Wednesday, December 22, 2010

I've gotten two truck loads of horse manure this winter. I found a nearby farm that feeds organic oats and organic local hay. The first truckload I bagged in 1 cu ft bags and gave away as Christmas presents. I thought it would be nice with a bow under the tree, or maybe as stocking stuffers.

The second truckload went into a compost pile, layered with coffee grounds from the T&A espresso stand down the street. I could easily use 4-6 more loads.

Can you tell from the picture that I have tractor envy?

Tuesday, December 21, 2010


We set out raspberries last weekend. These had been ordered last spring from Raintree Nurseries and 'heeled in' in our yard for the past summer. Some of them bore lots of big red berries last fall, right up until the first freeze. This one is Autumn Britten. Se set out at least a dozen of these plants.

This one is called E320 Caroline. I believe it bears in June. We will see next year.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Preliminary Farm plan

This overlay on the overhead photo is my current thinking about how I want to use the land -- primarily the half acre north portion of the former pasture. Here are my thoughts:

1. Orchard: Raspberries, Boysenberries, Filbert and peach trees. Perennial beds.

2. Carport, shop (2 rooms), barn.

3. RV parking.

4. 3000 gallon water tank to catch water from the roof for the garden

5. Patio and picnic table

6. Small chicken house.

7. Chicken run or orchard.

8 - 9 First year garden (1/4 acre)

8. Garlic, shallots, carrots

9. Early stuff -- lettuce, broccoli, cabbage, etc.

10. Beans, corn, squash

11. Strawberries, corn, squash

12. Reserve for garden in 2 years. Chicken run with moveable house, Perhaps a grain plot

13 - 14 ???

15. 1/2 acre part of house rental.

16. Small building with prta-pottie.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Fall Planting

This fall we planted shallots and garlic for harvest next summer. One variety of shallots is up and the other is well rooted but has yet to send up any green top growth. The garlic is well rooted but is not yet showing any top growth. We have three 3x30 foot beds of garlic and 2 3x30 foot beds of shallots. This should make plenty for us and plenty to give away or sell.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Getting to the Farm

We live in an Earthquake zone and we could get the Big One any time. I am concerned about I could get to the farm from our home in Everett. The farm is on the other side of the Snohomish River. There are bridges over the river as well as several sloughs in the mouth of the river. In the event of a serious earthquake, those bridges could be damaged and my access to the farm could be cut off. That might make driving there difficult or impossible.

An even more certain possibility is major disruption in fuel supplies leading to decreased fuel availability and sharply increasing prices. Remember the 1970's when gasoline was rationed and the price quadrupled.

Of course if the roads are open, even in the case of bridge damage if the bridges were open to pedestrians but not heavy vehicles, I could get there by bike. It's only 15 miles and the route is mostly pretty flat. An hour each way? There are also several bus routes that connect Everett and the Smokey Point area. One bus leaves Everett Station every 30 minutes and would drop me only 2 miles from the farm. So I could ride the 1 mile to the Everett Station, ride to Smokey Point and then ride 2 miles the farm.

If I had a bike trailer, I could transport modest quantities of food back home, but I would have to ride the 15 miles. The bus bike racks don't accommodate bike trailers. I am also looking at electric bikes. I am 68 years old and I don't have the stamina I did 40 years ago.

These are things that I think about when I am waiting for sleep to come at night.
So when we bought the farm, I considered alternative access. Fortunately, there are several bus routes that connect Everett with the Smokey Point area.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Berry preparations

We have prepared a place for raspberries, blackberries, rubarb, fruit and nut trees in what was formerly part of the front yard. We cleared the sod and tilled strips for the berries. Then we worked in compost and an organic nitrogen fertilizer. Then we set the posts and strung the support wire. Finally, we covered the beds with leaves for the winter. In early spring we will set out the plants in the nice beds we have prepared. The picture here was taken about half way through the process.

Monday, November 29, 2010


It would be awfully tempting to get a small riding tractor to help with tilling and mowing, but I think I can manage with walk-behind equipment which is a lot cheaper and uses a lot less fuel. I bought a used Troybilt horse tiller with an 8 horsepower electric start engine and a Troybilt sicklebar mower with a 3 horsepower engine. These two machines have served me well in the first summer of clearing the place. I mowed all of the one-acre pasture twice and tilled a quarter-acre piece for the 2011 garden about 10 times. It would be nice to have a tractor to spread compose and turn the compost piles, but I can also hire strong kids to do that. Hey, maybe I could call them 'interns' and get some free labor.


I would like to keep a few chickens on the farm, maybe just enough for the two of us or maybe as many as 25 to have enough eggs to sell to attract people to the farm to buy our excess vegetables. But there is a problem. We don't intend to live at the farm and it is 15 miles from where we live in town. That means that I must either 1) go to the farm every day to care for the chickens, 2) design systems that will care for the chickens well enough that I can be absent for 2-3 days, 3) get a renter in the house who would be willing to help care for the chickens in exchange for a portion of the eggs or 4) get friends from town who would be willing to visit the farm one day a week for a share of the eggs. I'm still mulling this over.


We have about 2000 square feet of roof on the outbuilding. Most of this is metal roof -- ideal for water gathering. I installed a 3000 gallon above ground cistern beside the barn to catch and hold rain water next spring for summer use in the garden. I figure that with careful mulching and drip watering that 3000 gallons can last at most one month so we will still need to draw water from the well, but this can be done slowly and in off hours to refill the cistern during late August and September. The tank is situated in altitude below the roof but about 3 feet above the garden, so we should hopefully be able to use gravity to get the water from the tank to the garden. Unfortunately, there is not enough drop between the largest roof and the tank to use gravity, so I will need to install a small sump pump in a rain barrel to transfer water from the roof to the cistern.

I'm concerned about freezing. The tank itself won't freeze in this climate but the drain plumbing could freeze. For that reason I won't start filling it until March and when I install the drain plumbing and sight tube (to see how full the tank is) I will make it so that the piles can be drained next winter, even if there is water left in the tank.

Preparing for 2011 garden

I tilled up about 1/4 acre for the 2011 garden. This should be enough to raise all of the vegetables the two of us can eat and leave lots to share. I have been over the soil at least 10 times with my Troybilt horse tiller. There are lots of canary grass rhizomes in the soil. I expect that if i can till it several times through the winter and several more times next spring I can disturb those rhizomes enough to eradicate the canary grass.

I also spread and tilled in 30 cubic yards of Cedar Grove compost. That is equivalent to about 1 1/2 inches over the whole garden. My purpose is to increase the organic content of the soil so that it will hold moisture better next summer. If I also mulch it with this years cut hay and use drip irrigation I can minimize the need for water next summer. Since all we have for water is a 40 foot deep hand dug well, we need all the water conservation we can get.

Our fall 2010 garden

We took possession of the place in late July, 2010. Fortunately, we had a greenhouse full of tender plants that we had grown for our Ebey Island garden, which we knew we would be loosing at the end of 2010. We made immediate use of a large raised bed (about 40 x 3 ft and 2 ft high) that had not been planted by the seller. We added a truck load of Cedar Grove compost and some cotton seed meal and planted broccoli, brussel sprouts, kale, carrots, leeks and parsnips. It all thrived except the parsnips which didn't germinate. So this fall we had produce already from the new place.

By Thanksgiving, we had harvested all the broccoli. The freeze just before the holiday The brussel sprouts live on and the kale came through the freeze well.

Monday, September 13, 2010

What Did We Get?

Here are some specifics about the farm:
In size, it is about 250 feet by 250 feet. That's about 62000 sq ft or 1 1/2 acres.
It is zoned agricultural and is in an area that was formerly a large dairy farm. In fact, there is still some dairy being practiced in the area. The land has been sold off originally in 5 to 20 acre parcels which have later been divided into pieces as small as 1/2 acre. There is some very dense development near by and eventually the area will probably all become high density housing.
The farm is only about 1/2 mile west of Interstate 5, the major transportation corridor along the western US. Between the farm and I-5 is also the Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad. So this is really a rapidly changing area.
The soils are quite sandy and very well drained, unlike our last gardening spot. This will require that we work to incorporate organic matter into the soil and will probably mean that we will have a watering problem in August thru October.
The house and outbuilding occupy about half an acre. We plan to rent the house and 1/2 acre to someone who is hopefully compatible with us in values.
We will reserve the outbuilding and 1/2 acre of land for our own use. We will garden and probably keep a few chickens. This is what must be called a 'Hobby Farm.' Our intention is not to make money, but rather to feed ourselves and have some to give away to our friends and the Food Bank.
The house is a 90-year-old farm house that is really in pretty good shape. It needs some minor foundation re-work but that's about all. It has been remodeled recently and the interior is in beautiful condition. The exterior looks good because it has vinyl siding. If I were to do anything major to the house, I would remove the vinyl siding and put on something like Hardi-plank.
The outbuilding consists of a 5-car carport, a 2-room shop and a small barn, all in one building. Construction is cement block and frame. It is in very good condition and is supplied by 100-amps of electricity, but no water.
There is a row of cedar trees -- planted about 25 years ago, I'd guess -- lining the north and east sides of the property. Otherwise, the land is open to sunlight. This is perfect for the Northwest where our mornings are often cloudy anyway.

The Name

Along the road in front of the farm is a long row of pink roses that bloom all summer with very little care. We have learned that these are Simplicity roses, an old rose variety. The seller tells us that they have been there a long, long time. After mulling over several names, we decided that the farm should be called simply Simplicity Rose Farm.

July 2010: We buy the farm

Click on the above arial image for a larger view of the farm.
I'm starting this blog in September since it took us a while to pick a good name for the farm. In this ans subsequent entries my intention will be to bring the reader up to date on our activities and plans with this farm.
We bought the farm after a year-long search for a small )less than 2 acres) place with good, well-drained soil and excellent sun exposure within 15 miles of where we live in Everett, WA. We wanted a place where we could have a large garden, park an RV and invest money in a way that we feel is productive. Simplicity Rose Farm meets those criteria.