Down the road a piece, nestled in the woods just off East End Road, is a homemaker’s paradise. Jeff and Ranja Dean’s home, farm and art studios have taken years to construct, hone and perfect — and they’re still not done.
Even though a farm might be a continuous work in progress, the couple are happy for outsiders to come check it out. They have opened their farm of several acres and art studio to tours for anyone who wants to get a peek at their funky, design lifestyle or to see examples of how to tackle at-home projects themselves.
But it’s not just for out-of-towners looking for the quintessential Homer experience. Jeff said it started after the couple started getting requests from locals about the property.
A recent tour held Friday, July 6, started with an energetic puppy bounding toward the small family group assembled in the front yard. After wrangling the beast, Ranja introduced the visitors (Leah Evans Cloud, Jonah Cloud who was visiting from Portland, and Brad Thornburgh) to Jeff.
“We use a lot of recycled materials,” Ranja said while describing the house itself. “… We didn’t use any treated wood, and probably no plywood.”
One aspect of their home construction drew a surprised reaction from the visitors — the insulation.
“We actually ground up (dried) pushki stalks too,” she said of the ingredients making up some of their insulation.
“Something to do with pushkis,” Evans Cloud cried. “Oh my god!”
The abundant plant, actually called cow parsnip but known locally as pushki, is a nuisance to many a hiker and gardener. If sap gets on skin and is not washed away, when exposed to sunlight it can cause a reaction like a bad sunburn.
The tour began in the couple’s creative space, a large shed turned art studio and workshop, with rooms upstairs as well. Tools and supplies cover practically every surface not taken up by actual pieces of art themselves, in various stages of completion. The couple are particularly fond of sculpture, and explained at length their processes to the curious visitors.
While word of mouth is spreading and some clients reach out to Jeff to commission pieces, a lot of his work is done by reaching out to people he thinks might benefit from his work, he said. Currently, he’s crating a metal work piece for a business sign, and a large, two-part carved wooden piece that will go inside someone’s home, shaped like a whale’s tail.
From there, Ranja took the crew on a tour of the couple’s flower, herb and vegetable gardens. She also let them examine the numerous raised chicken coops, the custom-built rabbit houses complete with underground tunnels, and the larger animal barns. The Deans currently have three donkeys, a yak and a smattering of goats.
The yak, named Yeti, is a mix between a male yak and a cow.
“Yeti, when he was a baby, he was bilingual,” Ranja told the group while leading them through the barn.
Part yak and part cow, Yeti would communicate to other cows by mooing when he was young, and to yaks by grunting, she said.
After traversing the large farm, visitors are reunited with Jeff as the pair open up their official art studio, built last fall. They allow guests to peruse their creations — as well as art from their youngest daughter, M’fanway — and explain all the work and technique that went into them.
Visitors are then filled with a refreshing punch and homemade cookies while taking a break from the heat inside the house before being sent on their way. While in the entry way, Jeff took some time Friday to explain the home’s heating and energy system, which can vacillate back and forth between a boiler and solar power.
For more information about the Dean family farm, or to book a tour, visit their website at jeffreyhdean.com.