The last week has been busy here at Oakhill Organics. We say that January is our ‘off’ month, but really it’s just the beginning of everything. December was quiet, so we feel rested and ready to the work ahead — but it’s still hard to keep up with blog posts with so much going on …
Last Wednesday the pole builders began our new pole barn. Have we mentioned that we aren’t building this new building ourselves? That was a big decision, but once we realized how quickly someone else could put up the building it was a no brainer. And watching the crew work (efficient! fast! smart!) just confirmed our decision. Here are a few progress shots from Wednesday:
Above: The crew showed up just before dawn on a cold foggy morning. Here they are starting out.
This is how the building looked by mid-morning!!!!!! Incredible!
The building at the end of Wednesday: it looks like a building!
While the first day’s progress was exciting, we had to wait for more work to happen. A previously started project at the coast needed attention before the crew could return to work more on our pole building.
But in the meantime, Casey and I busied ourselves with numerous presentations (alluded to in previous posts). We spoke at Third Street Books in McMinnville Thursday evening for an audience of community members. We had a blast sharing our story and answering questions (and having beers with friends in town after).
The next day was the start of the 2008 Oregon Tilth conference — two days of non-stop talking, thinking, eating, and learning. We were part of a group presentation for new farmers on Saturday afternoon — the room was packed with young people! It was exciting to see so many people interested in entering agriculture. We hope that they follow up on their desires and dreams.
On Sunday we planned to rest and relax but our oven exploded in a shower of sparks while we were roasting potatoes for breakfast, so we spent the much of the day sourcing a new oven and ordering it (ours is a 20″ range, so that limited our purchase options). We did, however, take a wonderful bike ride to the river in the afternoon. Our usual summer swimming beach is under water right now, but the river was beautiful …
On Monday, cold weather arrived. Hard-core cold weather. Our low on Monday was 28°, but the wind chill factor (according to the paper) was 18°. For us wimps in the Willamette Valley, that’s cold. And the fields showed it. On Monday (the first of the cold days), we immediately saw signs of damage in the field. Crops that have been beautiful and green all through the fall are now withered and brown. The peas look like they might not recover, but we’ll see. Other crops, such as radicchio and cabbage, don’t look as pretty anymore but are still tasty. It’s humbling, though, to remember winter’s power. One cold night and months of growth can be set back. Not that we didn’t expect this — as we’ve said all along: this year is a winter experiment. And we’re watching everything closely to see what we’ll plant again and what should be for warmer seasons only. Always learning …
On the positive side, the cold front came with some beautiful sunny weather. The wind stopped blowing on Tuesday and we were left with some of the most gorgeous working weather we’ve had in months. The pole builders still weren’t around on Tuesday, so we started building our new greenhouses (which are located immediately next to the pole building — we had been planning to wait until they were done before we started, but good weather calls for compromise). We started the project relaxed — we were willing to get done as much as we could done, which was a refreshing approach after two years of urgent ‘we-must-finish-ASAP’ type projects. It turns out that we could get a lot accomplished in one day! Here’s the first house after we raised the bows:
The houses are both 20×30 low-profile semi-quonset cold frames from Oregon Valley Greenhouse (pretty standard for veggie start houses in these parts). Here’s the house as it looked at the start of today, our second greenhouse workday (the pole builders came back this morning too!):
By the end of today, we had both greenhouses up and the legs set in concrete. Now we just need to finish a few details of the construction, build end walls, lay ground cloth, and then pull the poly! The pole building crew made good progress today too. Here’s the new view from our house of our increased farm infrastructure:
Our pole barn is red! It looks so farm-y around here these days!
… It’s ‘sounding’ farm-y too, since we added a rooster to our flock, as previously planned. Meet ‘Mr. Mister,’ a shy partridge cochin rooster with a delightful crow:
And, speaking of birds, they’re back! We didn’t even realize how few birds we’d been seeing/hearing on the island (with the exception of geese, hawks, and herons), but in the last two weeks our property has suddenly come alive with birds. All kinds: little ones (wrens, robins, towhees, woodpeckers, blue jays) and big ones (hawks, herons, geese, osprey). Two very exciting bird sightings in the last few days: three bald eagles, hanging out in the field adjacent to ours (2 mature; 1 juvenile); and five great egrets in our field today (an enormous beautiful white bird). Living in a riparian zone has definitely turned us into bird watchers. We keep our bird books handy at all times these days and are itching for a better pair of binoculars. (We also like watching the feral cats that hunt in our fields.)
We’re looking forward to the warming trend predicted for later this week (and maybe some snow?). We have both inside and outside projects lined up, just in case. With winter, who knows what to expect?