Monday, December 14, 2009

The Farm Formerly Known as Ostman

New South Roof! Our resident Nisse managed to hold the good weather for another week, so Tim and his crew blew through the barn's south side roof in a couple of days. Unfortunately we weren't able to document it due to our Real Job commitments during daylight hours- but it is Beautiful to see it DONE.

I agree with what Shakespeare was getting at with his "What's in a name? A rose by any other name would smell as sweet" comment. Fortunately for him, Mr. Shakespeare never had to deal with modern marketing issues like domain name availability.

When we decided to leave the land Ostman Farm lived on, we knew we would be leaving the name behind as well. We called the farm that in honor of John and Hilma Ostman, the land's original farmers, who ran Ostman's Dairy there from the thirties until sometime in the early sixties. We are not related to the Ostmans or their descendants except by friendship. The idea of keeping the name– even though we are now reasonably well known on the North Coast by that name– always seemed weird and just wrong to us. If we ever started a new farm, we knew would start over with a whole new identity. Possibly not the smartest marketing move, but the only one that we could live with.

Up close, the roof is incredible, but even standing twenty feet away you can smell the fresh cedar shingles. It is a wonderful scent- to me, it smells dry and safe and secure.

So here we are! New land, new farm, new barn with gorgeous new barn roof. So our new name is now.... hmmm.

Originally, when we first tried to buy this land back in the summer of 2008 and had to call it something in our business plan, we were calling it Home Farm. Simple, easy to remember, and meaningful. While trying to work out how to run our farm on land we were leasing from someone else, we had come to understand that essentially what we needed was a place to call Home. A safe place where we could put down roots, both figuratively and literally, and know that we had some say in what would happen to those roots in the future. We wanted to spend years getting to know a piece of land- how the sun moved across it, where the water went, what wildlife lived there, when the migrating birds arrived and left. I wanted to spend time building our soil, watching the plants respond year after year, and someday, hopefully late in my nineties, I wanted to just keel over while picking green beans in the sunshine. Just toss me on the compost pile, I will have died content.

I had always liked the simplicity of how in England, the Home Farm was the name given to the farm near where the local landed gentry's estate was, and was where the household would get their eggs, milk and produce from. It's almost a generic term for a farm in England. Simple. Easy to remember.

Unfortunately in this age of online marketing, no small business that wants to be even reasonably successful, farms included, can be without the obligatory website, blog, e mail list and possibly facebook page at a minimum. I don't think our farm will twitter, except in the traditional sense when the migratory song birds are moving through. But the rest of it? Working on it, as much as we are working on getting the greenhouse and the rest of our plants moved.

When you fix on a name that is so simple, and already very much out there in traditional usage, you can be pretty sure others will have gotten there before you, and such is the case. There are several Home Farms, (even the Prince of Wales has one), and on top of that, someone is squatting on the domain name. If we had an extra $40k to spend on it might be something to consider, but I would rather put any funds we have into rebuilding the farm itself.

Looking for a New Name- Tall Trees Farm?

So we now find ourselves playing a verbal game all day long. Name that Farm! We've been through some of the obvious choices. We could name it after ourselves, or a combination of our names. Retzlaff Farm? Too hard to pronounce. Coleman Farm? People will think we sell camping supplies. Retzman, or Coleoff Farm? Not quite right. Teresa's Farm? Packy's Farm? TP Farm? Definitely not. There isn't a creek running through the property to give us one of those obvious landscape feature names like 'Circle Creek Farm'. We do have a unnamed gully cutting across the pasture that runs seasonally, but 'Seasonal Gully Farm' just doesn't sound right.

What about where we are located- 202 Farm? (We are on Highway 202.) Kind of bland. 9 Mile Farm?(We are just past the 9 mile marker.) Aside from being an oddly popular word combination, (and the name of a Canadian pop band) we don't want to be confused with the Nine Mile Point Nuclear Reactor.

Olney Farm? Olney is the name of the area we live in- not a legal town with it's own post office and such, but there is The Olney Store (with the Big O Saloon next door), and the Olney Grange already out there. Would the Olney Farm be unique enough? Apparently not. There is already an Olney Farm- a fifth generation pony breeding farm located in Maryland that has the domain name nicely tied up.

We love wildlife- what about naming it after some bird or animal that lives here (that we are not planning on driving away). Packy is very stuck on Kinglet Farm, because during all this freezing weather, we had little kinglets flying into our enclosed porch looking for warmth, and banging on all the windows trying to pick bug remnants out of the frozen cobwebs. But to me that is way too close to Kingfisher Farm, the legendary organic farm that Jeff Trenary runs down in Nehalem.

Olney Elk are bold as brass and take no crap from anyone.
We are going to need some serious fencing if we are
going to be good neighbours...

40 Elk Farm? We've now met the herd, and they are a somewhat daunting prospect as neighbours. But will people think we raise elk for meat? We'd love it if some beavers would take up residence down in our seasonal gully, so what about Welcome Beaver Farm? Yeah, get your minds out of the gutter. See? This isn't easy. Plus we run the risk of alienating all the University of Oregon Duck fans. The Beaver-Duck rivalry in Oregon is fierce, best not to wade into those waters. Wildlife names can be tricky. We haven't hit on one that is just IT.

Plants? We have a lone apple tree (possibly crab apple) on the property from an earlier agricultural time, so I thought about Wild Apple Farm, which I like and of course Packy doesn't. However, it's irrelevant, because the domain name takes you to a weather site in Maine. (?!? More squatters, I think.) I kind of like the idea of using the word 'wild', so what about Wild Roots Farm? taken. Wildroot? taken. Wild Life Farm? Takes you to a family website with lots of photos of their travels.

Packy liked the idea of naming the farm after our newly discovered Nisse, in hope that it will continue to do good work on our behalf, but guess what? Nisse Farm? Taken.

I thought about a comment someone made to us when we described all that was going on with our farm. "You sure do have your hands full!" "Hmm", I thought. "Hands Full Farm?" Already taken. But not Full Hands Farm, so that's still on the table, although Packy isn't keen on it. He might be persuaded if things get desperate.

Full Belly, Full Moon, Full Harvest, Open Hands, Four Hands, Many Hands, Clapping Hands, Wild Moon, Harvest Moon, Wild Harvest... taken, taken, taken.

It's a good thing we've never had kids. They probably would have spent the first 18 years of their lives being known as ' Hey You' or 'Number Three'.

How is it that we can immediately come up with snappy names for our cats, but not for our farm??

Got any Farm Name thoughts? You may as well toss in your two cents. Maybe we can figure out a prize for the winning suggestion.

Even if we don't have a new name, we have a New Barn Roof.
In late December on the North Oregon Coast, that is even better.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Appeasing the Nisse

We've been so consumed with thinking about how much we wanted to buy this farm- needed to buy it, if we were going to be able to someday continue farming. So many times the deal seemed just impossible. We kept trying to give up on this place and find somewhere else, anywhere else, but this farm kept calling to us, and we both just had a strong feeling about it being The Place. Even when we'd given up on it completely, we still thought of it as ours.

I'm only a slightly superstitious person, but I'm beginning to suspect that there is a spirit that guards our farm, and that it knew that the farm, and the barn in particular, really needed new owners- ones who would love it, and care for it. Maybe the spirit spotted us the first day we walked around on the property. Maybe it saw us keep coming back, over and over, trying to figure out how to make it all work out and thought "Hah! These two will put everything they have into keeping this place going."

Most of the farmers who settled in Clatsop County were Scandinavian, or from Finland, which is not quite Scandinavian but close. So I suspect that what we have here is a nisse (or tomte, depending on where you come from) - a household spirit type of creature responsible for the care and prosperity of a farm. They seem to have a fair amount of potential for mischief, but if properly respected can actually help a farmer get quite a lot of work done. However, if our nisse was residing in the barn, as they seem inclined to do, he had to be pretty damn concerned about whether or not he'd have a home after this winter.

Just about a week ago, Tim and his crew began stripping off shingles on one side of the barn roof. It was right at the end of a wretched two weeks of pouring rain and wind that had soaked and pummeled the North Coast into a soggy mess. But that Monday morning it began to clear, and all this week it has been sunny- cold and frosty, but clear.

The roof was stripped off in a day. Tim and his guys told us that when they were pulling the old shingles off, in places it was almost like scraping compost off the roof, the shingles were that decomposed. It looks like this was basically the original roof that had just been patched and repaired over the years, but never fully replaced. We aren't quite sure when the barn was built, but people who grew up around here remember it being here in the thirties, so that's seventy years old at least.

With half the roof off, the barn began to dry out, and the swollen floor boards of the hay loft settled back down. It was an amazing experience to climb up into the hay loft early Wednesday morning just after dawn and stand there looking out through the skip sheathing at the cold, clear sky. I'm happy to have seen it, and hope Packy can see what it looks like when the other side of the roof is stripped off, (he had to leave the farm in the dark at around 4am that morning to get to the bakery) but then I hope we never have to see it again in our lifetime.

Later that day they began to nail on the gorgeous new cedar shingles. I still can't believe how fast it went, at least the first half of the side.

The top part where the roof curves in the tricky bit- I'm sorry I wasn't here to see them manage it, although perhaps it's better that I didn't see it, it would have been like watching the high wire act at the circus. Very nerve wracking for those of us on the ground- I can't imagine what it is like looking at it from up there.

Another interesting discovery was that the nails that held the skip sheathing to the rafters were mostly rusted away, and they had to re-nail them all to hold the roof together. I keep wondering- what was holding the barn together during this last big storm?? I still can't figure it out. Sheer willpower on the part of our nisse, perhaps. He must be exhausted, and ready to settle down to a nice rest in a finally dry, cozy barn. If he can just hold off the rain for another week, all will be well.

Hopefully he will adapt and protect greenhouses as well, as Packy and our good friend Joe plan to dismantle the greenhouse at the old farm in Seaside this week in preparation for moving it to it's new home.

I'm sure the nisse is already happier, but just in case he's still a bit cranky at getting so wet this year, we'll make sure to leave him the traditional bowl of porridge (don't forget the butter on top) in the barn on Christmas day.

Hey, we need all the help we can get.

This week- the south side gets its turn...