welcome, and thank you for joining me on my farm and studio in southern lancaster county, pennsylvania

Monday, August 31, 2009

a preview of september 12, part 3

I need a what?

One of the big garden plant sale events around here is the Landis Valley Museum Herb Fair. It's a pretty big deal. Plant and garden lovers come from all over just to attend. I've attended myself many times. And so I called them to see if I could maybe, possibly, have a booth in 2010. As it turns out, they'd love to have me! So I gave them all my info and they said they'd be mailing out the materials in December or January. Not five minutes later, they called back and asked if I had a license from the PA Dept. of Agriculture to sell plants. What? No. Do I need one? Sure do. The very helpful woman from Landis Valley then gave me a contact name and number to call and said it's not a big deal, and that the woman I'd be talking to is pleasant and easy to work with. And she was. The form came in the mail a couple days later. So now all I have to do is fill it out, send in my $40 bucks (every year) and I get my license. Huh. And to think I was that close to being a criminal.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

harvest the power

The fifth annual Pennsylvania Renewable Energy & Sustainable Living Festival will be held September 18-20 on 66 acres near Hawk Mountain Bird Sanctuary in Kempton, PA. The event attracts thousands of visitors and promotes solar, wind and hydrogen power, biofuels, green building, organic farming and sustainable living.

I've never been to this, but am hoping to go at least one day this year. It looks like there will be over 100 vendors there and the number of workshops, lectures, and demonstrations being given is pretty impressive. There are several lectures that I have my eye on and one in particular seems taylor-made for me: "Spin-Farming: How to grow commercially on under an acre". Could be interesting.

Check it out at http://www.paenergyfest.com

Saturday, August 29, 2009

perhaps a pond...

One of the things that will be required to build a greenhouse is some sort of plan to deal with storm water run-off. Typically what the township recommends is a gravel-filled trench on each side of the structure to capture and slowly disperse the water. I am thinking of proposing a retention basin instead. Mind you, if water just happened to stay in the basin and make the whole thing look like a pond, well, let's just say it wouldn't bother me. I'd like that a lot. I might even help it along. Just saying.

But picture it - a pond in the pasture with sheep grazing quietly along the edge while geese float by and a couple of adirondack chairs to sit in while sipping a cold drink at twilight on a summer evening.

I really hope the township approves it.

a preview of september 12, part 2

Friday, August 28, 2009

greenhouse selection

There are more greenhouse options than you can shake a stick at. Everything from size, to shape, to method of ventilation, to wall covering. I am still waiting for one final quote, but the specifications are being narrowed down.

Size: Originally I thought to go with a 24' x 48'. You know, start small, grow later. As it turns out, it's much more efficient to go larger from the outset. Cost per square foot is considerably less. So now we're looking at a 24-26' x 96'. Double what I thought at first.

Shape: Most likely it will be a rounded peak. I'm sure there is a technical term for that, but my brain is full.

Ventilation: Here's where I'm really waffling. Mechanical (end-wall fans) or roof vents with/without roll-up side walls? There are pros and cons for each and no matter who I talk to, I get a different opinion. There just is no one right answer. Mechanical is considerably cheaper to install, but will take electricity to run, so higher utility bills. Roof vents really should also have roll-up side walls for the best ventilation, but installation is significantly higher. However, cost of operation is extremely low. I haven't quite decided, but am leaning towards mechanical. We'll see.

Wall covering: Twin-wall polycarbonate or double poly film? Twin-wall polycarbonate is guaranteed for ten years whereas the double poly film is only guaranteed for four. Also, the twin-wall is much less likely to sustain damage from tree branches, stones, hail, etc., and it looks much nicer. But when you consider the increased cost of materials and installation, the twin-wall will be double the price, it doesn't quite seem worth it. So I'll be going with the double poly film.

Heating: Hands down, it will be a ceiling-hung propane blower. No question.

As soon as I make my final decision, I'll go and see what the zoning (you're not a farm) board needs to give me a building permit.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

a preview of september 12

Here's a little preview of what you can expect to see at the opening of "In My Own Backyard" the evening of September 12 at Diddywopps & Keeffers. The show is just over two weeks away and I'll be posting more of these tidbits between now and then.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

revised plan

Pouting accomplished, an alternate plan was hatched. I'll still do heirloom vegetable and flower seedlings, selling them in the spring at the many herb and garden fairs. What doesn't get sold, I'll grow myself, and take the produce to the local growers markets (along with some of the seedlings early in the season). This can still work. It might not be as convenient, but it can work.

So at this point in time, no retail on the tiny little farm. Perhaps sometime in the future if business is good, the greenhouse is showing a profit, and the neighbors have had no reason to complain it will be something to pursue.

Monday, August 24, 2009

I don't care what they say (or, I am too a farm!)

Earlier this summer, wanting to make sure what I wanted to do is allowed (before getting all excited), I decided pay a visit to the township zoning officer. She confirmed my property is indeed in an agricultural zone and that a greenhouse is a permitted use. But here's the kicker... no retail at my location. What? Why? The regulations state a permitted use is "display and sale of farm products from a structure on the farm by a person farming land in the Agricultural District." "Ah yes, but it does say farm, and you don't have 10 or more acres so you aren't classified as a farm." She also told me I could apply for a special exception but there's a $500 fee to apply and no guarantee of approval, and that an engineering firm would then have to do a storm water runoff survey (which can run into quite a bit of money). Oh good grief. Just to sell vegetable seedlings and perhaps bags of compost, organic fertilizer and other assorted gardening paraphernalia. I had already come up with a tag line, "The Gardener's Greenhouse". Catering to the serious gardener. Carrying things that might otherwise be hard to find. Specialty items. You know.

Well, I have to admit that I allowed myself to pout for about three days. The I started thinking about other ways to make this thing work...

Friday, August 21, 2009


Ahhh, beginnings. They usually follow endings, but in this case, not so much. It's more of an expansion, really. This blog is about starting and then running a micro-mini farm. Before the end of the year I hope to have a new greenhouse built and to have produce and cut flower beds prepared for spring planting. In the meantime, you can follow along with me as I wade through the details - building permits, selling permits, zoning regulations, etc. Right now it's just a hope, a dream and a plan, but if all goes well it will soon be reality. I hope you'll join me.

Friday, August 14, 2009

in my own backyard

I have been quite negligent in keeping up with this blog lately and have no excuses, really, except that I feel like I've been running in 4 different directions at the same time. And when you're doing that, it's hard to get anywhere at all!

One of the directions will soon bear fruit with the opening of my new show at Diddywopps & Keeffers. The show runs from September 10 - October 19, with the opening reception on Saturday September 12, from 6-8 p.m. If you're in the neighborhood, do stop by - everyone is welcome. One of the reasons I like Diddywopps so much is that Tami has created such a relaxed and friendly atmosphere, without the pretensions. Just fine art and craft, presented beautifully.

Hope to see you there!