Monday, May 24, 2010

One Step Closer

It's going slowly, but fingers crossed we will have a fully re-built greenhouse by the end of this weekend. I can hardly believe it.

Really, you should stretch the plastic on a warm, sunny day so that it will pull as tight as possible, but with the way this spring is going, warm, sunny days are hard to find. We decided to opt for stretching it on the day when we had warm, helpful friends available to help wrestle the 50' sheet of plastic into place instead.

Many thanks to Joe, Luke, Katie, Sam and Martin for their plastic-wrangling!

The plants cannot wait to move in....

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


It has been very weird these last two Sundays, not loading up the van and heading off to the Astoria Sunday Market. The feeling is a sort of mash up of the 'I think I've forgotten a meeting I'm supposed to be at' panic, and the feeling I had when I mistakenly showed up a day late for a flight to Thailand. Something just doesn't feel quite right, and I'm really supposed to be somewhere else right now.

We've had calls and e mails from customers wondering where we are, and although it's really nice to be missed, and everyone is being very kind and understanding, we would rather be at the markets. Still, it's all for a good reason.

I'm happy to report that we are at least making progress on our massive and daunting Farm To Do List. Each step takes us closer to being up and running as a real farm again, and closer to being back at all our great local farmers markets. Thanks to some recent just-long-enough breaks in the weather and tremendous help from some wonderful friends, much needed tilling, bed shaping, soil testing, painting and greenhouse rebuilding has taken place on 46 North Farm.

Here's the round up of what we've been doing in the small amount of time we have between the Real Jobs and Sleep:

Fun with Tractors!

Tilling is tricky. To avoid compaction, the soil needs to not be too wet, and this has been a very wet spring. It was a little borderline, but we knew more rain was coming, so our good friend Dan the Brushtamer brought his tractor over and did a heroic amount of tilling during the bit of sunny weather we had this past weekend. We now have two soil tests on their way to the lab which will give us a good baseline understanding of the soil we will be working with here.

Dan started on the upper part of the farm, where we are planning to grow our herbs and flowers. He'd tilled this area last fall, with the hope that I could use the newly tilled ground to quickly heal in a lot of the plants we were moving from the old farm. No such luck- before we got much moved, it began to rain and the ground got way too wet. My patience had just about worn out with waiting for it to become dry enough to safely work.

According to local soil maps, we have both Walluski Silt Loam and Hebo Clay on our property. I think the upper area has a bit of both mixed together, but it shapes up nicely into beds that will be planted with the perennial herbs that have patiently been waiting to get back into the ground, more flowers, and our long suffering dahlias that are stuck in the barn still. Plus, we can now finally move our lavender plants from Seaside- yeah!

Busting Open the Back Five

The area we call The Back Five is a relatively flat area at the bottom of the property, closer to the river. This is where we plan to grow row crops of vegetables, and build a larger greenhouse for growing tomatoes, basil and peppers. Dan had tilled a test plot back here last fall, so we had a sense that the soil was pretty nice here, solidly Walluski Silt Loam country.

I can't believe this is the soil we are starting with. It looks, feels and smells gorgeous, and has a healthy worm population, who will hopefully forgive us for tilling up their world. This soil is one of the main reasons we were so stuck on this property and struggled for so long to buy it- it can take years of amending to get soil to where this soil is today. It's like opening a bank account with cash already in it.

Dan also gave us both tractor driving lessons, at which Packy excelled, and I found...slightly terrifying. My jaunty drive was short, and added a distinctive curve to one corner of the plot. I know I'll have to get back in the saddle again and learn how to do this, but in the meantime I'll leave the tractor driving to the professionals.

We also learned that an acre of ground, when tilled, looks HUGE. Suddenly the thought of planting it all seems rather daunting. We are so going to need help. Still, we're just starting with a massive buckwheat cover crop this summer, so it won't be too scary.

Balancing On Top of the Barn

Our friend Luke has a head for heights and a good sense of balance. Or he might just be crazy. He had offered to give the barn's cupola a badly needed new coat of paint, and on reflection, we were happy to let him do that. We hope to get the whole barn repaired and painted this summer, but this job just really needed to get done as soon as it could, and we are both short on time these days. I'm kind of glad I wasn't here the day Luke did this, but Packy came home in time to catch him in action. Just to give you a sense of perspective on how high up he is:

Yep. Crazy.

Knowing When to Stand Around

'Standing Around Time' is critically important on a farm, and you have to give it proper respect and attention. Usually you are Standing Around looking at some piece of equipment that is not behaving quite like you want it to, or Standing Around waiting for something or someone to show up, and sometimes you are just plain Standing Around. But it always results in something, even if it is just a good bit of gossip.

Packy and Dan are world class, Olympic calibre Stand Arounders. Dan says a truly epic Stand Around involves opening a bottle of whiskey and tossing the cap into the brush, but we haven't tried that one yet.

This Stand Around resulted in the application of the Farm Jack, a tool of Dan's that Packy absolutely covets. It all had something to do with moving the tiller over so that the tire track was covered. Accomplishing this also involved banging on things, a car jack, some super lubricant, a bit of creative swearing, and a velcro strap (because we couldn't find the duct tape) which eventually resulted in whatever needed to happen happening. Success!

The Greenhouse Rises Again!

I cannot even tell you how excited I am that the greenhouse is finally getting rebuilt. I am beside myself with joy. I have missed it so much, and cannot wait to fill it with plants, and stand inside its steamy warm space and listen to things grow.

Squeaky the Cat was very excited to help set the corner markers in place.

The post holes were easily dug with the loan of our friend Doug's auger. Thanks Doug!

Fawn Fawn the Deer (visiting from the Wildlife Rescue Center next door) was very intrigued to observe Packy setting the posts in concrete. (More on Fawn Fawn in another post, I promise...)

Joe (of Blue Scorcher Bakery fame), Luke and Packy moved so fast, I missed the action shots of getting the spans back up. We decided to extend the greenhouse as we were rebuilding anyway, as our old greenhouse was already starting to feel a bit small in the spring when it is heaving with plants. Our original 20'x30' greenhouse is now 20'x50'... I cannot wait to fill it up!

Fawn Fawn came back to check out the construction. I think she approves. Or she might have just been waiting for some private time with Luke, whom she adores more than anyone.

Luke played it cool, trying to pretend he was focusing on the greenhouse, but we know he really just wanted to be hanging out with his girl F-F.

My Old Bones Weep with Gratitude

At the end of last weekend, after a whole lot of mowing and digging and raking and planting, I could barely walk. I was six years younger the last time we did this kind of 'building the farm infrastructure' work, and I hadn't been spending months sitting in front of a computer on top of that. To have lovely young(er) people show up and actually want to do this kind of stuff...

So, while the greenhouse rebuilding was taking place, Luke's other girlfriend Katie, and his lovely sister Renia (a professional WWOOFer just back from a stint in Spain and Serbia) got inspired to dig into the bed shaping project. They were amazing, and I was honestly close to tears with gratitude and relief. I just did not know how we were going to get it all done in time to get the plants in this year. I am so much more hopeful now. There is still so much digging to do, but there is slightly less of it now, thanks to these two fabulous people.

Packy tried to give the girls lessons in How to Stand Around. This is the classic and always popular 'Leaning on Tools' technique. They're pretty good, but they work way too hard to really qualify as serious Stand Arounders. We'll continue to give them lessons, and see if we can improve their performance.

We finished up this super productive work day with a lovely al fresco meal inside the future greenhouse, and the rain held off long enough to let us get all the tools picked up and put away.

Fingers crossed that this squall that's blown in will blow itself away again soon, so we can get the end walls built, the plastic stretched, more plants planted and rows dug and cover crop sown and the barn painted and...

It's going to be a busy year.