Saturday August 16, 2014
Last weekend August 8-10 we attended the Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFA) Summer Conference in Amherst, MA. The conference is held annually in the Northeast, this year’s being held conveniently close to us (Amherst is 45 minutes from Colrain). The conference format was like any other technical conference, with a featured keynote speaker followed by 3 days of presentations. At most technical conference that I have attended the presentation are typically no more than 20 minutes long, including time for questions. At NOFA however the presentations are an hour and a half long and called “workshops”. This length of time allows topics to be explored in quite a bit of depth. Here is a sampling of some of the interesting and fun workshops that we attended were:
“Biologically managing weeds”
“Carbon Farming: Regenerative Agriculture for the Climate”
“Microloans: Grow a Backyard Operation into a Small Farm”
“Processing, butchering and Adding Value to Pork”
“Farming Smarter not Harder: Planning for Profit”
“Growing Quality Vegetables Biodynamically”
“Innovative Land Financing Mechanisms”
“Grazing for Soil and Carbon”
“Workhorses 101-Care and handling”
“Workhorses 102-Harnessing and Driving”
“Cultivating Summer Cabbage for Flavor and Profit”
“Getting Started in Certified Small Scale Dairying”
“Harvesting your cover Crop with Ruminants”
“Hedgerows and Windbreaks for Farm and Homestead”
“Improving your land with Multi-Species Grazing”
“Small Scale Equipment for Small Grains”
“Small Scale Intensive Market Farming”
And much much more. Our Katywil Farm Community was a sponsor of the event and we had a booth in the exhibitor’s tent. During breaks from the workshops we enjoyed chatting with people interested in learning more about our cohousing community.
One of the great things about NOFA was the Kids program. While Paul and Judy were attending the adult workshops and absorbing as much information as possible, Monique was also learning and having fun. Some of the workshops she attended oriented for her age group were:
“Playing Foul: Caring for our Chicken Friends”
“Grow Your Own Smoothie”
“Kids with (Goat) Kids”
“Everyone Loves Ducks”
Saturday’s workshops ended with a festival for the kids complete with a watermelon seed spitting contest, find the peanut in the haystack, sack races, horseshoe toss and pony rides (the big hit for Monique).
All in all, it was a great weekend for all three of us. Paul, Judy and Monique would like to say a huge thank you to Bill, Haynes and Nancy for making this opportunity happen for us.
On the house building front, we have made a little progress. We need to have a septic design signed off by the Town of Colrain Department of Health Inspector before excavation of our lot can begin. But the brush and saplings on our lot were too thick for the septic design engineer to sight our lot in advance of drawing up a design for the septic system. This week Paul finished clearing the brush on our lot, a huge feat. Our lot is flat up at the top, then there is a steep drop off, another flat area and then another steep drop off in a wooded area next to Vincent Brook. There was so much brush and so many saplings on our lot that from the top of the lot we were unable to see the middle flat area. Initially all 3 of us worked away at clearing manually using loppers, pruning shearers and rake. At the end of day one using this approach, we hate to admit it but we realized that we’d have to break down and employ some fossil fuel powder to get the job done. On Day 2 Paul attacked the steep slope with the “Brushhog” attached to the community tractor. Even with the tractor and Brushhog this was no small feat. To clear the slope and avoid turning the tractor over on the steep slope he had to back up the hill and constantly monitor the tip of the tractor. After 3 full days of this, the lot was finally clear.
Our architect friend Peter has come up with a creative layout and design for our home which he showed to us this week. We like it a lot and he is going ahead and creating a full set of architectural plans. Meanwhile we have been meeting with builders and getting bids for building our small house. We are doing what we can to move the building process along but time is ticking, and winter will come. It is looking less likely that we will have a sealed house under roof by the time the snow comes. It is good to have a plan B so we have started to think of options. It is a little complicated when you have a dog and 4 goats in tow! Creative ideas are welcomeJ