Friday, January 30, 2009

Mike Nominated for White House Farmer!!!

Imagine my surprise when on Wednesday Jan. 28th I was directed to a web site,, to find my name listed as a nominee for becoming the White House Farmer. "Inspired by a recent New York Times article by Michael Pollan, an Illinois family is sowing support for a White House farmer with a Web site allowing people to nominate and vote for their favorite growers.

Michael Pollan called for the appointment of a White House farmer to complement the White House chef. Pollan suggested replacing five acres of the White House's South Lawn with an organic fruit and vegetable garden.

The nominees range from 10 teens in Alameda, Calif., who grow food for more than 500 formerly homeless people to former pro basketball player Will Allen, an urban farmer in Milwaukee. The election ends Saturday, when organizer Terra Brockman plans to forward the names of the top three vote-getters to the White House.

More than 100 farmers from 33 states and Washington, D.C., had been nominated by Thursday afternoon, while more than 27,000 votes had been cast."

According to Brockman, nominations and votes trickled in at first, but then word spread among farming and foodie groups. In the past few weeks, "it's kind of gone crazy," said Brockman, 50, of Congerville, Ill.

I am flattered to have been nominated and to be considered among such a distinguished and accomplished group of farmers. Though I am treating this whole affair with tongue in cheek it has raised some rather interesting questions for me.

First, I am thrilled that something like this has even taken place; that 27,000 votes have been cast as a result of one families vision, and that the voting public of foodies and farm advocates got out there and cast votes. It's encouraging to think that the top three candidates could be presented to the President and that in turn might actually be appointed. That's a lot of maybes, but I get excited whenever I witness these experiments in democracy.

The nomination has also prompted me to ask some of the tough questions like "what could I offer in a position like this". It quickly makes clear to me that I am primarily an egotist driven by things like fear of failure and selfishness. However, like all things I cannot help but posses some redeeming qualities, and also found my self taking inventory of those qualities which make me unique among such a distinguished group of farmers. The bottom line is that were I ever given an opportunity like this I think it would support the idea that "anything is possible", and I would delight in the value of the experience for my daughter. Beyond that I really do believe that from a brass tacks perspective, few can offer the level of fortitude, the experience, and the work ethic that I would bring to the position.

That said, if you have not yet cast your votes please do so. The two front runners have developed a clear lead, and I would be tempted to carefully consider the vote count for the third place position before making a decision.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Back Down

The old barn rests firmly on its new foundation, with a thorough replacement of all the rotted floor joist and rim joist. Now we do a few "last minute adjustments" to try and straighten the walls a bit, and its time to start in on the roof.

This photo highlights the new structural timbers beams and rim joist located just above the foundation.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Barn Settling Back Down

Shortly after Christmas and before all the excitement of the New Year and the threat of flooding, CDI began lowering the barn down onto its new foundation. In these pictures they got it to within about two feet and then began to remove their cribbing and bracing. This new lower elevation allowed us to address the replacement of the rim joist without needing to climb up and down ladders. Why I didn't have them lower it before we replaced the floor joists I may never know.

It was a fascinating process. Watching them lower the structure was a pleasure. They maintained complete control of the building and were actually able to move the structure forward and back and side to side as little as 1/8 inch at a time if necessary to match the new foundation.

Flood Recovery Before and After

Above is a slideshow of photos of the house and farm recovery before and after the flooding of December 2007.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Dodged a Bullet

This past week was spent in a flurry of activity putting things up and moving equipment to prepare for yet another flood. When we heard the temperature was going to rise and that a warm wet storm was expected we were horrified. I began the process of freaking out early in the week as I became more withdrawn and short tempered. A bonafide %&$#. I was hoping for the best but as reports continued to come in and as river forecast outlooks became increasingly grim I began to worry in earnest. It was not until Tuesday evening that I decided to act. That night we moved all the tractors and field trucks to high ground. After doing the books for the week I packed up the office and on Wednesday morning the crew came out and we set to work. We loaded all the office furniture and appliances into one of our delivery trucks, and the produce and freezers into another. I moved all my tools into the attic above the garage. We picked up everything that could float and put it in the barn, which had just been set back on its foundation (more later). We strapped down all the gigantic stuff that could float, got all of our fuel up and out of the way, loaded trailers with equipment and filled the barn with boxes and bags and inventory and supplies.

It took ten people about 9 hours to effectively move everything out of harms way. Our house is about 24 inches above grade, our laundry and the attached office as well as the shop and garage are ground level. That evening we moved the last of the vehicles and the loader tractor to high ground along with the delivery trucks full of produce, furniture and appliances.

By Wednesday at 12:30 in the afternoon the South Fork broke its banks and began filling the low spot behind the house. As the water rushed to equalize with the river the level rose a staggering 18 inches the first hour then 9, then 6. The water rose in this bowl about 6 inches per hour for the next five hours, then slowed to 5, then 4. I was checking the level every hour and preparing to put stuff up in the house the moment the water started into the yard; estimating that at 3-4 inches/hour we would have plenty of time to get everything put up and evacuate. By 2:30 am Thursday morning the water was rising at a rate of 1.75 inches per hour, and it crested at about 4am leaving just over 12 inches before threatening the yard.

I slept from about 5-11 that day and just had my first real meal last night. Though the river didn't threaten the house, and crested well below expected in the lower Chehalis valleys, the emotional ride was awful. Our recovery required a healthy dose of denial that the kind of flooding that we experienced in 2007 could ever happen again. The feeling of helplessness as I watched the water rise again, the knowledge that it had happened before.......

Yeah, anyway. We are safe and sound, as are my agricultural brothers and sisters in Independence Valley. I have yet to get a solid report from the community around Duval and Carnation. So thanks to all of you who emailed and phoned with your concern, thanks for the prayers and the help.

We intend to leave everything were it is for the time being and enjoy the peace of mind that should we have to put it up again we have successfully completed a drill and are fully capable and equipped to prepare given enough notice.

Do check out this site:

Click on a river and it provides real time flow and discharge as well as a forecast which in my experience is close enough to extrapolate from and form a plan of action.