New Blog, New Thoughts, Same Endeavor

The first year is always the hardest.  Farming isn’t the easiest. Raising children, being an adult, is the not the only love/ hate relationship you will have in your life, but it will be our life long struggle.  My endeavor, love, hobby, and business is beginning a family farm on 7 acres with my wife Patricia, my son Quintin, my daughter Cadence, and an unnamed child that will be added during the busiest time of the year, first half of July.  Along for the ride to sustainability is my dad, my mom, and my grandparents who have a vast reach when it comes to supporting what we are building here on Dilish Farm. This has not been an easy journey, not that one would expect happiness to come easy, and this journey will never end. This venture started many years ago with a thought before a dream could even be imagined.  You don’t imagine that your partner, at any stage, will openly support you, but she did; and when I imagined that some day I would have a farm that would support families, restaurants, and everything in between.  My rock told me that everything would come together and I knew that she only had the best intentions for us to be known and successful.  If only we would of known that the road we traveled was not paved in gold.  one month after our son’s first birthday we experienced a house fire, as renters, that would challenge any family to face their fears. We faced our fears! The Haggerty family lived in a motel, hotel, and a temporary house, that renters insurance partially paid; all while trying to raise our son and live an American Dream.  Finding our “dream” property was only the beginning.  We wanted to be a farm, so it only seemed smart to ask the USDA for a farm loan.  Little did we know that funding from the USDA would make this our first hurdle of many before we could acquire our American “dream.”  The USDA had no funding, nor little ground to stand on, when it cam to passing out money for the small farms/ farmers that were looking to invest in the lifestyle.  The property had a detached garage that had a  cement pit dug out that could have “contaminated” the well. The well 200 ft away and 170ft down. So to be safe We, the buyer’s, had to prove that the well had not been contaminated, by testing from the Washington Department of Ecology, with hope that the USDA would help fund Soil test came back clean of any contaminates however the USDA offered a long letter of how it was to risky for them. It’s funny that I am starting from the beginning when I should be starting from the current scenario in my life.

Life! Life is such a delicate word in its purest form.  A beginning, a middle, and a denouement?  It presents itself in so many ways; a child has it’s behind wiped, you wipe your own behind, and it comes back around that someone may wipe your behind in old age. One does not begin to learn about the strange nuisances of life until it has become an after thought, a realization, that maybe your parents weren’t crazy after all.  I am rambling and should digress to a singular thought.  The fire that would set “blaze” to our “American dream” would only take minutes. Minutes can go in slow motion, perhaps when you have children you can understand how the perspective of time can change, and one year seems to pass right before your eyes.  Yet the “blaze” that started on September 07th of 2012 has not ended as of yet.  Unlike my children’s lives which continue to add in years and numbers right in front of me.  I’m not sure that the fire that took over our rental property that day will ever be extinguished, as we continue to pursue what we have always pursued; Self-Reliance.



Change is the only Constant

I have taken a year to write anything new and just need to put some things down that are running through the brain.  Living on 5 acres provides many challenges in general up keep and trying to transition the property into a business is more than enough to keep one person busy. I have decided to put in a perimeter fence to help with the deer issue, although this may only slow them down temporarily, as well as adding sheep and goats.  Rotational grazing and another year of planning should put us in a new, healthier position to move the farm into better production.  I am hoping that the animals do most of the dirty work for me with land management and also provide me with some dirty work to adjust some soil deficiencies that I have been working on amending. Using a holistic approach to the land feels better to me than what we have been doing.  With that being said I haven’t done much to improve the overall soil health; an honest realization has shown itself  that something needs to be done to provide as a reset button on this old, fallow, alluvial river bed.

Icelandic sheep will be our newest residents in the fall with the most recent addition being the Muscovy ducklings.  Once we have all the animals rummaging through the field I should be able to see some results by the by next year.  Goats should help with diligent weeds, like thistle and blackberry, while sheep help keep grasses and other low lying weeds down by preventing them for flowering.  Chickens will scratch at the surface breaking up the top soil and grasses; allowing the ducks to further break the surface down by pushing beaks into the soil. Things tend to sound better in theory, but theories are what keep us going. To able to create a hypothesis and follow through with experimentation in the field allowing me to achieve a personal conclusion, Priceless!

I will be looking into electric netting, turning the field into smaller paddocks allowing me to grow cover crops as the fenced in zoo leaves their manure behind.  Cover crops will now serve two purposes: providing to the land humus via plant growth above and below the soil, all while feeding the animals along the way so that they may recycle most plant growth back onto the earth.  My biggest concern is just being able to follow through with my plans to ensure that it can become a closed system.  My biggest goal, outcome, would be that I no longer have to bring anything in that was not associated with my land.

“Blame it on the Rain”

Weather must be the second most talked about entity, next to soil, that controls labor, growth, and outcome.  Last week this time temperatures were 30-40 degrees warmer for the daily highs.  Experiencing 90+ degrees for several days did wonders for a majority of the crops and provided additional sweat for the farmer.  Irrigation was running daily for longer periods of time, really giving a feeling that summer was just over the horizon.  This week our highs are below 70, overcast skies, and almost a half inch of rain fell from the spring skies yesterday.  These ups and downs have really put a field greenhouse on our list for next season to ensure that we can stay in front of the spring weather.  However tomato plants have flowers, zucchini are beginning to provide, and pepper plants are in the ground.  We continue to work and break new ground, by hand daily.  This season only lends itself to a better season next year with many lessons to be learned everyday.

Grey Skies

Plants require photosynthesis to create sugars and energy; in turn spurs growth and a wonderful flavor within the plant itself.  Spring has been over cast in Southwest Washington this year as much as it has had summer like days, with record breaking highs already, creating a challenging environment for consistent growth. The weather has added about another 30 days to maturity to just about every little plant we have started; i.e. carrots, peas, while cucumbers have sprouted, but stand still waiting just as we do.  The greenhouse is full of peppers, herbs, and okra ready to be transplanted into the field.  Soon our grey skies will turn to permanent blue skies, it will be light out until 10pm, and our work will never be complete.  For now we hold on, keep moving forward, and take your notes in preparation for next spring as lessons have been learned.  June should be a turning point so that we may begin to see some strong movement to harvesting produce.  Peas, carrots, lettuce, greens, and beans would be a good place to start as they have been in the ground for just over a month now.  We work in the field every day and con not wait to begin showing off the fruits of our labor to everyone who has shown interest in our CSA.

Spring – All Seasons, One Month

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Spring is always a challenging time of the year for a farmer.  One year it may snow in March, the next will be a perfectly mild spring as you would hope for, and the next you may skip spring all together and move straight into summer.  In the case of Dilish Farm, on our small plot in SW Washington, you might just get a little of everything.  The greenhouse has been bursting with activity; from seed starting to transplanting, watering, having to put up shade cloth, and kicking out wasp looking to build their new homes.  Every where you look life is coming back to the fore front and no longer hiding in the shadows.  Wind gusts coming out of the Columbia Gorge have been coming to the fore front as well with the first spring crops we planted having to deal with 50mph winds within the first two days of being transplanted.  Green Arrow peas could not hold their ground in such a strong, constant bombardment leading us to plant more in a hurry.  We’ve been on deer patrol every time we begin to plant in a new area of the field.  Two-thirds of the field is not mowed, plenty of vegetation to eat, and they manage to find the “salad bar” that Dilish Farm so generously provides for them.

We are outside from dawn until dusk, except for days that one of us has to go to our night job, all while being steadfast in the farm to do list.  Cleaning a property that was vacant for 7 years, then remolded, makes for a full time job on it’s own. Yet we continue on that front, work full time, and manage to keep the ground worked, the fields weeded, and seeds planted.  It is a rewarding experience and I am very hopeful that the rewards are reaped by all.  We are beginning to turn in a cover crop, that was seeded before winter, so that we can keep up with the successful germination in the greenhouse. We should have items being harvested in the first half of May with several meet up points.  February through April has been a rollercoaster of success and shortcomings, but we are on a good track for a prosperous summer at the least.  Spring will continue to provide a learning curve as we try to out smart and think faster than nature.  Tomatoes, squash, watermelon, peppers, and melons are already doing well in this summer like heat we have been experiencing.

The children enjoy being outside and “helping” as much as they can.  Quintin can water in the greenhouse, Quintin(4) and Cadence(2) can both plant seeds (pictures of how successful that was to come), and transplanting are all in their list of things they can do as farmers.  Riding in the wagon, looking for lady bugs and earthworms, and throwing rocks are some of the fun things to do while we “torture” them with working farm activities. Few things are better in life, except when your son says “Dad, I like being a farmer.” Makes you think that perhaps right choices are being made, and we can get this done as a group.  Success comes through trial and error, perseverance, and little bit of stubbornness.  We love our dirty hands, farmer tans, and blue skies on our Farm; just in the country enough for us to forget how chaotic life really isn’t.