Monday, April 30, 2012

Oh, and there's the homesteading thing...

I know it has been forever since I've written anything about how things are going on the farm.  The public art project has taken over my brain lately.  But, we still have to attend to animals, bees, and the massive garden.

So, just a quick summary:
We have 3 ducklings and 2 chicks.  They are in a rabbit cage in the barn with the goats, kept warm with a heat lamp.  But, they are growing fast and I need to figure out a safe way to give them some room very soon.  Unfortunately, the one duckling that I suspect is female has a deformed leg (or more likely, suffered a fracture early on and it healed wrong.)  I tried to create a splint to support her foot and leg, but she pulls it off every day.  She is still eating and drinking and growing, and the other ducks seem to protect her, so I am hoping she will be able to live a decent life with only one good leg.  We have tried to hold her a lot so that she will be more comfortable with us when she needs our help later, but all of the ducks are skittish.

We have a tractor-mower now, for keeping the lower pasture tended, and it has a system where we can catch the trimmings in big bins, easy to dump into the goat yard.  This provides fresh food for them and saves having to buy hay.  The tractor also has a little trailer that will help us haul wood, mulch, weeds, compost, etc.

Another new acquisition is a pick-up truck.  This is essential out here.  I had been carrying hay in the trunk, which is messy and inefficient.  The truck is only for hauling, not regular driving, and it makes life a whole lot easier.

We picked up two new hives of live bees in mid-April.  They are happily installed in their fancy new hives that Mike worked on throughout the winter.  We think the hives we lost this past year succumbed to mold, a common problem in this area.  But the new hives should help keep moisture out.

This time of year, it is important that we till, fertilize, weed and plant in a timely manner.  Having two big projects going right now makes it very hard for me to focus on the farm.  I manage to keep up with slug hunting and some weeding, but Mike has had to do the rest on his own.  He spends all of his time off work mulching, turning soil, amending, fixing and building new beds and structures.  Yesterday, he created a table for starting seeds in the sunroom, with a grow-light attached.  All of the beds are ready for planting, so I need to find time in the coming weeks to help with that.  If I don't, his hard work is for nothing and we don't have food in the coming year (or we spend a lot more buying things we could grow.)

Right now, I'm still making our morning smoothies with ingredients we harvested last summer.  We still have winter squash to eat and a lot of canned peaches and jam, plus many jars of honey.  There is so much summer squash in the freezer still, I will probably start feeding it to the goats and chickens.

So, while I have been writing more about the Artesian Well mosaic project, the little farm is still in progress and going well. 

So Long and Thanks for All the Fish!

The community-participation aspect of the Artesian Well mosaic project took place this past weekend, in partial conjunction with Olympia's Spring Arts Walk Festival.  I anticipated a good turnout on Saturday, because it coincided with the festivities, where many downtown streets become pedestrian-only, filling with jugglers, musicians, and citizens interested in enjoying the art and fun atmosphere.  I wasn't sure what to expect on Sunday.
We were not disappointed!  We managed to set everything up early, and we had participants coming by already, so we had several people already in progress on their fish well before the official noon start time.  From there, it was a full house all day, with people always waiting for a spot to open up.  We had to improvise and set up extra spots.  Volunteers found extra chairs and we accommodated as many people as possible.

I was very impressed that so many volunteers showed up and jumped right in to help.  Alan Rodgers was there when I arrived, and helped Lisandro and I with the whole set-up, both days.  After that, Jamie, Karen, Tina, and Bryn jumped in, helping new participants find spots, cutting and laying down contact paper, explaining the process, nipping when necessary, and wrapping and stacking the completed fish.  Frank Lynam helped with clean-up both days.

We had snacks and beverages provided by Grocery Outlet, and Vic's actually delivered pizzas for the volunteers both days!  It was most appreciated, since we really didn't have time to take breaks.  We just took it in turns to go off to the side and wolf down a slice.

As busy as it was, it all went off without a hitch.  We had plenty of materials, we managed to rotate people through at a good pace, getting new people set up quickly.  Two sets of wheeled nippers walked away on Saturday, which was disappointing, but that is the worst thing that happened, and it is quite minor.
Many people worked in groups, often teaming up on one fish.

Pizza delivery accomplished, time to make a fish.

Getting started.

Beautiful fish!

Dad and daughter working side-by-side.

The crowd rotated through, changing throughout the day.
I think it took, on average, about an hour for each person to complete a fish.  A few people spent half the day, using smaller pieces and putting careful effort into their creation.  Some people went with larger pieces and more abstracted fish.  We gave them some simple guidelines (take care with sharp edges, leave space between pieces, try not to mix up all of the colors, have fun) but it was impossible to really exercise quality control.  I will spend today and tomorrow adjusting each fish and covering the surfaces with tile tape.

This weekend was both exhausting and invigorating at the same time.  The fish-makers were all so excited, they expressed over and over that this was one of the most fun experiences they'd had in a long time, that they loved how the design incorporated the community, and they each took photos of their fish so they can find it easily when the whole project is finished.  People working on mosaic under that canopy over the weekend included a wide cross-section of the community, from all socio-economic and ethnic backgrounds.  We had fish made by toddlers and elderly people.  Whole families worked on one fish, and a couple of adults came by both days because they had so much fun the first time.  At the end of Saturday, we had made 82 fish.  (I haven't counted Sunday's yet.)
Vince Brown and Monica Peabody came by and played music for us on Sunday!
So, the community mosaic project was a great success.  Now for the serious work of transferring all of that hard work onto the concrete forms around the well, filling in the space between them, and getting it grouted.  My biggest fear is that there are some people who will sabotage the work while it is in progress.  I will have to leave ungrouted mosaic untended, and it might be tempting for some people to pry the pieces off and ruin the work before it is finished.  I certainly hope that will not be the case.

Thank you to everyone who came to help, both volunteers and fish-making Olympians!  I could not create this project without you!  And extra special thanks to Lisandro for organizing the donations, helping to keep track of materials, and volunteer recruitment and scheduling.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Artesian Well Community Mosaic - Next Week!

I meant to keep updating this blog about the progress of the community mosaic project, but I've been pretty overwhelmed with getting ready, and documenting the process hasn't been a priority.  I feel utterly grateful to have an intern, Lisandro Perez, who has taken on donations acquisition, volunteer organizing, and keeping track of the pallet at Furniture Works.  Meanwhile, I've been trying to get the word out to all event calendars and print media, going through all of my own materials to contribute as much as I can, and going to community groups to do the project the way it will be done next weekend so that I work out the kinks ahead of time.

Luckily, every group has done a great job making mosaic fish, it has been fairly simple to explain and execute, and only one person has cut themselves on a piece of glass.  Fish have been made by students at Choice High School, a McCleary girl scout troop, and the Olympia Senior Center.  We have 40 fish made already!  Meanwhile, Seattle Mosaic Arts graciously offered to create some fish to contribute.  Claire, the owner of SMA, originally convinced me to try her contact paper-tile tape method, and I can't tell you how helpful that is.
We were becoming anxious when we had only 2 weeks to go and only a fraction of the materials we would need to cover the surfaces of the concrete forms.  But then, Advance Glass and Spectrum Glass both pledged donations of surplus stained glass!  I will drive to Spectrum Glass in Woodinville tomorrow to pick up 150 lbs of glass, which is a huge relief.

So, everything is coming together.  I hope we have an enthusiastic turnout to ensure as much community participation in this project as possible.  Don't forget: noon to 4pm on Saturday and Sunday April 28th and 29th at the Artesian Well on 4th and Jefferson in downtown Olympia.  Also, we could still use a couple more volunteers.  If you are interested, email Lisandro: