We got hit really hard during the pandemic. Really hard. We lost all of our restaurant business. We gave away everything we grew in 2020. In 2021, we tried to run a CSA with minimal help. We couldn’t find employees in addition to our own family members. In 2022, our adult kids had to find more work of their own in order to support themselves – and still no employees. Our market garden lay fallow.
We attempted to establish a small orchard near the house and were beaten by the drought which, in addition to depriving plants of water, brought hungry wildlife out to eat the bark off the trees. (Typically, we would not cover sapling trunks in the growing season, rather in the autumn and winter months). We lost all but 4 of 24 fruit trees.
Personally, we’ve had some major transitions. One of our special needs kiddos moved out to a permanent placement that will help her to be safe, keep our family and our community safe. Another of our kiddos moved to a temporary placement to help him learn to live better with the effects of the trauma he suffered before coming into our family. It has been a full-time job advocating for his needs and keeping the entire system focused on his goal of returning home.
We’ve had to pivot so often in the last three+ years that it’s making our heads spin.
Brian has left farm work to return full time to his corporate gigs. I had to seriously take stock of what I can do here with what we have. I’m a permaculture teacher and a community herbalist, an artist and photographer. I laid aside so much of this just to keep plates spinning. I had to think hard about how to benefit our family (primarily) and our community while maintaining and even restoring the farm, as we promised to do in 2011, when we bought the land.
I decided to offer more permaculture and related courses. I began looking for local venues to host them, but it all came to nothing. So then we reassessed what we have here on the farm to use. We have a small shop that was meant to be our starter farmstand. It’s nearly two years old and has no power yet, and we haven’t had time to complete the build out. We estimate the cost to complete it to be somewhere between $5000 and $10000. That’s not do-able at this time. So, I looked to using the attached carriage house. It already has power and is definitely convenient in terms of distance! Brian spent a weekend wiring up a heating unit and I purchased enough shiplap to cover one wall. That wall will be where I hang a chalkboard and a large sized television for sharing educational videos. I have had chairs donated and a couple of offers of other items that will help. I’m still looking for a large TV and some large folding tables. Once the wall is finished, we can get started.
I also learned that I could get volunteer laborers and beginning farmers for the entire growing season, but that I have to have accommodation for them. At this time, I do not have accommodation. This is the limiting factor to the farm’s recovery. We have always operated without debt. We do have a mortgage on the farm that we’ve been just able to keep up with over the past decade.
We have been offered a number of free campers in various conditions from private owners as well as from a local summer campground. Two are already here on the farm and others will be brought here as the weather allows. Additionally, I am expecting the purchase and delivery of an old mobile home for Nick, whom some of you have met here on the farm. All of these campers will be turned into accommodation for workers, mobile barns and coops, workspaces, and maybe even a food truck or delivery vehicle. This presents an opportunity to offer workshops on redesigning and rebuilding these campers through the lens of permaculture with materials taken from the waste stream, or handmade. The tuition fees from the workshops will help defray the costs of those materials that must be purchased, and for transport of free materials to the farm.
Lastly, I was able to purchase a large used Skutt pottery kiln at an extremely low price. This means that I will be able to offer community access to local artisans to use not only this kiln, but a raku kiln (or two), a pit kiln, work tables for handbuilt pieces, and hopefully also supplies. In addition to the community access pottery, we’ve been collecting woodworking tools that the community could also come and access. I am accepting donations of equipment, tools, supplies, and materials for both of these workspaces. I’m particularly keen to collect old wooden windows and doors, wood flooring, cabinets, small furnishings, etc. What doesn’t get used in the ‘tiny house’ conversions will be made available to the community as art/decor project pieces or to help others with their building and renovations projects.
So here’s to 2023, a building year. May it be kind to one and all!