We’re farming again!

… and this time on our own permanent farm home!

The house building has been temporarily put on the back burner these last few weeks as we spent more time setting up infrastructure for our 2007 farm season: re-building our hot house and hot house walls; spreading wood chip paths between buildings (and using our neighbor’s chipper/shredder to make those chips—an exciting adventure); building other paths out of broken up pieces of foundation we found on the site (creating a random paving stone-look); building a soil mixing station out of old pallets; and more. We also spent some major cash: on our seeds (so many fun varieties!), organic amendments for our soil mix and the fields, and other random farm things like plug trays, hoses, new greenhouse poly, and more.

All this random activity started a few weeks ago when we were feeling overwhelmed by everything we needed to do this spring. Between building the house and restarting the farm on new land, we have a lot to think about and do. So, we made the ‘2007 GIANT LIST,’ a comprehensive 170+ item list of everything we need to do, from the macro (build hot house) to the micro level (update field organization on our organic plan).

The good news is that we’ve now crossed off many items on the GIANT LIST. And the other good news is that the things we’re building now (physical infrastructure, systems, etc.) don’t have to move again. We will definitely need to upgrade them over time, but we don’t have to start over again. Hoorah!!!!!!!!

Also exciting: because of our progress on the GIANT LIST, we were able to begin sowing yesterday! For those of you keeping track, that puts our first sowing about a month and a half earlier than last year! And our system is already much more established and secure as well, so we feel surer about our initial success. Here are some pictures from yesterday’s work:

6:50 am … early morning greenhouse building … a fact you might not be aware of: early morning is the most reliably calm moment of every day (when there isn’t a storm brewing). Thus, anytime we want to work on our greenhouses, we start early. (Yes, 6:50 am is early for us. It’s hard for us to even fathom the old days when we started work at Cedarville Farm at 7 am everyday—with a half hour commute too!) Yesterday morning we finished off our hot house by putting up our newly constructed end walls. We think they are much improved over last year’s, which were functional but a little sloppy. I guess that we’ve learned a thing or two about basic carpentry over the last year (along with a million other things).

Casey filling our first flats of the season, at our new improved (and larger) soil mixing station. For most of our vegetable starts, we use an equal mixture of peat, perlite, and compost, plus smaller amounts of feather meal, rock phosphate, kelp meal, and oyster shell lime (digging in the kelp and oyster shell bags is a sensory experience that makes both of us think of the beach!).

Katie sowing the first seeds of the season! Yesterday we sowed our first round of our cold-weather friendly succession items, such as lettuces, chicories, broccoli, and more. We also sowed a ton of leeks: 34 flats. Since we are trying to prepare for selling year-round, we’re already thinking about next winter. Hence the leeks, many of which will be harvested this time next year. It’s kind of a bizarre thought process to go through. But we love planning, so it’s a good fit for us.

And we’re off! Soon enough this house will be filled. We didn’t upgrade our hot house space this year, since last year we didn’t tap it out. But I think that we’ll need to by next year. It’s going to be tight, but we’ve got plans to fit every thing in somehow this year. Starting our seeds earlier will give us more time to rotate flats through the house. Hopefully we can also transplant earlier on our new ground, since it’s better drained and we don’t have to break a three-year sod this spring.

And, while Katie sowed leeks, Casey did work some on the house. We’ve been wiring lately, small bits at a time, when we have time. Yesterday Casey finished wiring our breaker box. By the end of today we should be ready for our wiring rough-in inspection!

And lest you think we’re not busy enough, in between all of this infrastructure building, season planning, house building, we also attended two very fun farmer events this weekend. On Saturday, we went to the OSU Small Farms and Farm Direct Marketing Conference. We went last year as well and really enjoyed the presentations and the other folks. This year was also fabulous but in entirely different ways. For one thing: the people. Last year we began the day knowing no one. This year, we knew a ton of people—many more than I would have expected after living here less than one year. It was like a farmer reunion! Also, last year we were struck by how few young adults were present (we were some of just a handful). This year the conference was bursting with 20- and 30-somethings! It was exciting to see so many younger people interested and/or engaged in farming. We hope this is a continued trend.

On Sunday, we also met more farmers when we attended the Portland Area CSA Coalition (PACSAC) monthly potluck and farm tour. We joined up with the group this week because they were at our friends Mike and Jill’s farm (Gaining Ground Farm) in Yamhill, about seven minutes from where we’re living right now. But we will probably attend the meetings every month from now on. There were over 20 people there, all of whom are directly involved in ventures similar to ours. As you can imagine, we all had a lot to say to each other. During the meeting portion of the gathering, we had a rousing conversation about land-use laws, urban growth boundaries and the future of small farms. Even though we didn’t come up with any immediate solutions, I think we were all comforted by the solidarity of the group. We’re now listed on their website directory as well—I suppose we’re close enough to Portland to be count as ‘Portland-area.’

So … that’s been our life lately. And we have more of the same ahead of us: plumbing, sowing, and gabbing with farmers (another conference this weekend). All in all, it’s hectic but thoroughly enjoyable. Yesterday morning, when we were filling flats and sowing, the day was perfect: sunny and calm. And we were able to be out there, basking in the warmth. And, in the end, that is one of the many benefits that keep us farming.

And it’s good for us to be reminded of these benefits. We generally write about all the fun and happy parts about our life, but there have been dark moments these last few weeks as well. Even though things are generally going well on the new land, we still have some big uncertainties hanging over our heads all the time. They’re nothing for you all to worry about, but we do. Constantly. Even though this is our second season and we generally know that we can farm successfully, we have also upped the stakes and risks.

Leasing land was a good way to practice this business without really investing ourselves significantly. This year we have a mortgage, and we’re building a house, and we’re growing our overall market (CSA, restaurant clients, etc.), and we have a reputation to uphold … our success feels like it matters more this year. The way we see it, last year was like a prelude, and this year is the one that really starts our life as farmers. This is a crucial year for us. We’ve built into it safeguards all over the place, but there is still naturally-occurring risk. We’ve had many affirmation sessions lately where we remind ourselves to breathe. But the sunny February days help as much as anything.

And so do you! We’ve received many little comments of support this winter. Thank you!

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One Response to We’re farming again!

  1. val says:

    Great update, guys! We were wondering how things were going. We can’t wait for your veggies this season. Just keep remembering to breathe… and know that we are greatly impressed by your diligence, hard work and enthusiasm…you are definitely wonderful role models for others interested in farming!

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