Snow Farm Implement

First snow. When it all seemed charming.

Years ago, I took a summer biology class at the Mountain Research Station near Nederland Colorado. During the course of that wonderful week, there was a conversation with our instructor, in which she was talking about an old friend of hers, who used to do work at the station, and was now suffering from Alzheimer’s. She would go to visit him, and ask him questions about his past, to keep him engaged. At one point, she asked, “What’s your favorite season”. And his answer has always stuck with me, these 20+ years later. “WINTER, because it’s so dynamic!” I try to remember this, as I witness how snow transforms the landscape, softening edges, hushing the noise, insulating the world from all insults. Snow Fence

We don’t normally get a lot of snow in Walla Walla. That fact was one of the reasons we chose to move here, after 10 years of deep winter snow in Durango Colorado. In the last 5 years, we stopped bothering to even put the snow tires on the car.

Snow YucaNot this year. We’ve had deep cold (down to -5, which is definitely the coldest its been since we’ve lived here, by about 10 degrees), and quite a lot of snow. We got a good 8 inches or more, before Christmas, just before the temperature plummeted (I was grateful for the insulating blanket of snow BEFORE the deep cold, as this can go a long way to protect more sensitive plants). Then, while we were on vacation to Maui over the holidays, it snowed some more, and then it all melted off in a day or two. Now, its back to snowing, and snowing, and snowing some more, and we’ve only had one day that made it above freezing in the last 10.

We’re well equipped for this kind of weather, having come from Colorado, but I’m sure ready for it to be over already. Yuck.

Snow Maple SeedsHaving come back from vacation refreshed and recharged, I’m tacking some of the larger business projects that I don’t normally have time for during the rest of the year. This includes a review of all of my pricing, taking into consideration all of my costs, including time and overhead, and anticipated growth over the next year. It also includes revisiting my branding, for my soaps and toiletries in particular, in an effort to better hone in on who my ideal customer is and how to better appeal to them. This will hopefully also include a web site revamp at some future date, but not sure if I’m going to get to that task this year.

Snow Holly

Holly for Christmas. The jagged edges are from leaf cutter bees, which I actually think is pretty cool.

In addition, I’m doing a lot of long overdue bookkeeping. I did a much better job this year, using Square Register, of keeping track of my sales in all categories, which includes plant sales, produce sales, egg sales, toiletry product sales, jam and food product sales, and any animal sales. Because I sell in both Washington and Oregon, the tax situation is complicated. Oregon has no sales tax. Washington has sales tax, but only on non-food items. So keeping track of all revenue streams and where they occur is critical. This month, with the help of an accountant, I’m getting it all organized properly in QuickBooks, which should make next year’s record keeping much much easier. It’s a huge relief to finally be able to afford some professional help and advice and I’m looking forward to getting it all straight, and then KEEPING it that way!

Garden in Winter

The garden at rest.

It’s hard to think about growing stuff when your garden is under 8 inches of snow for the winter, but I’m excited to try out a few new things this coming year. I’m seeking a cold hardy rosemary, both for me and to sell, so that I can finally get this favored perennial in the ground and keep it alive. For the past 10+ years, I’ve always brought a pot of it in during the winter, and then started new cuttings off of it in the spring. But it would be so nice to be able to just plant it in the ground!

Snowy backyardI suspect we’ll be replacing the almond tree we have planted. I got it from Peaceful Valley Organic, and its done really well since going into the ground in the spring of 2015. But while I see almonds at other nurseries that say zone 5 (good to -10 degrees) the one I got from Peaceful Valley says zone 8 (good only down to 10 to 20 degrees). So, even though we wrapped it, I’m not expecting it to survive. Darn it.

Sunset Homecoming

A sunset for our homecoming. Before it SNOWED AGAIN!

I’m going to put in a few more rhubarb (for my strawberry-rhubarb jam, and for sale fresh at market), some artichokes (which, in mild years, should overwinter when the gophers don’t eat them), and try my hand again at a hardy kiwi and some filberts.

I’m also going to grow a special type of oregano, for better flavor and hopefully less reseeding all over the yard! Origanum x majoricum is a hybrid between oregano and marjoram that is recommended for culinary use. (I’ll likely need to order this one as a plant, as I don’t think you can get it as seed). And I’m going to grow Za’atar, a middle eastern herb related to thyme, that one of my fellow farmers market vendors has been asking me about for several years. It wasn’t until I saw it in a middle eastern grocery store up in Spokane that I finally had enough to go on to be able to research it. My friend didn’t know what it was called in English.

I’m adding a new variety of raspberry, and taking out my Heritage raspberries and my Black Cap Raspberries. (Free for the digging in the spring – just give me a holler). I’ve learned that with my schedule, I need berries that are ripe earlier rather than later in the year. I just don’t have time to pick in August.

So plans are in the works for the next gardening season, despite all the snow on the ground.

Merry Christmas from Maui

Now THIS is how to spend Christmas

We had a wonderful vacation in Maui. We rented a car and a studio condo, and explored the island, visiting road side fruit stands and farmers markets, an organic vodka distillery, made lots of our own umbrella drinks with the blender in the condo, and ate my body weight in apple-bananas (I am not a big fan of conventional bananas, but I could eat a couple of apple-bananas every day, and I’m very sad that they never seem to make it stateside). We also ate a lot of really wonderful fresh fish, and even some spam.

Upcountry View Maui

This picture, taken from “upcountry” on the slopes of Haleakala, the currently extinct volcano, shows the low country cane fields, and both the north and south bays of the island (which isn’t what they call them).

Maui was the last island to still have sugar cane, and their last harvest was in December of 2016. This means that a HUGE chunk of the island is now essentially fallow until they figure out what else to do with it. The land all still belongs to the cane companies (who decided it wasn’t economical to grow sugar cane in Hawaii anymore, due to labor costs). There are a lot of locals hoping for more sustainable use of that land (most of Hawaii’s meat and vegetables come from the mainland – which is hugely expensive). So it was really interesting to talk about the possibilities with several local growers.

Flowers Maui

Fallen flowers, on the way to a waterfall.

Sunset Maui

The beach, the night we arrived. That’s Kaho’olawe island in the distance.

Sea Turtles Maui

Oh, and on our last day, we saw sea turtles. LOTS of sea turtles. At least 30, up on the beach sunning themselves. SO amazing.

Out the kitchen window

View out the kitchen window of late. Yeah.

American Blackbelly snow 1The animals are dealing with the snow better than I am. The blackbelly sheep are super hardy, and they have shelter when they want it. The dogs seem to love the snow, or at least they love playing with each other in it, tackling and rolling in it like the kids that they are. Me…I’m getting tired of changing out the rabbit water bottles twice a day because it’s not above freezing. Chickens are still laying a few eggs, grudgingly. Ducks too, though if it’s too cold, they are frozen and split by the time I collect them, since they are laid at night.

Snow Duck Tracks

Charlie Snow Red Door Snow

Bamboo in Snow 8 inches of snowMiles Away Farm Blog © 2017, where we’re wishing you all a happy happy new year, and hoping for a little more sunshine and a bit less snow as we adapt to these dynamic weather conditions. 

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