In the world of The Grove…

What a spring this has been for The Grove! The lack of news blogs is certainly not due to idleness! In the midst of a whole slew of projects we have going on, we have to keep in mind that sharing and communicating our ideas and happenings is no small piece of what we want to accomplish here. So, without further ado…

Summer, as usual, is the season where things slow down a bit at The Grove…event-wise, that is. Most locals are busy making hay, so to speak, while the sun is shining nearly 24-hours a day and the many tourists come through and need taking care of. This summer, nonetheless, will see The Grove hosting a ton of music. Here’s our summer calendar:

The other public event to note at this time is the annual Fall Yoga retreat hosted by the amazing Svia from Anchorage. This will be happening September 30 to October 2nd.

The Farm

Where to begin?!

Earthworks

Note the pond in the foreground and the future pasture in the background. And the pig structure with the blue tarp, which they have temporarily destroyed. Glad it’s not raining!
Probably the most glaring and visually dramatic project at The Grove is the excavation work that has been done by Sam McCullough. We had several logistical issues with the corner of the property behind the barn. First of all, half the barn would flood in the spring. And when you have animals in your barn that you’re trying to keep warm and dry, exposure to spring flooding is bad news. So that corner was graded out to drain off that spring run-off. Another flooding issue in the spring had to do with the driveway that went back to the frame cabin and further on to the far end of the property. The melt-water that made its way down from the parking lot and that West side of the property would turn that drive into a spring creek, making it impassible for cars and further eroding and damaging that driveway. Thirdly, and not an issue, but rather an opportunity, is the potential to send all that water down into the major depression in the landscape just off the drive toward the log cabins, where we had our pigs last year. We (well, the pigs) had been working all last summer to seal that draw for us to hopefully help create a pond there. I hope to delve further into this hydrological subject in future news blogs, but the main idea is that we really want to be able to hold water on our landscape as high up as we can. This allows water to slowly “seep” into the landscape, rather than simply and quickly flow off-site, or more accurately for our soil profiles in this area, quickly drain right through. It also gives us the ability to gravity irrigate down below, and the pond also acts, of course, as habitat for our ducks, produces a useful micro climate for growing, and affords us greater ecological diversity on our property–something we’re always looking to enhance. And lastly, we’d like to create some pasture on our property. There’s no quicker way to build soils and grow food, than with grasses. And this future pasture is aptly placed, directly behind the barn. I would love to see a cow or two subsisting on our property at some point down the road, and they need lots of grass!

Perennials

Perennial food production is now underway at The Grove! The benefit of perennial plants, of course, is that you take the time to establish them once, and they provide yields year after year after year. What a concept, huh?! And, most of them are super easy to propagate! So once we get them established, we’ll be able to spread them all around the property.

We’ve gotten several varieties already established. Some new permaculture friends from Anchorage were kind enough to gift us comfrey, good king henry, chives, and a gooseberry bush back in early May, which were promptly planted on our zone 2 south-facing slope out back. And just a few weeks ago, our order from Raintree Nursery in Washington state arrived with a variety of berry plants including cultivated varieties of blueberry, gooseberry, jostaberry, aronia, honeyberry, seaberry, and wintergreen. These have all been planted in the same zone 2 area and I’m happy to report that EVERY PLANT is showing signs of life after being planted! I guess the real test will be this coming winter and to see how they’re doing come spring of 2017. We can’t tell you how exciting it is to see decades of food being established and taking root right before our eyes.

In addition to the living plants that we’ve received, we’re also growing some trees from seed. We have 2 varieties of apple, Antonovka and Paradise, which are both very good cold-hardy, full-sized rootstock trees. And at least with the Antonovka, will produce a delicious apple true-to-seed. That is to say, you’ll reliably get a good-tasting apple from the trees planted form these seeds, which is rarely the case with most apple seeds. The vast majority of apples that are grown for consumption are grown on grafted trees. We plan to graft some trees as well, but it’s nice to know that with whatever happens to us, apple trees are being established that will produce food for a century or more for whoever ends up residing on and near this piece of land.

And not to be forgotten are our 2 grafted apple trees that were gifted to us by our dear friends Morgan and Margaret for our wedding last fall. They have made it through the winter and are indeed thriving! One of them has already grown about 8 inches!

It’s hard to see, the berry plants are are marked by the mounds of wood chips for mulch. The flags are laying out another possible swale.

Again, hard to see, but here is one of our grafted apples trees that made it through the winter!
Most of you have seen, or are at least aware of, the new life that has emerged at The Grove. We’ve had baby bunnies, goats, piglets, ducklings, turkey chicks, and chicken chicks. Nothing is quite as exciting as watching life multiply from merely creating the conditions for it to do so. I’m sure there will be an upcoming news blog on our current animal world. And for those of you who have signed up for a meat chicken(s), I’m planning on getting an email out to you all as well in the very near future. And speaking of, there are a few meat chickens left that as of yet are unspoken for. So if you’re interested in 1, 2, or 3 (I’m setting a 3 bird maximum this first time to spread the harvest around a bit), please let us know. Boy do they grow fast!

Micro Greens

The summer micro green operation is nearly in full swing and pretty well dialed in at this point. I still have a bit to do on the hoophouse, like putting in a shelf to increase capacity a bit more, but we’re looking good. The location this year isn’t quite as prime as last year in terms of hours of sunlight, but it’s so much closer to the house where the seeds are sown and germinated before they’re moved out to get their solar injection. Like last year, I’ve been bummed not to have some popular varieties, like sunflower and arugula, at the farmers’ market for folks, but I am really increasing efficiency and production, so I should have at least a little bit of just about every variety coming into each farmers’ market. Get there early because they do go fast!

If anyone is interested in becoming of a member of The Grove micro greens CSA program, please let me know and I can get you the form. Essentially, you commit to 12 weeks of greens and get exactly what you want each week. No need to hurry about rushing to the farmers’ market or worrying about me running out.

Here is our “unfinished” hoophouse full of micro greens.

Other Annuals

With our incredible mix of potting soil (spent micro green leftovers) and chicken manure, the beds we built from the barn leftovers from 2 winters ago have proven very productive. We got a very nice crop of baby spinach and arugula (direct seeded on April 11th!) as well as radishes (harvested last week), and now Tokyo turnips for this coming market. Our dwarf bok choi, did however, go directly to seed, so not sure what happened there. As soon as we get our chickens out to their summer abode in the woods and the ducks to their pond (more on this later…), I’m going to begin developing some new beds with the same material from last winter for next summer’s production to give it a year to compost.

Following the sequence/rotation here? That’s what’s so beautiful about a holistic system of plants and animals that re-cycle all inputs and outputs and continues to be productive year after year without having to purchase industrial fertilizers (organic or otherwise) and soils. It’s almost always there, with just a little effort to get it to where you want it. Yes, we are somewhat heavily inputting with the potting soil, but we knew we’d need to do that up-front with the lack of organic matter in our soils. Plus, we’re getting 3 uses out of it – micro greens growing medium, manure buffer, AND compost/bed material in the end.

Here’s our farm helper, Allegany Twigg cleaning out our bed of arugula for another crop.
So there’s a snapshot of what’s been happening and is going on now at The Grove, with oodles of details and ancillary projects happening behind the scenes. I can’t wait to share some of these, as well as future ideas and plans for The Grove in coming news blogs. I promise they’ll be a little more regular in the coming summer months.

Please contact with any questions or comments. We love talking about what we have going on!
All our best,

Graham and Mindy