Author Archives: farmer m

Roadside Attraction

Our property has a long stretch of road frontage, with a strip of grass that we constantly have to maintain to keep from getting out of control.  When we first moved in, we envisioned planting something along it, but the percentage of gravel to dirt is pretty high (as are the chances that the county road department will come through and cover anything we plant with more gravel), which limited our options.

After Megan’s stepmother Cassy died a few years ago, we started planting daffodils, her favorite flower — first just for ourselves, then as part of a fundraiser we did to contribute to a memorial scholarship in her honor at the local community college.  We’ve raised enough to give 3 students a $2000 scholarship, which is pretty amazing!  This year the bulbs really hit their stride, and we love how they look!

Thank you, Dad

The search for our farm started one sunny day when Megan, Thaddeus and John sat out in the bed of John’s truck and daydreamed about finding property for the three of them to grow on.  Years later, that dream was realized when we purchased Blackbroom Farm.

So many of our original dreams have come true here over our first 6 years on the property… but many of them have had to be postponed or changed as life happened, most dramatically due to the unexpected death of John’s partner due to cancer 4 years ago.  We lost a lot of him that year, too.

On March 14, 2018, John died after a brief hospitalization due to COPD.  His obituary is published here. Every structure on our land has his mark on it, and we cannot look around without remembering how much he contributed to our dream of living here.  We had so many more dreams that won’t ever be, and we miss him so, so much.

Love you, Dad.

Signs of Spring

It’s fruit tree pruning time on the farm!  Megan got to take an amazing class this month on tree pruning (photo above is the ‘professional’ pruning demo)… now it’s time to try to apply it here on the farm.

Here’s our first try, on one of the original apple trees in the small farm orchard.  This tree is probably a ‘golden delicious’ apple, and when we moved in 6 years ago it was extremely overgrown.   We’ve done some significant pruning but it seems there’s always more to do!

While we were out and about cleaning up, we also cleaned out the bird houses to get them ready for their new occupants.  We found these eggs still in their nests!

 

For the last two years, we’ve planted hundreds of spring bulbs along our strip of the county road.  This year I ran out of steam at the end of the bag, and I’m not too proud to admit that I just dumped these by the front door… can’t wait to see this mess of bulbs bloom, though!

Dryland Garlic

We’ve grown garlic on the farm since our first year, when we tossed some cloves in a hugel in March and harvested perfectly lovely heads in July. Since then, we’ve found space in the garden for the garlic.

However, our needs for garlic (to sell) have grown as our needs for space in the garden have also grown… so for the 2018 growing season, the garlic is getting kicked out of the garden! Because the whole farm is a hill, we have limited flat space for the garden… really, limited flat space pretty much anywhere. However, up behind the barn there is a bit of flat space along the road which was not in use as a pasture because the animals never bothered to go up that far.

So we hooked up the tractor to the tiller, and headed up the road to do a little digging. After a few passes with the tiller to break things up, we hauled up two truckloads of goat compost, shoveled them out across the space, and tilled those in as well. Archer was a huge help with the shovel!

After the ground was as prepared as we could make it, we made a few hilled rows and put in 7 different varieties of garic. Because there’s no reliable water available on the hill, we used spacing recommended by a local farmer friend for growing garlic without any irrigation: instead of 4″ spacing, we used 10″ spacing, with more space between rows as well.

The garlic is all put to bed under straw now, where it’ll be left alone til July. Sleep well little garlics!

It’s a Shed! Walls and Roof.

Walls up, we spent the last two weeks putting up rafters. By “we”, we mostly mean Grandpa John, actually – the rest of us went to school and work during the weekdays, and he kept at it and got us to this weekend, and a ROOF!

Our roofing is actually pond liner, held down on all sides by metal plates. In order to keep water away from the sides (and the screws), Thaddeus crafted these foam bumpers, which we’ve taped down along the 2 sloped sides to keep the water running down the slope to the back of the shed.

Pond liner all rolled out! There was a little math error and it ended up 12″ shorter than we really needed.. but It’s A Shed!, so we’ll figure something out. Meanwhile… we’re making progress.

We got so excited about having walls and a roof that we hauled the recycling bins over and put them where they’ll eventually go… we’re so close to an operational building!

It’s a Shed! Framing.

We got a lot of cutting and measuring done the weekend of the eclipse, and got the greenplate and bases cut and nailed on. After a lot of prep work measuring, calculating, cutting… recutting… we were finally ready to get some walls up! Thank god for helpful family!

Under Grandpa John’s guidance, and with lots of helping hands, we managed to go from bare foundation to walls up in just two weeks! So. Much. Nailing – everybody’s upper arms are sore. The kid was a huge help finding dropped nails, bringing appropriate pieces to the hammerers.

Walls up! Onward to the roof!

It’s a Shed! Concrete.

In late 2016, we began work on a new structure on the farm: a building to replace our fading woodshed, including a shelter for our trash and recycling, and (most exciting) a room to house our food storage – freezers, canned goods, etc. We managed to get the block foundation down, but then the rains began and NEVER STOPPED, with record-setting rainfall in October and continuing throughout the winter.

 

This left us entering this year with just the beginnings of a foundation, but nothing more. Finally, things warmed up and dried up and we were ready to begin the next step: concrete!

Last month, Thaddeus finished packing the block and laying the last layer of the retaining wall. This week, we poured the concrete in the wall, and the floor of the storage room (aka “the grocery”). It was hot, hard work, and the concrete was so thick that by the time it came to pour the floor it didn’t..exactly..come out level. And so began our mantra.. “It’s a shed!” What we can do, will do.

This was the first concrete we’ve poured on the farm since the child was born, and it was fun to add his handprint to the semi-permanent memories of this place.

Onward to the next step!

Microclimate

Our property is located at the top of one of the eastern hills leading into Oregon’s coast range. South, east and west of the hill are deep valleys, and the upper hill, where the house and barns are, gets nearly full southern sun exposure.  All of this results in some interesting weather:  hot days sometimes up to 5 degrees warmer than the valley floor, and warm evenings as the warm air from the valleys rises up, pushed up by cool coastal winds.

What this means in practical terms is that our nearest weather stations never actually reflect reality.  So, this weekend, we installed our very own weather station on the farm!

It took a lot of assistance to get the station up on the post and properly aligned toward true south, but luckily we have some pretty great family.

The new weather station sits right between the garden and the barn, about 10′ above the ground.  The outdoor station measures rain, wind, temperature, humidity, and pressure.  There is an indoor display, but the device also tracks historical data and uses hyperlocal data to produce a forecast.   

But the best part about the new weather station is that it streams online through Weather Underground, so we can check our weather from anywhere, and so can you!

In other climate news, we’re loving our greenhouse this year, although we might have gotten a little carried away: not sure where these are all going to go in the garden!  

Spring Chickens

The south-most section of our garden space has been a battle zone for the last two years.  Although we sheet mulched as we did for the rest of the space, in that area the grass continued to be too much to beat back, and each spring would start again with a thick lawn.  So this year, we decided to take a step we hadn’t before, and till in the garden.  Ordinarily we’ve tried to avoid this, primarily because our garden is an old pasture and the load of weed seeds in the soil is pretty spectacular – tilling only invites new weeds!  

However, this year, we have a secret weapon in the fight:  our trial batch of meat chickens are ready to come off the heat lamp and join the real world!  We set up a fenced area for them, and put them on the newly tilled soil — they’ll help us scratch up any new sprouts that come up, and keep the tilled area from becoming a weed patch overnight.

And in return, we’re expecting to harvest 15-20 delicious roasters in mid-June, after which we will amend the soil with some compost and plant in a cover crop to keep the weeds down for the rest of the year. A couple hundred more square feet to garden, tasty chicken dinners… so much to be excited about!