Thursday, February 14, 2008

A New Home

Hey there,

I've found a new home! Things weren't really working out so well for me at SMIP Ranch; it never really was a sustainable situation, living in so isolated of a setting. I was out of my depth as a farm manager as well. So I paid a visit to my friends up at Full Bloom Farm in southern Oregon in November to talk with them about the possibility of moving up there. It's mid-February now, and I've spent 2 weeks living here as a kind of litmus test to see how it felt to live and work with these folks. And it's felt great. Aside from a general anxiety about the unknown future, especially with regards to finances, I have been really enjoying myself here. So, we've agreed to extend my stay to a six-month trial period, starting in early March, which could turn into a more long-term situation. I'm driving home next week to say my last goodbyes, pack up my things and pick up my cat Sukey before driving back here.

So let me just say a few things about Full Bloom Farm. There are six adults, five of whom I've lived with at Green Gulch Farm Zen center, and all six have gone thru the six-month farm apprenticeship I did there. Two of them, Ryan Ginn and Eden Luz, did the apprenticeship in the same year that I did it, 2001. The rest of the adults are Matt Vivrett, Aria Bettinger, Jo Ferneau and Rosie Demmin. It feels very homey to be among people I've known for 6-7 years. In addition, there are 3 children, all girls -- Matt and Aria's kids, Tara & Talia, and Jo and Rosie's daughter Ocean.

The land is comprised of 282 acres, much of it wooded. There's about 30 acres that's available for pasture, crops, housing, etc. At this moment there's a main house, an old victorian that's in great shape, which is the de facto common building -- all meals are eaten here, and it's also where general play and relaxation, movie watching, etc. happens. Downstairs is a cellar full of root vegetables, a big freezer full of local meat and home baked bread, sauces and preserves canned by hand here. The ground floor consists of the kitchen, a dining room, an office with a small library, a living room, a bathroom, a laundry room, and the bedroom where I'll be sleeping. Upstairs is occupied by Matt, Aria, Tara and Talia. There's a zendo up there as well, in a little alcove.

A short distance southward from the house is a tubehouse, the greenhouse where the vegetables will get started. There will soon be an outdoor area built near the tubehouse for mixing soil, hardening off plants, etc. A little past that is a huge barn that looks brand new, with about 5 tractors and many tractor implements. Just above the barn is a chicken coop, with about 40 chickens and a couple of roosters. I've been told that when it's warm we'll get about 40 eggs/day; right now it's about 15. Beyond the barn is a schoolbus that's been beautifully remodeled as a dwelling for Jo, Rosie and Ocean, with insulation, new flooring, lighting, etc. If you continue past the bus, there's what is currently pastureland, which bottoms out in a wetland area next to Quartz Creek, a small stream. Much of the pastureland is being fenced right now for growing vegetables. Beyond the pasture is a couple acres of land that has already been fenced for deer, and will house the first vegetables, as well as a large swath dedicated to berries and fruit trees, which will be planted in the next month or so.

Going northward and uphill from the main house about fifty yards, is a small strawbale cottage which Ryan and Eden are almost finished building for themselves. Just south of that is about a quarter acre set aside for a kitchen garden to feed the community (right now there's just garlic in there), and right next to the kitchen garden is a pad that's been scraped out, where large common building will be built this year, housing a commercial bakery/kitchen, dining room space, a library, etc. Just above the common building is a reservoir for irrigation that was created this past year. Above that gets into wooded hills, some of which are on the property.

Southward and down the hill is Yale Creek Road and Yale Creek itself. There is some area on the other side of the road that will be farmland, as well as a spot for compost and brush/burn piles. The terrain rises again on the other side of the creek and becomes wooded, with several trails. The plan is to create several hiking trails on either side of the valley for people to enjoy. Also, the land was heavily logged by a company that bought the property in the '80s, and so reforestation/restoration work will be ongoing. I was part of a tree-planting project the past couple of weeks that got about 4,500 baby sugar pines and ponderosa pines planted on the steep hillsides of Full Bloom's land. In addition to the planting, quite a bit of brush and some trees need to be removed in order to allow the new trees to have enough space and light to grow properly.

Ryan currently owns the land. The community is in the process of setting up the operating agreement for and LLC, the Earth & Sky Collective, which all member will buy into to collectively own the land. Right now there are a couple of businesses happening. Matt and Aria will be running the farm, which will start small, maybe a couple of acres. The focus this year is on continuing to get a lot of the infrastructure built for the farm, so not many crops will be grown. Next year will be the first full season for the farm. Jo and Rosie will be running a commercial bakery. This year they're going to go very small-scale, and build an outdoor cob oven which will produce a small amount of bread they can sell to locals to begin to build up their clientele, while they focus on getting the common building, which houses their full-sized bakery, built. So next year will also be the first full season of baking. Eden and I are planning on growing about a quarter acre of medicinal herbs this year, mostly just for learning purposes, while we do a lot of research and networking, in order to be able to start a small herb-growing business next spring. Ryan will be helping out on the farm. He's also looking into starting a non-profit that will host workshops related to sustainable living, environmental ed., etc. And he's thinking of going back to school to become a therapist.

It's still unclear how I fit into all of this. I believe that this next six months I will be helping out on numerous projects -- the common building, the farm, childcare, fencing, restoration work, building Jo & Rosie's cob house, etc., probably about 3 days a week. I still need to find 2-3 days/week of labor outside the property, to sustain myself financially. And I'll be working with Eden to slowly build up this business plan for growing herbs. If all goes well, I'll be able to work full-time on-site next year, between growing herbs, childcare, farming and baking.

And that's it! I'm really excited, and glad to get this blog going again. I'm in a location that's ripe with sustainable living activities -- everything from making our own apple juice, bread, etc. to farming, raising animals (sheep and goats are on their way) and sustainable energy projects like solar panels (Full Bloom generates almost all of its own power thru solar panels). So there'll be plenty to write about. It seems like a good place to be, here at Full Bloom and in southern Oregon in general. I hope this was enjoyable to read, and I'll be in touch soon....