the farmer, the grave digger, and plans of sustainability

We learned *a lot* about our land and different climate this past first summer. I didn’t realize garden zone 9 and garden zone 8b were as different as they are. When we first moved here we made a One-Year Plan… which was pretty lofty and, in retrospect, extremely comical. Now we have a Five-Year Plan based upon realistic goals and desired outcomes.

We never wanted to be “just a farm” but a homestead. Finally, we are well on our way to that level of self-sufficientcy. In the first year, we have completely stopped buying garlic, berries, a lot of fruit, jam, fruit butter, syrup, eggs, chicken meat, peas and most herbs (my cilantro didn’t grow so we bought some once). These are all things we now produce ourselves on our land and every little bit helps. We’ve hugely cut down on buying summer and winter squash, greens, onions, apples and other fruit, pumpkin and sunflower seeds which we consume *a lot* of, potatoes, beans. Plus I make our own crackers, cookies and baked goods, much of our bread and “snacks” like gluten free apple cinnamon corn bread:

There are a few things we’ll never produce ourselves but this means tiny, infrequent shopping trips (some we could grow, we just don’t really want to… at least not yet):

Things have shifted a bit though. We were both going to be farmers once we got here. But oddly, that was never the original plan but only developed once we were here. I was just going to be the farmer and Paul was going to do whatever he wanted to do (music, bow making and woodworking, car stuff…). But as universe would have it, we’re back to the original plan of me being the sole lady farmer and him doing something else. In this case, that something else is a grave digger. We needed money for the aforementioned coffee, chocolate and dish soap so he stepped up. And I’ve got the animal tending, homestead garden and farm growing, meal planning and cooking, etc. When I need help with heavy lifting, he’s on it, and all the remodeling and rebuilding is his too (though I help with taping and mudding, do the painting and design things like the kitchen). We’re an awesome team.

As far as crop selling, we’re starting small and sticking to selling herloom garlic and herbs, heirloom tomatoes and excess fruit to start, plus having a small seasonal farm stand with excess veggies, fruit, berries, herbs, garlic, eggs and such. We have a prospective buyer for our fresh culinary herbs and garlic already too, which kicks much ass, as well as a small handful of weekly egg customers in the works. (Soon we’ll have enough egg customers to coverall all chicken and duck feeding, bedding and supplimental costs with enough left over to go on a hot date each month. Heck yeah!)

Within the next five years, the plan is to never have to buy any of these things again:

Yup, that means we’re getting goats. And sheep, and meat rabbits. Plus I’ll raise 3 to 5 turkeys a year to put on the table. We’ll eat our “extra” chickens (boys and mean girls) and do a batch or two of meat birds per year. But this is all over time. This year probably will only include meat and extra chickens, and two goats. Five more ducks come in February (hatching on my birthday — imagine all the impending Pisces goodness around here!!) It’ll be a year-and-a-half before we have goat milk because “we” (which in this case actually means I) want babies. Two Nigerian Dwarf doelings to be precise. They are the best for milk, butter and cheese. Not all goat’s milk is good for drinking. These girls will taste more like cow milk than anything else. No thank you on super gamey goat milk. Been there, done that. Though really a mama already in milk and tw babies would be ideal.

Maybe in 2020 we’ll add a couple of sheep (the fella above was Gabe from our friend’s farm down the street — we loved and ate him) and some meat rabbits, then in 2021, honey bees and a miniature cow (see how I snuck that one in?). Pacing ourselves is good. Lamb is good too.

It’s amazing how much things have changed in only one year (plus 4 months) on the farm. Our love for this place and gratitude overflow more and more with every passing day. I’m so glad we spent the bulk of the first year focussing on our orchard because we won’t have as long to wait for apples, pears, plums, peaches, nectarines, cherries, persimmons, apricot, yuzu citrus, almonds, and walnuts. We also planted 18 blueberries, 3 blackberries (not as if we didn’t have enough already), 8 red raspberries and a golden raspberry. This year we’ll be adding a couple of figs, elderberries, mulberries and if we’re super lucky, a couple of Meyer’s lemons. Next year: cranberries and currants gallore!

Another part of our dream/vision is making this into a small off-grid farm community. Building a tiny house for another family or couple to live in, adding a loft dwelling above the future workshop for one of our manfriends to make his own. Sharing of the work and bounty and weekend feasts. We have that with our neighbors already, our next door family, and are thrilled to be able to expand that love one of these years.

We’ll also be potentially offering retreats and workshops for natural building (cob, earth bag, etc.), permaculture and vermiculture, homesteading, chicken and duck and goat keeping, bow making and archery, art, music and shamanic retreats, wild edible and foraging classes, etc. It would be fantastic if that could fund our solar. Let me rephrase: It *will* be fantastic when we’ve earned enough to fund our solar endeavors. How long could it possibly take to save up $30k? 😘

Advertisements

planting and growing 

Everything is growing like crazy now in this crazy beautiful April weather of alternating (heavy) rains with 65-78 degree sunny days, at least for here. The peas and raddishes, kale, lettuce and chard, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and herbs are having a race to see who can get the biggest and tallest fastest, and so far the peas are winning. (I actually started this post almost two weeks ago and it originally said radishes, but the peas are kicking their butt now).

Our curvy personal garden (see last post) is pretty much fully planted plus a new bed, and the rest of the land is getting worked and planted with food guilds and companion plants that will one day create our food forest oasis. To clarify, we’re 100% done with our personal homestead gardens — everything is either planted in the ground or started in the greenhouse. We wanted to make sure we got that done straight away so we could focus on our farm next, and an actual much needed income.  

The fall garlic is monstrously huge and we recently planted a spring crop, but it’s not doing as hot so I’ve decided to stick solely with fall garlic planting. That being said, I reserve the right to change my mind, of course (I’m not the most patient person so could be speaking too soon). See the bottom leaves with a bits of yellow? We pull those off and sautee the green parts and compost the yellow. Yum! The bed behind it is all early cabbage, greens, nasturtium, marigolds, purple broccoli, onions, a rainbow of carrots and soon-to-be-planted cucumbers, dill and basil. (It’s probably 20′ long.)

Knowing full well that beans “should not” be planted in our zone until mid May, I decided to test fate and plant a few beans early. Like five weeks early. And here you go, beans! (Heirloom/organic blue lake bush beans to be precise.) That part wasn’t a lack of patience but rather an “I have a gut feeling our last frost this year is actually early April and not May 1st”. Rebel farmer? Yeah, probably. Gut truster? Always.

Lots of sprouting babies. I feel like a proud mother of millions right now. Trees, veggie, herb and berry starts, and our impending chicks. More on the baby girls next week though. (Or sooner since I’ve failed to publish this and they have arrived.)

We received some awesome seed potatoes from our friends and because we have lots of gophers and moles and such, we decided to do them above ground in big pots this year. This is a crap photo but they’re actually peeking out to say hello.

The greenhouse is blissfully thriving. Cucumbers, tomatoes, basil, a variety of peppers (a lavender bell pepper was the first to sprout!), various types of basil, oregano, sage, marjoram, thyme, asparagus, etc… all happy and growing. There’s a bit of a wasp situation in the greenhouse too, but let’s just not even talk about that right now.

One of our first permaculture guilds will have this lovely crimson autum olive in the center. It’s a great nitrogen fixer and the guys love the berries (they kind of make my tongue itch). Autumn Olives, or silverberries can be extremely invasive in some areas but not Oregon. We have an amber one too.

The Apple trees are now blooming. I love mother nature! First the apricots, pears and plums, then the peaches, almond and nectarines, then the cherries, and now the apples. Well, all but the honeycrisp… those are more of a late season apple. 

I could seriously take photos of apple blossoms all day. 

I planted a nasturtium under each of our apple trees and made an interesting observation yesterday — three are growing so far, and only under the three honeycrisps. I’m sure there’s a scientific explanation but I don’t know it… I just noticed things.

The whole east side of the gardens are planted with various lavender types and rosemary as deer hate them. So far, no deer in the gardens but I don’t want to speak too soon or curse or jinx us. My dream is fence free gardens, and although 99.7% of people seem us crazy, I’m hopeful it will work.

The strawberries are blooming too. We only have four this year (for personal consumption) but next year we’ll have at least 100.

planting a homestead, growing a farm

I couldn’t possibly tell you how many things we’ve started in the gardens and greenhouse, but it’s a lot. We’re starting with a more “homestead approach” and planting all we know we’ll eat, and adding to that to branch out into full fledged farm over the next year or couple. I guess currently we could be considered tomato, pea and garlic farmers as that’s what we have enough of started to sell, so far. And orchardist offerings, of course. 

The first meandering bed is growing, nicely lined with fallen logs and limbs, and more gifted from the creek. The paths will eventually be lined with wood chips (oh how we dream of owning a wood chipper!!) and access is easy on each side. In the wider spots I’ve put stepping stones for ease of harvesting so I don’t have to step in the soil or squish things. I say “I” only because there will be no lack of ease for my tall fellas — little ladies tend to have short arms, and I’m not even 5’2″. It may not be the best utilization of garden space but I love it!! Next year we’ll add another heap of organic compost and another log to raise them up a bit more, holding them together with an earthen mixture such as is used in cob or strawbale construction. This is 75% planted already with lettuce, a few varieties of kale, peas, raddishes, carrots, onions and spring garlic, plus borage, dill (next to a blank spot for future cucumbers), marigolds and soon, nasturtiums, etc. It’s still funny to me how tall these look in person and how shallow in photos, but you’ll see… it’ll be great!

Lots of things are sprouting and growing… peas, kale, chamomile, onions, thyme, tarragon, basil and tomatoes. I only just planted cucumbers and dill so those will be soon, and the rest to follow. Hopefully our eight dozen peppers sprout soon — I have big plans for those babies. I’ll take photos when I don’t have to use a magnifying glass to do so. In the meantime, here’s one of our massive pears in bloom. We’ll have a good 872 pounds of Bartlett. We trimmed all the dead junk out of both (And the old apples) and are all so very happy. 

Things outside of the food gardens are blossoming like crazy too. We had one visible bud on this tree a couple of days ago and now it’s covered in big pink blossoms. It’s a Camellia Japonica and it sure is pretty! I dont think the flowers fall off immediately like our other Camellia. It’s funny… I keep talking about making a space inspired by The Secret Garden but it’s starting to become that all on its own. I can’t wait to have the cabin done so we can rebuild the main house into a woodsy faerie house. It’s already in the perfect setting for it. ♡

Part of our inspiration comes from this Jacob Witzling pacific northwest tiny house… or really his building style in general. He’s amazing!! We don’t really have the funds to do the whole house in such stunning wood, but we’ll be thrilled to at least have the front and garage look similar upon approach. I don’t care if the rest is ten different kinds of recycled siding painted a lovely hue of “wood”.

I spent the evening at the creek last night as the sun was starting to set and it lit the trees ablaze with brilliant light. It’s a wonder we get anything done around here with so much stunning beauty to get lost in at all times.

On the way back up to the house, what did I spy but a Fairy Slipper Orchid! And then I noticed they’re actually everywhere along the path. These are and have always been one of my very favorite flowers, along with trilliums. We apparent have those too, but I haven’t yet happened upon any. Regardless, I’m buying and planting some one of these days.

The orchard is almost officially complete. We received a few more trees and have only two apples and a persimmon to plant this week, then the orchard is done… until we get two fig trees and four meyer lemons. The above photo is of a Sweetheart Cherry. Isn’t she beautiful! 

I’ve been juggling between planting several varieties of lavender and rosemary around the periphery of the garden, sowing seeds in the garden and planting a kazillion things in the greenhouse while the husb has been working on the cabin. I’m refraining from posting pictures so we can do a full unveiling but the kitchen has been 100% gutted (drywall, insulation, cabinets, sink and all), sill plate replaced, some structural bits replaced, and new concrete floors ground and ready to seal once the living room floor is done. He rocks!

More lovely blossoms of the week. I am over the moon with all of the spring beauty. It’s like christmas every day, waking up and rushing outside to see what’s new. I found out that a large portion of our muster bulbs are Lucifer flowers. They’re gorgeous. Devilishly beautiful? I have no idea why they’re called that. We also have an abundance of uncommon daffodils, hyacinth, regular irises and bearded iris. Or so we shall see.

Another project underway is the chicken house rebuild. This is a screenshot of the Eco Paint colors I narrowed it down to because my girls need a pretty house. The interior and trim will be egg blue and the exterior will either be wood nymph or glass bottle. Really, I’d like to incorporate all colors (and more) but this zero voc, no chip, eco and pet friendly paint is not cheap ($73/gallon!). So I may just have to get Lowe’s zero voc exterior paint and color match (~$30/gallon). We are 100% ready for the girls’ arrival in three weeks except for their house and I couldn’t be more excited. Well, and except for their massive outdoor area too, though they’ll be free range ladies much of the time. And they’ll be inside babies so we have plenty of time.

We also got a load of 8′ peeler cores (and helped our neighbors pick up three more loads). I want to use them as fence posts for the massive chicken run because that would be much lovlier than ugly metal t-posts. Yes, I know they will need to be replaced and aren’t the most efficient option, but… in this particular case I don’t care. 

We’ve done and experienced a lot more than that this past week but that’s all I can think of off the top of my head. I’m chicken distracted (that’s a real affliction). Our little rainbow flock is starting out with three each of the following: Black Australorp, Golden Laced Wyandotte, Partridge Cochin, Rhode Island Red, Barred Rock, Buff Orpington and Delaware. I’ll still need to get (3 each) Amaricauna, Cream Legbar and Oliver Eggers but that’s a secret (husb “authorized” me to get 12 to start). I got the 1 and the 2 confused — it’s called chicken math. Oh, and a couple of roos. ♡ Shhh.

a slower week

We really haven’t done a lot in the past week and a half because the sun has been shining and we’ve really just wanted to bask in it. We even had a 69 degree day this week!! It’s been total t-shirt weather in February (except now it’s getting cold again and the rains are returning). That and I had an abundance of clients so didn’t have a lot of planting time.

Instead of my usual kick butt and plant at least three or four trees per day in addition to having clients and doing everything else, I’ve been reduced to a tree a day the past few days. I planted a moonglow pear (the white stone will remind me that it’s a moonglow)…

Then I planted the last nectarine. I was completely unaware that that area used to have a lovely meandering stone pathway so had to dig through about 6 inches of rock in order to reach soil. Once I was done sorting all the rock out and planting, I was done with tree planting for the day.

I did, however, get my purple tulips in the ground though last week, finally. They were already sprouting in a vase of water (they where an awesome mother’s day gift last year, a vase with living bulbs and flowering tulips). 

I was grateful I was able to save them to regrow this year. They’re going to look gorgeous next to the to heather plants I put in that area, under the western red cedar by my healing space.

This color! I’m pleased I still have photos of them.

Paul kicked butt as usual and got the whole front of the cabin done (meaning ready for new siding and trim in a couple of months). The whole thing was painted (because the sun hadn’t arrived yet) and later covered in tyvek. These colors remind me of the old house. I kind of want to do cedar shingles on the front only, and regular old style wood siding on the rest, painted green (or a milky coffee/new bark color?). Would that look dumb? We plan to get back in gear this week to get the rest of the floors done. Maybe. Our compost is coming early in the week and we need to start getting things planted, too. We’ll see how everything pans out but now that we’re past the super cold phase of the year, but getting the cabin done isn’t the highest priority anymore.

The yuzu, another apple and the strawberry tree got planted too, as well as an osage orange and a pear which I apparently didn’t photograph. (I’m probably one of very few people that really want to see pictures of every single tree but I know you get the picture. We are almost done though!)

The flowers are starting to bloom everywhere. Crocuses, daffodils, a magnolia tree I didn’t know we had, and the hellebores.

We pretty much took most of the day off yesterday and went to the creek. The part we now call Crystal Beach. Someone, once upon a time, planted daffodils all along the path there.

Along the way we met the most beautiful tree that I can’t believe we’ve never noticed before! It’s the most perfect climbing tree! See cammo Paul climbing down? It has a wonderful view of the farther waterfalls at Crystal Beach.

Those vines make the perfect footholds for getting up and down and I could sit on that branch for hours. (I’d probably have to because I’m much better at climbing up than down.)

Father down the path I found the most stunning crystal, complete with sparkly druzy, laying right on top of the leaves like a generous offering.

I love how they shimmer in the sunlight when wet.

And plenty of smaller beauties. Probably 50 in all, but I only take the ones that allow me to take them. I found so many more than that.

Carnelian, jasper, thompsonite, agate, zeolites, quartz… an abundance of loveliness. 

Just a couple of weeks ago, this entire stone area was under water, as was half the beach.

The sun came out right when we were about to leave, so we changed our minds and stayed awhile longer. It was blissful. 

Off to plant more trees and make another batch of homemade seedy flax crackers. I’m obsessed (with both).

a lesson in *not* planning… and other stories

Farm lesson #1: learn your land before you make too many plans. ♡ I totally mapped out everything I wanted to do here before we even arrived in September. It’s pretty funny really (in a cute and naive sort of way). 

This area was going to be part of the orchard but we’ve discovered it has a very high water table at this time of the year. So… yeah, not a good orchard spot. Thankfully I only “planned” on putting 6 of 28 trees there. Eventually we will be doing some berms (Sepp Holzer style raised beds) and small river rock trenches to directing the water to a pond, but we’re not there yet. 

Pretty much since the first week we moved here I planned to plant a garden in memory of the woman who previously owned this property before passing away in 2016. She had tons of garden book some things bookmarked, mostly bulbs, flowers and herbs. I wanted to put those under the mimosa trees and around this gorgeous garden area in the courtyard. I planned to plant a ton of bulbs, all from her books. I went over there today to get started on the tulips and someone already had the idea of planting a million bulbs there. ♡ 

Clearly it was her. I can’t tell what a lot of it is but I’m pretty sure there are irises and daylilies. There may be daffodils and tulips as well but it’s a hard to tell at this juncture. Now I’ll be planting the tulips around my art studio/healing space instead.

Remember these “ask and you shall receive” theme we have going on here where everything we say we want just “mysteriously appears”? Well I was saying the other day, before these bulbs started sprouting, that I wish I had more bulbs than just my tulips to plant as I’ve never lived anywhere long enough to really want to do bulbs. Today I happened upon several gallon sized pots of abandoned bulbs full of last year’s decaying leaves and dozens of new shoots. I’ll be cleaning them up and separating them out to plant this week too. I have no clue what they are but they’ll undoubtedly be gorgeous around the courtyard and in my secret garden.

The same thing happened with my desire to have hellebores. Correct me if I’m wrong but these are hellebores, right? There are three patches in the courtyard. I think they were one of my grandma’s favorite flowers (along with calla lillies) so I’ve always wanted to have some in my garden. She had the most stunning flower gardens in the world and will be a huge inspiration to me as I work in the pretty flower gardens around the cabins over the years.

The whole rotten front of the first cabin is almost fully replaced (remember, siding isn’t happening until spring). Paul is freaking amazing! During the time it took me to plant four trees, he did all of this. Once this is complete, which should be today or tomorrow, we can start completion of the living room and kitchen. All they need is electrical work, drywall and insulation, texture and paint, and then kitchen counters, cabinets and sink and such. Oh and the floors. 

Okay, so I blinked, and he was done. Like I said, he’s freaking amazing. We’ll be painting it to keep it safe and sound until siding happens.

Clearly we’ve stopped having a strict cabin completion schedule and are totally comfortable with things happening when they happen. With views like this, how can you blame us? Living in such a magical place, your outlook on life totally shifts. Originally it was rush, rush, hurry, hurry, get the cabin done. Now it’s hey, we’re never leaving here so it doesn’t matter how long it takes. Plus we have plenty to do in the gardens and orchard.

Usually it takes a couple/few days to do a post and I have now planted even more trees. Above is one of our two peaches.

This is a liberty apple that overlooks the chicken yard. Good eventual snacks and shade for the girls.

And this is one of the nectarines. It probably takes me infinitely longer than your average human to plant trees due to my need to add rocks and unearth bits of the surrounding moss so it pokes through. 

When we first moved here our sweet neighbor lady commented about all of the faery energy on our property and all the gnome energy on theirs. She was totally right but my first thought was “phew, she’s awesome and surely won’t think I’m crazy as she gets to know us!” I love them both so much (as I mention frequently).

It really is a fairyland indeed.

erection of the greenhouse (and more planting)

What a hugely productive weekend! We finally got the greenhouse frame started.

Here all are of the pieces, organized and ready to go. Spot picked, and everything measured out. This area gets morning, afternoon and evening sun so it’s the perfect spot.

Let the erection begin. Hoops built and staked into the ground. This baby isn’t going anywhere! 

Side and top supports added. We’ll do the cross bars tomorrow, probably, but the cover doesn’t arrive until the 31st so we’ll have a few days at least before it’s fully done. And then we’ll still have doors to do but I’m not thinking about those until I have to.

Today was so sunny and warm it was work in t-shirt weather for me and shirtless working for the husb. Absolutely divine! It’s seriously like May in January here.

Several more trees got planted, as did the last of the rosemary. 

And then our amazing neighbor brough over even more trees because he had an overabundance. I freaking love him and his sweet and beautiful wife!! These are four Osage Orange trees (which will go along the driveway at our main entrance), a Bosc Pear, a Winecrisp Apple which I’m over the moon excited about, an Akane (one of the best early season apples in the US), a Winter Banana (another apple variety, very hardy and sweet), and a Puget Gold Apricot! I see many gluten-free pies and cobblers, preserves, and gallons of hard cider in our future. And quite possibly a side-of-the-road fruit stand for Finn to make some cash from.

Oh, and this Yuzu Ichandrin. It’s a citrus tree, prized in Japan for flavoring, juice and preserves. This variety bears abundant, easy-to-peel, 3″ diameter fruit with tasty, lemon-lime flavor. Yuzu is reportedly hardy to 0°F so grows quite well here we’re told. Even the leaves are tasty, fyi. The thorns on it are crazy beautiful! (I love thorny trees.) 

Osage Orange trees are also quite thorny and resemresemble hawthorn seedlings in their youth. Apparently they lose their thorns, but I love them anyway. I’m planting these alternated with black hawthorn trees for a beautiful hedge along the front entrance, as mentioned (the husb thinks they’re too big, but I still want to put at least two there). Osage Orange is dioecious, forming male and female flowers on separate trees, which I didn’t know, but what I do know is that the wood is amazing! It’s strong and flexible and perfect for making bows (which is a one of Paul’s passions), and is a phenomenally gorgeous natural dye (one of my passions). The seeds are edible and taste like sunflower seeds (but don’t eat the fruit — it’s apparently quite gross).

Most of my day was of this view… digging, digging, digging…. It was great!

I love the balance we already have going on here with fruit and berries ready for harvest during each season of the year.

We also received the gift of three tea bush seeds! This type is Camellia Sinensis and produces oolong, black, green and white teas. They’ll be started in pots this week and available for delectable sipping in two to three years. Come on over for a cuppa!