Floor plan

Who remembers way, way back in April when we purchased beetle-kill planks for the master bedroom and closet? Not us. And who remembers back when building and installing custom bookshelves was the trickiest project we had taken on? Apparently we forgot about that, too. Let us say frankly that laying this pine flooring is by far the most infuriating, the most frustrating, the most demoralizing task we’ve ever tackled here at Quiet Farm. Oh, I know I say this about every project but I am not joking here.

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The planks are “curing.” (They’ve been abandoned in favor of other projects.)

The best thing about this flooring project is 1. it’s finished (mostly) and 2. we learned so, so much about flooring and our own tolerance for suffering. It’s such an honorable, martyr-ish, humble-brag thing to talk about how you renovated your entire antique farmhouse yourself, but this project was truly the closest we’ve come to calling in a professional to bail us out of the mess we’d created. But since you’re already here, friends – who doesn’t like to read about other people’s DIY trauma? – let’s share what we’ve learned.

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Yes, we had to move all of the planks repeatedly. No, that wasn’t at all tedious.

Lesson #1: There is a reason that raw wood (like these pine planks) has been mostly abandoned in favor of engineered or manufactured hardwood. The giveaway is in the name: engineered wood is precisely custom-cut and layered so that each plank is identical and fits together perfectly. Raw, untreated wood is obviously cut from what was once a living thing, and like all living things it has imperfections. These imperfections are gorgeous in a forest, but infuriating when you’re trying to snap them together on an already-uneven floor. All the various imperfections we encountered in the wood (major warping) and in our foundation and walls (not remotely straight or level) didn’t cancel each other out – they multiplied. As N swore during one particularly tough day, never again are we flooring with raw wood. It looks amazing, but the appearance isn’t worth the puzzle-fitting and the stress.

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Look! It’s really pretty firewood!

Lesson #2: When working with raw wood, especially a soft wood like pine, you’ll need a lot more overage than you think. The industry standard of ten percent will not – I repeat, will not – cut it. We spent an inordinate amount of time sorting through planks to find usable pieces, and as a result we have a great deal of scrap. Beetle-kill pine especially is replete with cracks, knots, scars and other damage, as you might expect, but we didn’t know this in advance and as such didn’t order enough wood the first time. When we finally figured out that we wouldn’t have enough wood to complete the closet, we wrestled with installing uncured wood (i.e. it hadn’t sat in the bedroom collecting dust for six months) in order to just get the project done. (You may notice there are no photos of the closet. This is intentional.) We wish our lumber yard had told us in advance that we’d need a minimum of 25% overage, but we’ll chalk that up to a valuable lesson learned.

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It took approximately a decade to progress this far.

Lesson #3: Renting tools is practical for some projects and not at all for others. We rented a skid steer and an excavator when we built the game fence; these are not tools we’ll use on a daily basis and they’re extremely expensive to purchase. For this flooring project we started out renting a floor stapler from our local hardware store, foolishly thinking that we’d be done in a day or maybe two at the most. When by the end of our first day we had only laid about six rows – because fitting the planks together was so challenging – we realized that at our current productivity rate, we could buy about twenty floor staplers for the inevitable cost of the rental. So work stopped yet again while we waited for our newly-purchased floor stapler (and tiny pancake compressor) to arrive. If we had known this in advance, it would have saved us a ton of wasted time and the money spent on the rental.

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Lesson #4: When installing flooring, figure out your transitions in advance – not after everything is installed and you’re forced to custom-build transitions. Not only are there no photos of the closet, but there are no photos of our transitions, either, and that’s because we haven’t yet figured out how to solve this problem. We have to transition between the existing ash hardwood in the main entrance to the bedroom, between tile at the bathroom, and from pine to pine at the closet. Seems reasonably simple, right? OH NO YOU ARE SO WRONG. Because we didn’t plan our transitions in advance, we have what N graciously calls a “sawtooth profile” on the pine planks, making fitting a transition in almost impossible. And did we mention the floors are varying heights? So we need step-downs and reducers, too, all in bespoke sizes and cuts. The lesson here is to make your transitions the first step in your flooring project, rather than the last. We won’t forget this lesson anytime soon, and please, watch your step.

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The before, middle and after. Burgundy carpet and periwinkle paint may be great for some people! But not for us.

Lesson #5: Everything will take twice (or ten times!) longer and cost plenty more than you think. This old DIY adage should be common knowledge for us by now, but we’re still learning. This might be our third floor (our sunroom and our living room look beautiful!) but it was with an entirely new material, and one that we probably should have researched a bit more in advance. The floor is in, and it looks gorgeous, and we’re so pleased with it, but it didn’t come without plenty of sweat and tears and temper tantrums. With every single project, though, we learn and we progress and we become better and better. And that’s all we can ask for.

 

On hiatus

Over the next eight weeks (at least in the U.S.), we’ll careen wildly from one overwrought celebration to another. From a holiday where we decorate with fresh, healthy vegetables but celebrate with cheap processed candy (while leaving the vegetables to rot in the landfill) to a holiday where we throw away the equivalent of fourteen million turkeys to a holiday predicated entirely upon excessive spending, consumption, packaging and waste, the next two months are a difficult and challenging time of year for many people – including us.

And thus Finding Quiet Farm is on hiatus for the rest of 2019, though we’ll stay busy. We’re going to bundle up, hunker down and get to work on all sorts of interesting tasks, both indoors and out. We’ll be back in the new year with farm updates, lots of book recommendations, a detailed tutorial on making your own delicious meatless burgers and photos of all our projects. We’ll be quiet and productive and we’ll skip the holidays entirely, thanks very much.

Take good care of yourselves, friends, and cook something tasty and nourishing. We hope to see you back here in 2020.

How to save the world

Last Friday, millions of people around the world marched as part of a “global climate strike.” The march was intended to draw world leaders’ attention to the climate crisis in advance of the U.N. General Assembly taking place this week in New York City. While the sight of millions of mostly young people taking to the streets to make their voices heard is heartening in theory, teenagers in expensive sneakers carrying smartphones and pithy signs aren’t going to change the perilous trajectory we’re on.

Despite the fact that we are by far the world’s largest consumer and by extension the world’s largest polluter per capita, the U.S. is the only country in the world still debating the very existence of climate change. While other countries have their heads down working to find solutions, we’re still arguing over whether this is actually happening, and if so whose fault it is. (Spoiler alert: ours.) This disparity will be on full public view this week at the U.N.; once again, we’ll look like idiots on the world stage, a role in which we’re becoming increasingly comfortable.

Here’s the painful truth: we can’t protest the idea of large corporations destroying the planet, because we are the reason those corporations exist. If we didn’t buy their products – if we didn’t upgrade our iPhones every year, if we didn’t rob each other at gunpoint for thousand-dollar puffer jackets, if we didn’t accept and then dispose of two million plastic bags per minute – these corporations wouldn’t be able to plunder the planet. We are the problem, and by that logic we also have to be the solution.

Mental health professionals have reported a sharp uptick in the number of people seeking treatment for depression related to the environmental catastrophe we’re facing. It’s a massive, complex problem, and it’s easy to feel hopeless when confronted with its scale. On a personal level, I’ve long since graduated from severe eco-anxiety and now find myself teetering on the cliff of abject climate despair. I don’t think we’re going to be able to fix this, but we can’t choose to do nothing and watch the world implode around us. With that in mind, here are five things we can implement immediately that might just make a difference.

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Small victories

In ten years of growing food, this is by far the most challenging season we’ve ever experienced. Between punishing hail, voracious deer, late snows, devastating winds, crafty rodents and ten million grasshoppers (I’m certain the locusts are on their way), we feel we’ve taken everything the world can throw at new farmers. We might be down, we might be bruised, but we’re not out yet. And in that spirit, how about we count up some wins?

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Thanks, sunflowers, for cheering us on with your bright faces.

Our farm is awash in sunflowers right now, not one of which we planted. They weren’t here last year when we moved in (historic drought?), but we’re so glad to see them this year. Hopefully they’ll continue to self-seed and their cheerful countenances will be part of every summer here.

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Lessons learned

Hello again, and please forgive us our recent absence. We’ve taken a small summer hiatus – not because we’ve actually been on vacation, but because for a period of time there we didn’t have many nice things to say about farming, and we didn’t want our space here to sound whiny and negative. We’re genuinely thrilled to be farming, even when we aren’t.

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One of early summer’s low points.

It’s been just under one year since we found Quiet Farm, and what a year it’s been. There have been highs and lows and successes and failures. And now that we’re one year wiser and can officially call ourselves farmers, we’re working hard on learning from our experiences. We always say that we’re allowed to make as many mistakes as we want, but we have to make different mistakes. If we make the same mistakes over and over, then we obviously haven’t learned anything.

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Between a rock and…another rock

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Look! A photo of large rocks! Very impressive.

Fitting squarely in the category of Important Life Lessons: if you buy a piece of mostly empty agricultural property that hasn’t exactly been used as a farm, there may be a reason why. In our case, that reason is rocks. Many, many rocks. So many rocks. Big rocks and little rocks and medium rocks. Some tiny pebbles. Some the size of a small car.

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More rocks.

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Farm update: February 4

The first time we walked into our old house, the one we sold last year, we fell hard for the woodburning stove and the built-in bookshelves. We don’t have a woodburning stove here at Quiet Farm – hell, we don’t even have a furnace – but we have the opportunity to make our own custom built-in bookshelves. And so we did.

Here’s how this project went in my head:

  1. Look at gorgeous photos of floating bookshelves on design blogs.
  2. Buy authentic vintage distressed barnwood and artistic handmade wrought-iron brackets.
  3. Attach aforementioned barnwood and hardware to wall.
  4. Fill with carefully curated books, black-and-white photos and trendy succulents.
  5. Admire. Photograph. Repeat. Earn generous sponsorship from major power tool companies. Probably succulent companies too. Quit farming to run profitable design blog. Live happily ever after.

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Our library, pre-shelving. Don’t judge the brassy ceiling fan; it will be replaced eventually.

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Downsizing

An announcement: we’re on the road again. Four weeks ago, we sold our house. Three weeks ago, we bought a vintage (“vintage” is an official rebranding of just plain “old”) Class A motorhome. Two weeks ago, we moved out of our house into our RV, and now we’re full-timers.

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Above: our first home. Below: our second home. 

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Please forward our mail to this address. Thank you.

Selling our first house wasn’t easy, by any stretch. People do this all the time, yet for us it seemed a monumental task. We disliked every part of the process, from working with real estate agents to staging the home (goodbye, cherished family photos!) to disappearing on command during showings and open houses to negotiating complicated repair and inspection requests. Signing the papers at closing was painfully bittersweet. Ultimately, though, both the worst and the best part of the entire tedious process turned out to be the sorting, the culling, and the discarding.

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How to recognize a superfood

Now that we potentially all have attention spans less than that of a goldfish – can’t believe you’re still reading this! – it is apparently more important than ever that we distill information down into small, digestible bits. One way we do this is by labeling everything, especially food. This is so we can recognize it, so we can boast about it, so we can post a photo of it, so we can pay more for it. So we can say, Oh, don’t mind me, I’m just eating my superfood salad over here. Goji berries, acai, spirulina, wheatgrass…the list of trendy branded superfoods goes on and on.

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Purple foods are rich in anthocyanins, a specific type of antioxidant.

Western society, particularly America, has some serious food issues. We are collectively overfed and undernourished. We all know that obesity, heart disease, diabetes and other lifestyle diseases are on the rise, and yet still we consume on average more than twice the calories we need in a day. We’re overwhelmed by choice and information and the constant barrage of marketing thrown at us every second. We’re no longer able to think for ourselves.

“We are a society obsessed with the potential harmful effects of eating, according to the University of Pennsylvania psychologist Paul Rozin, renowned for his theories on the role that fear and disgust play in modern food culture. Overwhelmed by the abundance and variety of foods in our groceries, and flooded with competing health claims, we can’t help but make instinctive food-purchase decisions, subject to the whims of the latest trends and health scares. No wonder that, when confronted with ambiguities in health-based marketing claims, we fill in the gaps with inaccurate inferences, as the Cornell University economist Brian Wansink found in a 2006 study. Food companies bragging about supposed health benefits, such as low calorie count or low cholesterol, create what the influential study dubbed a “health halo,” a vague but positive glow that temporarily relieves our food-centered anxieties—at least long enough to get through checkout.”

-Michael Fitzgerald, Pacific Standard, May 26, 2017

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