Over the Fence Urban Farm


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Farm House

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After a full year of renovations, we no longer have any tools or paint brushes stationed in the farm house, or what we have affectionately referred to for so long as “Louise’s House” after our former neighbor. Those who’ve read about our history (see Our Roots) know we bought the house next door in a land grab deal so we could get the farm up and running. At least that’s part of the story. The house is quickly becoming “Grandma’s House” since Dan’s mother and father moved there in late-September.

When we were first imagined tenants for the farm house, we thought we might find a young couple interested in sustainable agriculture. Some graduate students from Ohio State, perhaps. Folks who might trade work on the farm for a CSA share. While she isn’t the urban hipster we imagined, Dan’s mom is an avid gardener and has deep connections with this place (again, see Our Roots). She owns an investment property, so she understands what it means to be a landlord and she treats things with respect. Having her and Dan’s dad next door is great for the kids and we’re looking forward to celebrating the seasons with them.

Here are a few before and after shots of the house. We’re thrilled to be finished so we devote more of our leisure time to family, and farming.

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And a nice spot out back to watch things grow...

And a nice spot out back to watch things grow…


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Update from Our Fall Laboratory

One of our goals at Over the Fence is to find ways to produce fresh food throughout the year. To this end, we consulted the first name in North American season extension, Eliot Coleman. After traveling to Europe to research year-round crop production and conducting experiments on his own land in Maine, he developed a variety of techniques for covering crops, overwintering seedbeds, and winter harvesting. Anytime you speak with someone who is trying harness Mother Nature’s more subtle powers, you’re likely to hear his name. We’d love to visit his aptly named Four Season Farm. Someday… In the meantime, we’ve seem some of his ideas in action around Columbus at Swainway Urban Farm, Harmonious Homestead, and Peace, Love, and Freedom Farm.

After reading as much of Coleman as we could get our hands on, we purchased 20 – 10 foot lengths of 1/2″ EMT and borrowed a bending tool to make our first low tunnel hoops last winter. You can read about that process here. We experimented with them a bit in the spring for an early harvest, but didn’t have much luck. We needed to start earlier, producing a fall garden that could evolve over-winter. This year we were ready.

In late August, we got a variety of cold-hardy seeds into the ground and sprouting – kale, arugula, swiss chard, spinach, scallions, beets, carrots, tatsoi, and a variety of mustards. We tried corn salad, or mache, a Coleman favorite for winter harvest but after two rounds of planting saw no germination and gave up. For now. By September we had two full rows of greens going just as strong as we had in the spring. We’re eating from them everyday, occasionally sharing with CSA friends though at this point we are selfishly relishing the fruits of our experiment.

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A mid-Octover harvest.

Last week, in anticipation of our first overnight frost, we covered the beds with our low tunnel hoops and 6-mil greenhouse plastic. The plastic is secured with clamps and, for the time being, held down on the ground with burlap coffee sacks. Something a bit heavier will likely be in order as it gets colder and windier.

A corner of the tunnel. Note the moisture dripping down the sides!

A corner of the tunnel. Note the moisture dripping down the sides!

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Outside

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Inside

A quick temperature experiment showed that on a partly sunny day in the mid-forties, inside the tunnel was just above sixty. Yesterday was unseasonably warm, in the low sixties. We didn’t measure the temperature inside the hoop, but it felt warm and smelled of rich, damp earth. A true joy to behold in early November.

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It’s like the tropics in here!

Hope to keep these going at least through our Thanksgiving feast! We’ll let you know how it goes.