Gravel Road Farm Greenhouse Kickstarter Fund

2014-12-21 16.00.34UPDATE! We were successfully funded on February 7th, 2015! We are thrilled with the outcome of our campaign, and thankful for all the support.

We’ve created a Kickstarter campaign to fund our greenhouse.  As you can see in the above photo, we’ve already pounded in the ground posts, and built the framing, but need your help in order to purchase the rest of the materials.  Here is the list of things we need in order to have a functioning greenhouse:

Plastic greenhouse film to cover the whole building 523

Endwalls made of polycarbonate $1510

Wooden Baseboards, from untreated wood, likely cedar, $400

Insulated Doors, Roll up and Person sized $1750

Heating System $1775

Ventilation Exhaust Fans $855

We are offering some fresh food incentives from our farm, and some great rewards for anyone who is farther away.  Go to This link and help fund us and you too, can be a part of the positive community that surrounds and resonates from this farm.

 

Gravel Road Farm Holiday Gift Guide

Looking to support local food networks and accomplish gift giving as well?  Our small farm offers a couple of green and healthy gifts for the local foodie on your list, or anyone who appreciates small family farms.

1. Gift Cards  Our paper punch cards are available in two denominations, $25, and $50.  They are good for the 2016 season at our market stand.  If you would like to purchase one of these cards for someone this holiday, we will have them available at the Waupaca Saturday Winter Farm Market on December 12 & 19th, located in the lobby of the library/city hall.  Or you may also make arrangements to pick them up at our farm, or have them mailed to you directly.   Just email us at brigid@gravelroadfarm.com, phone 715-281-0812, call or text.

2. CSA membership   If you are interested in buying a CSA membership for someone, please contact us directly about this option.  Our 2016 CSA information will be ready after the first of the new year.  Our CSA membership is a weekly or bi-weekly box of vegetables delivered to a local drop site, or for pick up at our farm.  Each week we fill our wooden crates with the best produce that is in season. Here is a long list of everything that we grow on our farm.

3. Wool   We have bundles of wool batting for spinning, or fiber fill, or needle felting, or other crafts.  We also have queen sized quilt battings.  All of our wool is from our small flock of California Red Sheep, it is a natural cream color, with red and grey hairs mixed in. All of our wool is $20/lb.

 

A Dog That Needed A Farm and A Farm That Needed a Dog

Sometimes you go to the market, not knowing what to expect. Sometimes you sell a lot of stuff, sometimes, you take a bunch of stuff home. But sometimes you are compelled to go just to mingle with the farmers and get a morale boost. All the farmers at the market are usually going through the same things. We talk about the weather, we talk about what we are planting, and what we are hoping for this season. About three weekends ago we set up our tent on the street to sell what little potatoes and onions we had left, and talk up our new CSA box.

There are some new farmers at the market this year, and it is really starting to feel like a great regular crowd. One of the small organic farmers with a meat and egg operation mentioned that they had a puppy who was looking for a home. But not just any home, they really wanted this dog to go to a farm. Their border collie (with Australian shepherd) had eight puppies, a few more than they were planning on, and they found homes for most of them. The last little pup was just waiting for the right people to come along and meet her.

We thought it over for a week, then went to meet the puppy. She was the last of the little ones to find a home, which made me apprehensive and not able to decide until I saw her with my own eyes. This was not the case at all. She has a fabulous temperament, somewhat submissive, and good with little kids. She had been living outside at her home farm, with her brother and mother. We are not ready to have a 100% outside dog, so we were unsure about how a taste of indoor life would work.

It has been three days, and we are so happy to have been given this gift. She already knows how to sit, and has been great at house training. We are going to be teaching her down, stay, fetch, and crate this week. If you met this dog, you would understand how happy we are to have found her. She is very interested in the sheep, but hasn’t been aggressive at all. Her instincts are there, just waiting for the right time to use her skills. She does need some work with chickens, but I think we can master that in no time.

We have been waiting for a long time for this dog, for as long as we have been dreaming of a farm.  We know that every farm needs a dog, a special dog that knows how to greet new people, keep the livestock in line, protect the home, play with kids, learn commands (and not eat the cat.) We weren’t really ready last year, with the stress of moving and starting the farm business, to go through all of that with a new pet. But just about a month or two ago, we started talking about a dog, and opened our hearts and minds to the idea of a good working farm dog.

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I’m sure I am not the only one that these things happen too: the perfect dog, just the right time, the right season. I’m sure anyone who knows puppies might think we are crazy with all the work there is to do on the farm this month, but imagine the most well behaved puppy there ever was. She has arrived, and we hope she is here to stay for a very long time. Welcome home Sweet Pepper!

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Our Community Supported Agriculture Journey

We’ve come a long way to start our farm here, we’ve risked almost everything we have to start this farm business. We left friends, family and a community of supporters to come and live here in the heart of Wisconsin. We saw an opportunity here however small, and decided it was worth it. After years of nurturing the seeds of our farm dream, we now are taking the opportunity  to nurture the local food system here in Waupaca.  So, on that note, I sat down to write something educational regarding eating seasonal vegetables and our subscription boxes, (aka CSA), but instead I was inspired to relay our evolution from ordinary citizens to local food enthusiasts.

Growing up, my parents both participated in growing a very large garden, keeping bees, and making food from scratch.  They drove to Waupaca every year from their suburban home in Chicago, to buy a side of beef from a farm we can see from our current home. So, it is no surprise that we have evolved into organic farmers, but often times I have forgotten what it was like before we embraced this farm life. I take for granted all the information I know about growing vegetables, keeping them, and preparing them, about raising animals, tapping trees, and gathering wild food.  I really can’t believe it is true, but there was a time when we didn’t even know what the CSA model of farming was.

We bought our house with one acre in the suburbs the year after we were married, and we learned to grow more than just tomatoes. Each year our garden grew in size to finally it was more than 50′ by 100′. We grew a fantastic variety of vegetables, blueberry bushes, a giant patch of strawberries, a plot of rhubarb, and asparagus plants that didn’t grow big enough to harvest before we sold our house and moved.  We eventually added chickens, and bees, and tapped our own maple trees.  But, we still weren’t storing much through the winter, and we were still going to the grocery store every week for a good portion of our food. It took the birth of our first child to really motivate the journey toward better food habits.

Like a ray of sunshine...
Like a ray of sunshine…

We began to search for local milk, then milk in returnable glass bottles, local affordable cheese, and locally grown and milled grains and flours. It was not always easy and instead of going to just one store to do all my shopping, I ended up with a list of places I went to get food. When eating seasonal food, you have to be ready for each fruit ripening, searching out ‘pick your own’ farms for strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, and cherries. Sometimes the window is only two weeks, or less.

Amazingly, our suburban oasis just happened to have a winery two doors down, a butcher less than five minutes away, a wholesale natural food distributor and farm markets not more than 20 minutes drive, all with the local and sustainable food we needed. When Farmboy quit his office job and started his full time farm manager position at a local organic CSA vegetable farm, we were learning more than how to farm on a much bigger scale, we now gained access to unlimited vegetables! Shockingly, even some that we had never eaten before, despite considering ourselves local foodies.

Canning can seem daunting and scary at first, especially when learning from a book, but we wanted to be able to eat local food all year long, and so we simply just began with pickles and tomatoes, and apples. We graduated to jams and jellies, sauces and kraut soon after.  We bought a chest freezer for the basement, and filled it with frozen vegetables and sides of beef and pork. A good number of people we knew were amazed and inspired by our efforts towards self sufficiency, and they wanted to be part.  We started organizing bulk local food purchases with our friends and family. We invited people over to learn about our backyard maple syrup operation, and our backyard chickens. We could never have envisioned our backyard becoming a suburban farm and education center.

Still at the end of our busy days, we sat down to a meal of our own food, and it was priceless. The food I searched for was a treasure. It tasted better, and satisfied our souls. Every single dollar we’ve spent on local food showed how much we value the small farm. We believe emphatically that small scale agriculture deserves to be rewarded a fair wage, just like any other hard working person on the planet. We are now looking to our customers to show us that same appreciation for our hard work, and our dedication to rich soils, clean water, and healthy animals. This is what buying a CSA share from our new farm is about. It is more than just plopping down $500 in exchange for a box of vegetables every week. It is a choice you are making about what kind of community you want to be part of, and what kind of business you want to see flourish.

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And lastly, my one piece of advice for everyone regarding CSAs: DON’T BE AFRAID. Don’t be afraid to try new things!  Don’t be afraid to change the way things have always been. Don’t be afraid of Food. Fresh vegetables, raw, or cooked, can surprise us with great flavor and feed us in ways we least expect.

Information about our 2014 Vegetable box click here. Our registration form here.

The Money Pit.

Remember me talking about the nieghbor across the street from our farmland who wanted to sell us a house.  Well, we decided that we really just had to buy it.  We really don’t have that kind of money to pour into a century old farmhouse, but there was no denying the fact that we loved the place.  And how about the location?  If you stand on the second floor bedrooms and look East you can see our farm laid out before you.  Sorry I don’t have a photo, but the old drafty windows are all covered with opaque plastic to keep the cold weather out.

The kitchen needs work, and the bathroom.  They are really in very poor condition. Very livable by my standards, but if we are ever going to fix them at all, we feel very compelled to do it before we move in. Plus for a family that cooks and stores nearly all their food from scratch, this kitchen would be completely frustrating to work in.

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As you can see in these pictures the kitchen looks okay, but in reality it is dirty, and there is dog scratches, and chewing damage and pet smell. There is no door on the bathroom, and the toilet looks like it might fall off the wall with the next flush.  There is no shower, unless you count the one in the basement that isn’t hooked up to any drains as far as we can tell.  The fridge is clean and new, but the stove looks like it had seen better days, and the 3/4 sized dishwasher doesn’t look like it closes all the way.

bird wall paperThe four bedrooms upstairs are all nice sized, some with some ancient wall paper on them, and some of the ceilings are very old cracking plaster, not ever painted.  Some of the rooms have some unique color choices for bedroom walls, bright purple and bright blue.  Luckily, they might be the colors of walls that children would appreciate.  Two of the rooms don’t have any closets.  Oh well, who needs closets.  We are modern pioneers, right?

Let’s not forget the 24 windows that are all in need of replacing and the roof that will need to be replaced this fall as well.  And the floors that need some refinishing, and the 7.8 acres of land that is part of the property that will all need to be mowed, and cared for.  Oh, did I forget to mention that?  Not that we need 7 more acres in addition to the 40 across the street that we own, but it will be great for keeping our small flock of laying hens up near the house. And pigs. And sheep.

We aren’t really going to have time to work on this house, but somehow we are going to make time stretch or stand still or something, because in reality, this is a dream come true for us.  Better than we could have possibly imagined.  Time to pull up the bootstraps, and roll up the shirt sleeves, and get to work.

P.S.  Anyone have an antique armoire or two they want to part with?

 

 

 

Everything Falling into Place

How could it be?  How could it be that everything is falling into place?  How could we have a great buyer for our house in Pittsburgh, the 40 acres waiting quietly for us, a farmhouse across the street, a temporary rental less than a mile away, local farmers and families that are eager to help, a new, free, Waldorf school opening next fall, a local beekeeping business, neighbors that are overflowing with kindness and advice.

I am not the kind of person who believes in the super natural, but honestly, I am starting to think there might be something to this idea of guardian angels.  My friends will tell you that if anyone deserves these things in life, it would be our little family.  I am not as inclined to believe it, having a healthy dose of humility.  But the way things look, it is hard to think it was just a series of good decisions on our part.

We close on our dream farmhouse on February 1st.  We start working on the interior work as soon as we can on that day.  Then in the early Spring after we are done with our fixing up, we move in to our forever home.  The money is going to run out pretty quickly, but I am on the verge of getting a job this week.  The taxpayers and the state of Wisconsin are going to give us a little help (in the form of health insurance for the whole family) for a few months until we get going, and I am incredibly thankful for this.  It is like a soft pillow for our crash landing.

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January 6, 2013Permalink 1 Comment