Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Farm Transformation in Full Swing

August has started with farm renovation in full swing. It’s time to ‘pay now or pay later.’ We’ve cleaned out, no, we’ve transformed our old tractor shed and packing shed – the farm’s two most important buildings – into efficient spaces. The packing shed is from the early 1900s, while the stone tractor shed is from the mid-1800s. Getting the farm in working order is imperative so that next year we hit the ground running. 
Garden follows the wall of the old, stone tractor shed
Packing shed (left) and tractor shed (right), and 27 bags of garbage

Old horse harnesses we found
My parents are visiting for ten weeks. They are retired, so they came to help us with fixing up the farm (and also to escape the Arizona summer heat). Dad was a citrus farmer for 30 years and renovated old homes, so his experience is invaluable. Mom is an energetic project manager. We are amazed at how much we can accomplish with four people. It goes much quicker when five hours of work equals 20 hours of productivity. Plus, Rich has learned lots of useful handyman skills, like plumbing and carpentry.

We tackled the daunting task of cleaning out the tractor shed and the packing shed. The tractor shed has become our office – our command central. This is where we plan projects and keep necessary equipment. But, it had been unused since the 1980s. We were constantly tripping over rusty tools and avoiding three decades of dirt (and animal poop).  

So, we pulled out everything, sorted it and organized the useful tools and equipment. We swept and sprayed down the floors and ledges. We constructed nearly 200 sq. feet of new shelving and put new tops on the work tables.  We also ran water to the shed and completely overhauled the bathroom – but that deserves its own post next week when it’s complete. 
Everything is organized
We moved on to the packing shed, where pears and apples were cleaned, sorted and packed for market. We emptied old boxes, barrels, harvesting backpacks and power-washed the lot. The job required haz-mat suits for protection from the toxic dust. In the attic were old yokes and harnesses for the horse teams that plowed the fields and transported the apples to market in the farm’s heyday. 
Cleaning 30 years of dirt away

The test garden has flourished, much to my first-time gardener amazement. Just 45 days after planting, we harvested beets and carrots, along with green beans, kale, cayenne peppers, banana peppers, broccoli and tomatoes. We are thrilled to get such a big bounty and to share it with new friends. We just planted fall lettuce, spinach, mache, radishes and… more beets! Stay tuned, we plan to pick our first watermelon by Friday and maybe even begin to harvest the hops.
Harvest time

Rich in his work suit
This week’s economic craziness has once again confirmed our life change. A recent, popular article and interview with Brooklyn Brewery owners shows how the craft brew industry is growing even during “The Great Recession.” We believe that building local food systems builds strong local economies, so agriculture is a good bet during an economic downturn.

Our first-year learning curve with farming is steep, and not without tough choices. (This week we had to miss out on a family tradition – an annual summer trip to Maine.) But, with all its hard work and tricky decisions, we are embracing this new farm venture. After a long day, we are raising a toast to all the entrepreneurs out there…with fresh watermelon and kale chips!


  1. Gosh, the farm is really taking shape, it looks amazing! You guys are aweshum

  2. Joanne, yes it is, slowly but surely. You and Bobby have to come visit - we miss you!