Sunday, March 20, 2011

Over a Thousand Reasons Why We Need an Elk Fence

It was a wonderful feeling to get to spend two whole days in the greenhouse starting seeds, transplanting seedlings and breathing in that unique spring smell of potting soil, liquid kelp and growing green things. I am constantly amazed at how I completely loose track of time when I do this work–one minute I'm heading down to the greenhouse with my last cup of coffee to get started, and the next minute I go to take a sip of my nice warm beverage and find that the coffee is stone cold and five hours have passed.

Whenever I have doubts about my sanity at choosing farming as a career, I remember that this is the only job I have ever done where I continually loose myself in the work, coming to with a smile on my face and wishing that the sun would stay up for just another hour or so, as the ten hours I've already spent in the greenhouse just aren't quite enough.

Thanks to our good friend and fellow farmer Fred Johnson of Fred's Homegrown Farm and Produce in Naselle, Washington we have inherited some great greenhouse tables that are making organizing the rapidly growing number of seedlings in the greenhouse slightly more manageable. Even though this is the biggest greenhouse we've ever had (30' by 50') I can still see it being full in another month or so, once the tomatoes come out from under the grow lights.

Which is why it is suddenly very urgent that we find a way to deal with some of our neighbors:

I know there are only 14 of them visible here, but trust me, there are at least 35 members of our local gang of Roosevelt elk that saunter through the farm every few weeks, enjoying what little remains of our cover crop. And if they weren't enough of a reason:

It looks like Fawn Fawn and The Fawns have all made it through the winter, and they are savoring the cover crop as well. I quite like the 'evil glowing eyes' effect in this image–it reminds me that no matter how cute the deer are, and how sweet it is that Fawn Fawn will come right up and nuzzle at your hand (looking for a snack), they are by their nature voracious creatures who will eat every damn thing we plant if we don't put a fence around it.

The fence update is as follows:

We finally got our application in to the NRCS (National Resource Conservation Service) to possibly receive some grant funding to help with several farm projects, including a 'pest control fence' and hopefully some pollinator habitat, and maybe some water catchment system help.

But here's the catch- there is limited funding, and if our application is approved, it goes into a pool of all the other NRCS project applications in Oregon, where they are all ranked by priority. They go down the list funding the projects until the money runs out. Which means that even if our project is approved and recommended, it could still not get funded.

Plus, it's a reimbursement grant. Even if we did get approved and funded for our Pest Control Fence, we have to buy all the materials and build the fence first (not starting any work before the contract is signed or else the work that's been done is not eligible for funding) and then once the NRCS verifies that we have built the fence to their specifications, they will reimburse us for whatever amount they pay per foot for fencing.

The primary reason we are applying for NRCS funding assistance is because we have limited economic resources, and coming up with the cash to buy the thousands of dollars worth of fencing material needed to build the fence in the first place is a huge challenge. This part of NRCS funding is a tough hurdle for small, start up operations that don't have a lot of cash available for property improvements. If we had the money to buy the materials for the fence in the first place, we wouldn't be looking for financial assistance from the NRCS!

We'll see what happens with our application, but in the meantime we're working on some ideas for how to at least fence off the area surrounding our greenhouse on our own. It's crucial that we have a way to harden plants off outside before bringing them to market (without having to sit out all night with a shotgun, guarding them) and maybe even get some crops in the ground this year, all so that 46 North Farm can finally start earning its keep.

So, we're planning a fence-raising day for sometime in late May, and given that it will take place of our farm, it will no doubt involve lots of good food and drink and setting something on fire as well. Creative financing ideas are in the works, and we are actually feeling optimistic about it all, which is pretty amazing given the challenges.

Stay tuned for how you (yes, you!) can take part in helping our small farm take a huge leap forwards this Spring...

I got distracted and didn't do a post about the Snow Day we had in February, which is a shame as we took some amazing photos of the farm all covered in white stuff. Packy and Squeaky and I enjoyed ourselves enormously, but Eddie preferred to keep his delicate paws indoors, waiting for the thaw...


  1. Great to see all those starts going Teresa! You've been busy! Hope to see you soon.

  2. We played card games like Whist and Dirty Clubs at the kitchen table, especially when company came. It was a great place to lay out the pieces of a picture puzzle and try to put it together, local fencing