30 May 2008

Why leave Santa Fe?

Kind Reader, you may be asking yourself, why are the Youngs moving to Floyd, Virginia? If you have known Russ for very long, you might rightly have assumed that he would live out his days here in the high desert.

The Answer is complex but probably begins when Russ was in diapers (no, it has nothing to do with potty training) and lived on one of his Grandfather's three farms. More to date, our time in Scotland re-shaped our perceptions and left us wishing for (literally) 'greener pastures.'

The Santa Fe that Russ so loved in the 1970s is as much a thing of the past as bell bottom jeans. It has become something else entirely and although not a bad place, it isn't THE place it was in 1978. The population has boomed, prices, especially real estate, have become fantasies (the median price of a Santa Fe home is over $350,000), and the Southwest has been in a long term drought. Gardening has gone from difficult to requiring divine intersession (yesterday, for instance, the wind was gusting to 25 mph, the humidity was 7%, and it was 75F- the leaves were burning on their edges because they could not replace the moisture as fast as the wind carried it off). Much of the state was under an "extreme fire alert" and the day before, the northeast quadrant of the state was under a tornado watch; a super-cell spawned near Moriarty lasted five hours as it drifted towards Texas and produced hail 2.75" in diameter. Yes, Dear Reader, the climate here has become far less hospitable in the last thirty years.

The little dirt road we live on hasn't changed much- the county's lack of maintenance insures that in dry weather the washboards that form will shake your fillings loose. The neighborhood has changed drastically, however, since Russ built this house in 1986. The newest house, at the end of the road, has a single man living in 4,800 square feet- and he is now building a major addition (the construction traffic is amazing). The house next door, which is the oldest house on the street having been built in 1968, has changed hands four or five times in a decade (I'm not exactly sure as the real estate signs sprouted like dandelions in a city park). The current owner is a contractor and as has been adding on to the 2,000 square foot original house for 18 months now (it is a joy to live next door) and it is now 4,000+ square feet and ugly as sin incarnate. The neighbors across the street are building a large, free-standing garage and that is now about 90 days into the project.

There may be a terrible downturn in the national housing market but you couldn't tell by looking at Camino Tetzcoco. What was once placid and rural has become a dumping ground for the terminally chic and their bottomless pockets.

27 May 2008

Watching the Farm's Weather

If you go to any site which shows the NEXRAD radar stations, click on Roanoke. Although it says "Roanoke" the radar is actually near Terry's Fork, about 12 miles almost dead north of Floyd.

Floyd itself does not have an official weather observing station but apparently there is an amateur station, "kingstore." Once we have possession of the farm, one of the first acts will be to set up our Davis Instruments (www.davisnet.com/weather/index.asp) weather station. There is software available to hook it up to the net and if enough people are interested (and we have a good enough internet connection), you might be able to view our conditions via the WWW.

Two posts in a row on weather? Well, it is probably a farmer's greatest concern & fascination. Indulge me, OK?

25 May 2008

Weather data

The current owners of the farm have replied to my query regarding the weather there. I really had no clue what is would be since it is relatively high (2,550 feet at the head of the driveway) and probably in a micro-climate formed by the Blue Ridge Mountains (six miles away) but nonetheless it is in the South.

The Strattons have kept careful records during the decade they have lived there and note:
The first frost is late October or into November. Last is officially May 15. Gardening gets underway seriously around here in early May but some folks say you should wait until June 1. I only remember one year when we had a serious freeze in May. A more common problem is freezing weather when fruit trees are in bloom in April. Last year everyone lost all peaches and cherries. This year they look excellent! In the last 3 years we have had a total of 4 days when it went above 90 deg (only 1 above 91) and we averaged only about 20 days a year when it got above 85. (The bigger surprise was mild winters: rarely below 15 deg. In the last 3 years we had only 5 nights below 10 deg. Lowest we have seen in 10 years was +6F.

This is very similar to the last decade in Santa Fe although the farm's summers are cooler and the winters are warmer, both by only a few degrees, but those few degrees can determine which plants thrive and which fail (as well as setting heating and cooling expenses). As far as I can tell from NOAA data, there are no tornadoes in Floyd County, a great relief to a boy raised in the tornado belt of the USA. Can this be Paradise?

19 May 2008

Bend Like a Willow

Friends, now you too can keep up with this little adventure we're calling Stratheden Farm. It's a mini micro operation set within 53 acres of beautiful southwestern Virgina paradise. What do we grow? Well, nothing at the moment. We're still in New Mexico packing up our current home. We don't get to move in until late October, maybe early November. There's a lesson here: you'll have to pay to attain your dream but you don't have to have the biggest checkbook. Being willing to wait and being flexible with our move date (OK, totally open!) were a big part of why we were chosen to buy the farm. The current owners are waiting for their new home to be built.... so we move when they do. Nice people, too, so it's a pleasure working with them.

What will we grow on our farm? Lazyplant. (Lifus livius "Goode") Although Russ has long wanted his rural idyll, he's never wanted to be a slave to the land or a debtor to the vet and the seed company. We'll be growing things that we can leave for a week without worry, things that don't require tractors, harvesters, and plows, things that can be processed on and sold at our convenience.

Come spring, we'll begin digging holes for several acres of lavender, inoculate logs with mushroom spores, planting catnip around the outbuildings, along with nut trees and willows at the far end. Maybe we'll plant roses too. In a year or two we'll be able to begin selling our products. Russ will have learned how to operate a still for making lavender oil, April will have sewed up a thousand stuffed cat toys. By then the farm will have a logo...

Yes, the logo. Even farmers need branding, it would seem. We're thinking of a straitjacket with a lavender boutonnière in the lapel.