Letter to Birch Creek Ranch Friends, Patrons, Supporter, Fans and Disciples
November 1, 2019
There is simply no good way to disseminate bad news. So, here goes. Sadly, the old farmhouse at Birch Creek Ranch was lost to a fire on the night of October 11. The building, it's contents, and a nearby vehicle, sheds and trees are a complete loss. Save a few protruding metal frames from chairs and appliances and crumpled metal roofing, only a foot of ashes remained when I returned to the farm at noon after one night away. All that's left are the many memories of a garage built in 1984 gradually turned into funky farm house the truly Alaskan way with Al & Leilani's hard and loving work at it's core. We'll always remember lunches with employees and volunteers, mud from dog paws and farm boots tracked on the floor, and taxes and paperwork at the kitchen table. Road-kill moose churned into burger, apples churned into cider, and lots and lots of pie.
We are, of course, too far from fire service, just halfway to Pluto by some standards. We did not, of course, have any fire insurance, though some attempts had been made to no avail. The loss is a hard blow in the ultimate goal of achieving sustainability for the farm and it will take many years for us to fully recover. We are still processing the loss, contemplating what it all means logistically, financially and emotionally. We did manage to clean up the site before winter with the help of friends including Troy Smiley, Randy Gryting, James Jenkins, Jeff Cox, Sarah Kehoe, Morgan Ross, Jeff Lebegue, and Lisa Curtis. We can't thank them enough for jumping in when it was most needed.
Words cannot express the gratitude we feel for all the things that we DO have. Our own heath and safety. Our other home out on the road system. The “bunk house” at the farm which, though being prepared for eventual rental as an AirBnB, will now have to serve as the new farm house for a while. And for all of the well wishes and offers of help from family, friends and farm supporters.
The lost farm house had been used as summer living quarters for Brian (with Anita and Oliver too on many occasions) and as the farm kitchen and bath house for employees, volunteers, and visitors after Leilani and Alan permanently moved to Sequim, WA. Unfortunately, improvements were underway to make the house cozier year round and as a result a number of construction tools and small generators were part of the destruction. Although most of their possessions had been moved out, Grandma and Grandpa left the house, especially the kitchen, well appointed and fully functional. The house fed many guests and helpers and washed many a traveler's clothing. Card games were played at the kitchen table. Invoices, seeding lists, and flower sales slips were printed in the living room office. And binocs were always on the windowsill to watch the swallows darting around the nursery. The farm house has made everything we do possible. It feels a bit like the farm has lost a piece of it's heart.
For now, we'll keep plodding forward with the normal, crazy life of a farm. A farmer's lists are always long, now even longer. Although we know there are many people who are more in need than we are, some of Birch Creek Ranch's needs due to the fire are undeniably immediate and the financial strain on the farm operations will be a big challenge going forward. Some lost possessions won't be replaced until we think about the farm house we might build in the future, and some are truly irreplaceable.
Perhaps most importantly, we're thinking about all of you. About Kingsbury's and Golton's, about Merle and Mel, Lina and Rachelle, Leonard and Robin and on and on. So many folks that have helped and laughed and eaten with Alaskan dirt on their pant legs and under their fingernails. We just hope to host you again one day for a gluttonous meal of all home grown foods around a big table after a good long day of work.
For those that have asked what they can do, we truly appreciate that you care. There is a daunting list of needed items we must replace to make the bunk house more livable and to make farming, maintenance, and business tasks happen smoothly before the February greenhouse season begins. I will be actively trying to replace our plow truck, air nailers and staplers, saws, cordless drill/driver set, fire arms, chainsaw, brush trimmers, pruning shears and specific garden tools, household and office items that were an integral part of farm operations. Any donation you want to make to the farm fundraiser on GoFundMe will go directly toward these items. Thank you to Esther and Jim for organizing it and thanks in advance for any little bit you can do to help us through this challenging time.
More than anything, your patronage and participation in farm activities is crucial for the future of Birch Creek Ranch and small family farms everywhere … even on Pluto.
Thank you, Brian Kingsbury
For irregular and hopefully entertaining updates about Birch Creek Ranch, send your email address and you'll hear from me a few times a year.