The Beginning

We started Duffy Meadows in October of 2016. Back then, it was just some land and a dream. What was the dream? To have the ability to research various aspects of human, animal, and plant health – to put it broadly.

When we tell people we own a research and consulting company, they want to hear about the research. We have big plans to study various components of honey bee health, rare plant propagation, specialty market generation, native plant restoration, natural pest control, and much more….but if you’ve ever worked in the agricultural world, then you know it takes time and money to get anything accomplished.

That’s where our story begins.

Duffy Meadows began as 40 acres of soil, dead trees, wetlands, and garbage. It also began as Duffe Meadows, but more on that later.

Here’s a glimpse of the acreage in the beginning.

There was 12 acres or so of tilled field, 12 acres of lake, 8 acres of forest, and the rest was either pasture or various wetlands. In the pasture areas, there was a ton of buried debris. It looks so small and innocent in the photos, but it took us a lot of hard work and time to get it all out of there! We ended up recycling over 4 trailers full of metal.

It  may not look like much, but at one time this pit was over 20 feet tall and 12 feet in diameter – full of garbage.
Some of the scatterings. Most of the big piles were old collapsed barns and sheds. I don’t have many pictures because my hands were always busy working.

We had many fires to burn the debris.

It took us all winter (and into the spring) to clean up all the trash. We still have two large piles to burn that we will have to address in the winter season (to prevent wildfires!) but they are all set and ready to go.

It quickly became apparent that we were not going to be effective without a research station. We needed a place to work, to rest, and to shelter from the elements. Through the magic of Craigslist, we came across this old work trailer.

Beautiful, right?
The floors were in the best shape- really! The ceiling was moldy and falling down, and there were various holes to the outside…
Fixing a leaky window

It was shabby. After a few coats of paint, new flooring, window repairs, sealed up holes, and a solar wiring system –  it became a respectable place to stay. In the future, we will have this station available for our employees as well as rental opportunities for other research institutions that may be working on our land. It may end up being temporary, but for now it works pretty well.

Almost completely fixed up

Once the clean-up was done, the real work began! We got busy building a trail to Duffy Lake. It’s a gorgeous trail and so serene to walk. Most importantly, it provides access to the lake so we can interact with the plants and animals there. So far we have spotted a sedge field (with crayfish perhaps?), wild rice, tamarack trees, alders, and tons of marsh marigold. 

Then we planted a windbreak and the maple trees in the orchard. We had a truckload of mulch dumped, and got busy mulching the trees.

This is a whole semi load of mulch
The windbreak looks beautiful mulched – and more importantly it will be more drought tolerant now!
Can you see the maples in the background? They are there….

We also realized we needed some storage space. We were accumulating tools and equipment quickly.

So we leveled out the ground.

Then brought in a shipping container. Ironically, they are much cheaper than building a shed! And more secure.

So many of our deliveries are by semi now. What a weird situation.

Of course, the semi got stuck for over 3 hours and required a wrecker to get free… Never a dull moment!

Some of these ruts were over 3 feet deep. It took a lot of work to smooth them back out.

Pretty soon, it was time to prepare the orchard space, dig a well, and get the field ready to be planted.

The field was converted into wild prairie. Why? Because we want to prevent soil erosion and rebuild the land. Plus bees need food! We can’t study honey bees if there is nothing to keep them fed. The prairie will ultimately provide income for the company as well.

It was a lot of work!!! We had to rid the field of weeds and flatten it out. It took many hours of work on a tractor and atv to get the job done. Then more hours on the tractor planting. Tractors cost a lot to buy…and comparatively less to rent. But it was still an expensive operation. I’m glad it’s finished. Bees will come in spring 2018 when the prairie has grown enough to provide nectar/pollen.

Trying everything to get the weeds out without using chemicals….
The first pass with the tractor. Still a lot of weeds…
The planting…. Two tractors did the planting. One broadcasted seeds, the other rolled them into the ground.

The well has been a bigger project…. It took 2 days to pound the well down 29 feet into water. We hit a lot of rocks and were so excited when we finally hit water.  There is plenty of water – almost 8 feet in the pipes at times. But, we can not get it out. We have built elaborate piping systems, used hoses, gas powered pumps, electric pumps…. We got water out once – for maybe 4 gallons, then the hose kinked and we never got water again.  We have tried every weekend for the last 2 months. It’s been beyond frustrating – and expensive!

That one time we got water…

In the meantime, some of our trees have died. Maybe it was winter stress, water stress, disease issues, or they just weren’t that great of quality (nurseries are notorious for selling junky trees!) but we now have a bunch of trees that have died. I’m so sad and disappointed.

The orchard was slotted to go in this fall, but the well has sucked the ambition out of us and the idea of tackling the 8 foot fence is just too much to imagine right now. The fence is required before the orchard can be planted…..and the well is a necessity. So we are back to waiting. We may not plant anything in the orchard for a few years while we improve the soil, get some water, (!!!) and find a way to keep it safe from the wildlife. It’s an exciting and scary journey, but it’s also humbling and sometimes heartbreaking.

We’ve had a bunch of other mishaps too. Grass has grown up (nice and thick) in the mulch of our windbreak. Gophers have repeatedly moved into the pasture and created ankle breaking holes.  Trees have died and fallen down.

 This one happened to fall right into our firebreak.

All cleared up, but took a few hours of walking, chainsaw wrangling (electric chainsaws are unpredictable!) and wood carrying.

Then, of course, there was the “name” incident. Our title said the land was originally transferred to John Duffe in 1876. We wanted to honor the Duffe family when we named our research farm.  When we looked out at all those acres and saw all the possibilities, we were filled with awe. We imagine that’s how they felt too. Hence the name, Duffe Meadows.

But then I found this….

Birth records for the Duffe children. Except they weren’t Duffe -they were Duffy. Oh brother. So we will eventually transfer our company name and legal business to Duffy Meadows. We have to change the website, our tax info, email addresses, and more… It’s minor but major. I’m glad we caught it within the first year.

Sometimes it feels like we are making great progress. We have a vision – it’s all mapped out. The problem is – I can see it in 10 years and it’s really far from that point in year 1. It’s also really tough work, but we are building this to be something great.

There are many great agricultural problems to be solved – ones that need to be tackled with purely scientific motives – not motivated by Big Ag or Big Food company bottom lines. Yes, we will earn a living doing this work – but we are beholden to nobody. We will do what’s right in the pursuit of answers!

Here are a few glimpses of why our work is important:

Large flocks of wild turkeys roam our land. They (and many other wild creatures) will really enjoy the insects and cover from the new prairie!

Look at the rain dance off of the lake. This lake is home to untouched wilderness. Lots of rare plants and endangered animals call this lake home. There is much to learn from this place.

Stay tuned. The adventure is just getting started!

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