Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Getting Past the Brick Wall

Land acquisition, like double digging, is damn hard work.

Many of you have been following our quest to find a piece of land here in Clastop County that we could move our farm to, one that we could own, not rent, and where we could do so many of the things that you have all been asking us for:  Grow organic fruits and vegetables, more cut flowers and lavender, host classes, workshops and school tours, expand our edible plant offerings, offer a Locally Grown CSA and so much more.

Well, we have Good News and Not So Good News.

The Good News is that we are very close to being able to purchase an appropriate piece of land that will allow us to eventually do all of the above, and more.  I won't say any more about that right now so as not to jinx things.  Just keep your fingers crossed.

The Not So Good News is that in order to secure a loan to help purchase the land, we have had to go down the route that involves Taking Real Full Time Jobs in order to make these nervous bankers happy about us.  Given the economic times we are living in, it is understandable that they are nervous, but still, it is a frustration that the only effective way we could find to get around the financial brick wall that stood between us and owning a farm was to take this path. Still, it is just a detour, and our eventual destination remains the same.

I have just accepted a position as Development Director with the wonderful North Coast Land Conservancy.  It's a bit daunting to take on, but I couldn't ask for a better group of people to work with, and the opportunity to help further the cause of land conservation on the North Coast is one that I can gladly devote my time to for the foreseeable future.  In a roundabout way, their hiring me makes it possible for us to buy the land we need, so they are indirectly helping protect one more great piece of land in the county, because you know that we will devote our lives to being the best land stewards ever.   

Working to help protect such things as Old Growth Forest lands
on the North Coast will be a massive hardship, but somehow I will manage.

Packy will be expanding his baking hours at the fabulous Blue Scorcher Bakery & Cafe, even taking on some graveyard shifts so that they can get bread out of the ovens first thing in the morning, so you early bird bread fans won't have to wait until midday for your organic artisan bread fix.  Iris has also talked him into doing some cake decorating as well, and anyone who has received our anatomically correct Coho Salmon Gingerbread cookies at Christmas knows that That Boy wields a mean icing decorating bag.

Now covered in flour instead of compost, Packy's regular access to BSB cardamom rolls
fresh out of the oven will go a long way towards making non-farm time less painful.

All this makes us both happy and sad-  it will give us the opportunity to finally move forwards on our Farm Vision, but it also means that we will not be able to continue with the Farmers Markets for very much longer this season, and it is very likely that we will not be able to do them with any regularity for the next year or two.

Believe me, you cannot be any sadder about this than we are.  We have loved building up our farm business, and getting to know all of you.  It has been a great honor that so many of you have chosen to fill your gardens with our plants, brighten your homes with our flowers and thrill your cats with our catnip.

We will do everything we can to continue to grow and sell things on Some Level during this time of transition.  We will have a lot of work to do re-building our infrastructure on a new piece of land, but we actually know what we are doing now, and we know that we can do it even better this time around.  

 I know that I will not be able to stop myself from starting seeds and growing plants and flowers.  Farming feeds my soul in a way that nothing else ever has, and I will find a way to keep doing it on some level, and somehow get what we grow to you all, maybe by doing occasional farmers market drop in days, or by special order and delivery, or...?  I promise, we won't just cut you all off cold turkey.  I will grow our cool heirloom tomato plants for you all next year as well, and the great lettuce plants you love, and find a way to work some flowers into the mix somehow.

In the meantime, please keep in touch with us!  I will keep updating this blog to let you all know the latest news, and at some point we will shift to a New Blog for our New Farm, and we will link to that as well.  It is going to be a great adventure story, so stay tuned.

Thank you all for being so supportive of us over the years!  In our opinion, Oregon's North Coast is really the Best Community in the World, and we are so lucky to live here.  We are looking forward to bringing you great locally grown organic vegetables, fruit, flowers, plant starts and more in the (hopefully) not too distant future.

In her favourite spot among the work boots, Squeaky dreams of 
all the mice and voles she will be able to hunt on the New Farm.


About The Hat

For years now, I have been getting questions about The Hat I wear at the farmers markets.  It's gotten so that when I forget to wear it, people comment, or don't even recognize me.  (Which is a great way to go incognito, just leave The Hat at home.)

I bought this hat years ago, I think it was in 1994, maybe '95.  I was working at Smith & Hawken in Mill Valley, California which, for those of you aren't familiar with it, is a very snooty garden store company.  (That used to have something to be snooty about.) In my defense, when I worked there it was just after the company had been sold for the first time to some corporate holding company based in Boston, and at that time it still retained a lot of what made S&H famous.  There were only two stores, both in the Bay Area, and they sold actual Real Garden Tools, and both had nurseries that sold  amazing and beautiful plants.  I remember having to study the S&H Tool Manual so that I could speak with intelligence about tree planting shovels and digging forks vs. spading forks and so on. We were trained in how to properly use and care for everything we sold, even including how to sharpen and repair customer's Felco hand shears. (I remember one customer who brought in some Felcos that had been lost in his compost pile for about a year- that was fun.)   

You could even get your Bulldog tools re-handled by Charlie, the guy who ran the MV warehouse. They employed Real, Knowledgeable Plant People in their nursery (I learned so much from Carol, Ann, Eve, Jane and Paul that first year) and although they did indeed sell super expensive teak furniture (I remember realizing that the cost of one teak steamer chair would cover my rent for a month- jeez), the company emphasis on quality and customer service and actually useful garden products was great.  

It all went to hell pretty soon after that first year I worked there. They began to rapidly open more and more stores across the country, and there was an ever increasing emphasis on selling 'Garden Lifestyle' crap.  Decorative cachepots (stupid containers that don't even have drainage holes in them) began replacing actually useful tools and supplies, and we were told to ask such things as, "Do you need socks with your garden clogs?" and "Would you like your (pumped up on steroids and forced out of season) 'Hydrangea-In-A-Decorative-Cachepot' in a Gift Bag?"

Really, it was enough to make any true gardener break out in hives.  I refuse to link to S&H, because they are such a useless company now as far as a source for Actual Real Garden Supplies goes, and everyone I know that had any real knowledge or skill is long gone. (Are they still owned by Scott's, the makers of Miracle-Gro? God, how the mighty have fallen.)  I was lucky to work there when I did.  I met many wonderful people there, and made some of the best lifelong friends I have among my co-workers, including my partner Packy, who worked at the corporate office in Mill Valley.  (In the company services department- he has never been a suit kind of guy.) It took me a long time to realize he was flirting with me when he would stop by the store, but I'm glad I finally did.  I'm pretty sure he is too.

Before I left S&H, I used my hefty employee discount to purchase The Hat, which I had coveted for months, and saved up for.  It is made by Helen Kaminski, a fabulous Australian hat designer.  I think the style was called 'Provence', but when I checked out her website, the hat called 'Provence' only sort of looks like mine. Of course, mine is at least 14 years old, and has seen some major wear- it gets wet, baked in the sun, sat on, squashed, and occasionally covered in compost.  I've long since lost the fancy leather forehead protector band inside the hat, and a few years ago the raffia string that goes around the crown to tighten the hat to your head (so it won't blow off in the wind) fell off, and I've replaced it with a bit of hemp twine.  They may well have updated the style a bit too.

In my opinion, this is the Greatest Hat Ever.  I think at the time it cost about $150, although I see they are up to $175 now.  Yeah, I know. Not Cheap. But when you figure that I got it for about $90 with my discount, and I've had it for 14 years, that adds up to about $6.43 a year for the Best Hat in the World.  Even if I bought one at full price today,  if it lasted me at least 14 years that would just be $12.50 a year.  Maybe I need to get a new one, just to have as a backup. (Although we need to save our pennies for buying a new farm, see next post for exciting update!)

Honestly, I cannot recommend this brand of hats strongly enough.  They are worth every penny, and if Ms. Kaminski ever needs a testimonial from a well satisfied customer, I will gladly supply it.

I just won't buy my new hat at Smith & Hawken.