Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Barn Progress

A few days ago JR Roofing from Olympia came out and stripped the two layers of old roofing from the barn. Originally the barn was roofed with cedar shingles, then later a layer of cedar shake was added. Both were badly weathered and in desperate need of replacement. We are replacing them with a metal roof. Though perhaps not as pleasing as cedar, the metal will provide a level of protection and longevity that current cedar products would not.

Now that the material has been removed from the roof we can address any issues with the structure itself. Though the skip sheathing is badly rotted in places we may be able to salvage quite a bit. The rafters seem to have been spared owing in part to the quality of this old lumber, and we should not have to do any major structural repair or replacement. With the weight of the roofing material removed and before the metal goes on we will set a bunch of come-alongs and cable and see if we can't straighten the old girl out just a bit.

Monday, February 16, 2009

A Return to the Motherland

After Christmas is over Heidi and I kind of fly below radar for a while trying to make time for a little R&R. On the 28th we set off for the beach and spent about a week watching Franky Avalon movies and walking the magnificent coast outside of Moeclips and snuggling our daughter. Not wanting the party to end we stopped at Hannah's (our friend and farm manager) on our way back to the house and spent another couple days with her family. She has a big family and a warm and welcoming home in a converted barn outside Pe Ell.

Then it was back to the house where we try to get two big jobs done before the 18th of January every year; the seed order and the WSDA Organic Certification Renewal. They are not glory jobs but the seed order and the certification both offer a great opportunity to look back over last year and plan for a new season. We also go over the customer survey responses from the CSA and pour over Market and Commercial sales info to come up with a comprehensive plan for the coming season.

Then it is time for our annual pilgrimage to the homeland, Douglassville PA. I was born in Pottstown PA, about 10 miles from Douglassville, and lived there until I was seventeen and off to college. Located in Berks county PA, Douglassville is just a little berg that has become developed over the years and though it retains some of its original charm is largely unrecognizable from the memories of my childhood. My parents home is over two hundred years old and not at all out of the ordinary for the area. Field stone farm houses, barns and even long field stone fences are common. The nearby township of Oley is in its entirety a historic landmark, and it is quite easy to have a beer or sandwich in a pub that housed soldiers from the revolution. You cannot turn around without bumping into an historic marker.

One of the things I recognize when I am "back East" is this sense of history. It is tangible, literally. Like when you open a door and your hand rests on a hand made iron knob that has been turned every day for 200 years you can feel it. When the big oak door swings effortlessly on hand forged hinges, and closes with a sharp and perfect click, it says something. The banister in my parents house has been polished by the hands of people for two centuries, the old the young; sliding down from the second floor making the tight turn at the top and hoping not to get caught; "Michael David are you sliding down the banister!!!!"
When we visit nearby Philadelphia we walk the narrow brick streets with stone curbs which still have the rings set for tieing up your horses, and see rows of red brick homes with black doors. Here you can visit Bettsy Ross's house, see the liberty bell, and stand in the room where the declaration of Independence was drafted. There is art every where, I love the hidden bronze sculpture of Caulder's all over the city, and the Philadelphia art museum itself is an imposing part of the landscape.

The other thing I always enjoy is the food. OK, I'll level with you; it is difficult but not impossible to find fresh local organic produce in Philly, and to their credit it is getting easier all the time and many restaurants have begun featuring such culinary oddities. However it is easy to find your choice of prosciutto, yes choice. You can walk into any of a number of delis and get capocolla, and soppresatta, fresh mozzarella and asiago, roasted red peppers, stuffed olives, fresh bread from Philly or New York (flown in daily). Fugettaboutit. And my parents cooking.........Cappelletti; that's Italian for little hats, and here they are; hand made stuffed with pork sausage and floating in a bowl of chicken broth. And the cheese steaks with a bag of Utz potato chips, mmmmmm. OK enough.
Wait, one more thing. On day two of our visit I went into town to Vinccenzos and bought so much lunch meat and olives that the owner asked if I was hosting a party and threw in two loaves of bread. I smiled and said yes, thank you.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Puyallup farmer Carrie Anne Little Wins Second in White House Farmer Election

Carrie Anne Little of Mother Earthy Farm ,http://www.efoodnet.org/mother_earth.htm, in Puyallup took second place in the White House Farmer Contest we posted a few days ago. Claire Strader of Wisconsin narrowly won first place, and Margaret Lloyd of California took third. Thanks to everyone who voted for me and placed me at a respectable 24th among a field of accomplished farmers and sustainable ag advocates. The results can be viewed at http://whitehousefarmer.com/?page_id=119 The most thrilling aspect of this whole event for me is that almost 56,000 people voted in about ten days. It is inspiring and encouraging to imagine the level of awareness and commitment of the nation to bring the issues of our current food system and of sustainable agriculture to the forefront of the American consciousness.

A big giant congratulations to the three top nominees and to everyone else nominated, and a heartfelt thanks to everyone who voted for taking the time to cast your vote for a program that would place the issues of how we eat and who grows our food smack in the middle of the Whitehouse lawn. Now let's hope the current administration takes this outpouring of interest to heart and starts preparing for a successful season of small scale farming in the heart of our nations capitol. You can stay informed at http://whitehousefarmer.com/?page_id=354