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Discovery Lab at Green Bow Farm

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Discovery Lab at Green Bow Farm

We are really excited to announce that we are working with Discovery Lab a local STEAM based school to have mini farm school workshops at Green Bow Farm. Our sons started attending Discovery Lab this Fall. They love it and we have been impressed with their hands on learning curriculum that emphasizes child lead interests. We started the year with DL students coming out and observing sheep shearing and also learning how to skirt and card fleeces. This got us excited about doing more educational outreach in our community. It's something we have always wanted to do but haven't made it a priority yet. So this winter with the support of the school's teacher and parents both Farmer Matt and I have worked on a simple curriculum for the students that touches on many different aspects of the farm and also gives them some hands on learning opportunities. The farm is at its healthiest when we are in touch with how all the different animals and plants are working together to create soil biodiversity and food for both humans, animals, and insects. In order to do this we need to closely observe the land on a daily basis and make adjustments to our work and how the animals are moved around on pastures. Working more with the community to teach people about how and why we farm the way we do is another way that we can be responsible stewards of the land and hopefully inspire a new generation to also look differently at where there food comes from . So here is a sneak peek at the workshops that the Discovery Lab students will be participating in. BoosterCampaign Laying Hens

February 1st visit Learn about how we use microscopes on the farm Discovery Lab Students will get samples from two different ponds and compare and contrast using a microscope If weather allows obtain fecal samples from sheep and cattle in the pasture to check on health of animals also using a microscope. Also learn about a permaculture experiment with our ducks 2nd visit Spring Sheep Shearing Observe shearing and help sort fleeces from our flock of Icelandic Sheep Compare multiple fleeces and their quality Compare fleeces from different breeds of sheep Lesson in felting and making a felt bowl

March

1st visit Seed Starts for Spring Planting Lesson on seed germination Make fermented kraut-chi with spring greens from Washington farms

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2nd visit Chicken day Learn about the role the chickens play on the farm Help rebuild small chicken tractors Visit chicks and learn about the brooders that help keep them alive when they are really young and also help add bedding and fill water Help collect eggs

Eat Fermented Kraut-chi if it's ready!!

April

1st visit Lambing Season Visit new lambs see lambs born if we are really lucky Learn about the Icelandic Sheep breed Explore pastures and identify plants with a scavenger hunt

2nd visit Lesson in Beekeeping After a lesson in Beekeeping with Farmer Matt each student will take a turn looking inside the beehives with safety gear on IMG_0669 First Lamb May 1st visit Planting Spring Starts Possibly seed carrots and beets Learn about compost, soil biodiversity, And compost tea. Also how it's integrated into our irrigation system

2nd visit Forage for plants on table mountain for dyeing fiber Bring back to farm and dye fiber. Students can bring dyed fiber back to Discovery Lab for future art projects

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Eating locally grown food makes you stronger, smarter, more beautiful, and possibly funnier

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Eating locally grown food makes you stronger, smarter, more beautiful, and possibly funnier

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Processed with VSCOcam with g3 preset Now that I have your attention lets talk about what eating local food is all about, tasty meals you share with your friends and family. These meals may not change your life overnight but just standing next to them telling people you cooked them will definitely make you look smarter and more beautiful. Eating real food grown by local farmers will make your stronger not because of all the nutrient dense foods you will be consuming but because of all the veggies you will be chopping, your on your own for funnier.

All jokes aside I am very serious when it comes to eating local and sustainable food but it wasn't always this way. I was a vegetarian growing up who mostly ate frozen veggie burgers and rice and beans, partially because I learned about how factory farmed animals are treated but partially because I never wanted to eat another one of my moms overcooked pork chops ever again. I moved from the midwest to the west coast for college and fell in love with a cook who taught me a lot about food but also how to cook for myself. He was nice enough to eat vegetarian meals with me for years but seemed incredibly relieved when under a doctors recommendation I started eating meat again while I was trying to get pregnant. While pregnant I really couldn't get enough meat and Farmer Matt would laugh at me, the former vegetarian and once vegan, as I stood at the kitchen counter and devoured most of a roast chicken even the little bits of overcooked skin.  I then set about trying to learn how to cook meat, roasting a chicken for the first time and burning myself because I decided to start with a recipe that involves hot bricks, a not so pretty but delicious first roasted chicken that I haven't made since. I started reading all kinds of books about nutrition and cooking mostly with traditional foods in mind like bone broths, fermented vegetables, animal fats, and also the idea that eggs, milk, and meat that come from animals foraging on grass are much healthier for you and the animals. This was a big change for me when I most of the time just tossed a salad together with some goddess dressing to eat with my frozen veggie burger or fried up some tofu and called it good. It still wasn't the biggest change in the way I cooked.

Heriloom Tomatoes

We moved to the farm with the intention of growing most of the food we need for our family in addition to raising animals on grass for eggs and meat that we would sell at farmers markets. Farmer Matt and I had always grown a little bit of veggies in our backyard in Seattle and raised chickens for eggs but nothing on a large scale. It was a huge eye opener to go from 4 raised beds to a garden that was several acres and a season that was much shorter and less temperate than the one we had on the west side of the mountains. Wind, we also have lots of 30-40 mph days of wind which can flatten your veggies and make your soil dry out quicker than you can imagine. Every success in the garden feels like a triumph against the odds and does not go to waste. So between what we grow for ourselves and all of the fruits and veggies we get from our friends at the farmers markets we usually have lots of great food around the house. Because of this and because the grocery store is far away I started slowly giving up recipes and just throwing together meals with whatever we had on hand. This is not a revolutionary idea and it was mostly started out of necessity but I want to encourage you to try it. It took me awhile to get used to cooking this way and I think I've slowly gotten better but there are a couple great benefits. The creative part for me is huge with days where the farm chores are the same and the children are bouncing off the walls its nice to carve a part of the day where I get to experiment and use my brain in a completely different way. Thinking about what food we have on hand and how best to use it for the weeks meals I also end up wasting less food. Little bits from one meal end up getting incorporated into others and last but not least its a great way to cook with local ingredients. Recipes don't always have seasonal ingredients in mind or ones that are specific to your region so you always end up going to the store for something that you probably wouldn't be able to get from your local farmer. This quote from Arthur Ashe sums up how I feel about cooking and farming these days-

                                           

                  " Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can."

 

I was excited to be apart of the Oxbow Organic Farm and Education Center CSA box challenge because it is perfect for the kind of cooking I have grown to love. A box of veggies show up that you haven't picked out what kind or how much of and you have to figure out what to do with it. If you are unfamiliar with what a CSA is it stands for Community Supported Agriculture. The idea is that you are buying a share of the farm at the beginning of the season which allows the farm to have some financial sustainability and you get a box of veggies and sometimes fruit every week through the growing season for a price cheaper then you would be buying them for at the market. It usually starts with a small box at the beginning of the season and by the end they are so heavy you can barely get them to your car. I love the strong community connections that CSA memberships build.  We just finished our first very successful Egg CSA and have been planning on a Meat CSA for the fall. As a farmer you are always in a crunch for capital to do projects or just day to day needs of the farm and a CSA gives you a nest egg to help you plan out your season and allow you to do things like build a new chicken coops or buy the tools you need.

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Oxbow is a leader in the region for sustainable farming but I am also in awe of all the education outreach they do with kids. Because of that I want to show you the mostly quick, healthy, and inexpensive meals I made with their box of veggies for my family of 5 which includes three small boys all during the busiest time of year on our farm. I wanted to add a little more to the oxbow box challenge so I decided  to come up with 10 meals using the box, a couple other local food favorites, and pantry staples for around 100 bucks. Thats 50 servings over 10 meals, so about 2 bucks a pop! My boys are 6 and under so I'm sure we will need twice that much food in a couple more years. I had a small box share which included a head of romaine, kale, red bib lettuce, a large bunch of dill, garlic scapes, fennel, and a large bag of peas. To this I added a bunch of basil and torpedo onions I got that week from our friends at Whistling Trains Farm, 2 dozen Green Bow Farm eggs, 1 whole Green Bow Farm chicken, a small piece of smoked salmon from Loki, another farmers market vendor we love, some pantry staples, and dairy staples we always have on hand like yogurt and cheese.

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The first meal was just a quick egg scramble. I sauteed some kale and torpedo onions in butter until they were well cooked, whisked up 5 eggs and added them to the pan with a generous amount of chopped up dill and some sharp cheddar cheese. We eat a lot of eggs so this is a very typical breakfast for us usually with a side of toast or some fruit.

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A couple of the things I made this week that carried over into several meals was to make two sauces/dressings made with the dill and garlic scapes. With the the dill I made a yogurt dressing with lots of garlic, apple cider vinegar, and salt and pepper to taste. The key to this dressing for me is that the yogurt is made with whole milk so it has a nice thick and creamy texture. The garlic scapes got made into a large batch of pesto with the basil from Whistling Train and there was still enough scapes leftover for a couple other meals.

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The second meal was a smoked salmon salad with the red bib lettuce and yogurt dill dressing. To the top I added fresh peas and capers because my boys love something salty and pickled in their salads. This was one of the quicker meals and probably an overall family favorite. I find the creamier the dressing and  the more interesting and crunchy things are in the salad  the more likely everyone will eat it.

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This is one of those key meals that helps set us up for several meals throughout the week. I butterflied a whole chicken and right after I did this I took the backbone and neck and started making chicken broth and let it simmer for over 24 hours. I seasoned the to be roasted chicken with salt and pepper and as you can see liberally put butter all over the chicken front and back. Then I roasted it in a pan on top of some chopped fennel and torpedo onions and put some of the fennel fronds on top. I served the chicken with a little bit of roasted veggies, and a side salad of romaine, yogurt dill dressing, and some homemade croutons. I saved a breast and a thigh for one of our other meals and the chicken fat and the rest of the roasted veggies for our next breakfast.

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Another change in my cooking is that I always save fat. Whether from a big roast beef, rack of lamb, or bacon it always ends up in another meal. This isn't just a desire to be thrifty but the flavors you get are amazing especially like with the roasted chicken it was cooked with very aromatic fennel and onions. The fat absorbs those flavors and eating fats with your veggies helps you absorb the vitamins in them. Not to mention if you are eating grass-fed meats they have a higher amount of Omega-3's in the fat. Thrifty, healthy, and tasty! So I took the roasted veggies and a small amount of fat from the chicken and heated up in my cast iron pan. I cubed up some stale bread and added it to the mix to absorb some flavor. I whisked up 6 eggs and added them to the pan letting them set up a bit until it was a little brown around the edges. Then I added some slices of sharp cheddar cheese to the top and put it under the broiler for a couple of minutes.

Eggs

This is where my documenting of the project started to break down. There was a couple times where the troops were just too hungry to wait for their mom to take a picture of their food before they could eat so I'll give you a quick run down of some of the other meals. One of my go to meals when I'm short on time is a quinoa salad. It cooks up really fast and its pretty versatile. I usually make more than I need so I can have some to throw into other dishes. I took a large bowl of quinoa added peas, dill, dried heirloom tomatoes we had in the pantry, olive oil, apple cider vinegar, and salt and pepper. With the garlic scape pesto I made several quick meals like grilled cheese sandwiches, sunny side up eggs with a big dollop of pesto on the top and other snacks. My favorite one that I used the pesto with was a big dish I made for guests visiting the farm. I made a really large bowl of penne pasta added the leftover roasted  chicken I cut up and warmed in a pan, a generous amount of the pesto, about a half a head of kale chopped up really small and topped it  with some parm.

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The dish I made mostly for myself was the one that also didn't go as planned. I wanted to make a soba noodle soup with spring veggies and topped with a soft boiled egg. When I started making the broth for the soup we were in a cold snap and when I got around to making it it was in the 90's and hot soup didn't sound good to anyone. So I took the broth added some braggs aminos, which tastes like soy sauce, and the leftover garlic scapes and peas and let the veggies cook a couple minutes before cooling it down in the fridge. After cooking the soba noodles I poured some sesame oil over them and ladled the cool veggies and broth on top. My whites were a bit too runny so we ended up with soft boiled yolks on top instead. For a strange cold noodle soup salad experiment it was pretty good. Being okay with failures and missteps is also just a part of what cooking without recipes or trying new techniques is all about. There is going to be changes of plans and things you might want to throw away but its part of what makes it interesting. My last meal was nice and hearty, I took the chicken broth that still had a tiny bit of veggies left in it and cooked up a large pot of french lentils. I served them up with a dollop of the yogurt dill dressing and some toast with garlic scape pesto. It was so easy and filling for a long day on the farm where we didn't sit down until the sun was starting to set.

The 10 meals were all pretty quick and simple and mostly successful. The best part was that I still had leftovers. There was enough chicken broth to make another pot of soup. Some yogurt dill dressing to dip veggies in for a snack and some pesto left for some quick sandwiches. I hope this will inspire you to break out of your routine in the kitchen or maybe even join a CSA. Every person that supports a local farm or farmers is making a change in the way food is produced and how the future of agriculture will be shaped. Every bit counts, even the fatty bits.

 

 

 

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Garlic Scape Pesto

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Garlic Scape Pesto

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image Spring is here and that means we have chicken again! There is also lots of spring goodies that are only around for a very short time in the farmers markets like garlic scapes, flowering pea sprouts, just about anything flower I love, and also spring onions which taste good just cut in half and drizzled with oil, a sprinkle of salt and cooked for a couple minutes on the grill or under the broiler. I like mine to have a tiny bit of char on them.

I wanted to share a recipe I wrote for Garlic Scape Pesto, it goes well with roasted chicken, tossed in with a bowl of radishes, or right on top of some sunny side up eggs. Garlic Scapes are not as strong as garlic and have a nice tender texture like asparagus not to mention they just look really cool. Over on our Facebook page we will have a short video about how to butterfly a whole chicken and then use the garlic scape pesto to season it. Its really tasty and this way of cooking a chicken keeps the meat nice and moist. Seriously I have never had a chicken dry out when I cook it this way, its fool proof even for a novice like me. For a side salad I chopped up two bunches of spinach put them on top of a warm bowl of pearled couscous (about 2 cups cooked) and drizzled it with the fat and pain juices from the roasted chicken. Then I added 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, a sprinkle of salt and tossed it before I added fresh flowering pea sprouts to the top. All of the veggies and inspiration came from our friends at Whistling Train Farm in Kent.

 

Garlic Scape Pesto

10 Garlic Scapes chopped

1 Heaping cup of Fresh Basil chopped

1/2 cup pistachios

1/3 cup grated parmesan

2 teaspoons sea salt

1 cup of Olive Oil

 

Put all ingredients in food processor and blend until its a consistency you like. I like mine a little more on the course side so you can still see chunks of pistachios and scapes. I have been eating this pesto all week on everything and next up I am going to try to talk Farmer Matt into making his tasty pizza dough so we can have a pizza night with it!

 

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Sourdough apple french toast bake

Image We have been enjoying sharing recipes at the farmers market. Here is one I threw together this morning for a quick and warm breakfast for a chilly day on the farm.

Sourdough apple french toast bake recipe

2 cups of sourdough bread cubed

1 apple sliced

3 eggs whisked

1 cup milk

1/2 cup yogurt

2 tablespoons of maple syrup

1 teaspoon vanilla

freshly grated nutmeg approx. 1/2 teaspoon

butter or coconut oil for pan

Preheat oven 450 degrees and grease cast iron pan with butter or coconut oil. Place bread then apples in cast iron pan. Whisk together all other ingrediants and pour over bread and let sit for 10 minutes. Cook in oven for 20 minutes then take out and put under the broiler on high for 2 minutes. Cool and serve.

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Friday Night Farm Stand

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Friday Night Farm Stand

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Friday Night Farm Stand at Green Bow Farm 1809 Howard Rd. Ellensburg, Wa 98926 July 12th from 5-8pm, Come visit the farm, have a glass of lemonade, bring a picnic dinner, and check out all the great food we have.

Irrigation Project

We are in the midst of a huge irrigation project and because we are working with a deadline we cannot make it to the markets this weekend. Instead we are going to have the first ever Friday Night Farm Stand event. We will set up a little farm stand near the front of the farm and there will also be picnic tables set up in a shady area of the garden in case people want to stay and enjoy a glass of lemonade. Yes, you heard right the Green bow farm boys will also be having their first lemonade stand. In addition to our pasture raised eggs and chickens we will have veggies from our neighbors River Farm Organic Produce. Right now it looks like we will have Zucchini, Peas, and Patty Pan Squash from them. All of our veggie starts will be on sale for 2 dollars and we will have our fleeces out for all the spinners and needle felting people out there to check out.

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Friday Night Farm Stand at Green Bow Farm July 12 from 5-8 pm

1809 Howard Rd. Ellensburg, Wa 98926- If your coming from downtown Ellensburg take 97 west to Howard Rd and take a right. About a mile down Howard is the gravel road our farm is on, there will be balloons and signs on the road to show you which road to turn onto.

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A year in the making

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A year in the making

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First Market day #2 We just reached two milestones, the first is our one year anniversary of moving onto our farm full time, right around summer solstice. The second, which felt like it might never happen, was setting up our very first farmers market stand. This farming venture has been in the works for two years but before we moved here it was mostly reading, researching, planning, dreaming, and doing the most we could with our little backyard garden plot, sassy brood of chickens, and a couple of beehives. Even years before we dared to dream of this giant leap into farming and out of the city it feels like we were taking hundreds of small steps towards this way of life. No matter how much we planned I don't think we could have prepared ourselves for how hard this would be to pull off with three little boys under five. Sometimes it feels like we aren't accomplishing anything but keeping our heads above water and others days like when we actually had dozens of starts, veggies, eggs, and chickens to bring to market it feels like we could accomplish anything we set our minds to.

Laying Hens

I now fully understand why most farms have several generations living together to make it all work. It takes a village to raise a child but it takes even more than that to not only get a farm off the ground, but keep it running from day to day. It's just us and the boys living here but we have been fortunate to have many friends, neighbors, and strangers lend a helping over the last year. Right now we have a regular volunteer who has been helping with animal care, gardening, and with bottle feeding the calves.

Kohlrabi and Radishes

There has been a couple days off here and there to go visit other farms and run farm errands. We are going to celebrate Independence day with a trip to the Gingko Petrified Forest, which we have been meaning to get around to for two years. So we are squeezing in some family time where we can. Our visit to Jubilee Farm in Carnation, Washington was a chance to take part in their discussion on Holistic Cattle Management but it was also nice to go back to one of the farms that inspired us on this path. It was really seeing a farm do it all, both animal husbandry and growing vegetables, on a large scale and how rich that relationship can be that made everything click for us. When you see the animals give back to the farm creating healthy soil and the soil giving back to the animals growing grass and veggies for them to eat it, you start to feel as if there really is no other way to farm.

Boys at Jubilee

That being said we need to slow down, take a beat this winter and really go over everything we learned and figure out what we are good at, what we can let go of, and what we want to try to push even further for the next season. We may never be as big as Jubilee Farm or some of the other farms we love so we need to figure out how best to use our time to be sustainable long term. Who knows, we might spend the winter remodeling what was once a hair salon on the farm into a commercial kitchen and come up with yet another farm/food dream that we just can't not try and take on.

Love #2

We brought a heifer calf home that we got from one of our favorite local farms and our son has decided to name her Love. It will be two years in the making before we see any gorgeous grass fed raw milk from her so Love seems just about right. This is a labor of love, not wealth or status, or even success in the short term. If half of what we do this year is successful and we can learn even a little bit from the other half we can finally breath a sigh of relief, sit back and enjoy the short days of winter.

Sheering day

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Farmer Matt Reviews the film American Meat

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Farmer Matt Reviews the film American Meat

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Joel Salatin, Polyface Farm. Wednesday nights screening of American Meat at CWU’s S.U.R.C. Theater was well attended by students as well as local farmers and ranchers. The film covered issues that concern conventional farmers as well as organic farmers and the push/pull between the two worlds, but mostly the content focused on the instability of our current food system and what this means to our national security and economy. Interviews with conventional poultry and hog farmers reveal how agriculture has fallen to the hands of large corporations that act as the middlemen of the food system, leaving the farmer and the consumer to struggle with the economics and quality of the whole system. Much like our current health system, it is nearly an impossibility for the consumer or the producer to receive a fair deal while there is a line between the two parties whose goal and obligation it is to maximize profits for its shareholders. Under this model, the farmer doesn’t receive a fair price for his labor and the consumer doesn’t receive a quality product. Meanwhile, taxpayers are unknowingly picking up the bill for this system in the form of crop subsidies that benefit the corporate agriculture businesses more than the tax paying consumer/producer.

The film spent a good amount of time with Polyface Farm in Virginia, the home of Joel Salatin and his family. They have become an icon of local food and small farm movement with their back to basics approach to production and direct to consumer marketing. As a result, Polyface produces a superior product over the conventional system both in taste and nutrition without government subsidies or large fossil fuel inputs. The film also presents some statistics regarding what it would take to move all of agriculture back to a system such as Joel’s, a system that was essentially well established before World War II and points out that the average age of farmers today is 57 meaning that fewer and fewer young people are going into agriculture as a way of life or a means to support their family. To get away from what agriculture has become today it would be necessary for a portion of americans to move into agriculture but also for consumers to find it beneficial to pay more for quality food, a tough sell for many americans who struggle to make ends meet. The bottom line is that it will be a grassroots effort for americans to impose a new food system for their country by getting involved. More small farms need to be founded outside of all metropolitan areas rather than crops and livestock being produced on large farms, in concentrated areas and being trucked around the country every step of the way to the consumer. We currently spend 10% of our income on food as a nation while other developed countries spend 40% and until the economics between subsidies and land issue are resolved, it is unlikely that americans will be able to make the tough decisions to pay more for quality food produced by small local farms.

Finally, Tip Hudson offered an article written by Jerry L. Holechek titled “National Security and Rangelands” where he explores what it will mean to reach peak oil, a threat that is likely not far away. He considers this more threatening than global warming and terrorism in regards to our security as a nation and our way of life. The costs associated with globalization, transporting foods and goods around the globe on a constant basis, farming less at home and depending heavily on imported crops while we devote more and more range and farm land to sprawl and preserves will leave us kicking ourselves if not starving, leaving americans holding the bill for our current choices in agriculture.

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Percolating

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Percolating

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Percolating_01 With the ground still partially covered in snow and ice and our brains a buzz with plans for spring we have turned our energy towards food and turned our kitchen into a science lab. Cultures are bubbling and ideas are percolating here on Green Bow Farm. We have tried our hand at many different types of fermenting in the past but this winter we have every extra inch of counter space devoted to our fermentations. We have a new batch of Kombucha going which we have made in the past but this time we are trying out a dehydrated scoby (kombucha culture) that we haven't tried before, and a continuous brew method we found on Nourished Kitchen. This is the same great blog we found our recipe for Cultured Veggies for Flu Prevention, which I would love even if it didn't make any health claims because it has a subtle sweet and sourness that works with so many different kinds of food. I might even like it more than sauerkraut. The recipe called for whey which I had never fermented with but we happened to have some from our first batch of yogurt. The whey is a byproduct from the yogurt making process which I've seen used in many recipes but its also used as a health food for people and animals. When we start to milk our sheep and have a large amount of whey leftover from making cheese and yogurt we will definitely be feeding the whey to the animals. It's another way to create a circle of sustainability on the farm and be less reliant on feed that has to be bought off the farm.

Rice Bowl with Cultured Veggies

My favorite dinner right now is a big bowl of brown rice with some baked squash, a heaping spoonful of the cultured veggies on top, and then throwing a mixture of caramelized bacon, onion, and hazelnuts on for some extra goodness. The boys favorite from our fermentation experiments has got to be the sourdough pancakes that have just a tiny taste of sour in them and we can make them on days we aren't making bread, keeping the culture going and the house full of that great sourdough smell. We still haven't made cheese yet but I am sure there won't be any complaints when those experiments start to fill the fridge.

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One of the things that first got me interested in fermentation is the slowness of the process, the sometimes long term experiments that don't always work out because of the many variables but when they do they are incredibly satisfying, a lot like farming. My first real understanding of fermentation came when I got a copy of Sandor Ellix Katz's book Wild Fermentation and now 10 years later my head feels like its going to explode with ideas when I crack open his newest book The Art of Fermentation, an almost 500 page guide to fermentation possibilities from every corner of the world. There is a quote from The Art of Fermentation about culturing food that says a lot about the importance of fermentation but I think it also says something about the current rise in young people getting involved in farming, "the word culture comes from Latin cultura, a form of colere, 'to cultivate.' Our cultivation of the land and its creatures-plants, animals, fungi, and bacteria- is essential to culture. Reclaiming our food and our participation in cultivation is a means of cultural revival, taking action to break out of the confining and infantilizing dependency of the role of consumer (user), and taking back our dignity and power by becoming producers and creators."

Percolating_02

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First Steps

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First Steps

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First Eggs It has been almost a year and a half since we started hatching this crazy plan to start growing food for other people on a rocky, windy, little piece of land. It wasn't until this week that everything started to finally feel like it was coming together and our ability to make a living off the land became a little closer to a reality. Just days after we tried Icelandic Sheep meat for the first time(which was delicious!) our first farm raised Chickens laid their first eggs. Besides being excited about the idea of all the farm fresh eggs we will be eating in the weeks ahead it also felt like it marked the beginning for us. Even though its still months or even years before we are producing the quantity of food we would like and need to be sustainable, it felt like a small but significant moment to celebrate in what has been months of fencing, building, and acquiring equipment. We also found a vintage hay trailer on our local farm exchange that will be perfect for building out a much larger pasture raised Chicken tractor for our laying hens. After building our existing Chicken tractors we decided they would be difficult to move over the more rugged back pastures where the laying hens will be a part of our rotational grazing system. With our hatchery catalog in hand we eagerly put an order together so that come this spring we will have 150 laying hens in the trailer and we will turn our current Chicken tractors into homes for pasture raised broilers. Our first flock of 50 Red Ranger broiler chicks will arrive at the end of January and depending on how it goes we may have even larger flocks throughout the spring and summer. In addition to that we will be raising a small flock of Bourbon Red Turkeys that will be ready in November.

Hay Trailer

Almost as exciting are the pictures we received of beautiful baby booties made from our very own Sheep's fleece. It was the very first fleece we sold and of course the first thing we sold off the farm at all which was also thrilling. Since we did the transaction through Paypal we don't have a dollar bill to frame but maybe we could frame a picture of these sweet little booties instead. It got me thinking about setting up an Etsy page to sell other nonfood products that we could make on the farm. We have beehives that we will eventually get beeswax from and we would love to turn it into something unique and special to our farm, and Matt has also been making a huge array of household goods from reclaimed wood and clay over the last couple of years. My own contributions would probably be some photos of the farm and something felted since we have all of this beautiful fleece coming to us twice a year. It was fun to spend the last year or so dreaming and planning but it feels even better to see all those plans come to life.

Felt Shoe 2

The booties were made by Ashlyn Maronn who is also just starting up her business. The entire shoe was made out of our fleece except the laces. The body of the shoe was made from one Sheep's fleece and she used another for the tongue of the shoe. Ashlyn said the Icelandic Sheep fleece was incredibly easy to work with compared to other wool she has used. I am excited to work with Icelandic Sheep wool because there is such a huge variety of color even within one fleece.

I have to end the post with a picture of our puppy Lulu who is still missing her Sheep and spends a lot of time wandering around the farm looking for someone or something to play with. She is a working dog but its hard not to want to bring her inside and snuggle up with her on the cold snowy days.

Lulu Love

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Nose to Tail

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Nose to Tail

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Butchering Ram When we went to pick up our Icelandic Ram from the breeders they offered us a second Ram that they couldn't use for breeding because his horn was growing right into his eye. He was a young Ram so we decided to use the opportunity to learn more about butchering and finally get to try the Icelandic Sheep meat we have been hearing so much about. There happened to be a Lamb butchering class at Farmstead Meatsmith so Matt headed over to Vashon Island to learn as much as he could. Farmstead Meatsmith is a small family run business that teaches small farms and homesteads how to harvest and butcher their own livestock. Last season Matt attended a Farmstead Meatsmith class on Pig butchering that was hosted at a small farm in our area and he was able to learn a lot about their Nose to Tail philosophy. The philosophy of Nose to Tail is a fairly new term but like most things its roots are much older and go back to how everyone used to farm and eat. The idea is that you use everything that you harvest from an animal and not let anything go to waste. It's partially about being sustainable but it also says a lot about the respect you have for the animal that will feed your family.

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The Ram was not here long but he did spend time with our puppy Lulu who still doesn't like being in the paddock with the other Ram and Ewes while they are breeding. To be honest, when Lulu was in their paddock she spent a lot of time trying to play with the Ram and he let her know immediately how uninterested he was. The other Ram on the other hand tolerated Lulu and her puppy play.

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Another project we added to our list was 70 free bales of old straw we found on the local farm exchange. Of course it was all loaded and unloaded by hand by Farmer Matt, so not entirely free but totally worth it because we now have plenty of straw for mulching our enormous garden, filling the hoop house while the chickens winter in there, and we are going to use some of it to make bays for piles of compost which will also double as a small windbreak for the garden this spring when it gets incredibly windy around here. We are anxious about our first full season of growing vegetables here because everyone we have talked to said it can be incredibly challenging. We have planted trees that in the future will help us with the wind but for now we are hoping the right placement of the more delicate vegetables in the hoop house and heartier vegetables and root vegetables outside of the hoop house will help.

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The most exciting new is that the hoop house is done and the Chickens are moved in after so many months of work. The doors were covered in plastic thanks in part to wiggle wire which made this diy hoop house possible and the finishing touch was Farmer Matt's mobile Chicken roost. He made one that could fold up and be stored easily up against the side of a building once spring comes around and the hoop house is used for gardening. Moving the Chickens into the hoop house was a two day and night process, which included Farmer Matt running around at night with a headlamp pulling Chickens out of trees and putting them in their new home. For some reason they have a hard time being moved. Even with their food, water, and nesting boxes all being in the hoop house they still didn't quite get that it was their new home and they would wander all around the yard looking for their chicken tractor. Things really are slowing down around here but we were finally able to find some local help so we are going to try to get another pasture fenced in before everything starts to freeze. This year the winter has been more about rain than snow which is unusual for this area. We really want more grass for all of our Ewes to graze on once spring comes around so the strange weather pattern is working out in our favor. For now its all about looking forward while at the same time trying to make the most of the resources we have available to us in the present.

Tractor and Straw

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Fall Forward

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Fall Forward

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The last two weeks have given us only one day of clear skies and many days where the air was considered too hazardous to breath for any extended period of time. Our self imposed deadline of the baby arriving and the one created by nature are still looming with several projects left so smoke or no smoke things must still move forward. That means some days getting work done with a mask and most of the time doing work in fits and starts. It also means constantly revising our to do list to prioritize what can't wait and what can be put off till spring.  The first thing to get taken off the list was a wood burning stove. We live in a large barn that was converted into a house and it doesn't have the most efficient heating system so we wanted to add a wood burning stove to keep our energy bills a little lower for the winter. Luckily we weren't counting on it for heat this winter so we will still have a nice cozy house to spend time cooking, reading, researching, and planning for our first full year of farming in.

One project we did accomplish was getting water and electricity to the pastures closest to the house. This involved hiring an excavator to dig a long ditch three feet deep (keeping below the frost line) from the yard near our house all the way out to the sheep shelters, running pipe for the water and electrical conduit inside the ditch, installing a frost proof hydrant, and an electrical outlet. What we thought would be a two day project turned into more than a week long project. There was one day a pipe burst because of a bad part we were sold, then there was a lot more time spent putting the fill dirt back into the ditch since we were using our tractor and not an excavator to get the job done. It was at the top of our list of things to get done because it means we will no longer have to haul 5 gallon buckets of water out to the pastures everyday and there will be an outlet to hook up a stock tank heater to keep the animal's water from freezing this winter.

My favorite part of getting ready for winter is putting up food. It's exhausting when your 8 months pregnant but when I look at all of our jars of tomato sauce, applesauce, apple butter, sauerkraut, frozen blueberries and pitted cherries and think of all the great meals we will make during the winter months it makes all the late nights worth it. We are still  hoping and planning for some more cabbage and beets from our CSA so we can make some fermented kraut-chi (from Sandor Katz's "The Art of Fermentation"), there is also quite a few apples left in the fridge from an apple truck that turned over down the road from us so more applesauce and apple butter, and if we are lucky enough to get any pumpkins from our very late planting, some pumpkin butter and pumpkin pie. We aren't putting up enough food to get us through the winter but its a small step to becoming a more sustainable farm. We are putting up enough hay to get the sheep through the winter because we don't want to be paying an exorbitant price per bale come January. Matt has loaded into his truck and then unloaded into the shelters three tons of hay and one ton of straw. We are thinking about getting a fourth ton of hay just to be on the safe side and looking into large quantities of grain to make feed for the chickens this winter. Every time we take something off the list we seem to come up with a new sometimes smaller project to add on.

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Why Grass-fed?

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Why Grass-fed?

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As a family we came to appreciate the health benefits (and taste) of eating grass-fed or pasture raised meat, eggs, and dairy products but now that we are trying to produce these foods ourselves we are learning and seeing even more reasons of why animals foraging for their food on grass makes more sense than grain-fed animals. If you are unfamiliar with the health benefits of eating pasture raised eggs, meat, and dairy there is a lot of great information out there but the most concise piece I found is from Eat Wild. There are many compelling health benefits like the meat having lower and healthier fat content and there being no need for antibiotics because the animals are not crammed into feed-lots but the most significant one to me is the higher levels of Omega-3s.  Having worked in a natural food store for years I saw a dramatic increase in people being told by their doctors to take a fish oil supplements to make up for a poor diet lacking in essential fatty acids or therapeutic doses for people suffering from things like cardiovascular disease or high blood pressure. With the population growing so quickly its hard to imagine that everyone taking fish oil supplements to make up for this deficiency will be sustainable long term. Not to mention all the processing they have to do to the fish oil to take the heavy metals out. Eating grass-fed food would probably not be considered a therapeutic dose of essential fatty acids for people suffering from chronic diseases but if everyone was eating more grass-fed foods to begin with maybe we would see fewer of these diseases in the future? This is just speculation, I have no credentials to back this up but after years of reading about nutrition, talking to nutritionists, and people seeking a healthier lifestyle it all seems to lead to people going back to more traditional ways of growing and preserving foods. More grass-fed, less processed, more fermented, and less pasteurized foods leading the way to better health.

I have used the term "intensive rotational grazing" several times on the blog and realized I never really explained what it is or why it's important. Being grass-fed is important for us but the way we do it through land management is as important for the health of the animals and the health of the soil. With a "intensive rotational grazing" system your are moving you're animals to new grass more often, rotating what types of animals you have on that grass, and putting a limit to how many animals you have on any given piece of land. It's more labor intensive than traditional farming practices but you see the benefits in the health of the animals and the soil. The healthier the soil, the healthier the grass will be, the healthier the animals are, the healthier your food will be. Eggs are a perfect example. When we moved our city chickens to the country we started rotating them to new grass every week and we saw a huge improvement in the color, taste, and quality of their eggs. Even some local pasture raised eggs we bought didn't come close to the deep color and quality we started getting in our eggs after starting our rotational system. Here is a photo of two store bought egg's, the first one on the top left is a conventional egg, the one on the top right is a cage-free grain-fed with omega-3 supplementation egg, and then there is our grass-fed rotational grazing egg on the bottom.

So we have seen first hand the difference grass-fed rotational farming has on our eggs and all the lush green grass that grows once we rotate animals onto it but we keep learning even more. One of the best benefits of what some call "holistic grazing" is that it puts carbon back into the soil increasing the soils health and building topsoil. The argument that grass-fed farming could save the planet is made more persuasively at Small Footprint Family but I will leave you with one quote from the article because the claim is so amazing its hard to believe- "Converting just half the U.S. corn and soy acreage back to pasture(for holistic grazing) might cut carbon emissions by as much as 144 trillion pounds—and that’s not even counting the reduced use of fossil fuels for vehicles, machinery, fertilizers and pesticides that would also result." It's astonishing that such a simple idea like letting animals forage on the foods that they were meant to eat and live a more humane lifestyle could result in reversing the damage we have done to the planet. The more we read and learn through experience we are convinced that the path we are on is best for the health of our family, our farm, and the environment.

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Community

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Community

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While our new community gears up for its biggest event of the year we are still meandering our way around trying to find resources for the farm and find our place within the community.  Part of whats exciting about this farming venture for me is experiencing a new culture and landscape but it also has it's disadvantages in that we have no family or close friends near by and have only had time to meet a handful of people so far.  The people we have met have been incredibly gracious with their hospitality and help in getting us settled and we are hoping to spend more time with our new community this fall once we get some major projects done.  One project we haven't had much time for is a garden, that and we didn't get started until July, so I decided to join a CSA because I was missing the abundance of organice produce we had in Seattle and it's something we have never done before. We joined Fuzzy Rhino Farm CSA run by first time farmer Stacey Engel and have been enjoying all the great organic veggies we have been getting and the challenge of using it all up or preserving them before they go bad. If you are unfamiliar with what a CSA is, here is a good overview from Local Harvest.

I also love the challenge of coming up with new dishes with whatever mix of veggies we get on any given week.  For years I was very much a recipe following cook. Not that I followed the recipes to a tee but I would go out of my way to find all the right ingredients for a certain dish instead of improvising with what I had on hand.  This has been changed by the fact that we don't live near a grocery store anymore and can't dash out for those last minute ingredients but also because we are getting an abundant amount of veggies every week that need to be used while they are at their peak. Some weeks when I bring home the bounty it can be daunting trying to wrap my head around what to do with it and where to store it all but after a few days have gone by it becomes a fun little game. One of our first challenges was Collard Greens, we had brought at least 5 pounds from our garden in Seattle and had accumulated another 5 pounds from our CSA share. So I filled our 7 quart dutch oven with the Collards and a ham hock and made enough greens for an entire week of dinners and a couple breakfasts. The real challenge was to not hate Collard Greens by day 3. We had them with sausage, added beans to them, made tacos with them, and added them to scrambled eggs. My favorite was just to have them as a side dish with lots of fresh veggies because by the time we added beans to them they had cooked down into this thick savory stew that was a nice contrast to a couple slices of tomato or just barely grilled spring onions. Here is an impromptu veggie stir fry I made with quinoa and field roast, and some carrot cake (recipe from 101 Cookbooks Blog). The boys have been enjoying all the baking projects we have been making to use up extra veggies, especially the chocolate zucchini muffins.

We have been contemplating having a CSA of our own once we get the farm up an running. I am not sure exactly what form it would take because we weren't planning on having a Vegetable CSA so it would be focused around Meat, Eggs, and maybe whatever fruits and veggies we have an abundance of on any given season. It wouldn't have the same weekly structure that a normal CSA would have so you might only see your members a half a dozen times a year. Maybe you would set out at the beginning of the season with a goal of having so many broiler chickens, stewing chickens, and whole or half lambs and pigs per farm share? I have mostly seen buying clubs when it comes to buying meat directly from farms so I'm not sure if this model will work but I am enjoying our CSA experience and trying to figure out how it could fit our farm.  I'm hoping to create close connections with our new community and it seems like one of the best ways to do it.

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Foodie in the Rye

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Foodie in the Rye

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Our path to farming was not purely based on our desire to farm but more so our love of cooking and wanting the most delicious and healthy food for our family and friends as we possibly can produce. My husband and I met in art school both majoring in painting and printmaking but it's really our shared desire to learn about new foods and cooking together (or more often collaborating on how a meal will come together) that fuels us. My husband spent years working as a cook in an Italian restaurant before he went to art school and I have been working in catering, restaurants, and natural food since I was a teenager.  One thing I miss most about my job at a natural food co-op is connecting to a community and both getting to share my knowledge of food and health but also receiving a wealth of knowledge in return.  So in trying to keep that connection I will start sharing some of our adventures in cooking as well as farming.  Bread, Sauerkraut, Pickles, Sausage, Kombucha, Bacon, Jams, Relish, Hot sauce, and Ice cream have been some of the things we loved making on a regular basis in addition to our normal family meals and hopefully our farming schedule will allow us to keep experimenting and be an influence on how we farm.    

    

   

I'm trying to work on some summer staples like salad dressing and popsicles to reduce waste, save money, and partly just for the fun of it. I have always made oil and vinegar dressings but those are not the kids favorites. They like the thick ranch dressings or the tasty tahini based Goddess dressings. So I started making a dressing with some of the staples we have around. I started with some Milk that I add a couple tablespoons of Apple Cider Vinegar to thicken it and sour it like Buttermilk. Then I add equal parts Nancy's plain yogurt because I love the tangy taste and am convinced it must have more live cultures in it. Then I just add whatever fresh herbs I have around, salt, pepper, and caraway seeds to taste. It's been popular even though it's not quite as thick as the store bought stuff. We have an abundance of veggies this summer so I have been adding it to a mix of chopped up raw veggies and TruRoots sprouted Rice and Quinoa mix(that cooks in 20 minutes!) and it is now one of the easiest and most filling summer dinners we make. I have not been as successful in the popsicle department so if you have any recipes that you love please send them my way.

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