Tuesday, December 14, 2010

the fence is up!

Many thanks to the Ramsey family for braving some really foul weather to help get a fence up at the farm this past weekend! On Saturday we dug holes and set in corner and end posts in concrete- all while it was raining.  The members of the Ramsey family are troopers- and they didn’t stop there!  We were back out on Sunday pounding T-posts and stretching fencing across the posts.  Jeff and I literally couldn’t have done it without them.  Thank you, thank you!

(part of) the Ramsey Family 

The design of the fence is cheap and simple.  There are 7 foot end and corner posts are cemented in with 7 foot T-stakes every 10 feet in between. All the posts are in two feet in the ground.  I bought the posts at Superior Fence, a local fence supply store.  The fencing is a 5 foot high deer and rabbit fence, which I bought off craigslist from a nice guy in Kelso, WA who gets fencing that is rejected from the manufacturer for slight flaws.  

Jeff and I finished the fence on Monday and were rewarded with a rainbow! (two rainbows, actually if you look closely). I am really happy with how it turned out.  Come by and see it sometime!!

Monday, December 6, 2010

giving thanks

A lot has been going on at Blue House Greenhouse Farm and there is a lot for which to be thankful!  A couple of weeks ago, as many of you may recall, we had some LOW temperatures dipping into the upper teens. Yikes.  We were really worried about the seedlings growing in the cloches- the ones that were transplanted and the ones that had begun to grow from seed.  After the few nights (and days!) of below freezing temperatures, we dared to check under the plastic. All the seedlings made it just fine!  The fava bean cover crop was touched a little by frost but is recovering splendidly.  Thank goodness.

And thank goodness for friends and family- for many, many reasons, specifically here for the help they give to this project!  The day after Thanksgiving, after our pie breakfast, my mom, sister, Jeff, Jessie, Dave and Buddy headed out to the farm for a few hours of weeding in the rain!  No better way to work off a feast. 

Jen working on the north wall of the greenhouse
That following Saturday and Monday, my sister, Jen, Jeff, and I worked on the greenhouse. From the frame pictured in the last posting, we added a door and plywood wall to the north side, connected them to each other, fastened them to the frame with zip ties, and screwed them into the base boards. It’s remarkably sturdier than it sounds!  On the south side we attached a wooden structure connecting the PVC frame to the baseboards to eventually make a vent for the greenhouse.  This may be hard to picture, especially since I don’t have a photo, but I encourage any of you to come and see it for yourselves!  Lastly we covered the whole structure with 6 mil greenhouse plastic and secured it with the wire lock (which is used to fasten the plastic to the base boards and plywood sides).  It is beautiful.   There is still more work to do to get it ready for starting seeds this late winter, but it really looks like a greenhouse now! 

In this photo, you can see how the north wall is attached to the
 PVC frame, the structure of the south wall and how the wire
lock is attached to the base boards and north wall

What’s coming up next you may be wondering? A fence.  If you have any suggestions, experience, materials for building a fence- please contact me!  I will definitely be working on this fence this coming Saturday, December 11- so if you are interested in coming out to help, please let me know!! bluehousegreenhouse@gmail.com

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

volunteers are the best

First of all, thanks so much to the volunteers that came out this past Saturday- Adam, Dave, Jessie, and Jeff- you all are the best!

It was the first ever volunteer day at the Blue House Greenhouse Farm! We started to build the greenhouse, which was quite an adventure. The design of the greenhouse at the farm is adapted from the Eliot Coleman book, "Four Season Harvest," and is similar (but larger) to the greenhouse Jeff and I built at our home. It is 10 by 20 feet long with a wood base and PVC hoop frame.  The two end hoops have 20 foot lengths of rebar to make the frame more stable.  We dug, leveled, and nailed the base, then cut, glued, and bent the hoops to the beautiful structure you see below!

Jessie and Dave demonstrate the sturdiness of the greenhouse

The next tasks for the greenhouse are to frame the door, make the end walls, and cover with plastic.  If you are interested in more of the particulars of the greenhouse building I'd be happy to share, or better yet- volunteer! I'm going to need some help with these tasks. email me at bluehousegreenhouse@gmail.com. 

After- Dave admiring his work 
Not only did we work on the greenhouse, but Dave satisfied his desire to clear overgrown weeds- blackberries, clematis, and ivy. The picture on the left shows the weeds behind the compost pile. And the picture on the right shows the weeds gone and the fence that was there all along!

Stay tuned for updates on the farm and the effects of these freezing temperatures-yikes!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

fall planting

lettuce and kale starts, mustards,
arugula and spinach seeds
This past week I planted two 70x5 foot beds. One may wonder, in November? in the rainy NW? Well, yes! I planted seedlings-varieties of lettuce, kale, and tatsoi- I'd started in our greenhouse at home. And as a bit of an experiment, I planted seeds of mustard, lettuce, spinach, arugula and more!

Briana, so happy to be volunteering!

The crucial factor is that these rows are under plastic. Last Friday, with help of my friend, Briana, we set up cloches (a term for a covering that extends the growing season) made of PVC and 6mil greenhouse plastic over those two rows.
the final product

So far so good! When I checked on them yesterday- the seedlings were doing well and the arugula had already sprouted! I will keep you updated on this experiment.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

just in time for halloween...

Garlic! Over this past week I planted 10 pounds of garlic.  Chesnok Red, Kettle River Giant, and Asian Tempest. I also planted a pound of Dutch Yellow shallots.  It went well, trying to get in the ground in between the rains. I'm not complaining- the timing of the rain has been perfect for germinating the cover crop!  The clover is well on its way to covering the north part of the field.

It may be hard to tell what's going on here. That's me, planting garlic.  

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

amendments and tilling!

In our last couple days of sunshine-we had to push to get the amendments tilled in and the cover crop planted. So last Thursday and Friday I rented a tiller from Brian at Kennedy Rentals who was really nice and helpful. I spread amendments over the field- lime (lots of it) to raise the pH, alfalfa pellets for nitrogen and a little potassium, green sand for more potassium, soft rock phosphate for.. well, phosphate, and gypsum for a little sulfur. And more compost! We got the amendments (all 1100 pounds!) from Concentrates NW a great farm supply store super close to our house. Then all the amendments and the compost were tilled in with the massive tiller.

compost and bags of lime

Jeff and I finishing spreading amendments in the dark

Friday afternoon my friend Dave and I broadcast crimson clover seed over the north portion of the field and small seeded fava beans on the south portion of the field. The idea is that the clover will be tilled in earlier than the favas for planting earlier in the season. The cover crops we got from Naomi's Farm Supply, another great farm supply store in Sellwood!

building a shed- with help from the family

It seems that every time my dad comes to visit I make him help me some sort of construction task- renovating the greenhouse at the food bank in Tucson and building a chicken coop at my house. This time my dad and his wife, Beth, built a shed. They were a HUGE help. Actually more than help-they really made it possible.

Some interesting facts about this shed:  It was built only with human power!  hammers and hand saws, if you can believe it.  There isn't a source of power on the land. A lot of the materials-wood, plywood and door- came from the Re-Building Center, which is great because it's only a few blocks away. We bought our paint from Metro Paint, which you should follow the link because it's really cool.
my dad, Beth and Jeff

My dad, Robert, painting the shed "Crater Lake" blue.


Lauren beginning the tilling as I watch in awe.
Photo taken by Mike- owner of Pizza A Go-Go

On Friday, October 15th Lauren Hill, a really nice man from Estacada, OR, brought his tractor and tilled the field!  It was a sight to see.  AND he spread the mountain of compost I'd received the week before.

we thought about leaving the grass square in the middle... but didn't.

urban legend- truth or misunderstanding?

There have been many people coming by the land to see what's going on, which has been great! Most everyone is excited and encouraging - and some have been concerned. There are varying degrees of the story I've heard about the potential toxicity of the land I'm trying to farm. I was told by the land owner that there had been a chemical storage facility and that it had burned down and that the soil had been tested and that it was now fine. I did test for lead anyway and the results were well below acceptable levels. Because of others' concern, I thought it wise to research further and do additional testing. See the about the land page for the links to the DEQ study and test results.

From my research I haven't found anything that would cause me to believe that farming this land is unsafe. I am continuing my research and conversations with professionals in the field to ensure the safety!  I will keep folks updated on my results.

One of the many things I've learned from this experience is the power of perception. It makes me wonder even if I had loads of proof as to the safety of this soil would people not want to buy produce from this land because of their perception of what the soil may contain?

We'll see. This may be a good experiment into the future of our food system!

celebrate! the beginning of the farm

On October 8th, I signed a contract to be able to use a third of an acre vacant lot on N Williams in Portland, OR. After months of searching and waiting - it happened! We are starting an urban farm!

the land- facing the south east corner

Minutes after meeting with the landowner and her mother (who owns the Tropicana Restaurant and is really sweet), I got on the phone with a guy to bring over a load of compost first thing the next morning.

compost, waiting for a way to get in the soil

 After receiving the compost (and waiting out a bit of rain) Jeff and I began  planning the layout of the farm and clearing some overgrown vines on the west side of the property to make room for the shed.

Jeff clearing vines