Growing

Planting has slowed and the garden is in growing stage. Matt waters each morning and checks for signs of new sprouting veggies. The tomatoes produced their first phase of flowers which have since been plucked to conserve energy for roots and height. A final bed was formed on the southern side of the garden for pumpkins, squash, cucumbers and broccoli. Now we wait.

Well, not quite. Now we focus attention on finishing the cedar edge to the garden and removing paint in preparation for a new house color. We never seem to get as much done as we expect to in a day or week.The list continues to loom.

Our homestead is a bit more fun with the addition of two new young hens. Dee Dee (or if you ask Matt, Didi) and Baja are our two newbies from another island farm. Baja is some sort of Easter egger and Dee Dee a barred rock. Both are very sweet, but too small to add into the “big girl” flock. They are content to be in a playpen eating treats while the big girls roam the yard. Little Baja was obviously picked on in her old flock…she has some injured tail feathers (they should replace just fine in a molt) and some crooked toes. We are splinting the toes to (we hope) straighten them out, but she may already be too old. She sure is cute! In two more weeks we adopt 2 more young hens from a friend of a friend and those 4 can grow bigger together. It is fun to add more hens, but also stressful. There are always fears of health issues and conflict, but that is also just part of the reality. Our older hens are laying less often so we need some young birds to pick up the slack.

Life on the island. Busy, busy busy, and good. We are going to take one day this long Memorial Day weekend to step back from projects and just have fun.

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Rules of the Farm

With nearly 15 hours of daylight right now we can put in some majorly long days in the garden. We have found a few ground rules (found through trial and error of course) help keep things smooth, on track, and productive around the farm.

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  • Drink water. We always have a water bottle in the garden with us and remind each other to use it! No passing out or headaches allowed.
  • Wear eye/ear protection always. Matt and I both make a point to emphasize this so it becomes second nature. Safety glasses may not look too sexy, but have saved our eyes many times from routine disturbances like flying soil, and more extreme things like flying nails or brackets when hanging the fence.
  • Eat breakfast. We take time to eat before we hit the garden. Again, no headaches or passing out (or getting grumpy) allowed.
  • Team decisions on project priorities. We learned very quickly that we can have different opinions and visions for what needs to get done when. This could lead to conflict with unmet expectations on what was going to get done. So now, we talk about it…a lot. We prioritize and stick to the list. When it gets derailed, we agree on when to take the alternate path and when to keep pressing on. Lots and lots of communication is key!
  • Take breaks. Matt and I are always checking in on how things are going. When one of us needs a break, we take it. No “just one more post” or “let’s just finish this”…we take the break. Drink lemonade, eat a snack, sit down. There is no shame in not powering through on our farm.
  • Always put the tools away. Always. The shovels are hung, extension cords coiled up and hand tools stored in the shed or basement. Always.
  • Laughter is not optional. There must always be teasing, laughing and fun! Even on those long, hard days when we are sore to the bone.

The result? More work gets done, fewer toes get stepped on and we are happy and healthy at the end of the day.

A Third Summer

This marks our third summer on the island. Our third planting season, our third garden, a third string of dinner and breakfasts outdoors in the yard.

It also means that we are more settled in, and making long term plans when we approach a project. The biggest change in our summer this year is the garden. We replaced the old 20×20 foot garden with a 65×45 foot massive sun filled one! Our summer now includes planning for and cultivating 3000 square feet of growing space! So far we have put in 12 blueberry bushes (5 varieties), 18 tomato starts, rhubarb and are waiting to transplant our strawberry patch. There are 4 fig trees waiting in pots, red currants and a huge pile of seeds just itching to go in. Right now we have two priorities: ripping up sod to make room  for planting and making the fence chicken/cat proof. We used remesh panels for the deer fence because we liked the look and cost, but little critters can still get under the bottom bar and through the 6 inch holes. The old fencing material from the previous garden is small mesh so we are re-purposing it for the lower 2 feet of the new garden and attaching it with tiny zip ties. Perfect!

There is another big project on the summer to-do list: prep and paint the house. I know we keep talking about this, and you are probably tired of hearing about without seeing progress…but it is a big job to tackle! We have scaffolding ready to go, a paint color preliminary picked (but have not settled on a brand yet)…we just need to get started. We finally decided on what paint prep tool we are going to invest in for removing the old paint, and just that decision alone was hours of research and conversation weighing pros and cons. What was the decision? The Speedheater. Factoring in time, safety (ie: lead), effectivness, cleanliness, etc. it won against the other options. So much to do in just 24 hours a day!

Ideally we will also take a few weekends to hike, go surf at the coast, maybe go camping? Hard to say at this point. What we can say: we are thrilled to have another summer in this house!

Back from Baja

Ten days away was lovely. Sun, sand, sleeping in. Really good food. Seeing old friends, and making some new ones.

This was our third trip to southern Baja, staying at the same little place in Todos Santos. It is so relaxing, inexpensive, quiet and exactly what we crave in travel. Being back means we quickly settled into our routine (tortillas from the lady down the street, fish tacos, flan from Miguel’s, hanging out with the dogs and playing games) but added some new things too. We dug out the old hand press juicer and went through 44 lbs of oranges making juice in a week. We took a whole day to drive around the ENTIRE southern cape region and explored some beautiful new areas. A new restaurant was a dinner favorite and we had 4 great surf days on more advanced boards!

It was a lovely trip, and just what we needed as a last hurrah before coming home to garden and paint the house all summer.

A few photographic highlights:

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All In One Week

In one week, our back yard and garden went from this:

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to this:

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A 45×65’, 8 foot tall deer fence now proudly stands protecting a new garden. A huge improvement from the previous one. It is in a better location sun-wise, much bigger, and no longer crowds out the back woods and garden shed.

It was a long week. A week ago Friday we picked up my parent’s truck and picked up 48, 10’ cedar fence posts.IMG_3040[1]

Saturday was digging posts and hanging out first panel. Sounds easy, in reality it was a really steep learning curve. The digging post holes was not so bad, but moving and hanging those 20×8 metal remesh panels was a pain! Keeping things level, straight and tight really should have been a 3-4 person job. But we made it work with just us two.IMG_3202[1]

Matt made some progress during the week and I helped hang a few more panels after work. The challenge in the evening is that you are already tired. We learned quickly that hanging panels and digging accurate fence posts is better done with full energy and patience. Tempers are too short and little hiccups are much more painful when you are tired. Funny chicken helpers are good mood lifters too.IMG_3244[1]

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Friday we made more progress, and Saturday even more. Of course we had more than just the fence to work on. Matt went to a chainsaw class while I picked up animal food, went to a garage sale (scored new rubber boots and snorkel fins!) and then we picked up a truck load of manure. Had to make full use of the truck! And those new boots came just in time. My old pair tore at the heel and would have been really disgusting to wear climbing around in the manure pile.IMG_3186[1]

After the crazy busy morning, of course it decided to downpour sideways rain…but only for about 20 mins and we were back at it working on the fence. Unfortunately by that time Matt’s hands were shot from digging holes and my knee decided it was the perfect time to collapse, pop (what a horrible sound) and swell up. Sunday we worked slowly and carefully and managed to put in the final panel around 4:45 in the evening. The fence is up!

We collapsed in the house. I was too tired to even open a bottle of wine (Matt helped me out). We ate random things from our refrigerator in pre-vacation clean-out mode. Drank leftover bottles of wine from the neighbor’s weekend tastings, and watched The Endless Summer nursing our sore knees and hands.

The garden looks awesome but it is far from done. The fence will have a horizontal post spanning the vertical ones (additional tension for the floppy panels), we will edge the garden with 4x4s and build artsy doors for the 3 entrances. Not to mention all the grass removal before we plant. But with some temporary doors we will be deer proof and ready to plant as soon as we get back from vacation!

Make Way for the Fence: Plowing with a Broadfork

Current project: a massive garden expansion. Our property came with a garden. It was laid out in a very unusable pattern, so last year we dismantled it and put in real rows. This year we are expanding it…from 20×20 to 65×45! Holy smokes are we growing to be growing stuff!!

Deer a a huge pest on Vashon, so the first order of business is a sturdy/attractive/affordable deer fence. Now selecting a fence was a quite a task. We debated materials, wood/metal/plastic/7 foot/8 foot/metal posts/cedar posts…as you can see the list goes on. We ended up with this: 10’ cedar posts (buried 2 feet) with 8’ x 20’ remesh panels (as used in pouring concrete slabs). These were not as fancy as the galvanized stock panels but WAY cheaper and MUCH taller. Perfect! They will rust and I was unsure what I thought about that look but we checked out some fences on the island in person and they actually look great. Across the top of the panels will be a narrower cedar pole to keep tension on the metal.

I cannot wait to have the project done! Of course there were some delays…posts were not in stock last weekend, but we did get the remesh panels. Our first step was measuring out the garden edges and then plowing up grass to make way for the fence and baseboards. We are using rough cedar 4×4 to edge the garden for a clean line through the grass. The chickens loved helping with this project. With each pull of the broadfork (proudly made here on the island!) they were delivered a feast of worms and grubs. Yum! The boys (Matt and Rooster Dude) liked checking out their ladies at work ;)

Timing was excellent to tackle another random yard project this weekend. At the base of our deck there were (we thought) 8 stepping stones grown over with moss and grass. We got to work removing them and found 22! Perfect use for our grass removed for the garden. We just rolled it over the empty space like sod. It is such a satisfying feeling to pull out grass to make room for food producing plants that will also stabilize and diversify our soils. It was a beautiful work weekend with the family…well, most of us worked. The cats are above that layman’s work and decided they were better suited to be supervisors.

Remembering August 10th

It has been nearly 3 years since our wedding but I am just now getting around to putting our photos in album form. I made a beautiful book for each set of parents, but wanted a special copy with just our favorites in one for us.

Fast forward 2+ years and those beautiful images are still just sitting on the computer. I just finished two albums for other people and decided to power through and just finish mine. Two marathon sessions and two very tired eyes later I had the book complete, just in time to still apply a 60% off code.

I am thrilled with the design, and even more excited that our photos will finally be in our hands!

The process of making these books is one of my favorite things to do. I am getting a system down to take other people’s photos and create books for them and it is going smoother each time. I hope to eventually start a side business where I do this for busy people who don’t have time to get their photos into books.

Here is a sneak peek ours:

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