Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Unpacking Boxes and Then Building New Ones

More planning took place here this weekend than anything else. We were visited by folks from various tree companies. It is truly amazing the price range we were quoted to cut down the two trees I mentioned in my last post~ one company (a national chain) wanted well over $3000 to do both trees WITHOUT grinding the stumps and another, on the low end, would do one for about $600, stump and all. We got to meet lots of different personalities too, which was VERY interesting for a people-watcher like myself. There is still one company left to give us an estimate, and a few weeks before we'd schedule the work, but I am pretty sure we know who has the job already. Although we have yet to hire someone, my advice if you need to do this someday: actually talk to the people and meet them if you can. There are A LOT of wackos out there with chainsaws!

Other than plotting the murder of our trees, hubs and I spent the majority of Saturday unpacking the last of the boxes in our garage and planning out cold frames. We finished unpacking everything within the first year~ an astonishing achievement! As far as the frames go~ my aunt recently gave my dad some old shower doors he passed on to me which I thought would make awesome lids for the frames. It'd be awesome to be able to grow some herbs and spinach a little earlier and later in the year. Spinach goes great with eggs, which hopefully we will have a lot of around here in the near future. We don't have any plans and I am not a visual artist, I'll admit, so it took us some time and a lot of sketches to agree on a design and materials. Though we originally planned on just using untreated pine and resigning ourselves to rebuilding them in a few years, if I can successfully drum up a few more writing gigs to pad my farm fund, I think we'll splurge on cedar so they will last longer. I love my husband very much, but trying to explain what I had envisioned to a tech guy when I have no art skills was pretty frustrating. I guess I want to make all the confusion involved a little more worthwhile and just do it right the first time.
Our weekend was otherwise uneventful and relaxing, with the typical preparations for the coming week taking most of the day today. The fridge and pantry are filled back up, the clothes are washing and drying, and my amazing (and patient) former-chef husband made a fantastic frittata for dinner tonight. The perfect ending to a perfect day. Next come five more days of the job-that-pays-for-this, and then the awards ceremony at the college for the poetry contest (I got second place!) and a trip to Amish country to stock up on dry goods. I see more steel cut oats in my future. :)

Hope you all have a fantastic week!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Out of Decay Springs Life

In front of my home there is a gigantic cottonwood tree. It towers over the house and has a really great creepy aesthetic to it, the way the bark hangs off in tendrils sometimes and the gray coloring of the very textured bark. When we bought the house around this time last year, I think we both were a bit entranced by their beauty, the slightly dark and melancholy beauty they added to an otherwise pastoral landscape. And then the temperatures warmed up and the seeds started to rain down on our yard, like an invasion of cotton fluff. It looked alike summer snow, only fluffier, the way it blanketed the grass. Adorable, but a royal pain to clean up.
Now that the snow has thawed and the ground has begun to absorb some of the associated moisture, I've got to spend more time with the trees in our yard, walking the woods at the rear of our lot with my daughter, and exploring a bit. There's a lot to do around here when the weather warms up, so I sure am glad I bought an extra week of vacation at work. I'm really going to need it.
As I was surveying the yard on one of my rare days off with little to catch up on, I kicked what I thought was a large piece of bark that had fallen in my front yard. But when it flipped over, I realized it was the top of one of the roots of the very large cottonwood tree in the front yard. And what was underneath what flipped over, can best be described as a pill bug paradise. It was so rotted and moist I am quite surprised the tree has made it this long. In the backyard just inside the fence where River plays, I noticed a huge chunk of bark had come off during the winter. That too looks like it has entered a stage of decay I don't think we'll be able to coax it back from.
Normally my DIY attitude wouldn't let me rely on something like a tree service to get a job like this done. I'd consider it sweat equity and grab a chain saw or ax and some tiger balm for afterward. These two giants tower over my HOUSE though, so it's an expensive investment I'm going to have to make. At any rate, it costs less than my insurance deductible, so with that and the inconvenience we'd endure if we had so stay elsewhere, I'd say it's a justifiable expense. Thankfully, the electric bills are starting to go down and so will the food bills once we can get in the garden. It will work out, but I still get nervous every time I have to write a check for more than my mortgage. It's not my idea of a good time.
Maybe this is our opportunity to begin the facelift of the the SemiFarm, starting with how the place looks as you drive up. It'd be a great place for a dwarf cherry tree! Maybe the death of these trees will bring life to new possibilities, new plants that can call this little bit of earth home. I'm excited and sad all at the same time.
This weekend will (hopefully) bring some work on a cold frame out of a repurposed shower door and a seed order. We're gearing up for May folks, eagerly anticipating a long vacation and some new beginnings. I think we'll have a bumper crop of newness this year.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Under a Perigee Moon

I'm not sure why, but this spring has me restless. I'm over-caffinated but under-stimulated, a real recipe for disaster. Looking out of the windows at home earlier, it LOOKS like spring, but there's still a chill in the air. Tomorrow, after tonight's massive full moon that's a pretty rare event, it really will be. All winter long I've been pining for this, yet, here it is and I'm vaguely dissatisfied.
Just like the moon will be tonight, my dreams of getting started with this mini farm are close enough to touch. We've been rushing up on it this whole last year. I've been rushing on everything, so much so that all my projects are complete. There's nothing left to do now but sit and wait for the ground to thaw, for it to be time to plant, for a potential gig to pan out, for the mail to come. I've even finished the book I was reading, The Bucolic Plague, which was hilarious but left me vaguely depressed at the end. The sun's out but time's stopped so the world's still a little tinged in grey.
Big moons and big plans aside, I'm back to cultivating nothing but patience. It's the hardest crop of all to grow as it requires zen-like composure and letting go, neither of which are my strong suit. Maybe if the weather holds I can drag a quilt out on the lawn and work on my book idea as I wait.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Earth is Like a Child That Knows Poems

Today was the day I laid the last of the seedlings to rest in the compost pile, returning them to earth. I'm a little sad I was unsuccessful this year, but at least they are returning to the earth where they can rest and prepare to nourish next year's garden as compost.

This is our first real spring here, our first year to experience all the seasons here at the SemiFarm. This is been an excellent year, with all the snow and rain, to learn where low spots are in the yard, where the run off goes, and what areas are suitable for gardens and chickens. The garden is in a naturally higher spot. The compost, which is at the edge of the woods, is too, but, because of the rain and thaw, is surrounded by a small moat.

Luckily, I'm pretty creative and have some awesome rubber boots Kiddo and Hubs gave me for the holidays. Hence, the little bridge of sticks. (Hey, it works.)
Even amongst the sadness and dreariness of this rainy weather and saying goodbye to my first attempts at seedlings, not all is doom and gloom here at the SemiFarm. The trees are starting to come around and wake up. I think these are Ash trees, which make a little triangle in my yard behind my barn. Off to the right of this area is a little high spot, the future home of the chicken coop for the girls. Though I'm still waiting to hear from the local hatchery about a writing gig, freelancing has been good to me already this year. I've been lucky enough to write for both a magazine and a company's blog and also won second prize in a regional writing contest for poetry. Since I have managed to scrounge up some extra funds with my words, my father and I are going to build a 4 x 8 shed as soon as he is available. It will either be a chicken coop so the hens can move in or a garden shed if a can strike a barter for a coop. Either way, the girls are going to be able to move in soon, and I am so excited to meet them and have them here with us.

It's exciting to get to be writing so much and to see the farm waking up, and this quote from Rainer Maria Rilke seemed so fitting I had to use part of it for the title of this post:
Even the strawberries are getting ready for the coming year, and are pushing new leaves up through the soggy soil. They remind me of little shamrocks all tucked in upon themselves, unfolding to welcome the sun. I'm looking forward to welcoming it myself as the temperatures warm up later this week. Since the clock have sprung forward,if I'm lucky, I'll be home from work in time to enjoy some sunshine later this week when it returns. If I do, I'll be out in the yard, getting dirty and looking for poems.

Friday, March 11, 2011

And the winner is...

Craftiblog! Send me an email at and let me know where I should send it. Congrats!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

A Gateway Drug to Self-Sufficiency

I really think chickens are a starting point for homesteaders to venture into keeping livestock. Almost like a disease, this fixation with chickens seems to multiply: when you get two or three, you simply have to have more. When you start with a large coop, before too long you are dreaming of larger outdoor pens or sitting areas where you can commune with your food producing feathered friends. I have nearly as many conversations regarding chickens, coops, and Meyer Hatchery in Polk than I do almost anything else. After the chicken discussions, the topics turn to gardens or goats or other forms of livestock. It seems a lot of folks I know are showing signs of chicken dependency, and I think chickens are a gateway drug to a whole different lifestyle, one where you notice more about where food comes from, what hard work really is, and what effect your actions have on your lifestyle, your neighbors and the world around you.

Not sure about you all, but this is one addiction I can't wait to have.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Sadness @ the SemiFarm

My poor seed starts I was so proud of have succumbed to an untimely death. I had started, foolishly, without a grow light, when it was 50 degrees outside and the sunlight through my south-facing kitchen window was abundant and warm. Then winter returned and with it rain, storms and cloud cover. The sunflowers grew tall and spindly before they shriveled and died. The zucchini and beans aren't faring much better. I am sad to have the little bit of green gone from my kitchen. It seems lonelier here now somehow.
Oh well- it was fun to dig in the dirt at least and my compost pile will welcome them with open arms. And I can still direct sow in a few short months. I know I can get stuff to grow in the ground. I'm sure of it.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

All Good Things...

...must come to an end. Forgot to put an entry deadline on the contest. You have until March 11th, folks, to win this awesome book!