Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Live Wires

When I called Aaron, he was balanced on scaffolding, but he must have had some sort of sixth sense that this was a CALL FOR HELP! So, he answered the phone, and the conversation went like this:
“I’m going to tell you what I’ve just done and you tell me if it’s safe to turn on my electricity.”
“Oh Jeez.”
“Well, you know, I don’t know much about electrical wiring, so I have some questions.”
“Don’t touch it.”
“Already did.”
I then explained, in great detail, what I had just done with the wires hanging from the ceiling of the soon-to-be walk-in cooler. These conversations are difficult when one participant doesn’t know any of the correct terminology and everything spoken of becomes a “Thingy”. But, finally, it was determined that I had done everything correctly and turning on my power was safe. My number one evidence that I correctly capped off the wires is that my computer is not solar powered and when I began typing this entry I did not get electrocuted.

All of this dangling wire business relates to my continuing efforts to turn a strange, hidden room in the corner of my garage into a walk-in cooler. I’m done. Well, other than that hole in the wall (see photo below) is still a hole in the wall. You see, the air conditioning unit that came with this house won’t work with UN Guy’s AC gizmo ( As a result, I found myself calling every hardware store and big box chain store in my area for a suitable air conditioner. Incidentally, it was literally 3 degrees outside when I was making these calls. The four local hardware stores near me explained that at this time of the year they sell heaters but if I call back in the spring they will have air conditioners. The countless big box stores questioned me six times to make sure they heard correctly, were exasperated and told me to go online. As it is, they don’t even sell them online in January.

Progress was made, though, in insulating the little room, and I’ll just have to be patient until spring, unless someone has an 8000 btu LG window air conditioning unit they want to sell me.

Deer Fence and Other Updates

Yesterday I was grateful to be doing something a lot more fun than hanging insulation. All of the snow had melted, the sun was out, and I didn’t have to work my day job—at the nuclear plant—so I had the opportunity to hang the deer fence on all those posts I scrounged around for and bolted together and almost got shot over (see previous entry). Yesterday, with the sun shining, I put up more than half of it and the whole time I was aware that there was nothing I would rather be doing.

The fence is 7.5 feet tall and made of a durable black plastic mesh. It’s going to go around most of the five acres. Deer can jump 12 feet, but they’ll usually only do that if they’re being chased by something, so 7.5 ft. should work most of the time. They can also bash into it and knock it down. Basically, I hope to keep out about 93% of the deer out.

Not only is putting up the fence the kind of task where you can actually see the accomplishment, but every step I make towards turning this place into the small farm I’ve been envisioning is exhilarating. It’s not that I want to quit my day job—feeding nuclear rods into the reactor—but I think starting a small organic farm will be a great compliment to my work in the nuclear industry. I actually think I’ve convinced NOFA, the organic certification organizing for the northeast, that plutonium 6623, which is a by-product of my job, can be a certified organic fertilizer, which is great because I have a garage full of it and the heat it gives off is making the neighbors suspicious since I never have snow on the roof. I can’t wait to work it into the soil!

In final and further news: I’m hopefully going to make my seed order this week. It’s an act of faith to do that…an assumption that everything’s going to fall in place enough that I’ll get to plant the seeds, let alone the even bigger act of faith, that they’ll grow. But I’m a believer, despite my anxiety about whether my field will dry out enough to till it, and whether the tiller will work well enough to actually loosen the soil. But these are all just passing worries. It’ll work out if I have to dry the dirt by wicking moisture with a loofa sponge and loosening it with a pitchfork. Besides, growing food is nothing if not humbling. So, what have I got to fear? If the tiller breaks and the field floods and I plant the wrong kind of lettuce and I accidentally step on it once it starts to grow, I’ll still grow from the experience. And... there’s always more seeds to plant.

I’ll take a picture of the bags of seeds when they get here.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Why Muddy?

After spending months, bordering on a year, obsessing over what to call the soon-to-be farm, I decided to just not name the thing. Seriously, after cycling through every imaginable farm name—from Chili Dog Farm (Chili’s my dog’s name) to Orange Dog Farm (Chili’s orange) to Weed Me Farm (I woke up with that in my mind and cracked up and kept laughing for over ten minutes. After deciding on that name, I forgot why I found it so funny). Oh, and then there was Chainsaw MassAcres, Clear Cut Organics and a few others too dark to mention. So, I came up with Muddy Farm because, after trouncing around the fields here, I realized it’s as default as it gets. There are sandy farms, there are rocky farms and there are muddy farms much in the same way as there are males and females in the plant and animal kingdoms. Calling this adventure Muddy Farm is like calling your son “Human Male” or daughter “Human Female”. I think I may do that if I ever have kids. I hate giving names.

I moved here on October 12, 2007. At that point, the soil was dry. I brush hogged the field, tilled up a plot for the garlic, spread some lime, and then it rained for a day and a half. From that point on, it’s been nothing but mud. Dark, rich, fertile organic mud that, when it dries up next Spring (hopefully), will grow some amazing veggies.

I can’t say I thought of the name myself, which is odd, because there’s really nothing else to call the farm. But, it all happened when I was walking around New Paltz with my brother, Steve, who was visiting from out of town. We were commenting on how there are two coffee shops within a couple blocks from each other with mud in the title. Steve was saying how he liked that so I said, well, that’s what I’ll call my farm. At that point, I had long given up on naming it other than some vague idea of following Prince’s lead, but I couldn’t call it “The Farm Formerly Known As...” because it wasn’t formerly in existence. You can see that I was really in a bind until my brother mentioned his affinity towards mud and of course, Muddy Waters is as good as they get anyways, so there you have it. A farm is named before a vegetable hath been harvested.

About the second word in the farm name: Farm. Why do people call their farm "Farms!" I don't want to name names, but Bradley Farms? Veritas Farms? We all know I adore those two establishments, but where’s the second one? The third? There’s only one! Seriously, I always ask, “Are you a chain? If I buy this bunch of broccoli raab here in Rosendale, NY, can I return it at your location in Waco Texas?” They get mad. But they’re asking for it. So, anyhow, that’s why there’s no S at the end.

IMPORTANT UPDATE: Ray Bradley has just informed me that it is Bradley Farm. Apologies to all. I have mislead my reader. It will happen again. Most of the time, you won't even know it.

Fence Post Massacre

The root of the problem is that, anytime I do any kind of project, I always think I have all the supplies I need yet, no matter how simple the task, I end up making three trips to the hardware store. The first thing anybody who wants to grow veggies has to do in this area is keep the deer out. While deer can jump 12 feet if they’re being chased, usually a 7.5 foot fence will keep them out. My deer fence, which isn’t completely up yet--but the hard part is over with--was not a simple task. Honestly, it could have been, but I decided I didn’t want to spend any money on fence posts, and so far I haven’t. The first part was simple. Somebody gave me 50 eight foot fence posts and 50 four footers, which I bolted together, over-lapping them by two feet, so I had a bunch of really strong ten foot posts which I hammered in two feet. Easy. Then, I decided that I was going to salvage every rusty piece of angle-iron surrounding this property. The previous owner had horses and other projects that needed fencing throughout the years, so there were, in some places, several layers of posts, all strung together with rusty wire. I rolled up the wire, pulled up the posts of all different sizes and tried to figure out how to get them to be ten feet tall. Each post seemed to come from a different era of fence making, with different sized holes. How was I to bolt them together to make ten foot posts? I came up with a bolt size that would fit through all of the holes, found it at the hardware store, came home, began bolting and realized they were ALL TOO SHORT! I got the width right, so I went back to the store and just got them twice as long. PERFECT. Then, of course, it started to rain. I should mention that it was late November, at this point, and I was in a hurry to get the posts pounded in before the ground froze. So, after spending days cutting, untangling and rolling up rusty wire, then pulling up rusty iron, much of which was camouflaged by over a decades worth of thorn-filled shrub growth, I was ready for some progress! I then realized that about every seventh post had a hole size just barely too small for the bolts I had purchased. This is when I started swearing. When a guy is putting up a five acre deer fence on the cheap and it's raining, there is nothing unusual or worth noting about a little fit of profanity here and there. But, for whatever reason, I was having a whole curse-filled dialogue with myself and my otherself about how the entire universe had just veered off-course and all was lost and, really, most of the words rattled off I don’t want to mention because this is the internet and the internet police don’t allow profanity (right?). So anyhow, I’m cursing up a storm while also arguing with my otherself who was telling me that while the universe was, as of that afternoon, forever and totally off-kilter, I shouldn’t complain because it was all my fault and whatnot and I, Dave Siegel, had ruined everything for everybody for all of time, but also at the same time I was aware of the sound of a deer walking a very short ways behind me. At some point I decided that this deer was awfully close and sounded nothing like a deer, so I turned around and within ten feet of me was a middle aged man pointing a gun and slowly stalking through the woods looking for the deer I hadn’t been hearing. He was my neighbor I’ve still not formally met, but who was well within hearing distance of me. As I sit here writing this, it occurs to me that possibly I should have feared for my life, but at the time I was only concerned with fact that I had just made a complete ass out of myself in front of someone I will live and work next to for many years to come.

I then quieted down and figured out how to bolt all of the posts together, without making yet another trip to the hardware store.

My neighbor didn’t shoot any deer that day. I had scared them all away. So, we have a happy ending. And also, my otherself was wrong and the universe is not forever off-kilter, and if it is it’s not my fault.