Category: environment

permaculture

One of the reasons we’re really excited to have all the space on the farm is so we can practice permaculture techniques. Permaculture is defined in many ways by different people, but generally it is the development of agricultural ecosystems intended to be sustainable and self-sufficient. (According to google’s dictionary.)

Here’s one of our recent projects, covering grass with cardboard and compost. This is a gentle way to convert grass into perennial beds without the use of herbicide.

We also grew our veggies in a hugelkulture bed this year, which is another permaculture practice. Basically, you bury wood under a pile of soil and plant into. The idea is that the wood will hold water and break down over time, giving nutrients to the soil. Our plants loved it!

If you’d like to learn more, check out some of my all time favorite permaculture books.

Sepp Holzer’s Permaculture: A Practical Guide to Small-Scale, Integrative Farming and Gardening

Solviva: How to grow $500,000 on one acre, and Peace on Earth

The Bio-Integrated Farm: A Revolutionary Permaculture-Based System Using Greenhouses, Ponds, Compost Piles, Aquaponics, Chickens, and More

Farming the Woods: An Integrated Permaculture Approach to Growing Food and Medicinals in Temperate Forests

Gaia’s Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture, 2nd Edition

butterfly exhibits

I post about bees more often since they are my personal area of highest interest, but butterflies are of course quite important pollinators too. We seek to conserve them as well and many join the bees in drinking nectar from the plants on our farm.

I recently took a road trip and had the great fortune to visit three different butterfly exhibits.

These gardens and exhibits were quite inspirational! It helped me zero in on how we might be able to help local butterflies as our project takes shape.

Humbolt Botanical Garden butterfly house

They just started their butterfly project this year by catching butterflies in the garden and bringing them into a section of the greenhouse. (Although they also ordered Monarch eggs.)

Above you can see a Red Admiral on a Mexican Sunflower.

They had host plants available as well, with a lot of caterpillars! This is a Monarch caterpillar munching on milkweed.

Hallberg Butterfly Garden, Sebastapol, California

The oldest butterfly garden in the US! They are going through some changes now, since the woman who started it just recently passed away. Certainly worth a visit. Make sure to contact them ahead of time for a tour.

Here are caterpillars from the Pipevine Swallowtail.

And a chrysalis from the same species.

Here’s a caterpillar from a giant Polyphemus Moth.

Last, but not least we went to the California Academy of Sciences. Their project is a bit different, as they actually import exotic chrysalis’ from South America.

For more information about that, check out this sign.

This is a shot of their case of chrysalis’.

And some of the butterflies…

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leafcutter bees!

We received our shipment of leafcutter bees today!

Leafcutter bees are solitary bees and great pollinators. Want to know more? Check out this page.

I bought these from Crownbees.com.

When I first opened the package, I saw the pheromone that is used to entice the bees to stay nearby. I set up the house and sprayed it on the nest tubes.

Next… the bag of cocoons, some of which had already hatched out!

I opened the bag and installed it above the nesting material. One little girl came out to say hi.

Here’s the view of the bee house, right on the edge of our garden — facing South to catch as many sun rays as possible.

Paw Protector!

It’s been snowing (and sticking!) in Portland for days now. It isn’t great for our pups, they want to go on walks but they hate the snow sticking to their paws. Our little one has fur between her toes and it is especially bad for her. Usually after about 5 minutes outside she wants to be picked up. I did some research on the best ways to help our little friends and discovered I could whip up a protection salve!

The recipe is simple. Equal parts beeswax, coconut oil, and avocado oil. I used three tablespoons of each. Then, add a few drops of vitamin E oil.

Add all ingredients to a small pot. (I have a pot that is dedicated to this sort of thing.) And heat on low.

It won’t take too long before it all melts together.Pour into a container. I had these deodorant containers available, which push up from the bottom and I thought worked well enough. You might want to try something low and flat instead if you are just doing paws. I put a bit on her legs too, so this shape was perfect to direct it where I wanted it.

Give them a bit of time and they will solidify. Then, you’re ready to go. When you apply them to your furry friend, have a bit of patience. The body heat in your dog’s paws will heat the salve enough to apply it. If you have a super jumpy pup, try building some up in your own palm and then transferring. Upon first application Honey Bee was a bit unsure about the process. But it worked!

Here she is after our long walk in the snow, with nothing clinging to her paws! (She still got some in her beard!)

energy efficiency

We all want an efficient home so that our bills will be lower, our homes more valuable, while also doing something good for the planet! But how to do it?

Here are some steps you can take to make your house more energy efficient!

  1. Get an energy audit from a local, professional company. They will do an inspection of your home and give you a game plan for how to up your efficiency. Here are some local companies to try: Green Savers PDX, Revival Energy Group, and Bull Mountain Heating.
  2. Fix leaks! This is a pretty low-cost way to make a big impact. Lots of doors and windows have spaces around them that let cold air in. Also, take extra care when checking out your basement and attic. More air than you think exchanges between these spaces and your main living areas.
  3. Insulate! Do you know what is in your walls? Sheetrock didn’t come into use until the 1950’s, so if your home is older than that you probably have lath and plaster. (This isn’t all bad, it lessens noise and helps suppress the spread of fire.) However, traditionally lath and plaster doesn’t involve insulation, but you can hire a professional to inject insulation into the walls. With drywall, just cut holes, fill up the spaces, and replace and seal.
  4. Upgrade your windows. Many old homes have single pane glass. These are somewhat like holes in your walls! High efficiency windows make a huge difference. If you can afford it, try wood frames instead of the old aluminum. If you can’t afford all new windows, try for storm windows in the winter.
  5. Upgrade doors. Especially if you have an hollow doors, replace them with new energy efficient ones.
  6. Upgrade appliances. Most appliances today come in models that take energy efficiency into account. Tankless waterheaters heat water only when it is requested, saving energy and giving you an endless supply or warm water.
  7. Solar! There are even companies who will lease your panels to you. This is a low cost way to harvest energy directly from the sun.

If you get through this whole list, your house will be very efficient! Let me know how it goes.

Bee Sanctuary Garden Guest House

Now you can stay at Blossomwood Farmstead! Our guest house is up on Airbnb. It sleeps two, so it’s the perfect get-a-way.

Here is inside the guest house.

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Your view from the porch.

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The river!

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Official description:

This is a small guest house on a 42 acre farm property on Yachats River Rd. We are seven miles from the beach and town of Yachats. Our farm is called Blossomwood Farmstead. It is truly a retreat.

The guest house has one bedroom, one bathroom, and living room space with kitchenette. Enjoy relaxing on the front porch!

This farm is a bee sanctuary, which means that we use organic methods when possible and do not use pesticides. We will be continuously adding forage to support pollinators.

Click here to see the listing on Airbnb!

National Conference for Women in Sustainable Agriculture

I was fortunate to attend this conference over the past few days. It was incredibly heartening to meet so many women who are committed to sustainability in farming. As a very beginner farmer myself, I felt inspired by those that have been working in agriculture for decades. I came away with some great information and wanted so share some highlights!

Nostrana – I was already familiar with this delicious restaurant as a customer, but it was delightful to hear Chef Cathy Whims speak at the capstone lunch about her history with the Farm to Table movement.

Leaping Lamb Farms – Seems like a great farm stay in Alsea, Or. The owner Scottie Jones is also the founder of Farm Stays US, which is an incredible resource. She also mentioned a great reservation platform for websites, called ResNexus.

North Fork – Another farm stay, this one is directed by a woman named Ginger Edwards in Nahalem, Or.

Pacific Women’s Herbal Conference – A gathering of women in the Cascadia foothills to learn about plants and medicine. Lead by Eversong Evans, a gardener and herbalist in Monroe, Washington.

Emerge – Leadership training for women who would like to hold office.

Fox and Bear – Woman owned Portland Farm.

National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition – Our voice in Washington D.C. for the sustainable food movement. Made up of over a hundred member organizations.

Out Here – Documentary about Queer Farmers.

Zia Queen Bees – New Mexico apiary that focuses on the rearing of queens with natural longevity. Business is co-owned by Melanie Kirby.

Recommended books: Soil Sisters, The Color of Food, Broad Influence, and Sowing Seeds of Victory.

Buckman Community Association

I’m happy to share that last night I was elected as a Board member of the Buckman Community Association. The following is an approximation of the ad-hoc speech I gave.

“I’ve been coming to these meetings for about two years, off and on, when I can. I’d like to make a commitment to be more involved. I’m already quite involved in the community, I’m an OSU Master Gardener and Vice President of the Portland Urban Beekeepers, through that, I’m also Chair of the Tour de Hives committee this year (referring to flyers I had passed out earlier.) I’ve gone into elementary school classrooms to teach kids about pollinators, as well as teaching a class for adults called Gardening for Pollinators. My interest in beekeeping and teaching about this subject is a positive manifestation of my concern about the environment. Hearing the recent stories about lead in the drinking water of our schools and the Bullseye Glass Pollution makes me want to get involved at a deeper level. I want to channel my anger and concern in a positive direction. My partner and I, and my family, recently purchased a farm in Yachats, Oregon which we are making a permaculture farm and bee sanctuary. Splitting our time between the two places (well, we live in Buckman, but go to the farm when we can) has been interesting. There’s the small town thing there… in the four months we’ve had that land we’ve gotten to know more of out neighbors than we have here in years. We’ve been invited to their homes. I want to build community here — in Portland — in Buckman. I love being a connector, a hub for getting people to know each other and making things happen. I’m also a graphic designer (referring again to the flyer) and real estate broker, so I’m involved in the neighborhoods in that way as well. Thank you. I’d love to help!”

I’m really looking forward to being involved. I’ve got my eye on the Sustainability Committee. They have a very cool program matching up gardeners with open spaces in people’s yards and they seem to need assistance.

pollinator garden

We put a small pollinator garden in at Blossomwood Farmstead this weekend!

Here’s the hill before, with our chosen perennials placed where we wanted to plant them. We wanted things that would be relatively self-sufficient and not need a lot of watering once established. We planted penstemon, pincushion flower, red hot poker, yarrow, breadseed poppy, cosmos, valerian, and lavender. There was already ceanothus, a yellow red hot poker, and rose cambion.

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Getting all the grass and weeds out was the most labor intensive part. It looked like a bit of a mess during the process.

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Here it is with all the sod gone, ready to be planted, before the mulch.

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Here it is all finished!

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It looks a bit sparse now, but there is room for everything to grow and fill in. Can’t wait to see it in a couple years. We have already seen quite a number of bumble bees, humming birds, two butterfly species, and some small native bees as well. It’s amazing how fast they all find new flowers.