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Orchard Hill Visit

Yesterday, my roommate and I went to Orchard Hill Farm for their EFAO guided tour.  I’ve been to the farm a few times now to pick up our produce, but having a guided tour gave a much more intimate understanding of what they do.  I have been saying for some time now that I’d like to have my own farm, but I must add the caveat that I don’t think I have it in me to be a farmer!  Talk about a lot of work!  Mind you, they do this full-time, and are not trying to cram it all in after hours, like the owner of the sheep farm I train at does.  Sheep are a whole lot less work than growing produce, and they are work enough.  I want to have a small sheep farm, with a few ducks & chickens, and maybe a goat for milk and to keep the bushes down.  And a vegetable patch larger than what I have now, but just enough to grow food for my own family and perhaps to share a little with friends.  I couldn’t imagine trying to do the work that they do to produce the food I bring home every week!

I think they are cultivating around 6 acres, completely organically.  They use draft horses for much of their work, and these horses are really amazing.  We saw a demonstration on how a fully trained team can pull some wild weeding contraption down a row of 3 inch tall carrots, turn over all the earth on either side of the little sprouts, and not damage a single carrot. Really amazing.  And it only took a few minutes.  Apparently they can weed the entire farm in one afternoon that way.  

The clever mechanical devices they have to help with farm work really fascinated me.  I am mechanically inclined to a degree – I have an engineering undergraduate degree, although in physics, which is mostly theory – but definitely do not have the skills or knowledge to design the gadgets they were coming up with at the farm.  They have solar panel water heaters and funky irrigation systems and so on.  They also built their house and barn, and a bunk-house, from material off their own land.  An enormous amount of work, but really amazing.

Maybe I’ll get lucky and meet someone really mechanically oriented who also wants a farm…(preferably one that already has a house and barn on it!)  My dream is to live as self-sustainably as possible and Orchard Hill is almost there.  Their goal is to be completely off-grid by 2010.  

When the tour was done, my roommate and I went to pick strawberries from their strawberry patch, a perk open to their CSA members.  We picked 9 baskets, then spent the evening washing and hulling berries.  I think we have around 25 cups in the freezer now, all ready for winter. I’m extremely fortunate to have found a roommate who is as interested in food and eating locally as I am (and who’s amazing with my animals and doesn’t even seem to mind dog hair).  We got stuck on trying to make jam, however.  The pectin recipes (her pectin, not mine!) called for more sugar than berries.  I didn’t use sugar last year, nor pectin for that matter, for neither are on my ‘eat local’ diet.  I’ve had to make some compromises sharing this food with someone who is not bound to my local rules.  For the most part it’s been going well, but we couldn’t find a recipe we were both happy with, so decided to just put them all in the freezer for now.  Probably a good decision at 12 o’clock at night!

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