Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.
At this point it is really a two-year plan and we are well underway.
Our “new” to us house was built in 1950 of sturdy concrete block construction with a single car attached garage on a 1/10th acre. The neighborhood is quiet with a broad street and well established trees.
When we moved in on Halloween day of 2014 we were so happy to have a home that we truly did not realize how much work we were getting into. The house was a result of a Facebook plea. We were looking for a house on a good sized lot with room to garden, with garage and within walking distance of mass transit. An hour later we had a response and our plans for North Bank Urban Farm were very quickly set in motion.
The yard and house had been a rental for many years – we think 20 – and had been severely neglected. The roof had to be replaced – especially after the raccoon incident that left a huge hole on Thanksgiving morning.
The roof repair took place that following summer. A three day job spread into eight days, with an amazing amount of debris, and we entered the winter of 2014 with a tight roof and repaired chimney.
The living room fireplace was one thing that attracted us to the house in the first place. A cheery fire on cold NW winter nights has been a special pleasure.
The first garden in 2014 was rudimentary. We found that the soil was much nicer than expected. The soil in the Vancouver, WA area tends to heavy, red clay. Great for bricks and this can account for the many, lovely historic brick buildings around but not so good for gardening. The soil is rich but compacts readily and becomes really a mess when wet – it needs plenty of organic matter added.. In our neighborhood, sited as it is between two of the four “plains” that run east and west and near the banks of one of the many original creeks, has a more sandy soil and far less river rock than in the area directly north of the Columbia river.
We built 3 raised beds, set up a little 3' x 5' greenhouse and began with 15 tomato plants, a bed of Glass Gem corn, Anasazi beans and Spotted Hound squash in the Three Sisters guild, lettuce, Swiss chard and leeks. Everything grew better than expected. We harvested the corn and beans,squash and tomatoes, preserved them for winter and saved the seeds. The lettuce went quickly and we have enjoyed the leeks and chard all winter and into this spring.
What's next? Another raised bed in the back, apple trees, hazel nut bushes, black currants and blueberries which traveled in pots from our old home are in the ground. We have added a bed of strawberries and a patch of evergreen huckleberries. Salad greens and sugar snap peas are growing in there bed. A collection of herbs from last years garden and many more started from seed are in the tiny greenhouse. Our house is overwhelmed with 80+ tomato starts that go outdoors in the daytime just waiting for the soil and ambient temperature to rise. In the garage is a big box containing the new greenhouse 15' x 7' just waiting for the site preparation.
Last week we removed 10 arborvitae and a mass of blackberries and vine maple that were falling all over the yard and endangering a fence and our little greenhouse, Took an afternoon and three people cutting and hauling to get it done. Now our back area is 4 feet deeper than before!
22 Lavender Grosso plants are ready to go into the ground.
Still to be done: build a tight back yard fence to keep our dog safe at home, purchase the essential oil distiller, start more herbs and flowers, make a home for bees and chickens, get the sign made and “North Bank Urban Farm” will move a few steps further into reality.
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