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Garden farmers use every foot

They produce artisan soaps, wool and medicinal herbs. And they only have an acre.

Nadja and Nicolas Paea came to their farm on Revenue Road from Hawaii. In fact, Nadja came to Hawaii from the Bronx. What they share is an interest in living deliberately, making use of everything on their land. The result is their plot: N&N Garden Farm.by: POST PHOTO: NEIL ZAWICKI - Gwen Hawkins, 8, visits with Nadja and Nick Paea and their sheep Sunday at N&N Garden Farm on Revenue Road.

“We call it the garden farm because obviously it’s so small,” said Nadja. When they bought their place some 12 years ago, they wanted to bring the farming ethos they had in Hawaii and make a go of it here. What they found was that they had much to learn.

“Nick’s parents were good farmers and my grandparents knew how to grow everything,” said Nadja, “so we thought we must have learned by osmosis, but actually we didn’t know how to grow anything at first.”

Armed with Nick’s horticulture degree and the spirits of students, the two set out to turn their acre into a niche farm.

“We wanted to make it so that everything had a purpose,” said Nadja. “It’s easy to just throw money at a hobby farm and make it really spiffy and make it really cute, but we just really wanted to recycle materials and use all the space.”

The gentle slope of their land commands a view of Mount Hood, and a small barn accommodates their five sheep, which provide wool to sell in various forms at the farmer’s market, and also the tallow for soap.

“One of the very first things we dealt with was mowing,” Nadja said. “So we thought, oh, we’ll get sheep. They’re much better than goats, and everything is good in the world when you see sheep out in the distance.”

The sheep, of course, are less-than discriminating grazers, and so need to be moved for mowing and kept out of the garden patch.

“We had them get into the garden one time, and that was a huge mess,” said Nick.

Another thing the sheep do is produce the fertilizer for the garden, and for the greenhouse, which the couple uses to grow the 70 different herbs they sell.

“The one thing we really learned how to do well are the herbs,” said Nadja. “From selling them at the markets, we get a lot of regular customers who come out to the farm to buy our stuff.”

The garden farm is in the midst of a year break. The Paeas have decided to let the ground go fallow in order to start again next year.

“We took enough time off to do other things that we didn’t have time for,” said Nick. “We took a lot of classes.”

Still, with 40 fruit trees, laying hens, and turkeys raised for holiday sale, they stay busy. The hens, however, have taken to laying their eggs in increasingly secret places, in order to baffle the hawk and the owl that have menaced the farm, taking eggs, and even some ducks.

“We have one duck now,” said Nick. “And we have strong security measures to keep the coyotes out.”

The coyotes have made off with a sheep or two, but the Paeas continue on, taking what can be produced or raised on the land and turning it into a product.

“So, first, you grow it for yourself and see how well it does, and then you try and sell it,” said Nick.

One of their most novel products had its testing phase on their pets.

“We’ve also developed a doggie shampoo,” said Nadja. “You know, so many pet shampoos are really expensive and they don’t really foam very much at all. So we created one that has citronella, eucalyptus and cedar. And we’re selling it at a pet store in Troutdale.”

While farming for profit on an acre is an exercise in efficiency, it has its perks as well.

“We never buy chicken or turkey or lamb,” said Nadja.