One Last Move…

Squeaky says “Don’t get left behind-head on over to our new address!”

Hello 46 North Farm Friends!

Please bear with us, but we’ve moved the blog location–I swear this will be IT for a long, long time.  We upgraded from the free WordPress blog site to a slightly fancier WordPress deal that is more adaptable to the needs of our growing farm business.

Over the winter we’ll be working out details and information on the new site, and it’s where we will be posting all future updates.  If you’ve subscribed to the blog at this address, I’m afraid you’re going to have to re-subscribe at the new blog address, which can be done at:

If you’ve bookmarked this site, you’ll have to dump that bookmark and do a new one for the new address as well.

Thanks for sticking with us through all of our many moves, both physical and digital!  We’re very excited about the upcoming year, and will soon be posting plant lists, growing tips, and more photos and stories from 46 North Farm.

Thanks for hanging in there with us- we’re looking forward to an exciting and productive 2012!

xoxoxo  The 46 North Farm Gang– Teresa, Packy, Eddie & Squeaky

There's lots of good stuff growing at the NEW new blog site....


Color Theory

I love growing flowers.  I think it’s an agricultural extension of my art school days- color theory was one of my favourite classes.  Color, texture, pattern, shape- growing flowers offers all of that food for the senses, but it goes beyond just the intellectual combining of colors and shapes. For me, growing flowers is sheer joy.

2009 was an aborted growing season for us, although it ended in us buying 46 North Farm, so it was worth the frustration. In 2010 we planted very few flowers, largely due to the combination of no elk fence to protect them plus a lack of time, a result of our full time work that was (and is!) paying the bills. The dahlias struggled, and even if I had managed to get some flower seeds started, we barely had any beds to plant them in.

For the 2011 growing season I had the motivation of knowing that we had a big wedding to supply flowers for in early August, plus we wanted to participate in the first season of the River People Farmers Market.  I knew if I had enough flowers and herbs growing, between that and our edible plant starts we could pull it off.

There are flowers that I had been growing every season since we began farming that I hadn’t seen blooming for two years.  I missed them deeply, like dear old friends I hadn’t seen in far too long.  When they started to unfurl early this summer I would snatch a bit of time whenever I could to go and see what had begun blooming that day, quietly whispering “Hello!!” to each flower so that Eddie and Squeaky wouldn’t laugh at my sentimentality.

It was wonderful: bachelor buttons in deep blue, purple and burgundy black, all the tall golden yellow and deep red marigolds that make such long-lasting cut flowers, calendula in shades of peach, orange and yellow, and the lovely nicotianas! My favorite lime green, the delightful nicotiana langsdorfii with its dangling green bell-shaped flowers, and the delicious jasmine variety- white flowers that release the most amazing fragrance in the evening.  Tall red snapdragons and drifts of White Bishops Lace flower, and the dark purple Bishops Lace flower whose name I forget.  Towering yellow and burgundy coreopsis and deep pink cosmos swaying in the breeze.  And of course the dahlias, rebounding with new enthusiasm despite the best efforts of an army of slugs.

And then there were all the herbs whose flowers and foliage mix so beautifully into bouquets–lavender, catmint, oregano, sage, thyme, fennel, lemon balm–the fragrance and colors were intoxicating, not just to me but to the waves of beneficial insects that moved across our farm, turning the flowers rows into a vibrating, humming fiesta.  Honey bees, bumble bees, hover flies, wasps, butterflies and moths have been feasting on our flowers for months.  Less desirable creatures showed up too, including grasshoppers, cucumber beetles, black aphids and the most impressive infestation of slugs I have seen in my life. Many of our visiting insects, slugs and snakes feasted on each other as well, which is all a part of the process. We’re still working on balance in our farm’s ecosystem, but all things considered the damages were outweighed by the benefits.

It is truly satisfying to grow food for people.  I am excited about this evolving part of our farm, but I know I will always grow flowers and make bouquets for our market booths as well, because people pay us for flowers in ways that far outstrip money alone.

The young couple on their honeymoon who bought a bouquet at the Cannon Beach Farmers Market to decorate their hotel room. The proud mother who bought flowers to give to her young daughter after her first dance recital. The older woman who was taking flowers to the cemetary to put on a friend’s grave.  The countless people whose faces light up as they look over the bouquets, trying to pick which one to take home. Shy boyfriends buying flowers for their girlfriend, presenting them in a flustered display of awkward adoration to their beaming sweethearts. A sister buying a bouquet to take to her sister who was in labor at Columbia Memorial Hospital.  Customers who faithfully bring us back the canning jars that our bouquets are sold in, or who every week tell me about the vast collection of jars they are saving for me but forgot once again to bring to market that week.

Just writing out this list is making me smile–people invite me into such tender parts of their lives when they buy flowers from our farm.

There is a saying that is often attributed to the Koran, but which I believe is really just an old Persian saying: “If you have two loaves of bread, sell one and buy hyacinths, for they will feed your soul.” (I’ve also seen this quoted as a Chinese saying with lilies instead of hyacinths, and honestly wouldn’t be surprised to discover some version of the sentiment occurs in other cultures as well.)  I can see the truth of this whenever we sell flowers at a farmers market, and why I will always believe that cut flowers have a place at farmers markets despite their being mostly not edible. (Even the Cannon Beach Farmers Market finally conceded the point.)

This growing season my soul was very, very well fed.  I’m sorry to see the flowers beginning to fade now, but it’s time for them to do so. I’m letting things go to seed as much as I can so that we can save seed for next year, and plotting about how I’m going to fit in another row of dahlias somewhere.  Winter is a wonderful time to daydream…when it is especially grey and stormy out, I make a cup of tea and pull out my seed catalogs–smiling at the photos of old friends, checking out some new flowers I want to introduce myself to next season, and planning a riotously colorful, buzzing, vibrating, joyful party for next summer.

Equal Exchange?

Busy as bees… not much honey…

I can add yet another explanation to the mysterious lack of time we always seem to be suffering from–one of the main reasons I don’t update our farm blog as often as I mean to. While it is certainly true that we both have a whole lot going on in addition to working on starting up our small farm again, it is often the case that even when we do set aside time for farm chores, something always seems to come along to derail our plans.

Recently, distraction arrived in a small, feathered package.

It was mid-morning when I heard a weird hooting bird call outside.  I looked out back and saw what looked like a strange kind of pigeon sitting on the elk fence.  This time of year, odd birds start moving through the neighbourhood on their way south, so I just thought it was one of them, and that it would soon move on.

The next time I looked it was sitting on the electrical wire right above our back door, hooting and looking down at me. Eddie and Squeaky were very excited by this tremendously large and friendly bird sitting about 15 feet above them looking tantalizingly plump and tasty. I called out to Packy, interrupting him from his rather critical project: getting our farm taxes ready to send to our tax preparer, who had recently informed us of the exciting news that thanks to a change in schedule at the IRS, our taxes were now due on September 15, not October 15 as we had been planning on. Thanks IRS!

Once he and I wrangled the over-excited felines back into the house, he figured out that the odd bird that was causing all the fuss was a Eurasian Collared Dove.

“They’re not native,” he informed me.  “They were first seen in Florida a few years ago, and have been making their way across the country ever since.  I wonder where it came from?”

We stood looking up at the bird for a while, and then both thought about our enormous to-do lists that day.

“Well, let’s keep the cats inside until it flies away,” I suggested. We went back to work.

I was on a massive clean-up tear, and was at the moment organizing the many baskets we use for farmers markets and farm events, sorting out how to store them best so that they don’t take over the house.  I was using the front porch as a place to spread everything out on, as it was one of the only open spaces available at that time. (Hence the much needed organizing project.)

The hooting got closer.  I looked up, and there sitting in the rhodedendron next to the porch was the Collard Dove, staring at me intently.  It was a little creepy.  It hopped closer, now sitting on the firewood-holder-thing.  Squeaky sat in the window inside, very annoyed to not be participating in the encounter in a more meaningful way.  As I stood there wondering what this bird wanted, it suddenly flew at me, apparently trying to land in the region of my head. My shrieking impersonation of Tippi Hedren in The Birds caught Packy’s attention.

“What the…?!?!??” he asked breathlessly, taking the stairs two at a time to find out what was trying to kill me.

“This is a really weird bird,” I told him.  “I think it’s following me around the house, and it tried to land on my head.”

I mean, I like birds.  But I find it just a wee bit unsettling when they fly at me and try to land on me when I’m not really expecting it.  We stood there looking at the bird, who sat looking back at us.  This bird was not afraid of people at all. In fact, it just seemed to want to hang out with us.  There was no way we could let the cats out as long as it was around, and it showed no inclination to move on.

“This has got to be someone’s pet”, Packy said.  “I wonder where it came from?”

So we called our wonderful neighbors, the Wildlife Center of the North Coast, and asked them for their opinion on the matter.

“Well, if you can get it into some kind of cage, you can bring it down here and we can re-locate it somewhere else,” they offered.  ” Or we can keep it here for a bit while you try to find who owns it, or find a home for it.”  We had a good discussion on the finer points of bird capturing techniques, including the towel toss trick, and we hung up the phone feeling good about having a plan.

Packy then spent the next 45 minutes trying to wrangle an ornery bird–who either wanted to sit on his head or eat sunflower seeds out of his hand, but definitely did not want to get into our cat carrier–into our cat carrier.

He eventually prevailed, but not before some very colorful language ensued.  I was definitely not very helpful, but stood by waiting to be of some sort of assistance that did not involve actual bird handling.

Once the bird was in the cat carrier, we thought about it a bit more.  It really did seem way too accustomed to people to be a wild bird that was moving into the area. We decided to go ask the neighbours if anyone knew of someone who had lost a pet dove. We walked up the road to our neighbour Kevin’s house, and hit the jackpot on the first try.

“Oh yeah,” he said.  “That sounds like the bird that was hanging around at the Big O the last few weeks. They finally had to shoo it away, it kept flying into the store and the bar mooching peanuts off people.  I think Shawrron was calling it Dale.”

Shawrron and Dale are the wonderful owners of the very cool Olney General Store and Big O Saloon just down the road from us.

“O-Kay…  well, they won’t be wanting Dale the Dove back I guess”, Packy said glumly.  We had a lovely chat with Kevin about various neighborly things, then walked back to the farm, collecting discarded Diet Pepsi bottle from along the roadside as we went.  Someone around here sure likes Diet Pepsi.

When we got home, I called the Wildlife Center back and asked if we could take them up on their offer of bird sitting until we could maybe find a home for the Dale the Dove. Packy went back to tax wrangling, and I set out walking the cat carrier down through the farm, which is the quickest and most scenic way to get to them.

Their songbird cage was pretty much empty, and Sharnelle Fee (the founder of WCNC) directed me to just let Dale go in there. It took a little coaxing, but he soon hopped out of the carrier and explored the enclosure. It’s lovely– full of native shrubs, and more importantly for Dale the Dove, had an ample supply of bird seed.

Sharnelle and I stood around chatting for a while about wildlife and nature and some of the unfortunate aspects of human nature with regards to wildlife. The whole time we were talking, a small fawn was lurking nearby, occasionally getting bold and loping towards Sharnelle, who kept swatting it away. She looked at me somewhat resigned.

“Unfortunately, we had to raise him on his own without any other deer around to socialize him, so he’s gotten a bit messed up, and is way too used to people.”

Of course, we both immediately thought of the legendary Fawn-Fawn, who sadly passed away this past winter.

She was WCNC’s very first patient, and lived to be over 11 years old, which is pretty much an unheard of age for a deer not actually in captivity She was also completely unafraid of people, and quite a charming mooch. We were sad when we figured out what had happened–she just didn’t show up for well over a month–but it also helped me to not feel quite so guilty about putting up the elk fences.  Fawn Fawn was pretty used to strolling right past the greenhouse (and occasionally right through it) on her way across the farm, and I would have hated to try and re-direct her.

Eventually I said my good byes to Sharnelle, and began walking back up through the tall grass towards my long-ago abandoned to-do list.

Have you ever had that feeling that someone is following you? I hadn’t been walking more than a couple of minutes before I turned around and saw the fawn, standing about ten feet behind me.

“Oh no,” I said.  “Shoo.  Go Home.  Go back.”  I turned around and kept walking, using the theory that if I ignored it, it would get bored and abandon this journey into unknown territory.

A minute later I turned around again.  The fawn was ten feet behind me, casually looking off into the distance.  We made eye contact, and it loped forwards excitedly, terrifyingly not unlike a golden retriever puppy. “Arrgh!” I said calmly.  “Go back.  Seriously.  Do not follow me, you damn impossibly cute Disney-esque Fawn-Demon from Hell!”  Well, I was thinking that, anyway.

Of course this went on all the way back to the house.  I set the cat carrier down while the Impossibly Cute Fawn-Demon from Hell set about discovering all the tasty plants in our herb garden, and even showed great interest in exploring our basement. I shooed it away and shouted for Packy–interrupting tax time yet again–while the cats tried to decide if this weird not-quite-a-dog thing was a good exchange for the tantalizing bird. I think they were disappointed in my trade efforts.

Packy was very little help, even once he stopped laughing hysterically.  I struggled desperately to stay mad at the damn thing as it darted around tasting things and trying to entice Squeaky into playing with it.

 I think it is deeply unfair that fawns are so cute– those huge liquid eyes and the big wet nose. The way they hop around like over-excited bunny rabbits…  it is Just Not Fair.

We ended up walking the Impossibly Cute Fawn-Demon from Hell all the way back to the Wildlife Center, herding it along with an old broken rake when it started to veer off into the pasture too far.

Sharnelle smiled apologetically when we got back.

“Did he follow you home?  He’s never left the property before this, but then most people leave in cars, they don’t walk here…”

She got him into the bird cage she was working in to hold him so he wouldn’t follow us back, and we walked slowly back to the farm.

“What was I working on again?” I asked.  It was now late afternoon, and I had so far managed to cross nothing off my farm chore list.

“I think you were organizing baskets, but didn’t you say you had to do some watering today as well?” Packy reminded me, as he trudged back upstairs to the sweltering office to once again try to make sense out of our paperwork.

“Oh yeah.  Watering.”

I watered the plants until it started to get dark (next year we are so installing drip irrigation) and then went in to try and figure out something to cook for dinner involving zucchini and lemon cucumbers, both of which are growing with great enthusiasm right now.

The baskets are still on the front porch, but at least the taxes got done.  Maybe next weekend….

Somehow, Eddie the Cat's Farm Chore list always includes a lot of napping, supervising other people's Farm Chores, and catnip monitoring.

Happy Ending Update:  Dale the Dove was adopted by one of the Wildlife Center volunteers who had another pet dove already.  Hopefully they don’t mind him sitting on their head on occasion.

No update on the Fawn-Demon from Hell yet….

A Few Good Reasons…

I am so sorry that there has been such a massive gap in my blog posts. To say that we’ve had a busy spring-summer is a wee bit of an understatement, but I’m beginning to surface now and hope to work my way back into your good graces with a post that is long on pictures, short on words and with a promise that I won’t let four months go by without another post!

I am making plans to spend some serious time this winter re-working our website, so hang in there for that as well.  We’ve just migrated our farm site to WordPress, and I know that this version isn’t perhaps the most fabulous looking.  OK, it’s boring and somewhat ugly. But it will get better.  I’m still working out how to use this system, so pardon the somewhat less than lovely layout.  If there was just an extra day in the week…
Now for the Excuses… I mean Reasons…
Reason #1 Burning Chair, Man!
Tired of the very cold and wet and cold and wet spring, we decided at the last minute that we really, REALLY needed to burn Old Man Winter this year, so our second 46 North Farm Burning Chair, Man! was suddenly on. It was such a soggy, cold late winter, spring and summer here on the North Coast, all the way up to mid-July.  I like to think that our efforts helped to lay the groundwork for this phenomenal late summer weather we’ve been having. Well, I’m sure it didn’t hurt, but really, it was just an excuse to have a work party (emphasis, as usual, on the party) on the farm.
Elk fence posts were moved into place, and a lot of invasive plants were removed, liberating a nice patch of salal that I want to encourage.
We got to watch Tim, Luke and Nate construct a wild chair out of a challenging assortment of scrap wood (still holding true to the rules: 2 hours and only a chainsaw and a nail gun for tools).  And we all gazed in admiration at the wild Old Man Winter constructed by the Family Daire.
It was another amazing potluck in the greenhouse. The food was beautiful and delicious, Farmer Fred’s onion rings were, as usual, a big hit, we all drank a lot of great beer. (Thanks Fort George!)
Burning Old Man Winter was very satisfying–great strategic black powder placement, guys.  It was particularly lovely when the surprise that the family Daire included in their construction caused Mr. Winter’s head to explode.
Homemade s’mores were enjoyed,
and I got  marshmallow stuck in my hair.
 Good times, good times.
Reason #2 Elk Fence No. 1 goes up
I can’t really use this as an excuse for not posting, as I had very little to do with the actual building of the fence beyond making sure we had a good supply of cold beer in the house and trying to make sure I fed our amazing MOOFers. MOOFers?!? I hear you ask! Well, any old farm can have WWOOFers come and stay- volunteers coordinated through an international program who come stay and work on small farms all over the world.
We are fortunate to have our own program: Musicians OOur Farm! Young Luke and The Lovely Kati moved back into the BP tour bus this spring after the band finished recording their new musical offering–released on September 13th! You should order a copy and support the Official Band of 46 North Farm.
The hayloft was pressed into service as musical practice space, and the whole barn hummed with music all summer long- it was lovely.   I have a very fond memory of looking out our kitchen window to see an entire up-and-coming indie band horking grass clods our of our newly tilled soil, helping to get it ready for planting.  I then spent the afternoon transplanting in the greenhouse listening to bits and pieces of music wafting across the farm–sometimes an entire song, often just a phrase over and over again, but always good. Every farm should have a band.
Luke and Kati have been amazing partners on the farm this summer, simply amazing. We would come home from our Day Jobs and find another whole wall of fence posts up and braced, ready to do their part in protecting our crops from inquisitive (and hungry) elk and deer.
Kati is a tireless weeder and has a natural feel for transplanting, for which I am eternally grateful.  She saved many seedlings from certain death, and all of our lettuce mix plant start fans should kneel down before her in gratitude, because really she’s the only reason we had anything like a steady supply for a while this season.
Packy got to participate in Concrete Day!  Which I think he would have rather avoided in retrospect. He and Luke spent a day humping around a huge hose line filled with concrete to each fence post as each post hole was set in concrete. It was a LOT of concrete- they figure about 10 tons altogether.
It takes a lot to kick Luke’s ass, but I finally got to see him completely tired out that day.
Kati, Luke and Packy all participated in Wire Stretching Day as well. Dan the Brushtamer came out with his tractor and they all worked together to pull the fencing wire along and get it stapled on tight.
Dan had to leave early, so Kati was designated new Project Tractor Driver. After a quick lesson from Dan, she took to it like she’d been born in a tractor cab. Way, way better than my first attempt at driving The Beast.  Packy and Dan still like to point out the crooked edge I left to the lower tilled field.
As I said, I was mostly moral and catering support on this project. I was usually to be found in the greenhouse, frantically trying to start seeds and transplant to keep our plant stand at the Astoria Co-op supplied and to get ready for:
Reason #3   Market Season
We managed to get to the Astoria Sunday Market a few times this year. I wish it could have been more, but our schedules just couldn’t stretch enough to loose the only two days off we had from our Day Jobs and get farm work done. Sunday Market is an all day commitment, and Saturday has to be spent harvesting and prepping for Sunday. We just needed more time to work at the farm this year. It was great to be back for the time we were there though- so many familiar faces and old friends came by to say hello and pick up some plant starts from us- I began feeling like myself again on those days, which felt wonderful.
Reason #4 New Farmers Market!
Last year saw the launching of a new organization in our community, North Coast Food Web, of which I am a founding board member. We’ve been meeting regularly and working on all sorts of projects to help build a strong healthy local food economy here on the North Oregon Coast, and our first major project was to get a small, food-and-flowers only weekday farmers market started in Astoria. Again, I can’t really say that I was tremendously helpful in this effort- we have a thriving and dedicated group of board members who have pulled this off beautifully.
46 North Farm is proud to be one of the inaugural vendors at this market! It has been wonderful to see so many new small farmers come together for this market, as well as the seafood offerings, community booths and prepared foods on offer. What I like most is how local the audience is- the timing makes it good for coastal residents in the Astoria area to stop by, pick up some groceries for the week, listen to a bit of good music, run into friends, catch up on local gossip and enjoy a market place atmosphere that is low-key and full of great fresh food. Great volunteers help keep this market going, and we are excited to be a part of it.  Plus I get to talk to people for hours about edible plants and growing food and flowers- bliss.
Reason #4  Houseguests 
We had both Packy’s lovely mum Lupe and my father, the wonderful Ralph-Dad come to stay this spring. When you don’t get to see your parents very often, it just seems more important to spend time visiting with them while they are around, which is what we tried to do whenever we weren’t working.  It was great to see them, but we didn’t take any pictures while they were here because we lost our camera somewhere on the farm on Burning Chair Man day, and didn’t replace it until just recently.

Reason #5 The Day Job got Very Busy
It has been a big year at North Coast Land Conservancy, the wonderful local land trust where I work when not working on the farm! Late spring and early summer saw us launch a new website, publish a beautiful insert celebrating our 25th Anniversary in the Daily Astorian and host six community celebrations (two a week for three weeks!) from Astoria to Nehalem. A highlight of the celebrations was showing this short video piece I worked to put together with the help of some amazing photography from Neal Maine and Tom Horning and original music supplied by the best MOOFers a farmer could have around. This was pushing the boundaries of my technical capabilities, but it was worth it. Check it out:
Reason #6 Wedding on the Farm!
We hosted a wedding on our farm this summer. That is was our own wedding probably made it all a bit more complicated and time consuming than it might otherwise have been, but in the end it was worth it. Lots of work parties and friends and family helping out made the farm shine, and the day turned out to be just phenomenal. One of the best days of my life.
I can’t even begin to describe all the individuals who did amazing things to help make the day possible. Many people have commented on the location, and how beautiful it all was. I know that it wasn’t as much the place as it was the people who made it such a magical day… we are very, very fortunate farmers to have such good friends, and such an amazing community to be a part of.
There was beautiful produce from local farmers, and dear friends like Jane and Lori helped the amazing Kristin coordinate the best potluck anyone had ever seen.

Those beautiful Vietnamese spring rolls were made by my nephew Vladimir, a recent grad from cooking school in Portland.  He was wonderfully helpful, and we hope to persuade him to come back and cook for us again as everything he made was gone by the time we actually got hungry.  We missed a lot of good food that day, although we enjoyed very high quality leftovers for quite some time.  I heard that it was basically impossible to try everything, there was just too much, and it was all delicious.

The lovely Iris of the Blue Scorcher Bakery made the most beautiful, delicious wedding cake ever, plus some glorious extra cakes too:

Farmer Fred Johnson brought over his huge barbeque and grilled lamb from Lance & Tammi’s farm and fresh caught Chinook salmon.

And his interns made onion rings!

The multi-talented Dana, head of the Fort George kitchens, took a whole pig from Lance & Tammi and turned it into the most delicious assortment of pork products- ham, ribs, chops, sausage, pork belly wonderfulness, even head cheese- I tried to taste some of everything, and I know I failed.  I did get to eat the most sublime pork chop of my life though:

Dear friends took all of our farm flowers, and flowers from friends’ gardens, and turned them into beautiful bouquets:

Our best friend Scott performed the ceremony and made sure that Packy didn’t run away beforehand.

There was wonderful music arranged by the MOOFer gang– an ever changing assortment of band line ups that were all fabulous. Some dancing happened, there was much drinking and frivolity, more bouquet tossing than usual at a wedding, and a whole lot of marshmallow roasting around the new fire pit. Lots of good stories were told, and many good stories were made that day and night too.

And  I got to wear red Wellington boots to my wedding. It was a really good day.

So that’s why I’ve been too busy to work on the farm blog.  I’m out of good excuses now, so I’ll just have to get back to writing more often and telling more stories.  There are already a few good ones lined up and just about ready to go….

Bursting at the seams

I have to remind myself that the sun DID come out recently- and it was glorious. I just wish it would come back, I am so tired of everything being muddy and soggy and cold…. but you can tell that the seasons have shifted, and even though winter is putting up a fight, spring is definitely moving in. Whew.

I was just prodded by the delightful and oh-so-helpful Naomi of Naomi’s Organic Farm Supplyin Portland to post some updated greenhouse and plant photos, so Naomi- these are for you!

Lettuce is just the most beautiful plant- so many colors and textures and shapes and sizes. Who needs flowers? Just plant lettuce….

The tomatoes are hanging in there… slowly coming to terms with the cool weather, but not ready to move outside anytime soon.

We have a plant stand outside the Astoria Co-opfull of fantastic greens and herbs that are eager to get planted, and will keep it stocked through the season with great edible plants for your coastal garden. If you miss us at one of our market appearances this year, you can always get plants at the Co-op.

Isn’t this the most luscious sight? I love the blocks of color you get with lettuce. From left to right: Merlot, Buttercrunch and the amusingly named but also delicious Drunken Woman Frizzy Headed. Yum!

If you need a little Edible Gardening Inspiration, I’ll be speaking at the Seaside Public Library this coming Saturday, April 30th at 1:00p.m. If you came to the Master Gardeners Spring Garden Seminar on the 16th, you’ve already seen this presentation, but if you missed it, join me as I go through the joys and challenges of Growing Edible Plants on the North Coast! It IS possible.
But it sure would be easier with a bit more sun.
Update on the Elk Fence soon!!

Eddie and Squeaky are beside themselves waiting for me to plant some of the catnip outside, and sneak into the greenhouse for their fix when they think I’m not looking…

Over a Thousand Reasons Why We Need an Elk Fence

It was a wonderful feeling to get to spend two whole days in the greenhouse starting seeds, transplanting seedlings and breathing in that unique spring smell of potting soil, liquid kelp and growing green things. I am constantly amazed at how I completely loose track of time when I do this work–one minute I’m heading down to the greenhouse with my last cup of coffee to get started, and the next minute I go to take a sip of my nice warm beverage and find that the coffee is stone cold and five hours have passed.

Whenever I have doubts about my sanity at choosing farming as a career, I remember that this is the only job I have ever done where I continually loose myself in the work, coming to with a smile on my face and wishing that the sun would stay up for just another hour or so, as the ten hours I’ve already spent in the greenhouse just aren’t quite enough.

Thanks to our good friend and fellow farmer Fred Johnson of Fred’s Homegrown Farm and Produce in Naselle, Washington we have inherited some great greenhouse tables that are making organizing the rapidly growing number of seedlings in the greenhouse slightly more manageable. Even though this is the biggest greenhouse we’ve ever had (30′ by 50′) I can still see it being full in another month or so, once the tomatoes come out from under the grow lights.
Which is why it is suddenly very urgent that we find a way to deal with some of our neighbors:
I know there are only 14 of them visible here, but trust me, there are at least 35 members of our local gang of Roosevelt elk that saunter through the farm every few weeks, enjoying what little remains of our cover crop. And if they weren’t enough of a reason:

It looks like Fawn Fawn and The Fawns have all made it through the winter, and they are savoring the cover crop as well. I quite like the ‘evil glowing eyes’ effect in this image–it reminds me that no matter how cute the deer are, and how sweet it is that Fawn Fawn will come right up and nuzzle at your hand (looking for a snack), they are by their nature voracious creatures who will eat every damn thing we plant if we don’t put a fence around it.

The fence update is as follows:
We finally got our application in to the NRCS (National Resource Conservation Service) to possibly receive some grant funding to help with several farm projects, including a ‘pest control fence’ and hopefully some pollinator habitat, and maybe some water catchment system help.
But here’s the catch- there is limited funding, and if our application is approved, it goes into a pool of all the other NRCS project applications in Oregon, where they are all ranked by priority. They go down the list funding the projects until the money runs out. Which means that even if our project is approved and recommended, it could still not get funded.
Plus, it’s a reimbursement grant. Even if we did get approved and funded for our Pest Control Fence, we have to buy all the materials and build the fence first (not starting any work before the contract is signed or else the work that’s been done is not eligible for funding) and then once the NRCS verifies that we have built the fence to their specifications, they will reimburse us for whatever amount they pay per foot for fencing.

The primary reason we are applying for NRCS funding assistance is because we have limited economic resources, and coming up with the cash to buy the thousands of dollars worth of fencing material needed to build the fence in the first place is a huge challenge. This part of NRCS funding is a tough hurdle for small, start up operations that don’t have a lot of cash available for property improvements. If we had the money to buy the materials for the fence in the first place, we wouldn’t be looking for financial assistance from the NRCS!
We’ll see what happens with our application, but in the meantime we’re working on some ideas for how to at least fence off the area surrounding our greenhouse on our own. It’s crucial that we have a way to harden plants off outside before bringing them to market (without having to sit out all night with a shotgun, guarding them) and maybe even get some crops in the ground this year, all so that 46 North Farm can finally start earning its keep.
So, we’re planning a fence-raising day for sometime in late May, and given that it will take place of our farm, it will no doubt involve lots of good food and drink and setting something on fire as well. Creative financing ideas are in the works, and we are actually feeling optimistic about it all, which is pretty amazing given the challenges.
Stay tuned for how you (yes, you!) can take part in helping our small farm take a huge leap forwards this Spring…

I got distracted and didn’t do a post about the Snow Day we had in February, which is a shame as we took some amazing photos of the farm all covered in white stuff. Packy and Squeaky and I enjoyed ourselves enormously, but Eddie preferred to keep his delicate paws indoors, waiting for the thaw…

A Simple Packet of Seeds is Not So Simple

I am working on getting all of our seeds ordered for this year so that we can get seeds sown and plants growing and ready for market. I feel a bit rusty–we didn’t really order many seeds in 2010, and hardly sold anything at all. Cash flow was tight, and we were focusing on rebuilding the farm’s infrastructure in and around working full time off the farm to keep the bills paid.

It isn’t that the cash flow is much better this year, but we are determined to at least be back selling plant starts in May and June, and maybe more later in the summer, if we can work out some fencing issues. We’ve missed being at the local markets, our customers have missed us too, and we don’t want to stay away much longer. We can’t grow produce until we get our major fencing issues sorted out, but plant starts are probably manageable. And if our farm is going to sell anything this year, we need to buy seeds.

I find myself feeling ridiculously happy ordering seeds for varieties that I haven’t seen growing for almost two years now. It’s like knowing that some of my favourite old friends are coming for a visit, and I just can’t wait to see them. I missed the colorful lettuce varieties I’ve come to love growing (and eating!) each year, all the fragrant herbs and oh–the flowers! I’ve really missed the waves of color and texture that filled our farm with beauty and happy buzzing bees each year. There were so many plants like poppies, calendula, chamomile, borage, feverfew and nasturtiums that just happily sowed themselves on our old farm without any help from us, and I got used to just knowing they would pop up each spring and start blooming like mad. We had a few volunteers last year that came with us on the soil when we dug up our perennial herbs to move them to the new farm, but it wasn’t like it used to be. I do know that it will be like that again someday. Patience is one of the first lessons in farming.

Taking my time looking through all the seed catalogs is one of the joys of winter for me. Each company has its own personality and image, and all the websites work differently which can sometimes make ordering very time consuming, but still worth it.
I always feel a thrill when the Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds catalog arrives. Packy refers to it as Seed Porn, and he isn’t far off. It is one of the most beautiful catalogs I’ve ever seen, but more than that, they have such an amazing selection of heirloom seeds. I have to be careful, as their Mid-western climate is way different from the North Oregon Coast and there is much on offer that will just die a horrible death here in our challenging growing season. All those exotic melons and eggplants, and the 100+ day winter squash that you know will never ripen here, plus all those amazing tomatoes….. I would love to grow some of those huge, beautiful, colorful heirloom tomatoes! But I know better, and try to stick to the smaller, shorter season ones that at least have a chance of ripening here.

Anther favourite catalog is Seed Savers Exchange. Gorgeous to look at, but also full of beautiful heirloom varieties that have amazing stories to tell about the history of plant cultivation. I love the stories almost as much as I love the actual plants, and Seed Savers Exchange is a wonderful organization, doing critical work to support the diversity of plant varieties available to both home gardeners and commercial growers.
A big topic of discussion among growers lately has been the acquisition of Seminis Inc., a leading vegetable and fruit seed company, by Monsanto, a company whose very name inspires strong feelings of loathing from much of the small organic farming community. Why are the champions of genetically engineered seeds getting into the organic seed market? There is a lot of speculation, and I don’t suppose we’ll really know how it will play out for a while. There is a great article on this subject on Seed Alliance’s website that I recommend reading if you are interested in knowing more about this.
Why is this an issue for us? Well, I’m not eager to give my money to a company like Monsanto if I can avoid it. Many of the catalogs we love to order from like Johnny’s Selected Seeds of Maine, and Territorial Seeds of Oregon buy a lot of their seed from Seminis, and now Seminis is owned by Monsanto, so it means that even if the seed I’m buying isn’t one of their GMO gems, I’m effectively sending money to Monsanto anyway.
Cue the Darth Vader theme music….
I’m really struggling with this one. There are things I love to order from Johnny’s and Territorial, some things I can only get from them, and they haven’t sold out to Monsanto. I’m sure they aren’t thrilled about the situation, but they are just as stuck with the situation as their customers, as there are no other companies out there that can supply the volume they need. But if I order from them, how do I know that the varieties I’m buying aren’t Seminis Seeds, and thus by buying them I’m supporting The Evil Empire? Jeez. I just want to grow good healthy plants from organic seed wherever possible, and this is just not something I want to wrangle with! I haven’t decided what to do yet, but I’m running out of time.
I’ve already been struggling with the guilt of buying one packet of Cottage Red marigold seeds every other year from Burpee, who I still can’t forgive for moving Heronswood Nursery from its home near Seattle (before I ever got a chance to visit in person!) to Pennsylvania, transforming their eloquent, extensive, picture-less catalog into a glossy on-line deal that dumbed down the plant offerings and now focuses on hardy perennials that favor East Coast gardens. Grrr.
Cottage Red is one of my favourite marigolds–I love using it in our Edible and Ball Jar Bouquets. You can whack hard at it all summer and it keeps blooming like mad, and is one of the last flowers to give in to frost. Unfortunately, it was discovered in Mexico by Dan Hinkley, the founder of Heronswood, and apparently the seed got sold to Burpee along with the rest of the business because they are the only ones that carry it, other than The Cook’s Garden, a charming little seed company that is now owned by- you guessed it- Burpee. This year, I swear, I am saving seeds from this plant.

Fortunately the equally beautiful Frances Hoffman’s Choice, my other favourite marigold to grow (pictured above in one of our Edible Bouquets) was bred by the brilliant and committed-to-plant-diversity Alan Kapuler of Peace Seeds, and is widely available from seed companies I actually want to support. Whew.

The consolidation of seed company ownership is a huge topic, and one worthy of it’s own post someday. It is worrisome for anyone who cares about biodiversity, and I am not happy about it. A long-term goal for our farm is to begin saving our own seeds wherever we can, and all this seed company consolidation just inspires me even more to do that. I already struggled with this ‘who am I really buying seeds from’ issue when Seeds of Change, one of the pioneers of organic seed, was sold to M&M-Mars Candy (!)
Even if I didn’t hate their new plastic seed packets –which I profoundly do– I still just feel weird ordering from them now that they have sold out to an enormous corporate food company. When the new Seeds of Change switched to plastic seed packets, they made a big pitch for how much better they are, how they are re-sealable, and that they don’t use that much plastic really. Hmmm. I find that small seeds get such a static charge from the plastic that they stick to the inside much worse than paper packets, and much more is wasted. Plus- plastic! What are they thinking?! How does that fit with their crunchy organic image? I still get their catalog, it is quite beautiful, and it seems like they do many good things as a company. But there is so much less variety in the seeds they offer now, and I just don’t feel as compelled to buy seed from them anymore.
However, even in the midst of this ‘who do I order from’ frustration, I find that there are options. This year I am excited to be ordering from two small organic seed companies, both of them located in the Pacific Northwest, both of whom source their seeds from Northwest growers. Siskiyou Seeds in Williams, Oregon, and Uprising Seeds in Bellingham, Washington are both small, and their selection is not extensive, but they both have some great varieties for sale. The upside for us is that these are all varieties grown in our region, so the likelihood of them doing well here on the North Coast is good.

I found both catalogs at Naomi’s Organic Farm Supply in Portland, and I thank her for turning me on to both these companies, because they are just the kind of businesses that our small farm wants to support. It feels good to keep our seed buying a bit more local where we can. As a small business ourselves, we know how much it means to us when people choose to spend their money buying from us, knowing that they can often get something similar somewhere else, and probably get it cheaper too. It’s a challenge for a farmer- obviously you want to grow the varieties people want to buy, and you want to offer them the best choice for the best price you can give them and still stay in business and be reasonably profitable. Add in trying to do the right thing and buy seeds from companies that are not part of the corporate industrial food system and you find yourself walking though a rapidly changing minefield.

We’ll do our best to offer the best selection we can this year, try to find out as much as possible about where our seed comes from, make the best choices we can, and pass that knowledge on to you so that you can make your own choices as well.

And as we always have, we’ll continue to focus on growing plants that do well on the Northwest Coast. We’ll use organic seed wherever it is available, and grow primarily heirloom and open-pollinated varieties, with the occasional hybrid thrown in where it is really just the only thing like it. Like Sungold tomatoes. I hear rumor that someone is trying to de-hybridize Sungold and breed a stable OP version of it. I am really looking forward to trying it.
And yes, Eddie, I promise we will grow lots of catnip this year.