Blank Slate

We are starting out as farmers with only a small amount of experience and working with a large piece of land that has almost no infrastructure and very few trees. Working with this blank slate, both the land and ourselves, is one of the most exciting parts of this new venture but also the most frustrating. We don’t have a rhythm to our day with set farm chores or an exact idea of what we will produce or how we will sell it to people.  What we do have is an enormous amount of ideas, future plans lists and current projects lists, and his and her stacks of farming books to read. I will let you guess which one is mine and which one is his.

Here is a short list of plans we have for the farm-

  Current                                                                                                Future

Reinforce fencing for Sheep                                            Build Sauna

Three new gates to separate paddocks                           Build High Tunnel for Garden

Finish second Chicken tractor                                        Winter Chickens in Tunnel

Start Turkey tractor                                                          Build Barn

Plant late summer veggies                                                Find a breed of Pigs

Amend soil for healthy spring garden                              Build Pigs a Home

When I make lists one of my favorite parts is crossing off the things I’ve done so I will share with you a couple of the things we have accomplished. We had a work party with friends and planted 75 saplings, Built a Pond and Culvert so we could drive a tractor to the back pastures and for future irrigation plans, and tilled our first garden and planted alfalfa and wild oats in it to enrich the soil.

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7 thoughts on “Blank Slate

  1. Hi, my husband and I are 1-3 years away from moving from Western Washington to 20 acres near Oroville in Eastern Washington. We just managed to get in the well, road, and power to the property, so we are now making a new list. I am interested in your pond. How are you filling it? Do you have a stream on site or are you using your well? DId you line it?
    I have signed up for your blog, so glad that I can follow your adventures. Thanks.

    • That sounds great! We had always planned to build our own house and start with a vacant parcel as well, but it worked out the other way instead and after two complete remodels on our last two homes, I guess I was a little relieved to not have to build from the ground up. But, there is plenty of room and it may still happen anyway. No shortage of things to do around here however.

      We live in irrigated country and we have a natural drainage on our land that runs with irrigation tail water from neighbors up hill. Farmers and ranchers release millions of gallons of water from canals that either travel in ditches or gated pipe and let it flow across the ground, most of which runs off. Because of our geography and this drainage on our land, we get a lot of that run off running through, which also divided our ground and created an obstacle for walking across and especially driving equipment across, cutting us off from most of our acreage. So, after checking with county, state and federal authorities, we build a pond that not only retained water, but also provided a dam to drive across. Most of our neighbors have ponds as well and ours has an overflow culvert and that water goes on to our neighbors and so on. Our pond is filled primarily from the tail water, but we can also direct our irrigation water into it as well. From here, we will establish a pump house, buried pipe and sprinkler system for our pastures. We did not line it however. We have such good flow to the pond and clay rich soil, we didn’t go to the expense of lining it. Our pond is full and overflowing and we haven’t yet had to add any of our irrigation water. A true gift in what would otherwise be a desert!

      If you were looking to do the same, I suppose you would have to have a similar situation with irrigation water or find a natural spring. In some areas, the water table is high enough that you can just dig a hole and it will fill with ground water, but you would have to check around in your area. While we are fortunate to have strong wells and a good aquifer here, I don’t think I would attempt to fill and maintain a pond with it. I would look for neighbors in my area that have ponds and try to strike up conversation. You may also want to ask at your local irrigation supply and extension office.

      Keep in touch with us and send us updates. I’d like to know what solution you’re able to find and good luck with it all!

      Best,
      matthew

  2. Hi Matthew, thanks for the quick and very informative reply! Unfortunately, we are located in the Okanogan Highlands and up on a hill. No irrigation tailings here. We have two lakes, one on either side of our property, but both are significantly downhill from us. Great for the view, not so good for water access. I think we will wind up with a couple of water storage tanks instead of a pond, and a serious conservation plan for future crops. It was wishful thinking on my part to have a pond.
    I will definitely keep following your family’s farm adventures and keep you advised of anything we accomplish. Thanks again, Anne

  3. You are brave and wonderful! I live in a downtown part of a major city and though I love it, I have often fantasized about having my own farm. I even bought Joel Salatin’s book “You Can Farm,” which I see from another of your posts, you own, too. I will be doing just a little vicarious living through your adventures!

    • It’s partly being brave and just crazy enough to think we can accomplish this and raise a family at the same time. We have actually not read “You Can Farm” all the way through because we have been so busy. Whenever we do get a chance to read it or watch him speak it just reinforces why we are doing all of this. Thanks for the support

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