Sunday, November 29, 2009

Farm 2.0

On a nice sunny day, everything seems possible

I've been meaning to write a new post for ages and catch everyone up on The Farm Saga- I am so sorry it has taken this long. After much polite prodding from friends, family and loyal customers waiting for an update (thank for the push, Barb!) I am finally taking a bit of time in between bouts of digging up and moving plants to fill in the gaps of the last three months.

The good news? We got the loan!! We own Land!! The Farm that Now Has No Official Name lives on. Well, let's be honest. The Bank owns the new farm, and we are working like crazy to make sure we make our mortgage payments so that we can one day (in the distant future) call it completely ours. We still miss farming, more than we can even begin to explain, but we continue to be grateful for the jobs we have that are allowing us the opportunity to be stewards of our own piece of farm land.

The deal closed sometime around the end of September, I can't remember the exact date. It was all a blur of stress and anxiety. Ironically, I had been invited to address an all day conference on local food security put on by Clatsop Community Action, speaking as a local farmer on the state of farming in Clatsop County.

I remember being completely freaked out because our loan hadn't yet closed, although it was at the 'any day now' stage. We had been asked to actually write a letter to the potential lenders explaining how although we indeed had a 'history of farming', and had worked at this 'part time hobby business' of a small farm for the previous almost six years, we had seen the error of our ways, and had now gotten 'real jobs' for reliable income, and only wanted to purchase a house with 18 acres of reasonably well-drained land zoned for agriculture complete with charming outbuildings because we had gotten used to living a 'rural lifestyle' and wanted to continue that lifestyle, but had no plans to actually try to run a farm on the land.

We discovered the hard way that to a bank, 'Farm' is a nasty four-letter word that starts with 'F', and to confess to a 'history of farming' is akin to having a history of illegal drug abuse. Not quite a felony, but not really something to be proud of when applying for a loan.

So, it was more than nerve-wracking to be standing up in public (and in front of press representatives) talking about our farming experiences, and speaking about our hopes for the future of our new farm, and the future of agriculture in Clatsop County while behind the scenes we were desperately trying to look like regular 9-5 working folks who just like to grow an awful lot of tomato plants. Fortunately, the lenders don't seem to read the Daily Astorian, and a few days later we were called in to sign the papers (so many papers!) that meant that the farm land we had been lusting after for over two years was finally ours. Not that we were planning on actually FARMING it or anything. (Insert casual whistling noise here....)

Acres of reasonably well-drained soil- for a farmer in Clatsop County, it's better than gold

It was an amazing feeling- terrifying and thrilling at the same time.

Then the reality of moving hit- not just moving our household, but moving our household AND farm business. All those plants carefully planted years ago that were just finally starting to settle in and thrive, the plant nursery, the greenhouse, thousands of containers, miles of weed cloth and row cover, tools, soil amendments, odds and ends.... it has all been a wee bit daunting. Plus factor in that by the time the deal closed, and we started getting things packed in boxes and ready to move, it was well into October, and the Northwest Autumn Storm Season had begun. It has all made for a most challenging move.

We've been living at the new farm for almost a month now, but are still traveling back to the old farm several times a week, jobs and weather permitting, to continue dismantling the farm and transporting it northward. It is slow going, but we are making progress, and hope to be done by the end of the year. I hate to keep asking you all to keep crossing your fingers for us, but if you could just keep thinking good weather thoughts for a few more weeks, it would really help.

One of the most distinctive elements of this property is the old dairy barn. We aren't quite sure of the date it was built yet- the house is dated to 1926, and the barn most likely dates from sometime in the early thirties, but we are just guessing. It's got beautiful bones, a lot of character and is a apparently a significant landmark in the area. We are struck by how many people know the property we bought, saying "Oh, the one with the cool old barn, right before you get to the Olney Store!" Yep, that's it.

The starry night effect is NOT a good feature in a barn roof

Well, the cool old barn has been in need of some repairs for a while now, especially a new roof. It's been patched for years, and the old owners did the best they could by it, but it had really reached a point of just needing to have the whole thing ripped off and re-shingled. We had hoped to wait until spring to do the job, all the rain we've been having combined with all the holes in the roof has rather forced our hand. It really couldn't get any more wet inside the barn right now than if we take it all off in the midst of a down pour. The hayloft floor is swelling and buckling, and the chances of rot setting in gets higher each day.

So, we're doing it now. Well, WE aren't doing it. We get to help a bit, because we have the coolest contractor in the world who is willing to let us help as much as we can so that we can save a wee bit of money. I know there are some who will think us crazy, but we really wanted to re-roof the barn in cedar, as it was originally. Partly because we want to also build a water catchment system for the barn, but mostly because taking on stewardship of a historic building means something to us, and we want to honor it's history and restore it as much as we can.

Tim Kennedy of Blind Moses Woodworking is just the greatest person, and he seems to be as excited about the barn as we are, which is pretty damn excited. It's wonderful to work with someone who has a passion for their work, and we can't wait to see how it all turns out.

The scaffolding is up, and Tim has just begun tearing off shingles today. We will keep posting pictures of the whole process as it goes along. Keep sending good weather thoughts out way- especially for Tim and his two guys up on the scaffolding!

We have a lot to do in the next month- move the greenhouse, move the final plants, clear out a couple of outbuildings, pick out a new name for the New Farm, and start making plans. Lots of plans. We're tired, but also excited about the future again after such a long time. Stick around- the story is just starting to get good...