Sunday, April 11, 2010

Burning Chair, Man!

I really meant to just have a small birthday party for Packy this year- a week late, since this year his birthday fell on the day before Easter, and people were busy that weekend.

Last year we had a great little birthday party for him- a farm work party followed by a bonfire, good food and a spontaneous Effigy-in-a-Chair burning. We dubbed the day 'Burning Chair Man'.

So we thought it would be fun to have Burning Chair Man 2 this year, to celebrate Packy's birthday on our New Farm. Which I guess really makes this our First Annual BCM for 46 North Farm. I want to apologize in advance for the shocking lack of good photos here- we were both too distracted to take pictures, so you will just have to use your imagination, or maybe people will send us some and I can add them in.

It wasn't a very well planned day. We started mentioning the idea of a birthday party to some friends, sending out some emails, and mentioning it to a few more friends, having the "Burning What Man?!?" conversation a lot. The 'work party' project was going to be attacking the invasive plants on the property- especially the impressive infestation of holly around the edges. We asked everyone to bring a potluck dish; extra points if the potluck dish included ingredients from local farmers. I made homemade marshmallows and graham crackers for s'mores again. (And for all our vegetarian/vegan friends- next year I promise we'll figure out the vegan marshmallow recipe!) Naturally there were delicious baked goods from the Blue Scorcher Bakery, and our great friends at the Fort George supplied a keg of Oatmeal Pale Ale for the thirsty workers.

The food and drink begins to assemble

I was chatting with our friend Tim Kennedy (the wonderful woodworker behind our new barn roof) about needing to find an old chair to burn, and he said, "You know, why don't you let me make you one? We've got all that scrap wood left from re-roofing the barn, and I'll get a bit more. I'll take care of that."

I think our Barn Nisse is still looking out for us, and took care of the weather because after a wretched week of rain and hail, the day dawned clear, with just a light breeze. It was a glorious, sunny day. Packy thinks we should have called the place 'Lucky Weather Farm', but I think that's tempting fate.

Tim and our friend Luke rolled up early Saturday morning to build the chair. Their rules were: only scrap wood, and the only tools could be a chainsaw and a nail gun. I glanced over at the field a few times in the course of my running around doing party prep and wondered "Why are they setting up scaffolding to build the chair?!"

As they arrived, Jean-Marc, Dennis and Luke #2 all joined in the construction project, and I stood there watching as they raised the first side of The Chair up off the ground. This thing was HUGE. Over 15 feet tall huge. Closer to 20 feet tall.

Trying not to think about what is happening behind me...

I confess to a few twinges of nervousness at the thought of setting the thing on fire, but the look of sheer joy on everyone's face as they banged The Chair together was so lovely, I just tried to let go of it. "Don't Worry!" Tim and Luke cheerfully assured me. "It's far enough away from the barn that when it collapses, it won't affect it. Probably." Packy turned to me with a huge smile on his face. "This is GREAT! " he beamed. "Terrifying, but totally great!"

Somehow the day just happened. People showed up. There was enough room for everyone to park. Everyone's dogs got along, and as the cats Eddie & Squeaky were safely hiding upstairs in the house, there was no cat chasing.

The holly brush pile begins to form...

An amazing crew of people with loppers and machetes followed the sound of Doug and his chainsaw to the holly infestation battle site, and they cleared out so much holly from our woods, Doug bucking the larger trunks up into firewood for us to season for burning next year. Mark and Kristen helped James get a lot of trees planted, although I don't know if he's managed to offset the carbon footprint of those trips to New Zealand yet.

Jean-Marc is always up for a destructive project....

Teaching the next generation about invasive plant removal

Dan tries out the straw bale seats, while Bob documents the day.

Dan brought hay bales for seating, as the ground was super muddy from all the rain, and a bushel of oyster too.

In fact, every one brought
great food- special thanks to the Amazing Fred Johnson of Fred's Homegrown Farm & Produce in Naselle, WA. A chef turned farmer, Fred took charge of the barbeque, grilling the lamb ribs we got from Lance's Farm Vittles that were marinated in the sauce that Dana (chef at the Fort George) made for us, making burgers out of the local beef and elk meat that Doug brought, and making To-Die-For onion rings on his portable tempura set up. (!!) Our friend Sandy jumped in to frost the birthday cupcakes that I ran out of time to do, along with bringing some of her always delicious soup to share.

I think Michelle, our friend from Friends of Family Farmers wins the most local food points for her contribution. A former chef herself, she made the most amazing salad using ingredients both from her own garden and sourced from her local farmers around Portland, and also brought these incredible local ingredient fig and some-other-fruit cookies that were phenomenal. Everyone who had one was stunned. I need to get that recipe from her. We can't wait to have her and Fred cooking together next year. It was, as someone observed, a very high quality potluck, and there was enough for everyone to go back for seconds, and even thirds.

It was SO great to see the lovely Romneya again!

An award for the greatest distance travelled to the party goes to our beloved and much missed friends Roger and Youngiee, and their two lovely daughters Romneya and Avani. Former North Coasters, they now farm just outside of Ithaca, N.Y., and were back in town to sign the sales papers on their former farm land here in Astoria- it was bought by people who are hoping to farm it, which we are thrilled about. More farmers on the North Coast- yes!

But you don't want to know about the food, or the people. You want to see The Chair Burning, right?

All the creative energy had been spent making The Chair, and we never did get a Man put together this year. I decided that really, it's all about the punctuation.

This year it was ' Burning Chair, Man!'

From first ignition to final collapse: about 30 minutes.

The crowd waits patiently for ignition

Luke and Packy head to The Chair with the Super Fun and Handy propane torch

It was SO satisfying!!

Then a hard core crew of pyromaniacs burned all the holly brush, and everyone ate lots of s'mores and cupcakes, drank more beer, explored the property, ate more food and sat around and talked until the fire turned to embers, the sun went down and it was time for bed. And there really wasn't even that much to clean up.

It was a completely awesome day. Thanks to everyone for coming out to share your time, your food and your friendship with us, especially our farm friends like
Fred, Lance, and Ginger who took a rare sunny spring day away from their farms to come celebrate with us. Our farm feels very warmed, and very blessed, and Packy says it way the best birthday party ever.

Tim and Luke are already plotting about next year. I thought I heard Luke mutter something about 'pyrotechnics', but I'm sure I was mistaken....


  1. Sounds amazing! Wish we could have been there.

  2. I am writing this from Robert's - you look like you really had a great time. Next year I should try to coordinate on of my trips up with your "festival" great food, good company and lots of fun. An ideal outing.

    love Dad/Ralph