Crop Circles

The Arab world is blowing up, state and federal governments are crumbling, and there is a world food crisis upon us.  Our only real local crisis here an hour south of Seattle is that we had just 15 days of 80+ temperatures for ALL of last year.  Every plant was stunted.  We talk about the weather a lot. 

Neither my husband nor I grew up producing our own food.  The America I grew up in is far removed from nature.  But it feels fundamental to me to know how to grow food, to know what animals I eat and how they were raised and treated.  So this farmlet is for my life NOW, not in some post-economic-collapse future.  My husband is a bit more of a survivalist than I am.  He talks about the coming collapse, especially of the distribution systems that require cheap gas, and it motivates him. 

We’ve lived here for 4 years.  We built the gardens the first year, hauling in two dump trucks full of soil and digging out countless roots.  You can see our three circle gardens from outer space.  They total about 3,000 square feet.  The Google Earth satellite image of our forested farmlet clearly shows the Rings Garden and it looks like a bull’s-eye target, a bit disconcerting since we’re so close to Bangor and all those nuclear submarines.

Crop circles sighted in south Puget Sound area

Last year, when President Obama came to Seattle stumping for Patty Murray, a float plane violated air space at Lake Union, so jets tore up here from Portland and broke the sound barrier right over our house.  Scared us to death.  It was like lots of dynamite going off just outside.  The house jumped.  We figured at first it was an earthquake. We didn’t know what it was.  When it dawned on us that it was a sonic boom, we assumed it was the mail lady coming down the road.

Our Twenty-Somethings appreciate our small life, they just don’t want to stay here for more than two nights.  We get only one bar of cell phone reception, and did I mention we talk about the weather  a lot? 

To lengthen our growing season, we’re building a hoop house in the largest circle garden.  Hoop houses are relatively inexpensive greenhouses made with bent pipe or PVC tubing and covered with clear or opaque plastic.  My friend Sheila agreed to let me post a picture of her recently constructed hoop house, which was our inspiration.

Sheila's hoop house

The idea is to keep it cheap, so we are using cedar branches instead of tubing, because we have so many of them.  Our hoop house, which we’re actually calling the hot house, will be 20′ long and 10′ wide.  Currently we’re debating the plastic purchase — Home Depot plastic for $100 or special UV treated greenhouse plastic for $250.  I argued for the expensive stuff last night, but today I’m not so sure.  Will the plain plastic disintegrate in a year or two?  Is the expensive stuff just hype, especially since UV protection really is not our issue?

Hoop house layout in the Circle Garden

Meanwhile, infrastructure work continues.  This week, latches on the barn doors, and trenches for the chicken pavilion’s predator-proof fencing.  I’ve been spending several hours a day on the computer with this new blog, finding out repeatedly just how much I have to learn.

High tech map of property

After the crop circles, we built the barn using wood from the 2 huge cedar trees we cut down to make the Circle Garden.

Goat barn

We dug the 350 foot long electric/plumbing trench, and then built the chicken coop.

Chicken coup and 30'x30' tarp-covered pavilion

Last summer I dug two small root cellars.  They’re like hobbit holes in the side of the hill with a big wooden trap door.  Nothing fancy.   One has a Tupperware in it the size of a big cooler for dry storage — onions and apples.  A mouse got into it and ate all the apples.  I’m still using the small, hard storage onions, though.

The other root cellar has a lining of straw and holds the potatoes, carrots and cabbage.  We’ve gone through all the carrots and cabbage, but still have potatoes.

Three different neighbors on our road have come to see our root cellars…and one is getting her son to dig hers with his backhoe.  Smart lady.  When we’re ready for chickens, a neighbor is giving us our first hens from her flock.  Lou next door keeps us supplied with Golden Retriever books from the used bookstore, and we give him jam.  I look at the satellite photo now, and it’s a surprisingly hopeful world.

Thanks for all of your encouraging comments last week!  This is fun.


10 responses to “Crop Circles

  1. I am thoroughly enjoying this blog. Keep up the good work!

  2. Loved the crop circle photo and chuckled a couple of times, cause you are such a creative writer!…can’t wait to see the hoop house!!!

  3. I love this blog! The only thing that is missing from it is…I wish I was there too. You write it so conversationally, I feel like I’m sitting there talking with you, and I love that! Oh…if only that were true…(sigh) Keep up the writing, I look forward to it every week! Thanks Christi, and Keith!

  4. March 24. I just read your blog and it was such fun. Seeing your circles from outer space was unbelievable, that they were so visible. Sorry about that stinker, the mouse.
    Keep writing! love it, Mom

  5. Christine Widman

    Your crop circles remind me of some celtic stonehenge reappearing in your mysterious rain forest farmlette world.
    You know how I have loved being part of your photo emails as your plan of life with nature has evolved.
    Hurray that you have started a blog site.
    Perhaps this vision of life – rich and full of crops and chickens and a dog and the holy goats will begin to spread around the world.

  6. Coolest. Mom. Ever.

    I think that sums it up. Don’t you?

    I’m so proud of you and this incredible blog! It’s fun to see all the stories, photos, words of wisdom and just YOU all in one place. Keep writing. -MK

  7. hey christi,

    go with the uv protected plastic…don’t even consider the plain stuff. we’ve used both and believe me, there’s a big difference.


  8. Awesome site, Christi. You make it a pile of fun. Keep goin’ and growin’. Love and blessings, Andrew

  9. Hi Christi and Keith,

    Lovely photos of your ‘spread’ 😉 The circular gardens look great in the landscape. We’re wondering what’s the slope on your goat barn – the roof looks a little flat 😉 One of our lumber sheds collapsed earlier this year, when I forgot to bump off the accumulation of snow. Even though snow happens so few times around here we’ve had to make midnight trips to protect our hoop greenhouse during heavy downfall pretty much every year.
    – – –

    Go with the UV protected plastic. The regular stuff will not only fall apart in a year – two at most – it will be all over your landscape in small chunks. It becomes brittle at some point and then wind will crack it and parts will break off. Even if you catch the beginning of the deterioration and start to take it down – by then it will start breaking off as you do it. While the UV plastic is rated for a certain number of years, it will typically last much longer. It will be also more resilient to tears – since you’re planning to use cedar hoops – and unless you sand those smooth, they will abrade your plastic, poke holes in it and those will start tears. The UV protected stuff is just more flexible – longer molecular chains 😉

    We also go with cheaper when we can, but the amount of energy lost when a set back happens – not to mention possible crop loss – not to mention the actual cost per year (where UV plastic easily outdoes the cheaper stuff) makes this an easy choice. . .

    On the other hand – if you live for the . . . you know . . . experience of it – it is far more dramatic to come out one day and see torn plastic and your hoop house up in the trees (as the plastic tears, parts of it will catch wind like sail and that in turn will exert a lot of force on your structure.)

    Home Depot is a bad place to buy this kind of plastic. Try Craigs list first, then there are a few commercial places in state to try – email us for more detailed info if you decide to go that way. A 20 by 25 sheet of plastic of this type – which is what you will probably need for a 10 by 20 hoop house – should cost less than $250.


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