• Theo

Growing Roofs

Planting and Growing Roofs

Shortly after we moved to this farm 5 years ago, we planted a single, garden-variety roof. Our skills at growing roofs were limited in those early days. The roof grew quickly in the Oregon winter rains, but our lack of experience stunted its growth.

Alas, under that first roof, we could fit only one milking stanchion and a pouring room. You can see the roof lurking there in the background, sheltering a milk cooler. There was no room under that first roof for farm share owners to harvest their animals. They had to do so without a roof over their heads. The first roof that grew wasn't big enough for us to organize tools, to house animals during the winter, to work on vehicles or equipment, or for many of the other reasons we have since discovered that farmers grow roofs.

At first, we wanted to be different than other farmers. Our attitude was along the lines of "we don't need no stinkin' fences, and we don't need no stinkin' roofs." We really felt like we caved to the status quo even when we planted that first tiny roof to milk cows. But this is Oregon, and that attitude may work during the long, dry summers, sun on your skin as you romp about on the farm, but the liquid muck of winters challenges that sentiment.

After 5 years of Oregon-winter farming, we are finally learning that there is value in some of the standard farming practices, specifically planting and growing roofs. There are good reasons that farmers in Oregon grow roofs as one of their primary crops. In Oregon, in order to be a year-round livestock farm, there is just no way around it. You have to be good at cultivating and growing roofs.

So last year, we planted and grew a fairly substantial roof. To grow roofs, we learned, once you plant them, you have to water them with your own sweat and tears, and fertilize them with your own blood. It was challenging, but in the end, our first serious attempt at roof growing yielded one that we are proud of. It turned out to be large enough to house diary cows comfortably for one stinky winter, and ultimately to create a shelter for harvesting animals and a shop for fixing equipment and organizing tools. We were in the roof growing business!

This year, as roof growing season approached, we decided we would plant another roof and watch it grow. We spent days tilling, plowing, and leveling the soil where we wanted it to appear. Roofs like to grow on flat, moist soil.

We planted some concrete to support the roots.

Then, this last weekend, following a week of heavy rains, look what sprouted!

As with the milk, eggs, and meats from the farm, these roofs will ultimately be for the benefit of farm share owners. We won't be harvesting, cutting, packaging roofs for delivery, but farm share owners will be able to come to the farm and enjoy all the benefits of the roofs we are sprouting and growing here. On the NW 40, we have accumulated about 4000 square feet of roofing slate. It is currently laying in a large field awaiting the summer sunshine. We expect about 5 A-Frame farm stay cabin roofs, of the new "glamping" variety, to sprout and grow next summer. If you want to get in on the fun, and learn about roof farming, reserve a week or two next summer to be here on the farm to watch/help them grow.

Delivery delays, skips, for growth.

The focus on planting and growing roofs has slowed our milk and egg production and is causing some slips and delays in deliveries again. Fortunately, the newly sprouted roofs will help us boost production of milk for farm share owners. We are planning to house cows and the whole dairy operation in the new "diary building" during the winter and increase production rapidly to "get the milk to the people." Walking through the herd, I count at least 6 of our milk cows that will calve by the end of January and once we have a reasonable facility under the new roof, we can purchase even more cows if needed. We appreciate your patience with this building process. We are fixing for winter feasting.

The egg production is also low, with chickens still out on the pastures in their egg-trailers. So eggs will be sporadic until we get the chickens tucked into their warm and well-lit winter quarters in the greenhouse.

With production low, we skipped Portland deliveries altogether last week. Portland will happen on Wednesday this week (that's tomorrow), but there will likely be other drop points skipped in a rotating manner until milk and egg production increases again.



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