6 weeks ago the deliveries began – large tractor trailers arrived on 3 occasions bearing heavy and/or awkwardly long boxes. “I guess there’s a greenhouse in there, or something”. The driver would tell us. The bulk of the structure (20 foot metal poles, a 120 pound roll of plastic, box after box of heavy-duty hardware) arrived in the middle of that April snow & ice storm. Of course it did. I subsequently got a crash course in driving our tractor on slush and ice, while the truck driver said encouraging things like, “you should probably wait til your husband gets home.” I did not. (Who has time for that kind of nonsense?)
The first thing that needed doing was to lay the rails on which this rolling behemoth would travel, requiring a long shallow trench to be dug, and a good few days of banging on a boulder with a sledge and pick. Once that work was done we could begin building the house itself. We’ve put up a number of greenhouses in our years farming. Heck, we’ve moved our propagation 3 times! In the construction of a stationary house, each hoop is attached at each end to a post that has been driven 4 feet into the ground – very solid. Each hoop of our Rolling Thunder house stands on metal wheels that slide on the track, needing to be braced 4 ways before we could move on to the next. This novel need for bracing was a lesson we learned the hard way:
Our first day of putting up hoops was sunny and beautiful. We had friends helping, things were moving along briskly and spirits were high. We put up the last hoop in a line of 19, and as we stood there smiling with pride at how efficiently the day’s work had gone, the entire structure came crashing to the ground quite literally around our ears. It was dramatic, and traumatic – I screamed and fell over. Jonathan didn’t say anything for a long time. The ridge pole was destroyed, and our hopes were (temporarily) dashed, but when we look back on that moment now, it is purely with the relief that no one was hurt. The last few hours of that day were spent in runs to the hardware store for replacement parts, planning how to start over and better the next day, and occasionally yelling in chorus at the sky to relieve some tension.
So then we did it right. It took a long time. But boy oh boy is it beautiful. Our tomatoes, which had grown much more quickly than usual with the warm weather in March, were screaming to get out of their pots and into the ground. They’ve recovered remarkably since we were able to plant them on May 1st, slowly going from chartreuse to deep green as their roots were released into the soil.
We’re looking forward to all the benefits this house will afford us over many years to come: extended tomato harvests from healthier plants all summer, & growing green crops through the winter, to name a few. I am thankful that we succeeded in getting the greenhouse up… and I hope never to have to do it again.
Up next – the new wash station! We’ll keep you posted.
Spirits are high on the farm these days. The early spring has given us a much-needed jump on the season, and there’s nothing like long, sunny days full of building projects and baby plants to put farmers in a good mood!
We have welcomed many new arrivals this spring. Topping the list is our first-ever intern, Sydney, who flew in from Arizona to spend the summer sustainably farming with us! Her enthusiasm and willingness to pound stakes for a pea trellis all day in the sun are already a beautiful addition to our small, mostly-human-powered farm.
She is pictured above with our recent shipment of perennials, including asparagus, rhubarb, blueberries, raspberries, & hearty kiwi. Perennials are an exciting new frontier for Sweet Acre. In the past, farming on rented land, we restricted our growing to annual vegetables. Now that we own our fields, we feel liberated to invest in long-term crops, planting a few more every year, and experimenting with our own propagation.
As I write this, I can see out the window our good friend David, visiting from Texas, whaling away on a boulder that is currently in the way of our new greenhouse foundation (I said he was a good friend, right?). With it’s demise, the track of our Rolling Thunder greenhouse will be set to receive it’s wheels, hoops, plastic, and the hundreds of tomato plants patiently waiting in our seedling house.
Yesterday the foundation, floor beams and joists were set for our timber-frame shed. These are beams milled from the trees Jonathan felled last winter in our lower field. Our brother-in-law brought his carpentry skills (and two exceptional children) down from Boston to help jump-start the construction.
Spring is a time of such momentum on the farm! Every day the place looks different – a new section plowed, a new crop transplanted, a new pastured opened to the goats & chickens. At moments it’s hard to keep up, which usually means it’s the perfect time to grab a beer and sit down to watch some farm TV from the back porch – the sprinklers turning, the animals munching grass, the garlic growing before my eyes. That never fails to get me up and out there again – getting dirty, making progress, having a blast (did I say we’re in good spirits??).
We’d love to be your farmers!
CSA-enrollment season is well underway on our farm and many others across the state and the country. Being a share holder of a farm is a meaningful way to show your support of both that small business, and the larger local food movement. Although by now it might feel normal for you to hear about or be part of a CSA, or to buy food from producers you know at farmers markets, we want to remind you that it really is both a radical choice and a meaningful way to vote with your food dollars. The products we small farmers grow are different than grocery store stock – they are grown with intention, with respect for your health and the health of our planet, often with little thought of profit. This food movement is still young, and each one of you are still a valuable, critical part of it. Thank you for showing up!
Here are our CSA options for 2016:
The work we do as farmers is generating value from the things that are devalued by our society. Dirt isn’t dirt, but the medium to grow our sustenance. A dumpster can often be a trove of re-useful building materials. In the case of the pines on our property, they could be viewed as a liability. They shadow our house and field and threaten our outbuildings with their majesty. They produce a beautiful dappled light at sunset, but they fill our pond with acidifying needles. When exploring our options for the pine grove we consulted professionals. A few conversations demoralized us as the pine is virtually worthless to the lumber industry and even the process of turning it all to chip would cost more than a small fortune for cash-strapped farmers.
We have always been gluttons for punishment when it comes to adding new dimensions to the giant DIY project that is Sweet Acre Farm.
So, here is where we stand: Since the days in 2006 working in the Adirondacks I have been interested in timber framing. I worked for timber framers the winter after our 2012 farming season, but had not done the work on my own until this year. Last fall I began the felling process on our land, starting with the trees whose absence would allow us to put up more permanent fencing for our goats (and future sheep?). Once approximately 20 of the giants were on the ground, we hired Dennis from Terrific Timbers to bring his portable sawmill to the property. The timbers were cut to the correct lengths and custom milled to generate all the “members” needed for a 12’x16′ shed. The on-going work this winter is cutting all the mortise & tenon joinery in order to erect the building this spring. Besides the timbers, the milling process also generated enough 1″ siding for this building and many others, scrap lumber for our endless other building projects, and 100 tomato stakes for the upcoming season.
We are excited to be able to transform this “liability” of the pines into a valuable building. Using the materials from the property will contribute aesthetically to the feeling that it, too, “grew” from the property. I am lucky to have friends interested in this old time tradition of building, and willing to help out in various ways. While the work now is slow and a little lonely, I am eagerly looking forward to the communal process of raising the building.
And we’ll keep you posted!