Saturday, November 22, 2008

Living with The Rain

If there is one defining characteristic about the Northwest region of the United States, especially on the coast, it is this:  it rains a lot here.  This is both good and bad, from a farmer's perspective. We save a lot on irrigation, for one thing. And our often foggy coastal climate makes this an ideal place to grow things that like it on the cooler side.  Leafy greens, salad greens, your cool weather loving brassicas- we have a great relationship.  The heat lovers like tomatoes and basil?  We struggle in our dealings with one another, but as long as we are both willing to compromise (I give them a greenhouse to live in, they don't complain too much about the acidic soil), we manage to work things out.

Rain in the kind of quantity we receive it can be challenging, but we have found ways to deal with it that are helping to make growing things here easier.   The first obstacle to really successful vegetable and flower gardening is that our soil here is very acidic, because of the heavy rainfall.  Some of our soil on the farm tested at 4.6 ph when I first dug into it- that is a long way from the 6.5-7.0 range that most vegetables and herbs prefer.  So the first thing you learn about in the Northwest is lime. 

 "Lime sweetens the soil" is a phrase you hear a lot around here.  I've often wondered, why sweet?  Is it because sweet is the opposite of acid?  Anyway, what lime does is raise the ph level in the soil. It makes the soil less acidic, and contributes calcium to the soil, which is essential for healthy plant growth. This does not happen overnight, it takes years to really shift your soil's ph level. And then, you have to remain vigilant because, just like compost and other fertilizers, the stuff breaks down, plants absorb it, it all gets used up and then it is gone and you're back to acid again.  Lime actually takes a long time to break down and become available to plants, which is why Fall is the best time to apply it.  By the time Spring rolls around, and the plants are waking up and reaching around in the soil for calcium and other minerals, the lime has done its work and the plants are much happier.

There are two main types of commercially available lime:

Agricultural lime

Agricultural lime is finely crushed limestone, pure calcium carbonate.  It is a very fine grey-white powder; do not mistake it for powdered sugar. Or anything else, for that matter.  This is the most widely available lime, and the cheapest. It also breaks down and is absorbed fastest.

 Prilled Dolomite lime

Dolomite lime comes from dolomite rock, naturally, and contains magnesium in addition to calcium.  This is good if your soil needs magnesium, which many northwest soils do. (Heavy rain leaches out everything. Except slugs, damn it.)  It is often available in a prilled form, which means the powder is formed into small pellets by a process known as 'prilling'.  An interesting word, and one which I have not yet been able to find an origin for.  I mean, why 'prill'?  Is that the sound the material makes when you roll it into little balls?  I cannot help but be curious.

So, prilled Dolomite lime is just easier to spread than the powdered form.  It is usually more expensive (more processing) but I think it is worth the cost if you can afford it, as it is so much less annoying to use.  Some people only use dolomite lime, but if your soil has enough magnesium, you can actually make it toxic to your plants by adding more. 

One of the best explanations I have read about The Lime Issue, especially as it applies to us here in the northwest, is in the classic 'Growing Vegetables West of the Cascades', by Steve Solomon.  He recommends using a half and half blend of the two limes mixed into a regular fertilizer blend.  However, before you go dumping huge amount of lime on your garden, I really recommend getting a soil test done.  This is not a hard thing to do, but it does involve a wee bit of time and expense.  Your local extension office can help you do it right, and help you understand what the hell it all means when you get back the results.  Soil tests are not just for farmers!  If you are a home gardener, and if you plan to build a long term relationship with your garden, it is very helpful to understand the soil you are working with.  That way you know more accurately how much fertilizer or organic matter it actually needs added to it.  More is not always better, in fact it rarely is.  Get a soil test.  Trust me, it's worth it.

After the lime, the next best thing to do in the Fall to deal with the effects of the rain is sow a cover crop. This is really only for those beds where you grow spring and summer annuals, and where the beds lay dormant in the winter.  I have learned the hard way that our  heavy rains wash away a lot of soil, and those carefully built up beds can be eroded and beaten down, as well as full of winter germinating weeds, by the time I am poking my head out the door in March to see if it is warm enough to sow peas.  

Cover crops are also known as green manures; they are a crop that you grow just to chop down and dig into the soil.  Essentially, you are growing your own compost.  However, while the crop is growing it is also doing a lot of other things, like reducing soil compaction and erosion and, if the crop is a deep rooted one, helping to loosen heavy soils and improve the soil's tilth.  Cover crops can also help to capture nitrogen and other nutrients that would be washed away by the heavy rain; these are returned to the soil in the spring when you chop down the cover crop and dig it in.

Our usual blend- rye, vetch and peas

There are a lot of things out there to use as cover crop.  One of the most popular in our area is crimson clover, but as the whole point of a cover crop is that you don't let it go to seed, it is a hard one for me to use, as you have to chop it down just as it is looking its most beautiful. We use a combination of rye, vetch and winter peas, and it seems to do the trick for us, and I can joyfully hack down in the spring with no regrets. 

I am hoping someday to have a patch of ground where I can just sow the crimson clover and let it re-seed over and over, as I love to see those deep garnet-red flowers swaying about in spring. On the 'someday having a patch of ground' issue, which I really don't want to talk about anymore for a while, the latest in our Looking for a New Farm ongoing saga is that we are pretty much on hold.  It is a combination of lack of appropriate land at a price that makes using it for a farm realistic, with a  big dash of 'Loaning Money to Small Farms in an Uncertain Economy' Fear from banking institutions.  We actually had a very good meeting with the USDA Farm Loan agent, but in the end we can't apply for a loan from them if we can't find a piece of land that can be farmed, that we can afford.  So we are still looking.  There is possibly another creative option in the works, but I can't talk about it, because it is very uncertain.  Fortunately, we have the option to go through another growing season on the farm we are on now, so while it may not be the ideal solution, it is at least a solution that keeps us farming for now.  There will at the very least be heirloom tomato plants and flower bouquets next year, and probably much more than that.

To follow up on my last post, wherein the possible addition of a new farm crew member was discussed, it has now been made official, as we were unable to locate anyone who wanted to claim the little cat we found.  We struggled with what to name her- all the names we have tossed about over the years for what we would name a new cat if we had one just didn't seem to work for her. And we couldn't keep calling her 'Squeaky Cat', as that just seemed too ridiculous a name.  Then one day Packy was listening to our Blind Pilot cd, and decided that she should be named 'Jojo', after a reference in one of their songs. (Blind Pilot is a  band co-founded by our friend Israel Nebeker- we both like them very much, which is unusual as our musical taste does not always overlap.)  'Jojo' met all of the requirements- easy to remember, snappy, cute- but not too cute, and so on.  But it still felt like a nickname, so we thought we would call her Josephine, and Jojo for short.  And after all of that dithering, we find that what we actually call her most of the time is still 'Squeaky'.  So be careful with those first nicknames- they can really stick. Come to think about it, that's how Packy ended up being called Packy, so I suppose it's a family tradition.

 Squeaky and Eddie negotiating hunting rights on a newly cleared hillside

So Jojo Squeaky is doing much better after several very expensive trips to the vet, and the consumption of a lot of cat food.   We have yet to have her fixed even, that is next on the shopping list. She is a very expensive free pet, but fortunately is quite charming and affectionate, which goes some way to make up for the drain on the farm finances.   She likes to sleep by the fire a lot, (who doesn't, this time of year?)  and then explode and chase things, and then sleep more.  Eddie is getting used to her, and for the most part she is fitting in fine. 

Unfortunately when she does venture outside, she rather likes to hunt, and has very proudly brought in several field mice, some that were as big as her head.  It would be ok if she just brought them in and displayed them for approval, but she is not so far off from fending for herself in the great outdoors, and so has a tendency to start to eat them, which just gets disgusting.  Immediate intervention is desirable. Now that the weather has turned chilly, I am hopeful that the snakes will be hibernating more, as she also brought in a couple of those while Packy was out of town recently, and I really do not do well with snakes. I mean, I love them in the garden, I know they are great pest control, I admire them when they are sunning themselves on the rocks, but I      just  cannot   pick    them   up   with    my     bare    hands.  Not sure what it is- they move too fast?  Too slimy?   There ended up being some creative work with a bamboo stick, a dustpan and a re-useable grocery bag that did the trick.  It is nice to have a good division of labor on a farm, and Packy makes a fine head of the farm's 'Wildlife Rescue/Release and Dead Animal Clean Up' department. He just may not ever be allowed to leave town again.

It is a frosty morning here on the farm- the last couple of nights have been clear and cold, with barely a sliver of moon showing in the sky.  It is in its final waning stages, and will be new again on Thanksgiving, a somehow appropriate bit of timing.  I am always thankful to the moon for gently reminding me that everything moves in cycles, and that when you are working with nature, it is best to respect its pace, and not try to impose your own upon it.  

One of our very favourite seasonal cycles has come around again here on the farm, as coho salmon have begun to return to Neawanna Creek.  But I will leave that story for next time.

Fortunately we love lettuce, because lettuce loves the Northwest Coast

Monday, October 27, 2008

Productive Distractions

Like many other human beings, when faced with some sort of Major Life Issue needing to be Dealt With,  we are prone to being distracted.  Thus, our house is never so clean as when our taxes are due.  

Now that we are deep in the throes of 'Plan B' (and Plans C-G just to be safe) on the 'Looking for a New Farm' project, we find ourselves irresistibly drawn to all the things that need to be done around the farm that are NOT filling in loan paperwork.  Naturally, the paperwork from the Farm Service is the longest and most complicated, Thank You, Uncle Sam. Then there is also the 'Looking at Other Farm Properties', in case the loans for the one we want don't work out, lots of time consuming soul-searching about what to do if our Big Dream just doesn't work out, and what are the things we are willing (and not willing) to compromise on.  You know, fun stuff like that.

Fortunately,  the Gods of Distractions are bountiful in their generosity to us.  

Not only do we have a nail-biter election going on in our country, one that really does feel like the most important one we will vote in thus far in our lifetimes (this is the one area in my life where I actually want complete change), we also have the wonderful Internets full of interesting, semi-useful and utterly irrelevant yet somehow compelling information to spend lots of time digesting.  

The on-line time does somewhat negate the mental benefit of not having television service, but I know that once this election is over the internets will all seem much less interesting to me. But for now, it is hard not to get caught up in it all, sometimes wallowing in massive indignation, such as Packy's recent observation that if the RNC had chosen to donate their funds to the purchase of our new farm instead of a new wardrobe for Sarah Palin, we would be moving right now.   The land that we had hoped (are still hoping, mostly) to buy has the potential to feed many people, educate many more in how to feed themselves, and contribute to our local economy.  It would put a beautiful piece of land, in a county with very, very few sources of locally grown food, back into agricultural production, and provide large areas for wildlife habitat as well.  Hell, even the money they paid Mrs. Palin's makeup artist would make a difference in our ability to accomplish this.  It is so painful to see an amount of money that could make the critical difference in our ability to achieve our dream casually tossed around on some snappy black boots and some cute jackets. 

As you can tell, fuming about this is a really good distraction from paperwork.

Then there is this:

For now, we are just calling her "The Kitten" or "Squeaky Cat" as she (we are pretty sure about that detail) talks a lot.  In a high little kitten voice.  It's a bit weird, because for months now, Packy and I have been saying to each other, "I wish we had a kitten!"  As the saying goes, be careful what you wish for. Packy found her down by the barn two nights ago, skinny and thirsty, and covered in tree sap, and very eager for affection.  She is familiar with houses, litter boxes (thank you, Cat Gods) and cat food.  She has obviously lived in a house, and we are going to spend some time in the next few days trying to figure out if someone around here is missing her- I would, if she were mine. She is pretty damn cute.  But, people do dump cats around here, so the farm crew may be gaining another teammate.

Eddie the Cat is not very pleased about this, but he has mostly stopped hissing at her.  We've tried to remind him that this was how he gained entry to the household too- he moved in on our cat at the time, the Late and Still Missed Elsie.  I think if the Little Kitten (that we are not claiming yet, nor getting emotionally attached to, really) calms down and stops hopping on everything and everyone and trying to eat everything and just...shuts up with the constant squawking, eventually we will all calm down and be OK with the situation, even Eddie.  Fingers Crossed.

Then there are all the fun outside distractions, many of which actually do double duty as Chores Which Really Need to Get Done Before Winter, thus making spending time on them entirely justifiable.  It has become clear to us that whatever happens next in our lives, it is probably not going to happen in time for us to start over this fall on a new piece of land.  Thus, we will need to keep renting this place next year, and as we have all these established beds, and perennial plants, and infrastructure already in place, we may as just get it all ready for another growing season.

"I'm sorry, I can't work on that paperwork right now, I must get the lavender cut back and limed!" 

 "No time for Future Income Projection Charts, I must clean out the greenhouse so that we can move in all the plants that need to go inside for the winter!"  

"I would love to be calculating our Net Worth, but I really must get all the things cut back that need to be cut back, and mulch what needs mulching, and get cover crop sown!"

We are late with everything this year, but fortunately we are having the most amazing fall- sunny, and warm even.  This is definitely helping to make up for the sheer wretchedness of this past summer.  And spring. And winter.  Although if it were possible to schedule this kind of weather next spring and summer, I would do so and gladly take the rain now.  

So, if you will excuse me now, I have Things to Get Done!  Although, given that we have an appointment with our Farm Service Representative tomorrow, there really is no way to completely avoid the paperwork today.

One day until the Farm Service Meeting.  Seven days until the Election.  New Farm Acquisition- no estimated date yet.  But we are quietly  hopeful.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Plan B

As goes the sweet pea trellis...

Well, let's just say we are working on a new strategy for funding our farm purchase.  The folks at ShoreBank said "Thanks, but no Thanks" to our loan application.  I suppose I should not have been surprised, given the current economic climate in our country (and around the world), that a bank would be nervous about lending money to a business that was not a normal, super low-risk proposition.  Most banks hear the word 'farm' and they start to back slowly away from you, looking for the exit door.  I realize too that there is a fair amount of circling the wagons going on in the banking world, and that Bank People are nervous, and don't want to take risks.

Perhaps, we were told,  if we had proposed this to ShoreBank six or nine months ago, it might have flown, but not now.  The frustration for us is that in times like these, a business like ours is more crucial than ever, especially for small communities like those along Oregon's north coast. What could be more useful than a business that produces food for people, and that also educates them on how to grow their own food as well?  Our country's financial institutions have had a meltdown, but our needs as human beings have not changed- shelter, food and clothing are still our most basic requirements. During this year of economic uncertainty our business has actually seen growth-  our sales have grown, our customer base has grown, support for our farm has grown, demand for food grown on the north coast has grown, the number of people coming to us for vegetable plants and advice on how to grow them has grown, the number of people asking to sign up for our CSA program that doesn't even exist yet has grown.  

It is challenging for our farm to be caught up in financial circumstances way beyond our control, but it is also forcing us to be more creative in how we go about making things happen, because we are determined to make this happen somehow.

What has been so heartening to us is the number of people who, upon hearing our news, immediately stepped up with offers of help and support, and from some of them, private financing.   And as we have spoken to other businesses in our area, we are realizing that several of them have gone the route of private financing to either start up their business or expand. There are contracts and payment schedules, so from the businesses point of view there is still a loan payment to make, and obligations to uphold, but the payments go to individuals, rather than a bank.

So, although we are also speaking with other local banks about our plans (not holding out much hope right now, but in the spirit of leaving no stone unturned), we are now working on putting together a prospectus for private investors who literally want to put their money where their mouth is, and help get our farm up and running.  We are lucky to have many smart and creative friends who are able to think of all kinds of funding possibilities and sources of information and help, and whose brains work more along those lines than mine do- if you want to know how to propagate your French tarragon plant, I'm your girl, but how to design a business plan that makes a banker sit up and say, "Hey, not bad!", and I need some help.

However, with the way things are going in the financial world, we may be able to offer a better investment return than more conventional paths at the moment, and how many money market funds host investor appreciation harvest dinners, or pay you special bonus dividends of flowers and basil?

I would still much rather be putting the last of next year's garlic crop in the ground and sowing cover crop seeds than working on all this funding paperwork stuff, but this is sowing seeds of a different nature, and just as important for our future.

All this stress about THE FUTURE OF THE FARM has really distracted me from what I love about the work I do, which at its most basic is growing beautiful, useful and edible plants, teaching people about growing these plants themselves, and selling what we harvest in one form or another.  So I am going to make the next couple of posts about Plant Things, because I need to talk about something that brings me joy and makes me feel optimistic, rather than talk more about Financial Stuff, which is just not much fun right now.

Thank you all for your words of encouragement and support to us, we are lucky to live in such a supportive community, and to have so many people believe in what we are doing.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Pins and Needles

For those of you who have been following our search for a new farm all summer long, we hope to have at least some news for you soon.  We have found a property that we are very interested in that we know would make a wonderful home for our farm.   We have been told that this week our loan application goes before the Committee that Reviews Loan Applications at ShoreBank Pacific over in Ilwaco, and we should get the thumbs up or down from them then.  We are just a wee bit nervous and distracted as a result, feeling ourselves to be walking around on pins and needles.  A lot of planets have to align still for this all to work out, but we know that there are many fingers being crossed and prayers being said on our behalf this week, and we are so grateful to all of you, our friends, family and loyal customers, for believing in us, and for encouraging us to keep moving forwards in our quest to find our farm a new location.

As you can imagine, this is perhaps not the ideal time to be small-scale self-employed farmers with modest cash flow looking for financing to purchase a piece of property to start a new farm on!    I've never really felt a very strong connection to what happens on Wall Street, but it is hard not to feel rather challenged by the timing of our national financial meltdown.  I know we are a good risk, that we are hard working and dedicated, that our ideas are sound and that we will do whatever it takes to make our farm a success.   We have been overwhelmed by the support of our local community for our plans, and know that the interest in locally grown food, flowers and plant starts is only going to grow stronger in the coming years.  Even if our application were to get the thumbs down this week, (banks seem to be rather nervous when they see the word 'farm' ) we will not let it stop us from continuing to figure out a way to make this whole thing work.  However, it would be so much nicer, and help reduce our stress levels tremendously, if the answer is 'yes'.

In the meantime, I thought I would share some thoughts and pictures of our summer season, such as it was.  As soon as we  have any news to tell, we will tell you here.

It has been a long, strange summer here on Ostman Farm.  A soggy, cold spring flowed seamlessly into a foggy, damp summer. All of our flowers bloomed about a month late.  Some, like the dahlias, seemed to explode into bloom to make up for lost time, and others, like the snapdragons, grumbled about the cold and the damp all summer long, succumbed to rust, and eventually just gave up.  It was a great year for lettuce and kale, and a terrible year for tomatoes and basil.  It seemed like every time the sweet pea trellis was loaded with blooms, it would rain on them.  Wet sweet peas have a texture not unlike soggy tissues, although they still smell heavenly.  Sadly, we probably composted more sweet peas than we sold this year.

The sweet peas on one of their better days this year- 
the scent hovering around the trellis was amazing.

Of course, now that it is officially fall, we are finally having a few days that feel like summer, but you can feel it in the air- rain is coming, the light has changed to that autumn golden tone that casts long shadows and seems to disappear too early.   We keep seeing huge flocks of geese overhead, honking and flapping their way south.  I've tried shouting 'Stop!  Come Back!" but it doesn't work.  I suppose I can't blame them, but it does feel a bit like desertion.

Eddie thoughtfully uses his own body weight to make sure the catnip 
doesn't escape before it is bundled up to dry.

All the catnip has been harvested for the season, and Eddie the Cat is looking forward to testing another batch of cat toys this winter.  I'm working on making fall wreaths- our flower harvest was late and smaller than usual, but I still have more than enough to work with to keep me busy.

Our market seasons are winding up- the Manzanita Farmer's Market ended a couple of weeks ago (another great season there, thanks Manzanitia!), and this is the last week for the Cannon Beach Farmer's Market-  it was a fabulous inaugural season for this little market.   Wonderful volunteers, a super good market manager, enthusiastic local support and some of the best vendors we've had the honor to share a market with made it one of our favourite ways to spend a Tuesday afternoon.  It was a challenging market for us, because there were strict limitations on what we could, and more importantly could not, sell.  Everything at the market had to be edible, meaning we couldn't sell any cut flowers, which make up of the back bone of our mid-summer income.  However, the market management made it possible for us to sell some flower arrangements, as long as everything in the arrangement was edible.  Edible bouquets!  It was a weekly test of my plant knowledge, and pushed me to branch out into parts of the garden that I hadn't been cutting from much, which I think made for even better bouquets.  I ended up using lots of fresh herbs in the arrangements, as well as many flowers that I wouldn't have thought of ever eating before this.  I don't know how many of the bouquets ended up being consumed, but I do know that one customer came back to tell me about the dinner party that they gave where all the guests cheerfully dismantled the bouquet to decorate their salads.

Just add a dash of oil and vinegar....

As much as it was a fun challenge, I still hope they relent next year and allow for cut flower sales, as most of the customers we spoke to missed  being able to buy bunches of fresh flowers at the market, and I hated not being able to bring all of our glorious dahlias and sunflowers to share with the folks of Cannon Beach.

This coming Sunday is the final Astoria Sunday Market as well, which has had a challenging year.  It seems to have been the market hardest hit by the downturn in the economy, with gas prices keeping many vendors and shoppers at home more during the summer.  Our farm still had a great overall season there for most of the summer.  There was a strong surge of interest in growing food crops, and we hope to be able to offer even more vegetable plant starts next year, as this does not seem like a flash in the pan trend.  It was great to see so many people who have never grown vegetables before coming by, asking questions and then taking their plants home to give it a try.  The last few weeks have brought many customers back by our booth to give reports on their gardens- there were some tomato success stories, although most people's tomatoes struggled with the cool damp weather.  The lettuce people were ecstatic with their salad gardens, and I think we managed to cure a few people of their aversion to kale and chard.

We keep saying "Next year we will..." and then pausing, because we are still not quite sure what next year will look like for our farm.  But I know that we will somehow show up at the market with vegetable plant starts, at the very least, because we've gotten far too many people hooked on our tomato and lettuce plants now, and I fear that if we don't show up with a huge selection we will be drummed out of town.

So we are making tentative plans for next year, and keeping our fingers crossed, and hoping that we will have good news to share with you all soon.  

Thanks again for all the kind words of support- it is a wonderful feeling to know that so many people believe in what we are doing, and want us to find a way to continue.  We promise we will.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Farming with Nietzche

"Was mich nicht umbrignt, macht mich starker."
(What does not destroy me, makes me stronger.)

-Frederich Nietzche, 1888

Well, the big news from our farm is that we are going to be having to move in the not too distant future.  We have been fortunate to have over five great years here on this beautiful and historic property in Seaside, Oregon, but times and needs change.  We do not own the land we live and work on, we have been renting it, which is not necessarily a bad thing, many farmers do quite well on land that they rent.   Sadly, we have just not been able to work out a good long term arrangement for keeping our home and farm business here in a way that would allow it to grow and prosper in the way we believe it should, and give us the kind of long term security we need.  Our farm has reached a point where we need to expand in order to survive.  We want to plant more of everything- more flowers for cutting, more catnip, (Eddie the Cat is so excited), more herbs, and also more edible stuff- blueberries, fruit trees, annual and perennial vegetables. We want to keep chickens for fresh eggs, and begin trying to meet the demand for fresh, local produce and flowers that is strong in our community, and only growing stronger. All of these plans are just not possible where we are now, so we need to find our own farm now.

I'll be honest, it's pretty scary out there in the real estate market for a couple of small farmers with big plans and small savings.  We somehow didn't get the part of the farming plan where you are supposed work for years in the high tech industry first, retire early, cash in your stock options and then buy a place to farm with lots of nice capital in the bank to get you started.  We thought the whole 'pulling yourself up by your bootstraps/building slowly and steadily/learn as you go/ hard work' farm model was the way to do it.  Boy is that a tough lesson to learn.  But I am optimistic, and I believe that our way has taught us many invaluable lessons that will make our new farm stronger and more sustainable.

The challenges of the last few years have been daunting, but like our friend Mr. Nietzche observed,  they have not destroyed us, and we are stronger for the experiences.  Or we will be stronger if we can just make it over this last hurdle, the one that has us trying to buy a new farm in the middle of our busy market season.  Neither of us has ever purchased property before, so that makes for a nice steep learning curve right there.  Then add in that we are trying to buy it as part of our farm business, so that means polishing up the old business plan, working on projected future earnings, and trying to figure out just how much of a down payment we can come up with, and it is all keeping our heads spinning.  It is challenging to keep my brain in bookkeeping mode when all I really want to do is focus on transplanting and weeding and seed starting and watering and harvesting and deadheading.  Hard to be trying to choose which is more important, working on the things that will keep giving us income right now, and thus keep our farm alive, or work on things that will hopefully mean our farm will live beyond this year.  Because unless I can figure out a way to stop needing to sleep, there just isn't always time for both!

But we keep working to find the time, because this is important to us.  We believe in what we are doing, and want to keep on doing it, and expand to make it even better.  We have a great vision for our new farm, which I will share in another post soon.  

We have had such phenomenal response to our 'Help Us Find a New Farm' sign that we have up at our market booth.  All of our customers have turned into real estate agents, scouring the north coast for likely farm properties.  We have one in our sights that offers so much of what we want, and even more, with a few quirky challenges to make it interesting.  We are working like crazy to get all the paperwork stuff sorted out so that we can make an offer on it, but it is good to know that there are backup options out there as well.

It is very heartwarming to hear so many people say that they want us to keep going, and that they are keeping us in their thoughts, and wishing us all the best.  We have a lot of people saying prayers for us to find a new farm soon, which is an odd sensation, and a very nice one.  It helps me get through the difficult moments of massive insecurity about it all.

Local farms are a good thing for any community, and I think more and more people are realizing it.  We are lucky to live in such a great area, where people value such things, and we will do all we can to keep farming alive in our county.   Keep your fingers crossed for us, and send good thoughts our way if you can, we need all the help we can get right now.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

When We Will Be Where

The start of Market Season always feels a bit like those autumnal first days back at school-  it's hard to put the harness back on and settle down to a regimented schedule, but it's so much fun to see everyone again- familiar friends with stories to tell, and all kinds of new and interesting people to meet and get to know.  I approach it with equal amounts of excitement and anxiety, but I am so looking forward to this season that excitement is winning out this year.

2008 is shaping up to be a busy season for us, and we wanted to let you know what our plans are so that you can come out and meet us at one of the events or markets we will be at.  We will have lots of great plant starts, edible things and gorgeous flower bouquets to share with you, as well as a whole host of crafty stuff and catnip temptations that Eddie the Cat has been quality testing for us all winter long.

Come see us!  We have stories to tell, and can't wait to hear yours.

2008 Ostman Farm Calendar  (So Far)

Clatsop County Master Gardeners present:
'Spring Into Gardening- from 'A'phids to 'Z'ucchini'

Saturday, April 12, 2008
8:00 am- 4:00 pm
Clatsop County Fairgrounds

The Clatsop County Master Gardeners annual garden education event promises to be a good one this year- wonderful speakers (ahem!), great vendors, the always tempting Master Gardener Plant Sale and a fantastic raffle will no doubt help to get all of our gardening juices going out here on the North Coast.  I really enjoy this event, and it is a great start to the market season for us.  I realize I am confessing to being a complete gardening geek here, but  I just find it so stimulating to spend a whole day talking and sharing information with hundreds of other garden enthusiasts who really aren't just pretending to be interested in what happened to your garden over the winter.  I'll be giving one of the talks this year (more on that below) which I am...mostly...ready for.

This event is one of the best values around- $15 if you preregister,  and $18 if you pay at the door.  That gets you into all of the classes, which look to be especially good this year.  There are four one hour long classes, and I think they start at 9:00 am.  The Keynote speaker is Glen Andresen, who hosts the radio show 'The Dirtbag' on KBOO in Portland.  Through the magic of the internet, I have been able to listen to some of his shows, and he is a very entertaining speaker.  He focuses on edible gardening, a subject dear to my heart, and I am really looking forward to his talk.  I am so annoyed that someone scheduled Rose Marie Nichols McGee's talk on container gardening at the same time as the talk I am giving, so if you go to her talk, take good notes and tell me what she says.  She's giving another talk in the afternoon session on heirloom vegetables, which should be great.

Ostman Farm will have a booth in the Vendor Marketplace, which is open free to the public all day.  Come check out some of this year's new crop of tempting plant starts, as well as all of the lovely crafty things we have been busy making over the winter.

I have come to realize that a great way to interest people in what I have to say is to feed them while I am saying it, thus my talk this year is:

'From the Garden To the Table'  11:00 am-12:00 noon

I will be joined by the fabulous Iris Sullivan from the Blue Scorcher Bakery Cafe in Astoria, and we will be giving a talk on what to do in the kitchen with all of that great produce that you are going to grow this year.  (Or buy at one of our many wonderful farmer's markets.) Creative cooking tips, cooking demonstrations, recipe handouts and best of all-  yummy samples to tempt your taste buds, and inspire you to plant all kinds of delicious and beautiful vegetables in your garden this year.  Including kale.  

For more information about this whole event, 
contact the county extension office at: (503) 325-8573

Clatsop County Community Garden Event
'The Garden Graze'
May 8th, 2008
The Seafood Center, Astoria, OR

Ostman Farm will be donating something wonderful to the Silent Auction fundraiser part of this event.   Packy and I will both be there to support this great benefit event for the Community Gardens and Food Bank, and to enjoy the wonderful local and regional wines and cuisine being served.  Rumor has it that there will be a Community Garden starting in Seaside this year, which we are very pleased to hear about.  Come out and join us in supporting our local Community Garden movement!

For more information contact Sunny Hunt at the County Extension Office: (503)325-8573

Sundays from May 11th (Mother's Day)- October 5th, 2008
10:00 am-3:00 pm

Located in beautiful, historic downtown Astoria, Oregon.  ASM is the Big Market on the North Coast, just heaving with vendors and temptations, of which Ostman Farm is, of course, one of the most tempting and beautiful.  Our booth is on 12th Street, just opposite the Hotel Elliot, and right in from of the wonderful Lucy's Books.  Stop by early for the best selection of this year's tomato plants, as well as all of the other great plant starts and crafty stuff.  Flower bouquets will probably start up at the end of May, or early June, depending on what the weather does. (Oh, the Sweet Peas I am starting this year!  Glorious!)

Manzanita Farmer's Market
Friday afternoons from June 27-September 12th
467 Laneda Street (in the Windermere Real Estate parking lot)
for more info contact:

Such a great little market, located in one of the prettiest towns on the Oregon Coast.  We love the relaxed, welcoming atmosphere of this market- friendly locals, happy tourists in town for the weekend, wonderful vendors, lots of organic produces and the best selection of local, pasture raised meat we've seen this side of the Coast Range.  Round the whole thing out with great food (We hope the Sushi People will be back! And those fantastic burgers made with Lance and Tammi's pasture fed beef are worth waiting in line for) and wonderful music and it all makes this market feel more like a weekly community barbeque.  We love it.  We'll have lots of edible plants, cut fresh herbs and other edible temptations, all the great crafty stuff and of course our ever popular flower bouquets.  We are planting extra flowers this year to keep up with demand!  Hope to see you there.

Tuesday afternoons from June 17th-September 30th
S. Hemlock Street & E. Gower Street

The new market in the area, and practically in our own back yard, so how can we not participate?  We are so pleased to see this market starting up, especially for its wonderful focus on fresh produce and edibles, and for its commitment to being a good market for locals, not just visitors to the coast.  South Clatsop County residents will now have easy access to the freshest produce around, plus lots of other edible temptations to inspire you in your kitchen.  We can't wait to connect with all of you Cannon Beach folks, and to meet more of our South County neighbors.  Come out and join us in supporting this market in its fledgling year.

Lughnasa Festival
July 26th, 2008
in the parking lot next to the Blue Scorcher Bakery and Fort George Brewery
Astoria, Oregon

The second annual Lughnasa Festival is shaping up to be even more fun than the first one, and that was plenty fun!  Lughnasa is a traditional Celtic festival marking the end of the summer growth and the beginning of the Autumn harvest, also called Lammas in some traditions.  One of the key elements of this festival is a blessing of the first bread of the harvest, and who better to offer up the best bread for that honor but the greatest little bakery on the North Coast, the Blue Scorcher.  Partnering with their great neighbors the Fort George Brewery, the folks at Blue Scorcher put on a lively festival, with great music, lots of good food, farmers like us, selling their bounty of harveted goods, brewing demonstrations, games for kids, several cake walks which were amazingly popular, more good music, lots of happy people and some very well-blessed bread.  

Harvest Festival
Sometime in early October

We'll let you know the date as soon as it is set, but we encourage you to come out for this great Harvest Festival down in Manzanita.  The Lower Nehalem Community Trust property at Alder Creek Farm is so beautiful, and the Harvest Festival is a great way to wind up the summer.  Fun music, fresh pressed apple cider, the best pie potluck ever (there are some great cooks on the North Coast!), great friendly people, wonderful local vendors sell all kinds of bounty from their harvests, an inspiring permaculture vegetable garden and fruit orchard to tour, wildlife to spot (birds and elk mostly, some people...) and a wonderful atmosphere make this one of our favorite annual events.  

That's all that is officially on our calendar so far for this year, but keep checking back to see if we add something else to the list- there are some good things coming that are still in the planning stages, but may hit the official calendar soon.

We look forward to seeing you all this season!

Friday, March 28, 2008

NOT The Color of Spring!

I don't know what the weather is doing where you live, but here on the North Coast of Oregon, it has been snowing and hailing and slushing and sleeting and just in general behaving in a very Un-Springlike Manner.

I've never been really keen on white as a color, and this weather is doing nothing to change that opinion.

All this wonky weather is wreaking havoc with our attempts to get our new greenhouse finished- the grow lights in the house are all full to bursting point with seedlings waiting for their chance to head outside, except they need that all-important transition period in the greenhouse first. I am beyond frustrated by this!

And don't even try talking about going outside to Eddie the Cat, he hasn't moved from his position in the chair next to the wood stove for days.

Cats are not dumb.

If you have an excess of sunshine in your area, please send some our way- we will make good use of it, I promise.

Monday, March 10, 2008

The Color of Spring

Yellow has never been my favorite color. I don't dislike it, but it has never been the color that came to mind first when asked the inevitable "what's your favorite color?" question. When I was about nine years old, it was unequivocally purple, any and all shades of purple (I know, I know, but at least is wasn't pink).  Somewhere along the line, my preference shifted to green, where it has remained. Green is an amazing color, and the more that I work with plants, and observe the natural world around me, the more I realize just how many shades of green there are. The first flush of leaves on a vine maple tree, new spring grass, the soft grey green of sage leaves, the beautiful deep blue green of Tuscan kale, the deep greeny green of cedar trees- there are hundreds, thousands of shades of green, and all of them are lovely and interesting to me.

But ever since we moved to Ostman Farm, yellow has been moving up in the ranks, thanks largely to the late Hilma Ostman and her daffodil bulbs. Mrs. Ostman planted these bulbs back in the 1930s and 40s.  They are everywhere on the farm, but thickest here on the hill just below where our lavender is planted. I'm not exactly sure which variety of daffodil it is, although working my way through the bulb possibilities at Old House Gardens, the amazing heirloom bulb company, the one it seems closest to is called 'Van Sion'.

When we first moved here, this hillside was covered with a 10 foot tall thicket of blackberries, but we were told by a former tenant that there were bulbs growing underneath the vines. This meant cautious vine removal, no scraping of the hillside for easy invasive eradication. It was a herculean task, involving a lot of cursing and fighting with 20 foot long vines that ripped at our clothes and got tangled in our hair, but in the end we won, mostly. It is a truce at best, and we know that several years of neglect would bring the blackberries roaring back. However, the incentive to stay on top of them is this:

Every spring, starting sometime in late January, the bulbs start to pop up. By mid February they have started to bloom- usually just in time to trigger a massive hailstorm, it seems. But there are always lovely sunny days when the hillside just glows with golden yellow, and the sight of all of these daffodils swaying in the breeze makes me ridiculously happy.

The other sure sign around here of the shifting seasons is a less celebrated plant, but one that holds a place of deep affection in my heart. Skunk cabbage (Lysichiton americanum) is aptly named, as it really does have a pungent smell reminiscent of an encounter with our little furry black and white friends. Native throughout the Pacific Northwest, it grows thickly in the wetland
and boggy areas of our farm, and it usually beats the daffodils by a week or so in popping itself up out of the ground in all of its yellow and green stinky glory and announcing that no matter what anyone else might think, Spring is On The Way.

I'll be honest, I enjoy strolling along Daffodil Hill admiring the blooms far more than slogging through The Bog to go look at the skunk cabbage, but the giddy happy feeling that all that yellow inspires in me is pretty much the same when I look at both plants. Spring isn't here quite yet, but I know it is wandering briskly in our direction.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Dreaming of Tomatoes....

In about a week I will start sowing seeds for this year's tomatoes. I feel a bit giddy with anticipation. Of all the things that we grow here at Ostman Farm, nothing generates the intense interest and passion that the tomatoes do. I'm not sure quite what it is about this plant that so gets into our blood and makes us go to all kinds of lengths to produce that Holy Grail of the Northwest gardening experience: The Ripe Homegrown Tomato. I have never fought so hard for each and every ripe fruit I get, and the effort makes success, when it happens, all the sweeter. It's the taste, I suppose, that drives us. Nothing, nothing tastes quite like a vine-ripened, homegrown tomato, eaten moments after it is picked.

We've been growing tomatoes here on the Northwest Oregon Coast for a while now, and are beginning to get a feel for which varieties have the best chance of success here. We owe a lot to the great tomato breeders in Russia and Eastern Europe who have given us some of our most successful ones- Stupice from the former Czechoslovakia, Black Prince and Paul Robeson from Russia to name a few of our favorites. We're also lucky to have in our state the wonderful Dr. James Baggett at Oregon State University, who has bred some of the best tomatoes for our challenging climate, favorites like Oregon Spring, Legend, and Siletz, the last of which we are trying out for the first time this year- Thanks Dr. Baggett!

Early season, short season, smaller fruited varieties that have a better chance of ripening- these are the ones that we come back to again and again. We throw a few larger, long-ish season varieties into our mix just because we all like a challenge, and we have a surprising number of Brandywine fans out here on the coast, ourselves included. We all accept that there will be a lot of hand-holding and pleading involved, and we will be pathetically satisfied with a pretty meager crop of ripe tomatoes, but let me tell you, being able to boast that you got a Brandywine to ripen in Seaside, Oregon is nothing to sneeze at.

I always grow some Green Zebras too, which is one of my very favorite tomatoes ever. I find it beautiful (green is my favorite color), and one of the tastiest tomatoes I have ever grown. It is gorgeous in a mixed tomato salad, or sliced in a layered tomato tart. I don't know if it is just too weird for people out here, but we hardly ever sell any. Still, each year I grow about ten of them, and bring them to market and try to convert just one more person to the Green Zebra Fan Club.

So, here is our list of what tomato plants we are growing here on Ostman Farm this year. There are a few new ones (to us) that we are trying out this year- Silvery Fir, Siletz, Plum Lemon, Hezhou, Alaska, and Reisentraube. And there are the returning favorites- Stupice, Sungold, Paul Robeson, Principe Borghese, Brandywine and Yellow Pear to name a few. And Green Zebra, of course!

For our local customers, the tomatoes are usually ready to sell by the first week in May, which is when the Astoria Sunday Market starts. They may be ready to go a bit earlier, so e mail us or give us a call if you want to pick some up in late April, in case you have a greenhouse or a cold frame and want to get them going. We will hold plants for you if we can arrange for a firm pick up date either here at the farm, or at the Astoria Market, but we can't hold plants indefinitely, so if you want to be sure you get the varieties you want, get them early before we sell out!

Everyone keep your fingers crossed for better summer weather this year....



Sungold       65 days, Hybrid, Indeterminate, Early-season
We could not imagine a summer without Sungold tomatoes. Our favorite cherry tomato by far, this vigorous vine produces abundant clusters of deep orange-cherry tomatoes that explode with tangy sweetness. Great in salads, if any make it back to the kitchen. Most of ours get eaten right off the plant. Bred to be resistant to Fusarium and Verticillium wilt.

Black Cherry       64 days, Indeterminate, Early-season, Organic seed
This tall, vigorous plant produces abundant crops of 1” deep mahogany brown fruits. The only truly ‘black’ cherry tomato around, it is delicious and sweet, with the rich flavor that black tomatoes are known for. Very popular with Ostman Farm customers, this one always sells out early, and for good reason- tasty and beautiful is hard to beat.

Riesentraube       80 days, Heirloom, Indeterminate, Mid-season, Organic Seed
This is an old European heirloom that was grown by the Pennsylvania Dutch as early as 1856. Its name roughly translates to: ‘Giant bunches of grapes’, and this variety was indeed once commonly used to make tomato wine. (Who Knew? Look it up online for recipes, we are SO going to try making some this summer!) Reisentraube is a generous producer, with of big clusters of 20-40 1”, pointy ended, tasty red fruit. I can’t wait.

Sebastopol     75 days, Heirloom, Indeterminate, Mid-season, Organic seed
Another cherry with lots of potential for our coastal climate, this beauty originates from an elderly lady in Sebastopol who grew them in her garden for 70 years. A large cherry tomato, it produces 3/4” deep red fruits that are delicious to snack on, or in salads. The seed comes to us by way of the great folks at TomatoFest. They describe it as “well-suited for cooler, coastal regions, or short season gardens and areas with foggy summer climates.” Ah, summer on the Northwest Coast…


Yellow Pear      75 days, Indeterminate, Mid-season, Organic Seed
This old-time favorite is a great addition to your tomato garden. It produces an abundance of small 1-2” pear-shaped fruits that are a lovely deep yellow color. Mild tasting and low in acid like all yellow tomatoes, it has good flavor and looks great mixed with other color tomatoes in a salad. Good for snacking, beautiful in salads, popular with all ages of gardeners.

Principe Borghese      80 days, Heirloom, Indeterminate, Mid-season
In Tuscany this is the preferred tomato to grow for drying, and it is our favourite one for that use as well, although here on the Oregon coast we have to use a dehydrator rather than the sun.  Princepe Borghese produces generous clusters of small 1-2” plum-shaped red fruits that have a nice tomato flavor when fresh. The flavor is greatly intensified when dried.

Thai Pink Egg     75 days, Determinate, Mid-season, Organic seed
A most popular tomato in the Kingdom of Thailand, this lovely little grape tomato is gaining a strong following in America for its abundant production of dark pink egg-shaped fruits. The 1-2” fruits burst with candy sweet flavor, and they resist cracking, even in heavy rain seasons. A beautiful, tasty and unusual tomato.

Plum Lemon      72 Days, Heirloom, Indeterminate, Mid-season
Seeds for this tomato were first collected by Kent Whealy, founder of the wonderful Seed Savers Exchange, from an elderly seedsman at Moscow’s Bird Market during the August 1991 coup. Another great cold-tolerant tomato out of Russia, Plum Lemon produces 3” long tomatoes with a pointy end that really do resemble lemons. Sweet and mild yet full of flavor, it is a solid, meaty fruit good for both salads and sauce.


Stupice     52 days, Heirloom, Indeterminate, Extra-early season,  Organic Seed
This potato-leaf heirloom from Czechoslovakia is one of our most reliable tomatoes. It is a cold-tolerant tomato that bears an abundant crop of small 2-3” fruits over a long season. For us, it is the first one to bear fruit, and the last one to still be producing in October. Delicious sweet/acid flavor balance. Grows very well on the North Coast, very popular with Ostman Farm customers who often tell us that this is the first tomato they have ever grown successfully here on the Northwest coast.

Oregon Spring       60 days, Sort of Determinate, Early season,  Organic seed
The classic tomato for Oregon! Developed at OSU by Dr. James Baggett, this tomato has earned a strong following in Oregon for its tolerance of cool summers. Small 2-3” fruits are produced on bushy plants that can still grow pretty big, so plan on supporting them. The early fruit production means more chance of ripe fruit- so you can enjoy the sweet, juicy, tasty tomatoes all summer long.

Legend      68 days, Determinate, Early-season, Organic seed
Another one of the many great tomatoes to come out of Dr. James Baggett’s breeding program at Oregon State University, Legend earns its place in our garden by producing a nice compact, bushy, determinate plant that fruits early in the season, giving the tomatoes as much time as possible to ripen. The 3-4 inch round fruits are red and flavorful, with a good balance of sweet and acid. Legend may not be as sexy as the Black Russians, but its a good, solid, dependable tomato plant. Bred to be resistant to late blight fungus.

Alaska      63 days, Heirloom, Semi-determinate, Early-season,  Organic seed
It’s called ‘Aljaska’ in Russian, which is where this tomato originates. Medium-sized, bushy plants produce a good yield of round, bright red ‘salad’ tomatoes- larger than a cherry-type, smaller than a beefsteak. This tomato has very good flavor for such an early producer. Rumored to be able to tolerate some wind, which would be great for here at the coast.

Hezhou      80 days, Heirloom, Indeterminate, Mid-season, Organic seed
This variety originates in Zhengjiang province in China, and was sent to Gary Ibsen of TomatoFest from a family farm there. It bears a good crop of 2” purple-red tomatoes, slightly plum shaped with a yummy sweet flavor on a compact though indeterminate vine. A tasty salad tomato, with good ripening potential in our coastal climate.

Siletz      52 days, Determinate, Extra early-season
Our friend Dan recommended we give Siletz a try this year, and if he could grow a decent tomato in his garden in Hammond, Oregon, then this one should do well anywhere! Siletz is another one out of Dr. Jim Baggett’s program at Oregon State University, and the word is that it produces and abundance of 8oz red fruits loaded with old-time flavor- something not all these bred-to-be-hardy tomatoes can offer. Dwarf, determinate plants make it easy to find a place for it in your garden. We are looking forward to trying this one.

Silvery Fir Tree      58 days, Determinate, Early season, Organic Seed
I have heard great things about this tomato, and I’m excited to be trying it out this year- it has great potential for us challenged tomato growers of the Northwest coast. Another early season Russian wonder, it grows into a compact, determinate plant- 24” tall at most. Recommended for containers and hanging baskets, the beautiful lacey grey-green foliage is most attractive. And the tomatoes? Heavy cropping, 3” roundish, red and tasty. If this is as good as they say, we might just be in luck this summer.


Paul Robeson      74 days, Heirloom, Indeterminate, Mid-season,  Organic Seed
This is one of our favorite tomatoes- tasty and beautiful. Bred by Moscow seedswoman Marina Danilenko, it is named for the acclaimed operatic artist and social activist of the 1920’s, Paul Robeson. The slightly flattened round fruits grow up to 4 inches. A deep burgundy red with dark-green shoulders when ripe, the flesh is dark red and delicious. This tomato won ‘Best in Show’ at the 2000 Carmel Tomato Fest, and we fully understand why.

Green Zebra      75 days, Heirloom, Indeterminate, Mid-season,  Organic Seed
One of my all time favorite tomatoes. Developed in 1985 by tomato breeder Tom Wagner, Green Zebra is considered an ‘heirloom’ among tomato growers for its unique qualities. The 2” round fruits ripens to a yellow-green gold with dark green stripes. The flesh is lime green, the flavor is tangy and delicious. Great mixed into salads or on a tomato tart.

Eva Purple Ball      70 days, Heirloom, Indeterminate, Mid-season,  Organic seed
We grow this one in honor of the Ostman’s daughter Eva, and her granddaughter Eva Sofia. A gorgeous heirloom from the Black Forest region of Germany, dating from the 1800s, Eva Purple Ball produces round, 2-3” fruits that are a lovely dark pink color. This was a steady producer for us, with nice solid flavorful fruits that we enjoyed sliced on sandwiches, tossed into salads and tossed with pasta, loads of garlic, olive oil and fresh basil. Yum!

Brandywine      80 days, Indeterminate, Mid-season, Organic seed
A tomato with it’s own cult following, Brandywine is the famous Amish heirloom that has been grown since the 1800’s. This large, potato-leaf tomato plant produces beautiful reddish pink fruits that average 12 ounces, but have been know to grow up to 2 pounds. A challenge for the Oregon coast, as larger fruit is harder to ripen, but we love a challenge, and we know many of you do too! This one has to be tasted fresh off the vine to be believed.

Black Prince      70 days, Heirloom, Indeterminate, Mid-season,  Organic seed
This beauty hails from Siberia, and is one of the most justifiably popular black tomatoes grown today. The deep mahogany-red 2” round tomatoes burst with flavor and juice. An indeterminate yet well-behaved vine, it is a good producer here on the coast, and the smaller sized fruit means more chance of ripening out here. Great eaten fresh, cooked in sauce, sliced on a sandwich, or eaten straight off the vine.

Speckled Roman 85 days Indeterminate Mid-season Organic seed
Developed by Seed Savers Exchange member John Swenson, this gorgeous roma tomato comes from a fortuitous cross
between the tomatoes 'Antique Roman' and 'Banana Legs'. 'Speckled Roman' produces an abundance of 3-5" oblong fruits that are nice and meaty, full of flavor but not a lot of seeds. They make a great homemade tomato sauce, and are good for drying too. We love the crazy yellow striping patten that develops on the red skin as they ripen. The plant is moderately compact for an indeterminate vine, but will still need good support.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Ready, Set..... Go!

This time of year always reminds me of being 11 years old at some School Sports Day event, trying to jump around and get warmed up for whatever race I had had the misfortune to be entered into (I was not a Super Sporty Girl). There is that lull, when you are waiting around for things to begin- you know it's coming, you know you can't avoid it, there is a fair amount of excitement, a lot of nervousness and "What if Something Goes Horribly Wrong" thinking, and just an overwhelming sense of impatience. Let's just get started!

Fortunately I am better at starting seeds that I ever was at the 400 meters relay, and so I always approach 'Seedling Time' with a wee bit more confidence. Oddly enough though, the nervous anticipation is still about the same. Plus, I know that as soon as I sow that first seed, I am starting myself on a journey that may begin at an easy pace, but which will slowly build into a crazy race that won't end until the final market is over sometime in October. It's hard to remember the feel of Summer Market Season now, sitting here at my computer in our freezing cold office, looking out the window at the rain-threatening-to-become-sleet, the alder trees down by the creek still looking bare and asleep. But I know it is coming.

I had fun ordering seeds this year! I managed to wade through the vast sea of tempting catalogs with some restraint borne of experience, and so hopefully will have fewer moments of looking at a packet of seeds in March and saying to myself, "What was I Thinking?!?" It is shockingly easy to get caught up in the excitement of color photos and descriptive writing, luring me to try just one more variety of lettuce or poppy that our farm will be Devastatingly Incomplete without.

There are some new plants we will be trying out this year- great new (to us) varieties of tomatoes to test for their Northwest Coast hardiness- hopefully we will have less soggy summer this year, everyone keep your fingers crossed. We will have even more lettuce varieties, colorful Swiss chards, gorgeous kale and spinach, plus an assortment of herbs and veggies that are making me long for Spring. Check back here soon for our 2008 Tomato Variety list, plus other Plant Lists.

We are going to work out a way for people to reserve tomato plants so that you can make sure you get the varieties you want, as so many seem to sell out so fast. We are also hoping to work out a 'Pick Up at the Farm by Appointment' system so that if you can't make it to one of our markets or events, or you just want to get started earlier in the season, you can still fill your garden with healthy, chemical-free Ostman Farm plants.

And the flowers! I did give in to temptation a bit here... some gorgeous new dahlias are on their way, plus new sweet peas, snapdragons and some other floral beauties that I am longing to see bloom. I am looking forward to making bouquets again this year, let me tell you. We are clearing space for even more flower beds, and I am trying to work out the logistics of a Bouquet Subscription service- we had requests for such a thing at both markets last year, and we hope to work out the details for this season.

So, I'll leave you now with a little memory of last summer's flower harvest, and go get busy on clearing off the light tables and heating mats, and try to remember where I put the UV resistant marking pens for filling in plant labels. I know I put them somewhere Obvious At The Time, a location that is now lost to me.

Stay warm, wherever you are!