What have we been up to? Hard question to answer. Imagine a big stove top full of pans that are being stirred on different temperatures, and then in front of that stove is a bunch of plates spinning — some are wobbling, and we don't even have time to wonder why in the world would we want to spin plates in the first place.
Today Eliza asked me if I'd written this blog post yet. Perfectly reasonable question since I said I'd do it about 4 months ago. I *have* carried a handwritten sheet of notes all the way to New Mexico and back. And... that... was about all I had got done on the post. Can't she see the plates spinning? The stove with the pots burning over? Of course she can, because she can see into the dimension of metaphor, and she's actually leading this crazy endeavor.
Here's an update on what's been happening at Lilliputopia. Not in any particular order or even sequentially. But we will start with the kind of big stuff.
Monroe Farmers Market
We were really excited to help put together the local farmers market. We helped with design work, pulling people together for meetings, Eliza had a booth for the whole season — weekly from June to October. And I played live music a lot of the time. We met so many cool people! The market was a great way to bring the community together. Plus we found new friends and customers who would come back week after week to buy veggies, lemonade, fresh bread, etc. I thought it was kind of funny to have the vendors as a captive audience while I played many of the same songs every Tuesday. But sometimes people would dance around and sing along. So that was cool. To see more photos and learn more about the market, visit the Facebook page or Instagram account.
But here's a couple in the meantime to whet your appetite:
Greenhouse: Phase I
We already have a blog post about putting the greenhouse together. You can read more about it here. There are a number of aspects of the build that are still ongoing, but I'd like to declare victory over Phase One. Eliza has been successfully growing starts in there and we built a raised bed in which we can grow some greens and stuff through the winter.
TinyFest! The World's Smallest Music Festival
To celebrate summer solstice, we hosted a party with pizza and live Americana music from the band Logger's Daughter. Because at Lilliputopia, we like to accentuate that the best things are often the small stuff, the "festival" was pint-sized by design, but we had the requisites: music, pizza, beer, and tie-dye.
Slideshow (find the arrow):
Gleaning Local Fruit
This area is chock full of what I would call "feral" fruit trees. From what I understand there was vigorous fruit industry that was literally derailed when they removed the train tracks that ran out west of the valley. So there are a lot of old orchards out there that are not being tended and a lot of fruit not getting harvested. We dipped out toe in the practice of finding and picking these available trees, courtesy of a local property owner who says he's really too old to be messing with this stuff. This year we now need to expand the operation. The key of course is to have an effective processing plan once you get all the fruit in.
This project probably warrants a longer article to discuss all the steps we went through to transform an old, slumped-over, seemingly haunted farm shed into the setting for our rustic farm store. I liken the carpentry to be closer to quilt-making rather than proper building technique. I have so many in-progress photos to catalog what was done, like:
Using car jacks to level the floor with salvaged beams and new posts/piers
Rebuilding sections of walls to rehang exterior sheathing
Sheathing the east wall with freshly-milled fir
"New" (likely 100-year-old) worktables
Demoing the old roof, then lifting and reconstructing trusses
New roof with skylights
Adding new doors, creating a sliding door
Building a shop counter out of salvaged wood and roof tin
Interior walls and shelving
Before and After: "Haunted house" to "Barn Reborn" (find the arrow to flip photos)
A Grab Bag of "Smaller Stuff"
This list has less description for each project, but it should not diminish the effort or investment. Every project is cool and has a story. If you have questions, we can elaborate.
Built the roof over the pizza oven
Extended electricity out to the auxiliary RV pad
Cleared and thinned the ivy and underbrush at the west end of the field
Fashioned an esoteric deer deterrent over the the southwest garden fence out of grape cuttings, maple branches and some random pieces of tubing we found
Raised some silkie chickens, including a couple of roosters (who has now found a new home)
Created some unique deck rails out of ivy-choked hawthorn from the property
Created a compost area, including bins from salvaged materials and a garage for a classic chipper/shredder
Received our first grant, which was awarded to purchase electric fencing for the chickens and other predator deterrent tactics
Raised 48 Goji plants from seed
Built a fence and gate for the northwest corner of property, including a parking area for customers of the farm store
Hand-dug an experimental first swale at the top of the hillside
Inoculated and stacked mushroom logs
Installed a back-flow prevention device in the main water line
Passed a new city ordinance allowing small farms in the city limits to host seasonal farm workers in RVs between May and October
Foraged for chanterelles
Built a library ladder to climb up to the loft in the house
Rod carved a sign for use at the farmers market and eventually in the store
Added cob and scratch plaster to the stem wall foundation of the greenhouse
Created a booth for the Monroe Holiday Festival
Pressed cider with our friend Steve and later was gifted a cider press by our friends Joe and Skye
Got a new puppy, a husky/white German shepherd mix girl who we named "Pepita"
We weighed Pepita this morning and she's heavier than a sunflower seed, after 7 months she's up to 45 pounds. Has she topped out? Who knows. The good news is that her presence on the farm has so far greatly slowed down the deer pressure we've previously encountered. Fingers crossed!