Monday, March 31, 2014

The oso landslide; local perspective

My farm is downriver from the Oso slide; other than the evacuation notice and the helicopter and rescue traffic, it hasn't had much impact on the physical farm operations, but it has made a difference in the community here.  So I'm going to talk about that a bit.

Everyone interested has seen all of the photos and the footage of the rescuers; but what hasn't gotten much press is that the local community has a fair bit of anger about how the rescue is being handled.

The basic issue is that everyone wants to fix this.  Everyone would like to make it better, and everyone would feel better about doing something -- anything -- vs just watching.  This is particularly true of the residents in and around the slide, and up and down the valley.

When you live in a rural area in the mountains, like I do, you're used to doing for yourself.  You own a chainsaw to clear fallen trees.  You own a generator because the power is erratic; you get used to assessing the state of the river, and the danger of flood, and you own a good set of boots and raingear.

If you're like me, you're pretty used to mud, even a lot of mud.  And if you're like me, you've even had formal rescue training; I'm a swiftwater rescue technician II, which means that i've completed the first course and the second one, too, and I've practiced those skills both in courses and in real life.  I've pulled my share of bodies out of the river.

So you have a community, a region, of people who would like nothing better than to jump right in, and volunteers who are showing up to work are being turned away.  Sure, there are some locals working on this, but the honest truth is that I think sometimes that they would have been better off to bring 500 shovels to the roadblock and just handed one out to everyone who showed up.  Even if it didn't really make much difference to the rescue effort -- it's pretty clear that anyone not rescued saturday is dead, and was dead minutes after the earth starting moving - it would have allowed the community some sense of having taken direct action.

Take a look at this story in the local paper -- summary?  Some guy with his dog drove 90 minutes down and was walking around on the site.  I have no idea if he was doing any good, but he wasn't being paid by anyone, and maybe be could have found someone.  Maybe he'd get himself killed, too.   But what's important about that story isn't the guy -- look at the community reaction:

Unauthorized photos? Really? Are you now the thought police? And the crime here is???? And it is more important to chase down/spend time and resources on this guy?
Looks like some blue-gun-thugism to me. "

Hey Francis... I wonder how many more people you could find if you spent as much energy on trying to make sure you're not losing photo opportunities. Hardly seems like you could afford to lose any help since no one seems to be getting anywhere. Way to go! Protecting & serving those photos is of course thee most important thing. He denied he was with Whatcom County Search & Rescue, so how was he being an imposter of anything? How dare you waste our tax dollars "investigating/railroading" a public citizen who was trying to help"

There are more comments -- you can read them yourself at the link above, but this is typical.  

It's made worse by the fact that the first responders are saying "we're exausted after a week or 24 hour a day work and need time off " -- the perception is that there's hundreds of people who want to help and they're being barred from it.  

the conditions there aren't good, and the job of finding the last 30 bodies is grim.  But the closure for the community, and for the individuals, for the living, is part of this, too. 

I wish that the authorities would relax and allow the community to support them directly, and in a way that the community would feel better, too.  Food drives and sending $10 in to some cell phone text number isn't what is needed here.  

What I think that they want is the ritual of throwing the first dirt onto the coffin.  Allow them that.  Allow the community to physically process this event.  Allow them in.  

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Trouble with taters

I ordered a couple of different types of seed potatoes to plant this year mailorder, and when they got to me they were in terrible shape.  Softer than butter and generally rotting.  What I think happened is that they got frozen somewhere in their trip and that killed them, and then they just rotted.

Being the thrifty soul I am, I carefully sorted through and washed the potatoes, ending up with about half of what I ordered; not enough to plant.  So I went looking at the local feed stores and hardware stores, and they had seed potatoes, but wanted what I considered to be an outlandish sum for them -- when you did the math some of these potatoes were selling for $4/lb!

So I'm walking through the local market and they've got this mixed bag of "gourmet" potatoes, red and purple and yellow - in sizes that would work pretty well for seed potatoes.   I know they're probably sprayed with something to make them not sprout, but we've all had potatoes sprout out of bags.  And they are definitely in better shape than my seed potatoes.   And these are $0.60/lb.

So I'm going to plant these right alongside my more-expensive seed potatoes, in the next row, and see how they do.  I sure do like the price.

As a note; these potatoes were probably produced around here, in western washington.   It's a major commercial crop.  So while i'm taking a chance that these particular tubers are imported, chances are good that they're local.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Final landslide/flood

Update 7:45pm
  Looks like the river is cutting a new channel through the landslide debris.  I'm seeing the river come up slowly with some color in it -- mud from the landslide -- and it looks like we're not going to get a catastrophic flood, which is good.  

 This same hillside apparently slide in 2006, but only caused minor flooding that time, no loss of life.    I drove home today looking at a bunch of homes that are placed on bluffs just like this one that fell, and I wonder how they are sleeping tonight.  

I had to take a careful look at the hills around my farm today.  This landslide started a half-mile or so from the homes that it eventually destroyed; it crossed a valley and a river and ran up the slope on the other side of the valley to get the homes and highway, and apparently did so very quickly. 

18 people still missing, 8 confirmed dead, lots of property damage.  Sad event.   

Update:  11:35 am
State patrol roadblock on road to farm

Disaster relief command center (antenna in center)

River showing a little bit of color.  Dog unimpressed


Media parking area in arlington

News van covering the situation

Farm equipment parked on high ground next to the road

Shiny bailer safe from the possible flood

Update 11:15 pm

Weather service says that the amount of water backed up, even if released suddenly, would not result in a catastrophic flood.  Makes me feel a little better.  

here's the quote: 



Hoping that it breaks soon; this forcast may change if sufficient water does build up.  

Update 8:24pm

The river level shows a substantial drop in level very quickly; the river level isn't very high right now, the amount of water being impounded is approximately 5,000 cubic feet a second, and it's been being blocked since 10am this morning.  So call it 10 hours... roughly 180,000,000 gallons (one hundred eighty million) so far, and counting.

I still think that it's likely that the river will find a new channel and slowly cut a new path down, releasing the water slowly, but it could come all at once, and that would be bad.

Apparently the landslide up river has blocked 3/4 mile of the river channel and the water building up behind that dam has caused a mandatory evacuation order to be issued.  The fire dept came to the house and notified me.

I'm moving equipment and animals into the highest barn; moving 8 nursing sows and litters and 200 assorted other pigs.  It probably won't flood, but a bit of prep beforehand won't hurt.

The neighbors to the west, Paul and Vitaly, are evacuating.  No idea what Dale is going to do; her cars and truck are still parked around her house.

I did call Dale and told her that she's welcome to move stock into the big barn if she needs to.

I suspect that the water will overtop the landslide debris and slowly erode it, so the river will rise slowly, and I don't think it'll be a major flood when it does, but better safe than sorry.

Bread party

I wrote a post about the economics of free bread from bakeries a month or so ago.  Here's what it looks like at the working end of that equation

Yum! Bagels!
 Each garbage can is about 100lbs of bread.  It's all sorts of bread products, whole wheat, white, some pastries and donuts, bagels... all sorts of stuff.  The pigs like the raisin bread or pastries the most, but they'll eat it all.  I figure that each pig gets 3 to 7 loaf-equivalents, depending on their size, and I like to see them eat all of the bread in about 20 minutes.  If they don't, I reduce the ration a little until they do.  If they eat it faster and still act hungry, I'll give them more.   If I give them all the bread at once they waste a lot of it.  I don't want to waste any.
Trailer has about 5,000 loaves in it.  
 The white barrels are what I use to collect the plastic bags that the bread is wrapped in.  Each loaf is in at least one bag, and some of them have two inner bags and an outer bag, too.  I really hate plastic.  the pigs don't eat it, but it doesn't biodegrade and its basically a permanent soil amendment if you compost it.  So I carefully unbag each loaf and send the bags off to recycling.
Red the dog
The dog isn't impressed by all this industry.  He'd rather be out running, but a snooze on the dry sawdust is ok, too.

Landslide up the road

I've been talking about rain for the last couple of months; apparently a mile-long section of hillside just up the road from me gave way and killed 2 and destroyed 6 houses.  I noticed a whole bunch of sirens and helicopters this morning when I was doing the chores but figured it was a  house fire or something.

They're reporting that the river channel is blocked and water is backing up behind it, so we may get a flash flood when that gives way.  So I'm watching the river level and hoping that more folks don't die.

New story here

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Mystery tracks

It's been raining a lot in the last couple of weeks; my weather center reports more than 9 inches of rain in the last 14 days.   When that much rain happens I walk the perimeter fence and river bank to see if anythings changed, and I was out with the dogs doing that when I spotted these tracks.
Mystery tracks
 The animal is pretty small; the stride is about 6" long.  These were the clearest tracks, and they don't show any webbing between the toes -- I thought at first it was a river otter, but now I'm leaning towards raccoon.  The tracks are always side-by-side, and they were on the edge of the field parallel to a small ditch.

The animal wasn't trying to hide; it was moving along about 10' away from any cover, so i'm going to guess it was at night.  During daylight the animals will tend to actually travel in the brushline.
coyote print for comparison found on same walk

I've never actually seen a possum track, and that's my second choice.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Part 4: My special neighbor Dale Shelton / Dale Strawder

I was in court this morning with my special neighbor.  You can see some background on the dispute in three previous entries; part 1, part 2 and part 3.  

Not a happy camper today
I went to court this morning to respond to the anti-harassment order filed by my neighbor against me.  The basic dispute that she and I are having is about a property line and fences, but she felt that an anti-harassment order would help her in some way, so she filled out the forms in early February and I got served with the papers a few weeks later.  We had a court date on March 4th, but I chose to continue it until today, March 18th, so that I'd have more time to get background documents.  

On February 4th, Ms Shelton said in open court that she'd been advised by her attorney to wait until I filed suit against her in the hopes of recouping fees and costs by doing so.  It's my opinion that this action, and the other stuff she's doing were done in hopes of provoking me to sue her.   Sorry Dale.  I'd rather not sue neighbors.  Try talking to me instead.    

But then she filed this motion against me, and it's not something that I could ignore.  I take restraining orders very seriously.   So I iron my shirt and shine my shoes and into court I go.  

Ms. Shelton hired an attorney, Mr. Duskin, who's actually pretty good.  He had a bad case, but he gave it the good old college try.   He produced an declaration from Ms. Sheltons ex husband that admitted that when he built the fence in 2009 we're arguing about, he had no idea where the property line was.  He claimed in that declaration that the fence was destroyed in a flood, but neglected to say what year that happened, and so on.  
Unfortunately for Ms. Shelton the fence in question shows up on aerial photos from the county for decades in its exact location... and what does a fence have to do with an harassment order?    The judge pro tem hearing this case said as much, too.  Nice declaration, but a waste of money for this particular matter.

Mr. Duskin produced a declaration from a county employee that talked about the right of way, and the use of a right of way as a driveway, and some other stuff related to property lines.  But the judge again pointed out that this didn't have anything to do with the interactions between Ms. Shelton and I, and weren't relevant.  But there's another few hundred dollars of Ms. Sheltons money down the tubes.  

He put Ms. Shelton up on the stand, and she related that my dogs got out, 5 months ago there was a pig out, one day I was chasing cattle that got out, and that I removed a couple of no-trespassing signs and tossed them at the ground.  

On the dog matter, I introduced the statement she made to animal control about the dogs, basically stating that she drove out, she honked her horn, and the dogs ran away.  And I noted that 5 months later in her latest statement, that I was suddenly there, present.  Ms. Shelton testified that she never saw me, or heard me when the dogs were there.  Personally, I don't think that this happened, but even if it did, this was not my doing something to harass her.  

On the pig matter I tried to introduce the video of Ms. Shelton  refusing to return me my pig, and wasnt' able to get the courts equipment to work, which was too bad.  I did introduce the sheriffs report stating that there was an animal theft issue and the animal control incident record also stating that it was a theft issue.   This was interaction between Ms. Shelton and I, and actually was relevant to the anti-harassment order.  

On the cows, I established that the cows never went inside her fence around her property, but remained only on the county right-of-way.  

On the sign issue, she admitted that I had been asking her to remove the signs for at least 6 months on the stand, and that she had removed the sign herself because she believed that it was posted on my property.  
While she may  have been annoyed by how I removed the sign, she finally admitted in court that she had been placing it on my property.  

Her attorney questioned her, then we got to arguments, and finally after 40 minutes of pretty funny testimony about pigs and cows and fences, the judge ruled:  

"After testimony and notice, the court finds the burden of proof has not been met.  It is therefore ordered that the case is dismissed."

I think that the best part of this whole episode is that it cost Ms. Shelton quite a bit of money, in my opinion probably around $2,000.00, and time to try to get this to stick.   I did spend some time on it, and about $80, mostly for recording fees for photographs and copies of various documents, but I think that her attorneys bill to her for attempting this order is what she richly deserves.  

And yes, Dale, if you sue me I'm going to put you in my blog.  Have a nice day!

Friday, March 14, 2014

Ambitious thieves

They gave it a good shot!
I was driving by my original farm location in Everett and noticed something odd from the freeway.  So I turned around and went back to look.  An old forklift that I had there had been moved up the driveway a little ways, and an old trailer that I had there (it's got a bent tongue so it can't be towed safely) had been positioned in front of it.  When I got to the gate someone had unscrewed the hinges on one side (leaving the two gates locked) and I found my forklift half-loaded.

Well, not really.  The trailer in its prime was only a 3 ton (6,000lb) trailer.  the forklift weighs at least 6 tons (12,000lbs).  They'd worked awfully hard; chaining the forks up so that they'd clear the trailer, built a ramp out of plywood; they'd even lifted the trailer so that the forklift would roll on it.   They were using a come-along to winch it onto the trailer.
handle is supposed to be straight
They bent their come along at some point, and the forklift tires went straight through the deck of the trailer.  Because their comealong was broken, they couldn't get their chains loose... so I got 4 nice 20' chains with hooks on them.  Thanks!  I cut the chains off of the comealong, and then used a bit of elbow grease to work the chains loose.  Took these pictures after I'd already removed most of them.
right through the deck
Even if they had managed to get the forklift up on the trailer, it would have crushed the trailer.  As it is, with the forklift sunk into the deck, the forklift and trailer are pretty secure.  I'll head down there pretty soon and pick it up, but honestly, if you're gonna work this hard, you should just come on by.  I've got a shovel with your name on it!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Fodder for thought

I think that I'm seeing another FFF coming on.  Fads Fleecing Farmers.    It's my opinion that fodder systems being sold are a good way to spend a lot of money without actually getting any real benefits.

You'll find this product here
Fodder systems are hydroponic growing systems that usually have a rack or shelf system, growing trays and some pumps and filters and timers.  The basic idea is that you put seeds into these systems, allow them to sprout, and then feed the sprouted seeds to your animals.  Oats, barley, wheat, alfalfa - you can sprout any kind of feed.  

They're touted as being a cheaper alternative to feeding your farm animals, and come complete with pretty big claims -- here's an example:   "The amount of feed that can be produced in a 200 acre field can be
produced in a 2,000 square foot fodder room"

There are a couple of problems with this idea.  First, nothing comes for free.  The seed contains all of the calories it will ever have when you put it into the tray; it may gain a little bit of energy from the grow lights - and theres no question that sprouted seeds are bigger than unsprouted.  But I am skeptical that the produced feed is any more calories than the grain itself.  In fact, there's an argument for sprouted grains being less nutricious -- it takes energy to sprout, and the sprouts generate compounds that try to defend against it being eaten, slowing/retarding digestion and making them taste bad, potentially limiting quantity consumed..  

The second problem is that when you try to compare production numbers, the system manufacturers are pretty darned shy about that., a reputable dealer that I've purchased product from in the past is pretty coy about the production numbers.  Here's what farmtek says:    

"3.  How much of the fodder is water weight?  It depends on the type of seed and how you spread it in the channels.  If you contact us we can provide you with some feed and forage reports on some of the trials we've done"

Summary?   If you don't read carefully, you don't realize that "125lbs of feed a day" may actually be 2lbs of seeds and 123lbs of water.  And water isn't feed; water has no calories.    

Show me the feed!
Lets go back to the 2,000 square foot room producing as much as 200 acres claim.  First, lets compare wet feed production to wet feed production.  So hydroponically grown grass against green chopped field grass. 

How much feed wold you get from 200 acres?
 200 acres of ground will produce between 10 and 15 tons of wet grass chop per year per acre.   at the low end of the range, we're talking about 2,000 tons of grass silage per year, or an average of 5.4 tons of grass per day over 200 acres; that's what I'd get around here.  Your area may vary, but grass grows in 3 seasons here, and it grows pretty darned fast.  

I have no idea what size of grow setup you'd have to have to produce 5.4 tons per day, but farmtek
To produce 5.4 tons you, need...

2000 / 125 = number of 24' trays per ton needed = 16
16*5.4 = 86.4  trays to produce 5.4 tons, or 2073' of tray space. 

A little under half a mile of tray space.  Trays look to be about 12" across, so you'd need 2073 square feet of trays to produce 5.4 tons per day.  

Oh wait -- it takes 6 to 8 days for the seeds to sprout.  So you'd need at least 12,000 square feet of tray space, and you'd be planting 2073' of tray each day, and harvesting 2073' of tray every day.  And you're doing that by hand, because theres no way to get a tractor in to do this work.  

And you're going to need a pretty big climate controlled building to put this mile and a half of tray space in.  

WAIT.  WAIT.  They said it would only take 2,000 square feet!

Yes, they did.  To be fair, the claim for the 2,000 square feet was made by another company, but they're even  more shy about their production numbers.  At least with farmtek they give me enough information to figure out that there's no way that this checks out, in my opinion.  

Folks, there's nothing cheaper than dirt and sunlight.  And when you look at these systems in the light of day, well, manure is great fertilizer.  And that's what these systems are.  

Monday, March 10, 2014

Spring piglets

Hampshire sow x  berkshire/yorkshire boar
 Three litters last night, two the night before.  Love having piglets born at this time of year.  It's getting warmer, and they'll be weaning right at the time that the grass starts its explosive growth.  fun to watch piglets on a walk with their mom.
  The hampshire sow, above, woofed at me when i came to check on her piglets.  "hey, I'm nursing here, and I really, really don't want to get up, but if you... oh, nevermind.  I recognize you.  ok.  "
duroc sow x purebred herford boar
 I'm finding for sales in this area that the colored piglets are the ones that sell first.  People like to have one red one, and a black one, and a spotted one and so on.
This duroc sow is the only one that I own, and I'm interested to see what her temprament is.   She didn't even look at me when I was checking the pigs.  Grunting softly as her litter of 14 nursed.

Berkshire sow x 50/50 berkshire/yorkshire boar
The little berk sow is a sweetie.  This is her first litter and she was very anxious over the last four days; she would get out of her stall, and wander around, and then go right back to it and lay down every 90 minutes or so.  I guess she wanted to make sure that her stall was the best place to have piglets.   Now that she's had them she's cuddling with her pigs and probably won't move for a day or so.

The sows don't eat or drink for the first day or so after they give birth; some do, but most don't.  They're content to lay and nurse the pigs.  The piglets are busy figuring out whos nipple is whos.  Very important piglet business.  that'll be their personal nipple until they're weaned.
typical pig farrowing pen.  pigs on the left, rubber bowl in center

another farrowing pen.  8' gate.  sorry about poor cellphone pic

inside the farrowing pen above.  pigs in left corner

Friday, March 7, 2014

"living wage" and farm dreams and production

I think that everyone who thinks about farming has a vision of what their perfect farm will be.  Sometimes they can say what it is, describe it, other times they can't, but a common element in a lot of farm dreams that I've heard from people relates to economics.

I think that the majority of people who consider "going back to the country" and living on a farm would prefer, in that perfect vision, to have some sort of product or crop that they can produce that will actually allow them to spend most of the time on their farm, and for some.

This is a pretty powerful vision, and it's actually pretty hard to convey how important it is to some that they reach this goal.  I think that this basic desire on the part of farmers is why things like pigeon king international happen - farmers and people who want to farm seeking a crop of any sort that will allow them to live on their land and make a good living.

This isn't a new thing -- here's a farm boom and bust story from the 1830s in cartoon form.

The biggest questions that you see on blogs are ones that talk about how to figure out profit margins, how to price what you're selling, and even how to price yourself.

It works like this:  in my regular job I got paid $XX per hour.  So on the farm, I should be worth at least that.

No, no one ever says it out loud like that, but it's really there.  I am the same person, so I must be worth the same amount of money in my new enterprise.  And they go about seeing if they can reconcile the two views.

Oftentimes they look at the very low production on the farm, and try to make a wage that way.   "lets see... if I need $10,000, and I sell 10 pigs, I'll need to get $1,000 per pig profit".   Well, again, they're usually not that silly, but I think you get what I'm saying.

So here's the basics as I see them:

1)  You have to have a decent amount of production of whatever it is you're farming for it to make any sense at all.  If you could get a million bucks a pig, you'd only have to sell 1 pig every 20 years, right?

2)  Your time is worth what you could hire someone to do it for, and farm labor is pretty darn cheap.  So if you don't like the wage at what you're doing, promote yourself and hire someone else to do that part.  Not making enough to hire a replacement?  Rethink your farm.

3) People may not be willing to pay much, or at all, for what you really want to do.  Doing something and hoping that customers appear is pretty much opposite of what most people do.  It's a happy time when you find something you like and that people will buy, but most farmers I know have stuff that they don't like doing as the cost of business.  Agritourism, for instance.  Heck, if I wanted a job as a tour guide I'd get one.

4)  Your experience in another industry probably won't be 100% transferrable to  your new one.  So even though you had a great time making widgets, when you start farming, or switch to a new area of farming, you're at the bottom end of a brand-new learning curve.  Please don't write a book about your first 6 months of farming.  How about you farm for 5 years, and THEN write about your first six months.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Part 3: My special neighbor Dale Shelton

Don't miss part 1 or part 2! or you can just skip it all and go directly to the results of the hearing

You can file a response to an anti-harassment order with the court; most people don't, but I did, and here's what I said in response to her complaint:
She wanted to keep my pig
"Ms. Shelton uses the county easement to cross over my land to reach hers.  Ms. Shelton has no right to post no trespassing signs on my property or the county right of way per SCC 13.60.050(5) and must maintain the county right of way she uses to access her property per SCC13.60.050(9).

The fence between our two properties has existed in its current location for decades, and I believe that I own that fence outright.  Ms Shelton does not have any information on property lines or corners and refuses to have her land surveyed or to walk the property lines with me; with survey in hand and corners staked and marked, I have a very good idea of where the property lines are.  Ms. Shelton apparently agrees with my survey as she references it in her pleadings. 

In the 6 months that I have been in this dispute with Ms. Shelton the best information I have is that she has made over 100 complaints, via telephone, email, forms filled out in person and calls to 911.  These complaints have been made various agencies, causing over 30 personal visits to my house and property by these agencies usually in groups of 2 to 6 staffers each visit.  Responding agencies include the Snohomish County Sheriff, the Snohomish County health department, the Snohomish county Animal Control, The Washington State Veterinarian and the Washington State Department of Ecology and others.  No citations, notice and order or any other enforcement action has resulted from any of these visits, but I have spent more than 180 hours dealing with requests for inspection and disclosure as each of these agencies investigated the complaints.

Ms. Shelton has complained that my animals had gotten out on many occasions to animal control, then complained to the sheriff that I was trespassing as I maintained or constructed fences in an effort to contain the animals, and on at least one occasion refused to return my livestock until I called the sheriff and had him advise her that I would press theft charges if she did not. 

It is a matter of common sense that when livestock are involved, no matter how good your fence or containment is there is always the possibility that it will escape; it is a fact of rural life on agriculturally zoned land and not an unusual or unexpected hazard.  Ms. Sheltons own animals have left her property, and in one case reportedly killed a neighbors dog and caused hundreds of dollars of damage which Ms. Strawder paid to repair.  

I cannot trespass on my own land.  I cannot be charged with destroying my own fence.  It is not harassment to object to Ms. Shelton posting signs on my property or removing those signs from my property.  Having a disagreement about a boundary line, the ownership of a fence, or the ability to traverse my own property or opened right of way does not constitute harassment, and none of those issues will be solved but making this temporary order permanent.  It will take a bad situation and make it worse.   

     Ms Shelton has consulted a private attorney and has the ability to resolve these issues via other means, such as her own survey, but has chosen courses of action to increase the conflict in any way what she can, all the while claiming that she is the victim, on fixed income, and helpless, and is using this and other forms of civil process or complaint in what appears to be a concerted course of conduct designed not to resolve this conflict but to inflame it and harm me.    

Dated this 27th day of February, 2014

Statement of Bruce King
"I purchased the property commonly known as 28611 139th avenue NE, closing on that purchase in approximately May of 2013.  I purchased this property from Union Bank out of foreclosure.  Union bank had received this property when the lender in first position, Frontier Bank, was closed by the FDIC.

  At time of foreclosure, this property was owned by Gary Strawder, the ex-husband of Ms. Shelton, and prior to that both the property that she resides in now, common address 28828 139th avenue NE and this property, 28611 139th avenue were both owned by the marital community of Dale Shelton and Gary Strawder.  Ms. Shelton has told me in the past that she was divorced in 2009, but at time of closing in 2013, Ms. Shelton had various belongings and animals on this property, and the first contact between myself and Ms. Shelton was when I contacted her and asked her if she wanted the items and animals she had here, and how much time she wanted to remove them.  At time of closing I had title to the property and everything on it, and this contact was a common courtesy not required by law. 

We agreed on two weeks, and she removed a variety of items and animals.  Another two weeks after that she returned and said that she had left potting soils and materials and asked if she could take cuttings from this property, and I allowed her to do so. 

As part of my purchase of this property I commissioned and duly registered a survey of the boundaries of the property in contemplation of fencing.  This survey work cost me $7,000.  Fencing is expensive and I wanted to place the fence at the proper locations so that I wouldn't have to move the fence or have disputes about property lines in the future.  It has been my experience when purchasing agricultural land that fences are often not built on property lines and that there are often disagreements about where boundaries are; a survey usually quickly resolves those issues, or at least gives me a pretty concise view of any issues.  The existing fences on my property were in poor condition when I closed this purchase.  My intention was to fence along the east side of the county right of way, and to place gates in either end of the fence, and a gate in the center.  This would allow me to avoid having to move the fence in the event of some activity in the right of way and to plant to the edge of my fields.  I figured that since the county right of way was platted I might as well use that area for access.

In addition, having gates allows me to retrieve animals that get out more quickly, allowing me to minimize any disruption caused.  It also allows the neighbors the ability to retrieve their livestock in the event that theirs wanders.  The fenceline between Ms. Sheltons and the Druchinins property is more than 1/3rd of a mile long.     
I contacted Ms. Shelton in May, and I asked her for the keys to gates that she had erected over the right of way.  I didn't mind her putting the gates up, but I wanted to be able to pass up and down the right of way without impediment when I needed to.  I explained my fencing plan to her, and told her that we would be completed in a couple of weeks. 

She objected to this, and said that I didn't have the right to use the right of way as I described, and after listening carefully, I told Ms. Shelton that I didn't agree with her, but could she provide some sort of backup that the right of way couldn't be used?  

Ms. Shelton called the county, and found Jan Newman, who is employed with the title of "right of way investigator III", at 425-388-3488, x 2290.  I called Ms. Newman, and in a discussion with Ms. Newman, she informed me that the right of way on 139th was formed by taking 20 feet of the parcels on either side, and that it was an easement, and not deeded county land.  She further said that the portions of that right of way that were unopened could be used by the landowners on either side for any purpose that they chose, including fencing, gating and any other use, up to and including the exclusive use and prevention of public access.  This with the understanding that if the county ever were to want to open the right of way that anything placed there might have to be removed at the landowners expense, Ms Newname stated that opening the right of way was unlikely to happen. 

I was surprised by this; it was different than my understanding of right of way.  I called Ms. Shelton back, told her that I agreed with her that the property owners on either side could use the right of way or prevent access, and that having learned that, I didn't need the keys to her gates.  I modified my fencing plan to meet this new understanding.  I would fence along the center of the right of way on areas of the right of way that had not been opened by the county or by permit, and in other areas I would fence inside of the existing fences, reasoning that I would not narrow or interfere with the existing decades-old fencing but I did need to construct fencing capable of retaining animals.  Over the course of the next 7 months I did that. 
I wrote a letter after our phone conversation summarizing our conversation, dated 7-16-2013 and mailed Ms Shelton a copy.  I wrote that letter because I wanted to have a record of what was said and have it be in writing.  My experience in dealing with Ms. Shelton is that she and I had different opinions on what was said in our conversations, sometimes only hours after they had occurred.  In that letter I requested that any further conversation she had with me regarding the fences be in writing.   

  My survey was performed by River City Land Services.  This survey was completed on 2-25-13, prior to close, and this survey is my primary source of information on where boundaries and easements are located.  I am not aware of any survey or authority that Ms. Shelton has on her property lines or corners, and in fact, she and I have no agreement on where our property lines are.  I rely on my survey and staked corners.  I don't know what she relies on. 

My property, 28611 139th is comprised of 4 tax parcels totalling 69.7 acres.  Two of these tax parcels, #s 32061600400400 and 32061600400300, have on their west side a county right-of-way.  139th avenue NE is built on this right-of-way, and the right-of-way continues north until it intersects the north fork of the stilliguamish river. 

Ms. Sheltons property is one parcel, #32061600300800, approximately 10 acres, and is located west of the county right of way, abutting it. 

The County right of way is formed by taking 20 feet from either side of the section line in this area.  Each property owner along this right-of-way maintains title to the land underneath this right of way; it is not deeded county land.  In a practical sense, that right of ownership is meaningless for this easement - since this right-of-way eventually touches water, the north fork of the Stilliguamish, the county is prohibited from vacating that land by the provisions of RCW 36.87.130, and I quote:
RCW 36.87.130
Vacation of roads abutting bodies of water prohibited unless for public purposes or industrial use.
No county shall vacate a county road or part thereof which abuts on a body of salt or freshwater unless the purpose of the vacation is to enable any public authority to acquire the vacated property for port purposes, boat moorage or launching sites, or for park, viewpoint, recreational, educational or other public purposes, or unless the property is zoned for industrial uses.

Opened county road segments can not be blocked or reserved for exclusive use except by permit, and generally for limited periods of time, typically by county permit and subject to various restrictions. 
On the east side of the centerline of this easement, the right-of-way is owned by the property owner to the east.  On the west side by the property owner to the west.  The 139th easement runs north-south. 
In front of my house there is a sign that reads "End of county road", which indicates that it is the end of the maintained county road.  Ms. Shelton uses a portion of that easement north of that sign to access her property.  The section of the county road south of that sign is considered "opened right of way" by virtue of being an improved county road.

Ms. Sheltons property does not contact the maintained portion of the county road.  The distance between the "end of county road" sign and Ms. Sheltons property is hundreds of feet.  The west side of this segment of the easement is owned by Vasily Druchinin, the property owner to the west.  The east side is owned by Myself, until we reach Ms. Sheltons parcel.  There the ownership of the west side of the right of way is Ms. Shelton, and the east side is myself, and that ownership pattern continues until the right of way intersects the North Fork of the Stilliguamish river. 

That section of Ms. Sheltons driveway north of the "end of county road sign" meanders and uses a portion of both Mr. Druchinins land and my own land.  The county electrical and telephone poles were placed in random positions along this driveway, and in order to use this any traveler has to avoid the telephone poles and guy wires used to secure them.  No portion of Ms. Sheltons access along this path is solely on Mr. Druchinins or my own property. 

Ms. Shelton crosses the Druchinin land and my own land via a "trail permit", a D4 level permit, issued by the county.  This permit allows the opening of otherwise unopened county right-of-way for use in accessing parcels that have no other access available.  This permit is issued conditional to the landowner improving the right-of-way to various county standards, usually by grading or adding gravel or ditches or other amenities. 
Trail permits are regulated by SCC title 13, roads and bridges.  A trail permit opens the right of way to the general public and is non-exclusive to the permit holder.  I quote:
SCC 13.60.050 (5)
The issuance of a type D3 or D4 permit does not diminish the public ownership of the right-of-way or grant any exclusive privileges to the permitee.  No permitee using county right-of-way pursuant to a type D3 or D4 permit will prevent or restrict simultaneous use of the right-of-way by the general public, except where the prevention or restriction of public use is expressly approved by the engineer because the permittee's use creates a hazard to the public

Ms Shelton has repeatedly stated to me that she is a holder of a trail permit, both in person and via her attorney Mr. Duskin, and Mr. Duskin has provided copies of documents to me that he purports to support this view but has yet to produce the permit to me.    

I haven't seen this permit but i'm willing to believe that it does exist.  With this permit, Ms. Shelton has the right to cross my and Mr. Druchinins land to access her property along the county right-of-way, but has no right to restrict myself, Mr. Druchinin or any member of the general public who wishes to from using that opened right of way for the entire length of the opened area, from the "end of county road" sign all the way up to the end of the improved sectin, where my gate is installed.  She references my gate as "...a 16' gate directly accross from the entrance to my home" in her statement in support of this order.  Ms. Shelton also has the responsibility of improving and maintaining that access road in the right of way per SCC 13.60.050(9) as long as she holds that permit.  Ms. Shelton has no right to restrict access to this right-of-way due to concerns about damage to the roadway, but must instead maintain it at her expense no matter who causes wear-and-tear due to normal use.  Tractors and agricultural access uses are normal uses in this zoning.  This is explicitly discussed in the statute governing this permit.    

She does not have the right to post no trespassing signs or restrict access to anyone from the "end of county road" sign to her property line.  That segment of the right have way has been "opened" by this permit.  She also does not have my permission to post signs or restrict access on my property, on the east side of the right of way.  In addition, I have the permission of Mr. Druchinin to cross or traverse the west side of the right of way.

  I have written 2 letters and asked her in person 3 times in the last 6 months to remove the signs and stop telling people that she will press trespass charges and after six months finally removed the signs in her presence, walked to her property line and said "You can't post the signs where you had them.  but if you want to post signs, this is where they go" and indicated the property line to her. Two hours later two sheriffs deputies were at my door and explained that Ms. Shelton had asked them to press criminal trespass charges or property destruction against me.  I explained what I had done, showed them my stamped survey copy that shows the fence and property lines, and two hours later dale was tacking the signs back up where she had placed them before. 

 It was this latest incident that she recounts in her statement supporting this order. 

I asked the deputies that night how many times Ms. Shelton had called, and they shrugged and told me that they had honestly lost count.  I have submitted public disclosure requests for the 911 call recordings, incident numbers, incident reports and other information from all of the responding agencies and am waiting for the response now.  My best information is that the total number of complaints entered is in excess of 100, and may be as high as 500, somewhere between one and three calls per day, every day, for 6 months. 

The complaints don't seem to serve a constructive purpose.  An example is the pig incident that she refers to in her statement.  "His pig was in my pasture Oct 11th looking for a place to have babies.  Animal control and the sheriff wouldn't help or respond, so my grandaughter and I had to herd the pig back to bruces [property]"
On the day this incident happened I was working on the fence about 200' from her front door, in sight of her sitting on her front porch.  I received a call from Officer Davis of the Snohomish County Animal control, informing me that he had recieved a complaint from Ms. Shelton and that Ms. Shelton had asked him to confiscate my pig.  He asked Ms. Shelton to call me, and she refused, instead insisting that my pig get confiscated and transported.  He told me where the pig was, and I said that I would go get the pig.  I set down my tools, walked up the county right of way, and knocked on her front door.  I then stepped back off her front porch, and got my cell phone out to record the interaction that followed.  I didn't want any controversy about what was said.  I told her that I understood that she'd called to have a pig removed from her property, and I was there to do it.  She told me I was trespassing, and to get off her property.  I said that I didn't want to be there, but I was there to remove the pig.  Would she let me get my pig?  No.  Get off my property, you're trespassing.  Just to make sure I had heard her right, I asked "so you're saying you will not allow me to get my pig?" and she agreed, and I turned and left her property. 

I called officer Davis back, who advised me to call the Responding deputy.  The deputy advised me that I could press theft charges if I wished under RCW 9A.56.083 - a class C felony.  I declined, stating that I was just interested in getting my pig back, and asked the deputy to talk to Ms. Shelton.  That deputy told Ms. Shelton that he strongly advised her to return my pig.   At that point she agreed to herd the pig to the property line and I retrieved it.

Whatever issue Ms. Shelton had wasn't with the pig being on her property; given the opportunity to remove the pig, she refused, instead preferring to escalate the situation into a confrontation with me, and causing both the animal control and the county sheriff to have to respond to resolve this issue. When the pig returned to Ms. Sheltons pasture to have her piglets, she kept the pig on her property for several days and I had to schedule a time with both her and Officer Davis to retrieve the pig and her piglets. 

Ms. Shelton complains that my animals are out.  She complains when I construct or maintain fences to contain the animals.  She complains that I don't feed my animals.  She complains that I feed my animals incorrectly.  She complains my animals don't have water.  She complains that I am keeping animals in a wetland.  In fact the volume of complaints is so large that at this point I'm pretty sure that I can do nothing at all to satisfy this woman, and so I have given up trying to appease her. 

She even complains when I go to get my animals when they're out; in her complaint she states that I was trespassing when I went to retrieve cows that were out.  What would Ms. Shelton have me do instead?  Does she propose that if an animal ever gets out that I make no attempt to retrieve it?  Would the same rules apply to her livestock in the event that they got out?

Ms Shelton has made the bulk of those complaints to agencies, but she has also parked her car in my driveway and honked her horn until I came out of the house to see what was going on.  She's written me letters, she's confronted me in person, she's hired an attorney and had him call and write me. 

  She has threatened to press trespass charges on me, or on my employees when they are working on my land, or on fences I own and has interfered with my farming practices and occupation.    

This no-contact order has prevented me from completing a segment of fence, has prevented me from tilling approximately 5 acres of land for 2 weeks despite the need to plant on a tight schedule to give the crops the best chance of success.  This course of conduct by Ms. Shelton has been extremely annoying to me.  I believe that there is harassment going on here, but it's not Ms. Shelton who is being harassed. 

Ms Shelton claims ownership of the fence that divides our two properties, and uses that claim of ownership to assert that I have "destroyed her pasture fence" in her statement.  That fence starts at a point near the "end of county road" sign, on my property, on the east side of the county road easement, runs 400' or so along my property before getting to the corner of Ms. Sheltons land, and then continues another 1100' to near the bank of the Stilliguamish river.  She has claimed that the fence was constructed by her in 2009, from materials she purchased.

  I have aerial photos of that fence from every year back at least to 1990, and previous owners of this farm state that the fence was first constructed in either 1965 or 1968, accounts vary.  She has asserted that the fence is the "boundary fence", and i've offered to do a boundary line agreement to make that fence the legal boundary -- and she's refused.  Only after examining my survey did she notice that the fence wasn't on the property line, but approximately 17' west of the center of the county right of way at its northern extent, and this has made her very unhappy. 

This fence was constructed decades before either she or I owned these properties, and probably for the benefit of my property.  My property has been a commercial dairy since 1935 and has had hundreds of cows on it for most of that time.  Since there were more animals and sections of the fence were constructed to control land that she does not own, and the fence shows up on historical photos in its present position, I believe that it's probably my fence.  She may have constructed fencing in 2009 somewhere, but if anything was done it was probably to renovate the existing fence - removing barbed wire and replacing it with field fence, for instance.  The current fence and historical fence show identical curvature and placement between existing trees.  A newly constructed fence would probably have been done on the property line, or at least straight.  "

 end of Declaration by Bruce King

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

part 2: My special neighbor Dale Shelton (was: Dale Strawder )

I've been having issues with my neighbor again, and it's been distracting, but I figured that it's a pretty good story, and it's worth telling.  My neighbor has filed for a restraining order against me.  For background on my relations with Ms. Strawder/Shelton, you can look at the previous blog entry.    She changed her name from Dale Strawder to Dale Shelton for reasons that aren't clear.    You'll find part three here, or you can skip directly to the end and get the results of the court hearing.  

Dale Shelton, refusing to return my pig

Now, there's lots of things I can say, and I've thought about it, but I consider Ms. Sheltons filings with the court to be plenty good.

She filed an anti-harassment order against me in the local district court; I guess I'm in good company -- David Letterman got one of these too.   But mine is its own kind of special.  Here's her complaint, emphasis and comments in square braces [] are mine:

Statement in support of an anti-harassment order:
"May 2013 Bruce King stated that he was using my property access to access his farm fields.  He stated he wanted keys to any locked gates into my pasture.  June 2013 He cut the boundary fence between the two farms and installed a 16' gate directly across from the entrance to my home.  I had to have my former husband come repair it for $150.  Bruce was billed for this but he never paid it.
He [Bruce] stated the fence north from my home to the river is not on Snohomish County Right of Way but 17' onto my property so he is taking the 17' by adverse possession.  October 2013 while disking his field he broke off a wood fence post and bent a metal "T" post over.  I told him he needed to replace the posts and he said "it isn't your fence".  It is the east side of my pasture fence and was constructed in 2009 when I moved to the property.  I bought all of the materials for the fence.  The farm owner at the time and his hired hand installed the fence as their cost share.  Bruce should not be allowed to destroy my pasture fence.  Bruce disregards Snohomish County animal confinement codes with his pack of Airedale dogs & his livestock.  The dogs have killed 3 cats and 4 kittens at Paul Gudevs property across the street from Bruce's house.  His pigs and cows get out on a daily basis.  October 2013 He disregarded no trespass signs & came onto my property to retrieve his cows that were out.  His dogs are in my fields or menacing my dogs at my yard gate every day just this week of Oct 6-11.  When I stopped to get my mail at the end of the county road his pack of 7 dogs attacked my car and were jumping on the hood & doors, barking and snarling.  The dogs scratched the paint on the hood and doors with their nails.  I had to lay on my horn to get him to call off the dogs.

His pig was in my pasture Oct 11 looking for a place to have babies.  Animal control and the sheriff wouldn't help or respond so my granddaughter & I had to herd the pig back to Bruce's [property].  I do not want Bruce on my property, hence the no trespass signs.  He was video and voice recording me and my granddaughter for his blog [actually it's, but close enough] and said he was going to start putting me on his blog.

I do not want to be on his blog where he will misrepresent issues to his advantage and want him stopped from video or voice recording of me and my family.  The pig was back the next day and had her litter of 9 babies in my back yard.
the offending piglets!  ACTUAL PHOTO!

He is consistently bullying, contentions and making untrue statements in our conversations.  I have recently retired and am on a fixed income.  I don't have the funds to keep hiring attorneys to combat his aggression and attempted hostile takeover of my property.  He simply does what he wants to do and does not care about my property or rights.  I am left to fix the damage.  He should be made responsible for any damage to my property and the repairs thereof that he causes.  He should also be required to keep his animals contained to his property per the law.

Bruce installed a camera pointed at my mailbox and garbage containers.  I do not want to be under surveillance by Bruce at all.  The camera does not capture Bruce's mailbox.

Jan/Feb 2014:  Bruce yells or waves his arms as I drive past his residence.  On Feb I walked to my mailbox after dark.  Bruce was in his front yard and said something.  I ignored him as our confrontations are never civil and raise my blood pressure.  He said "I see you have lost your hearing.  I can help with that."  And proceeded to tear down my "no trespass" signs at the beginning of my driveway and toss the signs in the grass.  I called the sheriff who said that he would go talk with Bruce.

Bruce King will not stop his aggression without an anti-harassment order.  This is what the deputy sheriff advised me to get.  This has now gone on for 10 months.

I am retired and on a fixed income and he is trying to force me to spend all my money because he doesn't care what he does to a neighbor [sic] property

Bruce puts letters in my mailbox from him instead of mailing them.  I am not comfortable with him getting in my mailbox as he can look through my mail or tamper with it.  "

Ok Dale.  These are your words.  I think they speak for you pretty clearly.

What she's seeking is to have me restrained from contacting her in any way, mail, email, phone or by third party, and that I be barred from coming within some distance from her residence - it was initially 400', which prevented me from actually doing anything with a couple of acres of my property that abuts hers.  These orders are granted pretty easily and without notice to me; she comes into court, says this, and the judge grants the order for 14 days.  After the 14 day period is up.  Here's what I get to do:

"The respondent is directed to appear and show cause why the court should not enter an order for protection effective for one year or more and order the relief requested by the petitioner or other relief that the court deem proper, which may include payment of costs.  FAILURE TO APPEAR AT THE HEARING OR OTHERWISE RESPOND WILL RESULT IN THE COURT ISSUING AN ORDER FOR PROTECTION PURSUANT TO CHAPTER 10.14 RCW EFFECTIVE FOR A MINIMUM OF ONE YEAR FROM THE DATE OF THE HEARING.  THE NEXT HEARING DATE IS SHOWN BELOW THE CAPTION ON PAGE ONE" emphasis in original.

Yep.  My special neighbor.  Howdy.

Note:  I cannot contact her or cause any third party to contact her.  This is offered for entertainment value only and should not be considered to be my asking for anyone to contact her.  She has her own little world and it's clear that she should be left there.  However, if you have an opinion about this, you are welcome to express it here, whatever it is.

Monday, March 3, 2014


This little pig is probably not going to make it.  I brought it into the house and put it on an old sweatshirt, and carefully fed it via an eye dropper, and it's more comfortable now than it was.  I'm not sure what the issue was; most of the time you find a little pig that is off from the sow, cold, just fading off.

Sometimes I'll look at the pig and if it's got some sort of issue...  well, I'll just push it up against the sow so that this little pig can smell mom and feel her, and I'll come back in a few hours and remove the dead pig,
but this one doesn't have any obvious issues.   sometimes I don't find them until the morning; the decision
has been made; the verdict reached.

The sow is busy with the other 12 littermates; she's got lots of squealing, fighting piglets that are doing their best to keep ahead of their littermates, and little guys like this just fade away.  it's a reality with an animal that has litters; some of them nature culls.

So I pick it up and it doesn't really respond; a slow movement, an attempt at a squeal.  Cold ears, very cold.  Cold belly.  Sometimes the little pigs, if they're right on the edge, die in your hands.  you can feel them die; it's unmistakable, right when you touch them.  I've had that happen a couple of hundred times for the ten thousand or so piglets I've produced over the years.  it happens, and I really don't like it, but sometimes it's for the best.

I'll feel the life go out of the little pig, and I'll look at it, and say to myself "thank you for coming; wish you were here longer", and I'll put the pig aside until I come back after my chores and pick it up as the last thing.   I think i do that because i want to have the illusion, however faint, that the pig is still here.  but it's not, and
they never come back.  it's sad.

so this little pig is making slow movements on its sweatshirt as I type this.  every few minutes i reach over and make sure that it's not too hot, and turn it over so that the heat can get to all of its cold little body.  he's
a little more active than most, and I have some hope that he'll make it, but probably not.  but I try.   A little bit of milk out of the eye dropper to keep his mouth moist; some swallowing motions are a good sign.

thank you for coming; hope you are here longer.

Note; if you're doing this, the goal is to get them warmed up and active enough to return to the sow as soon as possible.  the sow can do a better job than any human, and her colostrom is needed for this pigs long
term health.  if you keep this pig away for more than a day or so, you're committed to bottle feeding it until weaned, like a bummer lamb, and there's a fair chance that it will die of something when it's 2-3 months old because it didn't get the colostrom it needed now.  So intervene, but do so with a plan.