Saturday, April 30, 2011

Easter in Vancouver


Last weekend, I headed to Vancouver (pictured above) to visit my friends Jon and Julia. I had a splendid time, including a potluck Easter dinner (featuring a ten pound ham), an incredible dinner out at a sushi and oyster restaurant, shuffleboard and Molson Canadians at a Royal Canadian Legion, a delicious breakfast, a mysterious plant sale, and all-round good times.

Here are some other things that happened:

1) I bumped into some dudes without torsos. No biggie.

Long Legs Walking

2) I hung out at Long Life Place. I wasn't there long, but it felt like forever.

Long Life Place

3) I leaned against this ride to impress all the ladies.

Pink Limo

4) I stuck Jon and Julia's cat, Ten Brooks, into a box and poked at him. Hilarity ensued!

Ten Brooks

5) I hung out by the docks and swore like a sailor.


6) I couldn't resist taking a picture of this handsome dude on the ferry between the Mainland and the Island.


7) I saw this beautiful business on the same ferry ride where I saw that handsome dude with the Blue Jays' hat. I guess beautiful things come in pairs?

Ferry Shot

8) Back on the Island, I stopped at this magnificent vista along the side of the highway between Victoria and Duncan.


Happy be-lated Easter! I hope you celebrated the occasion by putting some Peeps in the microwave.

5 Photos of Rhubarb

To be honest, I know nothing about rhubarb. Until I gave it a nibble the other day, I wouldn't have been able to tell you anything about its taste. (It's got a little kick to it! But not my favourite.) The plants don't mind the cold, so they're one of the more successful and established crops on the farm right now. Despite rhubarbs' poisonous leaves, the ravens still enjoy pecking at them, so that's why there's netting covering all the beds.

Rows of Rhubarb

Rhubarb + Flower 01

Rhubarb + Flower 04

Rhubarb + Flower 02

Row of Rhubarb

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Irrigation is Pretty Cool

Sprinkler 02

I think I kind of love irrigation. Seriously. I'm all into the diagrams, hoses, pipes, sprinklers, levers, clamps, and other bits and pieces.

Irrigation Bit & Pieces

Scarecrows in a Box 01

This isn't to say that irrigation isn't frustrating. It's crazy frustrating. Farmer Brock is still trying to figure out a system for his fields that finds a nice balance between cost, manpower, water conservation, efficiency, and water pressure management. The result has been many attempts and experiments involving burst pipes, broken clamps, and getting wet. I'm finding that I have a knack for somehow getting soaked while everyone else stays bone dry.

Scarecrow + Crop Rows

Above is what you call a "scarecrow." When Farmer Brock first mentioned that we'd be putting up scarecrows, I was excited because I thought we'd be constructing straw effigies with old, floppy hats and rusty pitchforks. How wrong I was! Silly, Apprentice Mike. Instead, "scarecrows" are these fancy motion activated sprinklers that are meant to scare away the ravens who are busy pecking away at the rows of garlic. When activated, they look like this:

Scarecrow Shooting Water

Reason #1 why Apprentice Mike is always getting wet while setting up irrigation systems? He's the only idiot wandering down the line taking pictures:

Irrigation Line 02

In summary, I think irrigation is pretty cool. That and it's much easier to work with 3/4 inch hose than one inch hose.

Irrigation 01

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Motley Farming Crue

Farm Crew

From left to right: Apprentice Jill, Apprentice Tim, Apprentice Me, and Farmer Brock.

(Photo by Heather)

Friday, April 22, 2011

Attention Alex Davis of Oakland, California!


Above is a picture of Alex Davis' dog. The dog's name is Tank. Alex Davis and I made a bet based on the legitimacy of this email. Alex Davis lost this bet. As a result, he owes me a pitcher of beer! Tank did not partake in this wager.

When I return to Oakland, I look forward to drinking from this pitcher of beer.

(Photo by Alex Davis)

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Getting Over Irrational Fears

Power Tool

I've always had a fear of power tools. For some reason, whenever a situation arises where I'm supposed to use some sort of high powered electrical tool, I imagine explosions, electrocution, severed fingers, and sharp blades ripping through the air and lodging into my skull.

Here on the farm, though, there's no time for such tomfoolery. I've got to conquer this fear! And you know what? It's been going pretty well. I've actually been using the miter saw pictured above with some regularity. I just strap on a pair of goggles and rip through some 2X4's. Like a champ.

Behind the miter saw, in case you were curious, are the tresses for a barn that hopefully we'll complete some time next week. Structurally, the barn will look a lot like our greenhouses, but with higher ceilings and walls made of something stronger than vapour plastic.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

5 Photos From Today

1) It was a little muddy today.

Mud Part I

2) An older, currently unused greenhouse. Freshly tilled!

Unused Greenhouse

3) Near the end of the day, this strange upside down rainbow appeared way up high in the sky.

Upside Down Rainbow

4) A greenhouse ready for bed - plant starts covered in remay cloth for extra warmth.

Greenhouse Goes To Bed

5) Did I mention there's a lot of mud on the farm these days?

Mud Part II

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Soil Blocking 101

Soil Blockers 02

One of the first things I learned on the farm was a little thing called soil blocking. Basically, it involves mixing up a good batch of soil and arranging said soil into nice little cubes on a tray. Then ba-da-bing, ba-da-boom, you've got trays of neatly arranged soil ready for seeding. Here's my step-by-step breakdown of soil blocking:

1) Find your soil blocking gadgets. They kind of look like the love child of a pogo stick and a cookie cutter.

Soil Blockers 01

2) Mix your soil. This involves peat moss, vermiculite, hot water, lots of cold water, and a top secret combination of fancy nutrients. I'd tell you the combination, but then I'd have to kill you.

Mixing Soil

3) When you're mixing your soil, make sure it turns the right colour. If it's too dry, it's a light brown. If it's too wet, it's really dark, muddy, and hard to turn over with a shovel. If it's orange or purple, you're in big trouble.

Mixed Soil

4) Stab your soil blocker into the soil mix. Then give it a twist, pull it out, and make sure it's packed tight with soil. You will get dirt splatter on your clothes and face. This is all part of the soil blocking charm.

Soil Blocking

5) Release the soil from the soil blocker and onto a tray. This works kind of like one of those cookie cutters with a spring on top. It's a delicate art, but after a few tries you get the hang of it.

Starting a Tray

6) Repeat until the tray is full. We have soil blockers that do sets of 4, 12, and 20. The goal is to get as many blocks as possible onto a tray. Apprentice Jill is especially good at this. She also holds the record for most completed trays of soil blocks in a morning - 24 trays in 4 hours, or something crazy like that.

Finished Tray

7) Seed those bad boys! Pop a single seed into all those tiny holes and try to do it quickly and efficiently. Below are some nice, big beet seeds, but sometimes you've got to deal with something tiny and annoying like lettuce or purslane. If you double seed a block, Farmer Brock cuts off one of your toes. Once you're out of toes, he goes for your non-dominant/non-seeding hand fingers.


8) Pinch a little dirt on top of those seeds and drop them off in a greenhouse. With careful watering, sheltering, and the occasional bedtime story, hopefully they turn into healthy starts like the ones you see below.

Trays of Starts

9) Repeat until your back hurts. Piece of cake, right?

Monday, April 18, 2011

A Few Weeks Apart

Snowy Mountains

It still gets pretty cold here on Vancouver Island at night and early in the morning. Thankfully the snow stays in the mountains. I hate snow. There's a reason I moved to California from the home country three years ago.

I think it's pretty amazing that this is where I'm working now. Only a few weeks ago, my work environment looked like this:



I was working for two different library systems in and around Oakland. I did everything from working at the reference desk of a primarily Spanish speaking library (despite not speaking Spanish), teaching computer and job skills classes to adults, and doing data entry and other office work in a sea of cubicles.

Don't get me wrong, I liked the old jobs and worked with some great people, but I'm loving the mountains, fields, and fresh air. I'm even loving me some early morning mud!

Muddy Farm Needs to Dry Out

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Meet Jill!

Jill X2

You've already met Tim, my RV buddy and writer of extraordinary emails, so now it's time to introduce Jill. The three of us are apprentices at Makaria Farm, which basically means we're three people who know nothing about farming, but want to learn more. After two weeks here (two weeks already!), here are some things I've noted about Jill:

1) She's got a lot of love for her hometown of Edmonton, Alberta. She often waxes poetic about the northern city's long winters, cold weather, short growing seasons, and urban sprawl. Seriously. She loves her some Edmonton. She even looked back fondly upon this infamous day. No offense to the good people of Edmonton, but all of this sounds pretty terrible.

2) Despite being a vegetarian, Jill is an excellent cook. Although she doesn't live in the RV with Tim and I, she often comes over for dinner. We're often throwing together unusual ingredients with incredible results, such as our recent meal of fish nachos:

Fish Nachos

3) Jill's a pretty incredible graphic designer. She designed the farm's beautiful CSA poster, which you can see here. You can also check out her other work on her website.

4) Jill believes that Tim and I are starting to act like an old married couple because we live in such close proximity. I'll let you know how that goes.

5) Jill's most often used expression? "That's so weird!"

6) Although the RV supposedly can "sleep 6" (seriously!), Jill lives in a shack behind the farmer's house. This is a picture of her shack:

Chicken Shack

Just kidding. That's an old chicken coop. Below is Jill's shack, which she built with Tim and Farmer Brock. I helped install the soffit so rats don't nibble their way into Jill's home.

Jill's Shack

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Greenhouse Madness

Half built greenhouse 01

Despite some crazy winds and uncooperative vapour plastic, we finished building a greenhouse today! It's around 48' X 23' and according to Farmer Brock, the farming bossman, the materials are easy to find and cost less than $500. Not too shabby!

The weather is still pretty chilly and rainy, so the greenhouse is needed to provide a warm home free of ravens and bugs for all the vegetable seeds. Once they've had time to grow and the weather gets better, they'll be transplanted into the fields.

Trays of seedlings 01

In other news, I'm learning to tame that majestic orange beast that you see grazing behind the greenhouse. I'll provide photo evidence some time soon!

Half built greenhouse 02

Sunday, April 10, 2011

New Roommate - Part II

New Roommate

Good news! My new roommate, pictured above cutting vegetables, isn't a passive aggressive raw-food vegan. Turns out that email I received before moving up here was just a joke. Shits and giggles. What a kidder!

Based upon a week's worth of observation, here are a few things I can say about the stranger I'm living with in an RV:

1) His name is Tim and he's originally from Toronto, which is only an hour or so from my hometown. I like this because it means I can make jokes about Rance Mullinik's mustache or Popeye Jones' ears and he actually knows what I'm talking about.

2) Within the first three minutes of my moving into the RV, he let me know that he tends to scream in his sleep. So far, I've only heard him speak/speak loudly while sleeping, but I'm crossing my fingers for some screaming! An added bonus is that I, too, occasionally talk/scream in my sleep. I'm hoping that one night we'll have a Deliverance inspired, dueling banjos of sleep-talking/screaming....

3) Tim eats incredibly quickly. Really. The expression "inhales his food" doesn't do it justice.

4) Although he's not actually a raw-food vegan, Tim is a vegetarian. He also enjoys black licorice, specifically Panda black licorice. I tried to be polite about it, but I think Panda black licorice is a little gross.

5) He needs to drink more water when he's working on the farm. Dude's gotta hydrate!