Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Herbs, ponds and such

Hallo again,

I really wish I could be writing here more often; so much goes on in between entries. The fencing around the 30 acres of irrigatable land is all done -- about a mile of it, stretching up and down hills, along the road, etc.

The cob-building workshop has officially begun -- six interns and James, the teacher, arrived Sunday and have put in several days already, building the foundation of the cob structure -- a 200 sq. foot place. They've also been dragging downed pine trees out of the forest and prepping them as poles to use for the frame of the roof. They seem like a great bunch; we call them, affectionately, "the cobbers". We're gonna be having a dinner with them every Friday for the six weeks that they're here.

Just about all of the flowers and herbs that Eden and I sowed in the greenhouse are out in the the front field now, and are growing well, albeit very slowly. We had planned to have flower arrangements ready for customers of the Siskiyou Coop, a local CSA, by early July, but the combination of the cold weather and the late transplanting has made that a pipe dream. Our optimistic hope now is that we can have bunches of flowers for sale by the end of July. It's been pretty dispiriting actually, and hard especially on Eden, who was never completely behind the flower part of the business to begin with. Neither of us have had the proper time to devote to the project, and it has suffered from that lack of time/care. We talked Sunday night and agreed to just do what we can this summer, hoping that we'll be able to have something to offer both the CSA and a couple of other flower vendors that are interested in our wares.

The encouraging part is that we do have some herbs planted -- echinacea, yerba mansa, yarrow, skullcap and a few others -- which are perennials, meaning that they don't need to be resown and can produce year after year. And the plot we've cultivated should be easier to work next year because we've broken up the sod that was there. Still, Eden's lukewarm about the possibility of doing this next year, in light of the many projects she's interested in. We've agreed to meet briefly once a week throughout the summer to bandy about various ideas for growing herbs/flowers, and see if we can come to some kind of resolution about whether or not we will try for next year. I'd like to know either way by the end of August, which is when my six-month trial period here is over. If we're not going to do that, I need to figure out some other career direction. If we DO decide to continue on working together, then we need to put together a carefully considered plan of action that will leave us in good shape come next spring, with a carefully articulated business plan, and soil that has been cared for and prepped, so that we can slip our greenhouse plants into the ground much earlier.

Some ideas we've talked about:

-- growing herbs directly for herbalists, to stock their apothecaries. We both like this option -- it fosters direct connections with herbalists, who can depend on local sources for their herbs, and supports the local economy.

-- growing and drying herbs for tea. Another cool idea. Not sure how we're gonna create the space to dry the kind of quantity we need.

-- wildcrafting. I'm very jazzed about this possibility, as it involves loads of time in the wild and on people's land, foraging for medicinal herbs. It's a great way to get to know the people and the land around here.

-- flowers. Some kind of smaller version of what we're doing now. I don't imagine Eden's gonna be too keen on it, since it was so hard to do this year. But I love working with flowers. It's possible that we could focus on mostly perennial cut flowers over annuals, which reduces the workload alot.

-- flower essences. I haven't talked to her about this one, but it just occurred to me while I was out working our plot, because I've been taking a flower essence recently. The main flower essences are produced by Bach, a company based in England, so it would be great to provide a local source for them, from an environmentally sustainable point of view; plus it would allow me to continue to work with flowers, which I really enjoy.

-- wildcrafted, value-added products -- mead, wine, salves, shampoos, etc. Another idea I love.

.........In other newz.....the new pond is finished and filling as I write; hopefully it will be mostly full by the time we have our solstice party this friday. It was really cool to watch Rourke doing the earth work -- moving dirt around, compacting it so that it will hold 3-400,000 gallons of water. Yesterday Jo and I dug holes for posts that were set in so that we can build a dock for diving off of and lounging on. It's a really sweet spot for a pond, with ample parts shade and sun. I can't wait to start fishing for food as well.

......we're now in the process of laying pipe down in a mile-long ditch that runs from our first pond around much of the property, thru the farm, and up into the woods, where it ends up in Yale creek. Rourke has been working on scraping the bottom of the ditch with a machine, and Matt has started connecting pieces of 8" pipe which will run the length of it. We're hoping to get a grant to cover some of the costs of the piping, but we will still have to pay for most of it, so we are buying something like $8,000 worth of this black plastic pipe. I'm gonna help Matt connect the pipe tomorrow, as well as helping him plant several rows of broccoli on the farm.

....we'll have massive amounts of strawberries from the farm in a few weeks. I love strawberries, so I'm already drooling at the prospect.

.....and that's it for now. I'll try to write sooner, next time.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

....Lots of projects going on at the same time, to wit:

1) Rourke, a friend and tractor guy, scalped an area yesterday in preparation for digging our second irrigation pond. For the next three days that will be happening; I'll report back once I've been involved in that one.

2) Electrical conduit needs to be laid from the barn all the way up a steep hill, up to the site of the cob house the interns are building. Matt dug out a deep trench that goes probably 500 feet or so, and I shoveled the loose dirt out of it yesterday. We're looking to hire someone to lay the conduit.

3) The common building. John, our general contractor, is working with Matty, a neighbor of ours who's also a carpenter, on the building. I believe at this point they've got all of the upright beams -- 18' and 22' poles that're 12" in diameter -- secured, and they're starting to put brackets on top of them so that they can start laying on the beams that will support the rafters. This weekend I helped sand and apply wood finish to a few of those beams. There are tons of beams left to sand and finish.

Ok, I'm off to babysit Jo and Rosie's daughter Ocean. More later.....