By Rebecca Gramdorf
By Rebecca Gramdorf
Seeding has finally started here at Small Wheel Farm. We are doing it in the basement under grow lights, and I'm pretty pleased with the setup. I have a homemade potting bench where I can sift and mix soil as well as a table for creating soil blocks and seeding. I am grateful for the indoor setup as it means Peter and I didn't have to figure out the logistics of heating a greenhouse this year, nor did we have to madly repair our hoop house after it blew down at the beginning of March--days before our first seeds were scheduled to be planted. We have managed to cat-proof the seedlings (important, as Lopi loves to eat potted plants), and the fact that the seeding area doubles as Peter's weight room means that I have incentive to keep it tidy.
Farm logistics continue to get ironed out as the farm season gets started. The hoop house was definitely an unexpected setback, but regardless, we are rolling ahead. Rolls of eight foot deer fence arrived in the mail this week, and just today I unload eleven boxes of fence posts---heavier than hell, and managing to carry them into our garage by myself by making my arm into a teeter-totter fulcrum. Our new garage is starting to collect a nice collection of farm supplies--including two sizable garden carts that I assembled earlier in the month.
Able to move things around the farm? Check.
Able to start seeds? Check.
Protection from Deer and neighborhood dogs? Check.
Some days it seems like the farm is moving in slow motion toward the summer growing season. We are making progress, however, and before we know it beds will be formed and we will be planting our fields.
By Rebecca Gramdorf
Last weekend, Peter and I attended the MOSES Conference, our first. It was inspiring to be around so many experienced organic farmers and we have returned truly inspired and energized about the upcoming season. The opportunity it afforded to both (re)connect with local farmers and learn from the rockstars of the organic world was invaluable and oh-so-timely as it turns to March now and the real work of farming begins.
One highlight of the conference, for me, was hearing Ben Hartman of Clay Bottom Farm speak. He is author of the Lean Farm, and is a proponent of designing efficiency into the farm. On his own farm, he has increased efficiency so much that as he has made his farm smaller, his family has actually realized a greater profit. He is setting limits for himself and forcing himself to farm better rather than get bigger--and it's paying off.
So, what does this have to do with us at Small Wheel Farm? Scale and design.
Our property is a total of six acres, and of that, perhaps two acres are suitable for vegetable production. Additionally, we have very little farm infrastructure on the property and will be building it out in the next few years. Peter and I have been doing a lot of dreaming about how we will build up the farm and optimize our land and resources, and Ben Hartman's talk has been a great reminder that when working under constraints of space and resources, designing efficient processes and spaces becomes critical. Our small farm can be just as successful as larger operations, but in order to achieve our goals, we will have to be more deliberate about how we farm. We will have to be creative; in a sense, we will have to be artists--and perhaps that is precisely why designing our small farm is so exciting for me.
In 1915, American painter Robert Henri described (to his students) the act of painting a portrait this way:
"Every element in the picture will be constructive, constructive of an idea, expressive of an emotion. Every factor in the painting will have beauty because in its place in the organization it is doing its living part. It will be living line, living form, living color...It is only through a sense of the right relation of things that freedom can be obtained."
When I read this passage I almost feel like Henri were describing the process of designing a farm--finding the right place for everything in the whole and making sure everything is in service to the goal. The only difference I see between this farm design and the design I do as an artist is that I will be painting with tool sheds and tractors, hoop houses and harvest bins rather than lines, colors and shapes. The farm will become a work of art when all its components work seamlessly toward the construction of our vision--when everything is in right relation and there is no excess (no waste, no distraction).
By Rebecca Gramdorf
As I begin this first post, I sit (cat on shoulders) gazing out my office window onto the snow covered fields. I have spent much of the winter in the ceramics studio, but more and more these last few weeks, I have found myself in this home office preparing for the inevitable arrival of spring and with it, Peter and my first season as farmers.
Planning a farm is complex. Much more complex, I have found, than the planning I was used to in my previous profession as a teacher. It started with first, figuring out what I want to have at market each week, then figuring out how much and when I would need to plant things to have it available when I want it, figuring out if and how it will all fit in the fields we have plowed, and finally figuring out how many seeds it will take and ordering them. Well, the seeds have arrived, and I have been spending big sums of money on everything from BCS tractor implements, to seed starting supplies, to fashionable (and functional) farmer fashions. Yesterday, I wrote out the farm season in a monthly planner, and it has become ever clearer: this farm thing is going to happen.
I hope to make this blog a place for customers, future farmers, and any curious about country life to gain insight into our life as farmers. We have already learned so much and the season hasn't even officially started. I hope you will join us on this journey as we start our first season, have joys, frustrations, and breakthroughs and grow our operation from dream to reality. Welcome to Small Wheel Farm.