picture of the winter farm

Hello from an increasingly chilly house in an increasingly chilly landscape! This first week of serious cold has been an interesting one for 2 main reasons: our furnace doesn't work well, and lots of farm-related outdoor tasks can no longer be done because the ground is fully frozen and there is ice and snow on the ground. The furnace will hopefully be more operational soon, but for now it is running with the front panels removed, as well as the burner cover, which makes me nervous. It's set up this way because the system needs a ton of oxygen in order to produce a sufficiently hot flame, which is only possible if the cover is partially removed and the burners open to the room. (Learning about furnaces!)

I've been thinking about the basement lately, and yesterday the crusty ceiling panels in the central part of it were removed, revealing multiple rodent skeletons, some partial dried corncobs (presumably grown across the road), and another long crustacean-looking skeleton. I removed the tees (learned a word!) and discovered the main tee was well attached to the joists with a sophisticated system of somewhat loose screws and wire.

P1000384

I also removed about 20 pounds of dust/sand that N. and his father kindly collected before I arrived, and opened the door to welcome Rose, who meowed loudly as always and immediately threw herself down and rolled in the remaining dust.

The crop field feels so different frozen! We managed to mulch our small garlic patch earlier this week, just before the arrival of heavy rains and later snow and cold air.

P1000386

Finally, I've shamelessly put up xmas lights, after not having done so in over a decade! We have single-color strands, red, white, green, and blue, and there is one of these on 4 respective limbs of a tree in front of the house. There is also a star on the dairy barn, which out in the country looks incredibly bright, and is quite visible from the road.

P1000379

The best part of the star is that I get to take a frigid walk out to the dairy barn each night with a flashlight, which is when it strikes me most how different this setting is from any other in which I've lived.

Thanks for reading!

-pppp

change in the air

Yesterday's balmy temperatures and rain are long gone, with high pressure in their wake: 1 to 2 inches of light snow, strong wind gusts, and temperatures below freezing, at least through the rest of the week. Northeasterners are getting this soon! In fact, I just checked the forecast and it's due to start literally this hour. The resulting cold won't be as cold, though. The cold wind felt rough at first today: I went walking north up the hill with N., the road covered in ice, and much of the sand that was put down blown to the edges. As nice as mild weather has been, I am hoping that we have some average (that is, cold) winter temperatures and plenty of snow over the next few months. Now that we have a well I am in constant (rational? irrational?) fear of depleting groundwater supply. Of course.

chicken coop dusting of snow

I say that we walked north up the hill because the other option is south up the hill. Our place occupies what I'm going to call a micro valley, the road sloping steeply upward in either direction. So if there's a ton of snow or ice, we're staying put.

Lately, including earlier today, the outdoor work we've been focusing on has been clearing trees from all around the farm. The dairy barn and the large pole barn are well surrounded by young trees that are starting to do some damage, and we're committed to avoiding that. Aside from a couple of trees that need to be professionally removed because they are large and inches (or less) from a building, we're taking care of pretty much everything with a very small bow saw, which is labor-intensive but is an excellent way to warm oneself.

snowy dust fields

Another big project is cutting a path to access the vegetable/perennial field, which is separated from the rest of the farm by a gully and thick brush. This isn't a good photo (above) to show the work we've done, but you can at least see the pasture (foreground) and treeline/brush/gully in the middle, and fields beyond that we will want good access to. After clearing, we will be placing tubes in the gully, which is 4 feet deep in spots, so that we can make a bridge!

This weekend we had visitors on Saturday and Sunday! It is so wonderful to show people this place and describe our plans and real work that's been completed. A certain couple from Minneapolis brought chili, corn muffins, and pumpkin whoopie pies/cupcakes! We all went on a lovely walk that was new to everyone, saw confusing farm implements, and smelled the manure.

P1000375

Thanks for reading!

-ppppppp

barn stories

You people on Facebook have seen the nice dairy barn photo, which seems awfully cool! The barn is cool, but is sadly way beyond restoration. To take that photo, I leaned a ladder against the front exterior wall of the barn, and it did not feel safe. N. and I were looking around inside on a windy day, and there were far too many noises suggesting it was about to collapse. Here's a view that captures the disarray: P1000356

You can see that the roof arches on this south side have fallen over the cement wall and are on the ground. This seems to have been precipitated by roof damage and water leakage that sped up the deterioration of one of the massive support beams, which is now broken, a part of it resting on the floor of the barn. It is actually shocking how intact the interior still is, including the hay loft on the second floor (I took a photo in color yesterday in addition to the B&W posted on fb). Again, I did not enter this part of the barn, I stayed on a ladder outside, because it does not seem remotely safe.

P1000353

N. and I have spent a short amount of time in the first floor of the barn because the well head and pressure tank of our farm well is located in the front corner of the barn. We have been trying to get a very good sense of all the infrastructure here, especially concerning farm irrigation. Early this week we also turned the farm water back on to see what our flow rate will be:

IMG-pok-1 (24)

There is some worry that the barn could collapse and destroy our pressure tank (or at least render it inaccessible for a while), so we may move it to another protected, less threatened area.

Checking out the wells and other infrastructure was part of our first field walk, on Wendesday! It was so fun. We found animal records from the dairy farm and learned that it was an active dairy up until 1995, at least. We also investigated what tools and equipment the previous farmer left behind, and are super grateful! We already have an electric fence, multiple useful tools, and gates/fencing supplies from her.

IMG-pok-1 (26)

The final part of our field walk covered the tillable fields - almost 3.5 acres (above, with me). The rest of our farm, and the house, is visible beyond the field (actually the house is totally obscured by trees here). As you can see, the upper portion is quite sloped, so for a while (or forever) it will be dedicated to straw production, perennial food crops like berries and rhubarb, and/or potentially crops like quinoa or oats, that we'd love to experiment with. More on our planned growing methods later! Thanks for reading.

-ppppp

first days

We're here! N. and I drove to central PA this past Saturday after receiving a ton of moving help from my dad and well-wishing (and travel snacks) from K. and J. On Sunday we completed the trip from Lamar, PA to Menomonie, WI, arriving at 1:30 Monday morning. The weather was mercifully mild, and we unpacked and returned our truck by Monday afternoon. IMG_20171127_081130761

And now work! Our name is Hexagon Projects and Farm, and we will be working on building a business here in Menomonie, which is in western Wisconsin, close to the border with Minnesota and located along the Red Cedar River, which flows south to join the Chippewa before emptying into the Mississippi. South of the center of Menomonie and near Downsville are Hexagon's 9 acres, forming an irregular hexagon, and including a house, garage, 2 pole barns, and a large and beautiful but crumbling dairy barn. About 3.5 acres are sloping tillable field, and here we anticipate a combination of vegetables, berries, beans, and grazing. 2 acres have been nicely grazed by sheep over the past few years, and we plan on continuing this, as well as establishing an orchard. Anything related to animals will require much research and I'm sure will result in constant mistakes!

IMG_20171128_150713836

The remaining land is covered by buildings or is wooded, and we've worked in these first few days to learn these wild areas and also to figure out where the wells are, how many trees are dangerously close to buildings, and what we'll need to do to keep certain things from deteriorating. This sounds like a downer, but it's amazing work! As we do as much as possible before it is extremely snowy and/or cold, I'll give all the updates. Thanks for reading!!

-pppppp

IMG_20171127_070748434