Monday, November 15, 2010


Port Townsend was spectactularly foggy the entire weekend, which really cut into any exploration I wanted to make of the Fort, and made for really crummy photos. But the weather didn't dampen our Tilth experience!

We arrived in Port Townsend on Friday afternoon, where we milled around at the opening reception before heading to dinner. The great thing about the whole weekend was the prevalence of locally-grown food. Friday evening was our first workshop session, and I attended a film showing about connecting farms with schools. 

The Commons, where all of our meals were served. More recent construction than the rest of the fort, but designed to match it on the exterior.
Saturday had three more workshop sessions. In the morning I went to one about apple cultivars for the Puget Sound. While it wasn't as informative as I was hoping it would be, the speaker did provide us with a list of cultivars that do well in the PNW. That will be handy to have, as I expect to be living somewhere cold and wet for a good long while. I absolutely love fruit trees, so it would be nice to grow some great ones! Apparently the easiest apples to grow on the west side of the mountains are Akane, Freedom, Liberty, Spartan, and William's Pride. Interestingly enough, none of those varieties appear on the lists for Best Eaters, Cook's Choice, or Best Keepers. So easy growing may not necessarily mean it's something you want to eat... 

Another session I attended was about how to make a CSA pay. Two of the women speaking run a 900-member CSA near Rochester, WA. The sheer size of their customer base is impressive to me. From what I was able to glean they have about 30 acres in production, which means they feed about 30 families per acre. That's about equal to what we do at WSU, with 100 families on 3-4 acres. 

I then attended a very strange session about nature-scaping and beneficial insect management. I say it was strange, because half of the session was from a presenter who titled her slides "Working With Weeds". She is literally overtaken by weeds every season because of the location of her farm in a floodplain, where weed seeds are introduced every time it floods. The photos she showed were astounding -- row crops barely visible among the weeds and grasses that were growing. And she often remarked about hedges established on the site as "something that got out of control, so I just let it go." We've always been taught that weed competition is terrible for good production, but this woman apparently grows beautiful produce. I think it must be the floods that bring in the weeds also bringing in important fertility, and the fact that her water table is very high, that limits the detrimental effects of such high weed populations.

Saturday night we had a fantastic closing banquet. I think something like 99% or more of the food was sourced from within 50 miles of Port Townsend.

All weekend I ate too quickly to remember to take photos, except for dessert on Saturday night.

On Sunday the first session I attended was about raising sheep and finding a market for their wool. What was made very clear is that there are not many options for places to send fleeces for processing, and that the few options available are very expensive. It got me to thinking that it could be a very cool area to join and improve the infrastructure. I wonder how much capital would be required to start a wool mill...

After the final workshop session (something about farm to retail & restaurant) we quickly loaded into our van and drove for the ferry. It was a bit stressful, trying to make sure we made it to the boat on time, but we did eventually get across the water to Seattle, and after many more hours of driving, back to Pullman. The fog was terribly thick for a lot of the drive after we got past Vantage, which made things slow, and very eerie.
A short bit about where we stayed... Fort Worden State Park and Conference Center. It was originally constructed as a guard station for the entrance to Puget Sound, closed in 1953, and purchased for park land in 1955. We stayed in a dorm building that was once used as barracks for the soldiers. It was creaky and old, and I expected there to be a ghost in my room every time I opened the door. The little that I did see of the park, as I didn't adventure much in the wet weather, was lovely. I would really like to visit it again in the future, hopefully when the sun is shining and the birds are singing. 
Dorm Building 225.

Also, I seem to have developed a taste for coffee. Always decaf to keep my circulation happy, but with a little added cream and sugar I can now stand the taste!

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