The Honey House Farm space is in the process of being completely transformed – at a quick rate. I barely have time to note all that has changed before it changes again. But whenever a new design or design element is being implemented into a landscape, it is good to slow down, breathe deeply, and carefully document the major events that shape the place. Not only is this good for historical documentation for future visitors and farmers at the Farm, it is also a way to observe and listen to the land. As the fourth week of work at the Honey House Farm comes to a close, let’s take a few minutes to summarize the events and accomplishments thus far. Here are a few milestones and pictures from the last four weeks.
At the beginning of spring, we could not walk through the space without running into a rusty trellis, getting poked by a small cluster of trees, or tripping on a buried cinder block. After the farm apprentices started to work on the farm and we held a couple of volunteer days to take out trees and large objects, we were almost ready to bring a machine in to do the heavier lifting for us. Our Longfellow neighbor Cecil hauled off truckloads of scrap metal, we gave the green light to the Bobcat operator.
Josh, the foreman at Terrapin Landscaping, arrived early on a Friday morning (645am) to begin to scrape off the driveway, lift out concrete, and remove huge stumps and concrete-driven clotheslines from the property.
After 5 hours, our space felt both exciting and desolate at the same time. The farmland slate was almost as clean as the paper of landscape architects in some spaces. This allows us to be able to implement more stages of the permaculture design this first year instead of chipping out concrete and huge root clusters by hand over the whole summer.
However, the use machinery in any landscape comes with a price. We have more soil compaction and mixed soil (clay clumped with sand) than we previously had. Soil is like trust – once its broken into pieces, it takes a long, long time to rebuild. We will have to be extra diligent in restoring it with double-digging, cover crops, and light treading. There were a few fallen heroes during this revamping process as well – an ancient grape vine, a large fruit tree in the wrong place. After we accidentally and intentionally cut them down, the remaining plant material – roots and stumps – tried to heal themselves by excreting some type of sap. It looked like they were weeping in a way… and inside, I felt an intense sadness for losing them. We will have to make sure to plan our perennial plantings more carefully in the future.
After the bobcat activity, 15 cubic yards of soil (50-50 mix of compost and soil) arrived and so did 60 flats of flowers, onions, lettuces, tomatoes, peppers, chives, herbs, broccoli, etc. Before we could plant and spread out the imported soil, we had to loosen the compacted farm soil and form beds. We bartered a rototiller from Que Sehra Farm and we rented a larger tiller (560 lbs, 16 hp) from Reddy Rents to de-compact about 70% of our cultivated areas. The rest we double-dug to diminsh any more impact from machinery onsite.
Last week, we started to prep beds and plant. Here are a few pictures. There are more “Before and After” pictures to come.
Overall, we have had a lot of trials and tribulations on site (not including the weather). By checking in to see how the actual conditions align with the goals of the project, the estimated timeline, and unforeseen variables, we are letting the land guide our decisions just as much if not more than the many people who are part of the implementation of this farm. A resilient design incorporates consistent and thorough feedback loops – the honey house farm is part of this design process.