Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Wedding, Birthday and Lavender.... Oh My!


Wedding family photo... we took several and this is the one that the photographer chose to include.... I think it sums it up... love it.

Hello Everyone,

Grab a blanket and a glass of wine... it has been awhile since I have posted and soooo much has been going on.  The last post was a few months ago....  Since then we have had a beautiful wedding, a new family member, a 5oth (yes 50th) birthday party, and planted our first crop of lavender... not to mention all the preparation for all of the above.

First, the biggest and most emotional event this year was our oldest son getting married to the most amazing, beautiful, talented, sensitive, caring, funny, smart.... oh my gosh the list goes on and we can not be more ecstatic to have her as our 5th daughter in our family... especially since.... I didn't have to change her diapers or go through the teen year trials... lol.  I love this girl!




The day could not have been more relaxed and enjoyable.  With all of our family and friends there, including all of Kava's dad's, it was an amazing fun filled night full of laughter, tears and special connections.  They are a beautiful couple surrounded by so many friends and family that love them to pieces ...  you could feel all that energy fill the air.  We are definitely so blessed to have such an amazing network of special people in our lives.

















Along those lines of special people in our lives... our next event to prepare for was my 50th.  I had a dream that I wanted to have my friends and family help to plant my first lavender crop on our farm.  So in trying to prepare for that I had 3ish weeks to get the land prepared for planting, solar installed and operating and our well pressurized so that it could actually pump the water out of the tank with enough pressure to fill the 2000 feet of drip system for each of the 650 plants.

I have to give farmer Chris coodoos for pulling up his britches and putting on his farmer staw hat and getting many of these tasks done and organized.  He never ceases to amaze me at what he is able to accomplish under pressure.

First things first we needed to get our solar installed and wired so that we could pressurize our water storage tank so that it could water the plants through our drip system.

Chris went up and in ONE day and got the frame and all the solar panels installed and ready for wiring...


Then we went up to build a shed for all the power to be stored in... that was another one day task...



Now the power shed is ready for the electrician, John Upchurch, to come and get everything done.  He and his son came for a week and a half straight to help us install all the wiring and hook everything up.  Starting with digging all the trenches to bury the lines... and again finding more rocks.... Big rocks!  This one is now a chair around our fire pit.




Okay... now we have solar so the next task is getting the water flowing... Tom Hunt from Hunt drilling came out and installed the water pressure bladder in our water tank.... Done... check check check.  No pictures here... not much to see but it is nice to have the water flowing out of the tank.  We actually had to turn down the pressure... it was blowing the irrigation lines.

Now onto the field to prep for the lavender planting...... What we started with was a field covered in grass and filled with rocks... and when I say filled I mean completely filled with rocks.  Now lavender likes a mediterranean soil that is well drained... so that is definitely what we have but we still need to some how get rid of the rocks in order to plant... Our neighbor Rob Cowan was a god send.... He is also an excavator/contractor with a huge bulldozer with ripper blades on the back and can leave it parked on our property.....



He also had the time at night to walk over and rip 2 of our fields up so that we could at least get a shovel into the ground.  This ground has never been touched, it is so compacted that it is literally impossible to dig farther than 12", it is really incredibly hard.  Of course once you rip the field with a 40,000 pound bulldozer you are going to get a few rocks.... quite a few rocks... some very large and to big for our tractor to move. So now we need to call in Rob's friend who has a mini excavator with a thumb to pick up and move these gigantic things to the side... I see rock art in our future..



Now it is time to till the dirt which in turn pulls up more rocks... and we hand pick them out... each and everyone that we can until it is free of rocks that are bigger than a softball... I'm telling you... I was so tired of kneeling in that dirt and sorting dust and rocks and dirt clods... I literally broke down and cried a few times... and then I think... what the heck, how did people do this in the olden times... I definitely can't complain but I have a new appreciation for farming... that is for sure.

So now that I see light at the end of the tunnel... with the water working and just over 1/4 acre ready to plant... I order my 650 lavender plants from Victors Lavender in Washington... a combination of Folgate, Sachet, Munstead and Hidcote Giant.  These are primarily for culinary and sachets but also can be used for essential oils.  In the spring I will order my next major crop of Grosso (known for its essential oil) probably about 400 plants. 



I start laying down the landscaping cloth, I think the kids were going to kill me or each other trying to help me with this.  They had the toughest time putting in the spikes to hold the cloth down because of all the rocks STILL in the ground.  I read that it is easier to burn the holes in the cloth so that it seals the hole and doesn't fray... I have fun with this part.  




laying drip lines... phew!  Now we are ready to plant.


The big day... I can't thank all my friends and family enough who took the time to drive the 2 hours out to the farm and then spend it with me in the dirt and getting all grimy... It was amazing with all the help we were able to plant all the lavender in just 2 hours.  Everyone helped even the kids by carrying little buckets and helping to spread the pea gravel around the base of the plants.  


It warmed my heart and soul to see everyone there with me and now whenever I walk the fields I still have the image of all the love that was there that day and can still hear the little kids singing me happy birthday.  













The update on the lavender is that they are growing and doing well.  I have a small critter issue that I am working through and trying to deter them from using my lavender as the vegetable market... but for the most part they are all good.


Also, when you have property out in farm country you get little notes left on your tractor ...



so that you can contact people if something goes astray... like cows.  So now we are prioritizing the deer fencing so we can keep not only the deers out but also the cows, coyotes (at least deter) and keep bula in.  Now our projects are to finish putting the roofing on before the major rains come and paint the trim.  



Then it will be to keep the 40 acres of oak trees pruned and trimmed and piled for the winter.  I guess this thing is never ending... I love it.  I hope you can come visit us and spend sometime amongst the whispering oaks... okay not so whispering... but it is fun just to wonder and hang out and see a sunset.  Maybe in the future some fun toys and farm animals will be there to enjoy...

Dreaming of this for our house... or at least something like it... maybe in stages.

We have also started out little hobby business at Wildoaksfamilyfarm.com .... check it out.  For now it is what you see on this blog but in the future will have more detail on starting a family farm and what is going on up there... 

This boat (svfamilycircus) has sailed and now its time to plant some roots, Wild Oaks Family Farm, (for now) we hoping to set ourselves up for retirement with sailing 6 months out of the year and farming the other 6 months... sounds like a dream come true.

Hugs and love to everyone,

Heather

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Power vs. Solar... Ummm solar please

Hello Everyone,

When we bought the property we knew that it would be expensive to get power out to our property... we just didn't know exactly how expensive.  We had a PG&E guy come over and give us an estimate to put power poles up and lines to the beginning of our property on the road and to the middle, which is where we actually would need it to get to for our homestead site.  Well, as it turns out the estimate from PG&E came back at between 40K to 60K+ just to run lines and put up poles.  That doesn't even get us power to our actual house which is about another 1000ft away from the last pole, if we came all the way to the center of the road along the property.  With this new information we really decided to look into staying off the grid.  I always liked the idea and with living on the boat for the last 2 years we were used to minimal power usage and regulating the solar/generator for our battery banks.  After a ton of research (Chris) we decided to go with Wholesale Solar out of Mt. Shasta.  They are a small family owned company that have been living off the grid for over 25 years and are extremely knowledgable and helpful.  They design the systems for the DIY crowd and are very detailed in the installation videos and instructions.

First thing we always do when we get to the property is fill the pool... this is the kids entertainment and cooling off while we are working... Kava started a new fun pool time activity by making the biggest whirlpool by going in circles... I think 1/4 of the water came out while they were doing this... Super fun, thanks Kav...


So this last weekend our main objective was to get the foundation poles set for the solar panels so that we could install them in the next few weekends.  We are expecting the shipment on Friday so it was important for us to try and get this done prior to arrival.  After staking out 3 different sites for maximum sun exposure, minimal tree removal, minimal slope and of course the least amount of boulders....  We now know that our property has about 2 - 3 feet of top soil and then we hit the decomposed granite and rocks.  We found our site and after measuring and setting our stakes of where to drill we threw the auger on the tractor.  With much optimism with breaking ground we thought we would be at least able to drill about 3 feet.   Yep... nope we got about 18" and less.  Even with Chris standing on the auger while it was drilling (i'm sure that was safe) we couldn't get any farther... Okay so time to call in the bigger equipment.  We called an electrician, John Upchurch, that has been helping us with a lot of decisions for our electrical infrastructure and he was able to squeeze us in at 6:30am to help us drill the holes.  They brought their bobcat and a 12" bit that applies 7000lbs of pressure, a little more weight than Chris standing on the auger bit, and even with this was able to get 7 out of the 8 holes dug for us...

He also gave us a tip about an Ace Hardware in Ione that will rent a cement trailer with a yard of cement so that we didn't have to manually mix and pour 80 60lb bags of cement... Ugh that would have been a nightmare.



Kava came to help us and thank goodness he had the mind set and the shear willingness to tackle one hole that the auger couldn't get through... and yes with a pick axe and shovel Kava was able to break up the rocks that were stopping the auger... weird how they kept stopping the turning rotation of the bit so that the auger couldn't get through it and Kava was able to remove them so we could use ours on the tractor to get a little deeper of a hole dug and then we used a cement form to poor around the pole out of the ground.  I guess the solar bars have to be able to sustain hurricane force winds because of their angle they can act like a sail... so that is why they are set in the ground 4.5' deep with a 12" diameter...




although we learned that our strong winds from the property all come from the south so in theory they would rise right up over the panels.  I definitely notice the strong breeze every afternoon from the south and then it is weird how it swirls around to come from the north at night...

It was also nice to have Kava because he was able to help Chris with placement and alignment of the poles to make sure they were straight up and down, straight in a line and exactly 90" and 7'4" apart from each other.... patience and a new determination to get the job done right helps a ton....


After the poles are set we will go in and measure height and cut them accordingly so they are all level...

All in all it was a very productive 2 days.  Our goal was get the 2nd sheds rafters built before we went up to the property... Our awesome neighbors/best friends came up to help us get these built in record time Friday night... Since we have the walls up we couldn't build them on a flat surface up there so we decided to use the basketball court at home... Thanks Gwen, Jeff, Annika and Jasper!




We were able to get the siding up on the 2nd shed and the solar bars in place.  Again it always seems that things take longer than expected but at least we learn something new every time we attempt a project... and thats what we love.





Next items on the to do list are to finish up the roofing on both sheds, install windows and doors and make them weather tight.  Finish installing the solar panels, build power house shed for the batteries and electrical and then run electrical to the sheds, trailer and water storage container for the pressure pump.  Then we can start thinking about getting the land ready for planting and irrigation for planting.

Again, the sunsets never cease to amaze me and I so appreciate that time... Have I said that before????





Hugs and Love,

Heather

Walking home to the trailer after the sun went down.....