumbled into the richest tide pools we could've imagined. Turquoise sea anemones; purple, orange, pink, and blue starfish clinging to rocks; hermit crabs with their spiral homes on their back, spiral like our golden ratio galaxy.

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We could've spent hours, days really, exploring these tide pools, rich with exquisite and unusual life forms.

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Full of wonder, we figured we'd better get a move on if we wanted to explore more of the peninsula, so we climbed in the car and traced a line from the coast into another world entirely - the Hoh Rainforest. 

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And here is where we finally crossed paths with other tourists! The splendor of this place was not lost on us, but it was diminished unfortunately due to the swarms of people all around. For me, a big part of connecting to the natural world is spending quiet time with it. Getting pulled into that ancient rhythm, listening intimately to the soundscape, smelling the smells, getting down on my knees and taking the time to notice the tiny worlds within the grand.

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We resolved to visit the Hoh again, but to plan a hike on a more remote trail next time. 
Before moving on though, I have to tell you about Taft Creek - which flows right through the crowded Hall of Mosses trail and serves as an important waterway for Coho salmon on the peninsula. 

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Unfortunately, I don't believe my pictures do it justice, but I tried to capture the clarity. It was the clearest, most pristine, water either of us had ever seen in our lives. Not even the gorgeous turquoise-blue tone so prevalent in Washington rivers, it was just... crystal clear. Like looking through clean glass. 

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It was late in the afternoon, but we had one more place on our list to visit - Lake Quinalt, surrounded by Quinalt Valley, also known as The Valley of the Rainforest Giants because several of the world's largest trees are rooted in this very valley, some of them for more than a thousand years!

We drove a couple of hours to get there, following the Pacific coastline a great deal of the time, and stopping for clams along the way, until finally we got to stand at the feet of giants. 

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And inside the world's largest Sitka Spruce, I came across a curious little fellow - I can't help but imagine he has something to do with the workings of this curious valley ;)

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As we drove on, past the quaint tiny town of Quinalt, deeper into a more residential (but quiet and private) area with farmsteads, cozy homes with huge wild gardens, smells of nectar-dew saturating the air, surprise waterfalls, encircled on all sides by towering jagged-but-tree-covered mountains... something came over us. A feeling we've gotten once before, in a place nearby where we live now, which I can only describe as home. A feeling that is so strong and emotionally stirring, like a calling. And it still hasn't left us; we've talked about it every day since. 

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We will return to Quinalt Valley, that much is certain.

That night, upon arriving back in Forks, Eric had a brilliant idea - how about we go watch the sunset? Yes. We should most definitely go watch the sunset.

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Back to Rialto Beach, where we had explored tide pools just that morning. We made ourselves cozy atop a large driftwood tree on the beach and watched as the spectacle began.

We, and you reading this, have watched many sunsets no doubt. And they are always, always beautiful. But this sunset was something else - because, it bears repeating, this is truly the way of the Olympic Peninsula.

It began with a pink-orange glow being cast across the ocean, onto the sides of sea stacks on the horizon, illuminating driftwood along the beach in a fiery orange. Minutes later, the tone of the world was washed over in dim lavender as clouds covered most of the sun. Then, as the world spun, and as we bore witness to time itself so underlined in that moment, our giant star slipped out from behind the clouds, beaming bright white light across stunned faces, as it went from round to waning, and in a matter of seconds, disappeared beneath the horizon. Salty tears hung on our salty cheeks and we embraced as alarm clocks in some other part of the world began to go off.