Viewing entries tagged
Animals

Thank Full

3 Comments

Thank Full

rain-shadow-2.jpg

To begin to list the things that we are thankful for this year feels like a daunting task. There is an equally long list of challenges we faced but we wouldn't be facing them if we weren't given this extraordinary opportunity to pursue the dream of starting a farm. Every moment on the farm is full: full of chores to do, food to cook and share, animals to feed and care for, conversations about growth and discovery, and last but not least full of three little boys and all the joy and challenges they bring to their family.

We are so thankful for the three healthy boys that fill our days with their creative energy, love for one another, humor, and for now seem to love the farm as much as we do. Well, the newest one hasn't had much of an opinion yet but he also doesn't seem to protest much either.

We are thankful for all the rain and snow we are now experiencing after one of the driest summers on record. Thankful that we can look up at Table Mountain and see it covered in snow instead of smoke and fire. Thankful that the surrounding hills that were turned completely black after the Taylor Bridge fire are now mostly covered with lush green grass. Thankful for all the lessons learned even the ones that were gut wrenching. I'm personally thankful for a quiet day to cook with my favorite farmer and sit down and share all of our favorite dishes with the wee ones and their grandmother. I am also thankful to be able to share our experiences with all of you and hope you and your family are enjoying the holiday.

3 Comments

Give them Shelter

5 Comments

Give them Shelter

break-time.jpg

This weekend was not the first and definitely not the last of what will be many work parties on the farm. The weather was perfect and we had two extra sets of hands to help us finish a half way started project and get a new one going. This piece of land has only had horses on it for the last several decades and the only buildings are a couple of old horse shelters. They were spaced out perfectly to frame out a third shelter in between them and we also added a fourth shelter on the end. After all the hard work this weekend we have one shelter for the sheep, one for hay, one for straw, and one for farm equipment. Having so many helping hands when it comes to roofing and framing are a necessity and we can't thank our friends Diana and Kieth enough.

Our new project is a DIY hoop house kit that utilized a bending mechanism to make your own hoops instead of buying the hoops and everything already assembled. The difference in price was huge and with a little makeshift work table made for the bending mechanism on the bed of the truck all of the hoops were made and the foundation finished. The only thing left is to frame out the ends of the hoop house and put the plastic on it. We have a couple more sets of hands coming out over the next several weeks so hopefully it will be finished in time to shelter the chickens in over the winter and by next summer the hoop house will be bursting at the seams with tomatoes, peppers, and anything else that could use some extra heat. We were planning on another shelter built closer to house for the many farming tools and equipment that we seem to be accumulating but it might have to wait until spring. Its hard decision to put money and time into so many small temporary shelters when what we would really like to do is build a barn.

Besides being a productive weekend it was really one of the most beautiful ones we have had since the Table Fire Mountains started. The mornings started out around 26 degrees with a smokey haze still in the air and by afternoon it would be up to 86 degrees outside and clear enough to see all of the mountains and low lying hills surrounding us. I also got a chance to meet some very nice farmers at our local farmers market this weekend and found out about a monthly meeting they have during the winter. They are planning a farm tour of the Kittitas Valley in May and said we were welcome to join. Everything always seems a little more doable when you've got a community of people to reach out to for help or just to bounce ideas off of and we had that in abundance this weekend.

5 Comments

Mountains to sound and back again

6 Comments

Mountains to sound and back again

before-1.jpg

There isn't any progress to report this week. The smoke was so thick we couldn't get much work done except daily chores. Then the weekend rolled around and the smoke became so thick at night that it became hard to sleep. The boys and I packed up the car and headed to cleaner air on the other side of the mountains.  It was nice to visit friends, spend time on the beach and do some of our favorite city activities like train watching and eating Thai food.

Meanwhile back at the farm.......

Matt stayed behind and took care of the animals trying to get some work done outside but as you can see sometimes it was not that easy especially when it was also very hot outside. There were calm days where the smoke was almost undetectable and other days when the fire and smoke would start up again and it was almost as bad as the first days of the fires. The very last day we were gone there was a huge black cloud of smoke that hung in the valley and the wind picked up just enough the entire inside of the house was covered in a fine black soot. The boys and I are happy to be back at the farm helping with animal chores and breathing clean air again. We are almost back to normal but a couple of weeks behind on projects we wanted to accomplish before the first frost comes and the new baby arrives. The landscape however has been changed for what seems like will be a very long time. Here are a couple of Before and After pictures taken with Instagram.

This view is from the sheep shelters and the next set is from the farm house

I have been taking Polaroids for a couple of decades now but with the onset of Smart Phones and all the great apps like Shake it up, Hipstimatic, and Instagram I find myself using less and less film. Here is a great piece about Instagram from Mike Hipple's blog that you should read if you are a lover or hater of Instagram- Why I love Instagram.

6 Comments

The New Normal

2 Comments

The New Normal

chicken.jpg

( Photo by Mike Hipple)

After months of packing, getting settled into our new home and starting a dozen farming projects all at once we were excited to take a break and throw a farm bbq and camp out.  It was partly a birthday celebration for our son Harlow and his buddie Cam whose birthdays are a day apart , a 4oth birthday celebration for Farmer Matt, and a way to share all or our hard work with friends. A farmwarming. There was a maze cut into our cover crop of wild oats and alfalfa for the kids to run around in, lawn mower rides, water fun to keep everyone cool,  and of course lots of delicious food brought by our friends and grass-fed beef hamburgers from Heirloom Cattle Company. It was a happy accident that we planned the party on the same night of the Perseid meteor showers.  So the evening was spent sitting around a beautiful fire pit our neighbor Cletus made watching shooting stars while the wee ones slept in their tents.

(Photo by Mike Hipple)

(Photo by Mike Hipple)

(Photo by Mike Hipple)

(Photo by Mike Hipple)

Everyone enjoyed a huge breakfast spread the next morning while the kids played in the maze for the last time and then started to pack up and say their goodbyes.  The family and I spent the rest of the day catching up on sleep and giddy at how much fun we all had and how well our first big event on the farm went. Less than 24 hours later a dark column of smoke appeared across the valley in Cle Elum.  For a moment we were just in awe of its beauty and how fast it was taking over the sky.  The colors were constantly changing and it covered the sun in a way that made it look so small with barely any power to illuminate the sky anymore.  The smoke moved quickly and soon we saw flames on the horizon near the wind farms on Hwy 97.  It was time to start planning but for what we weren't sure. The areas that were being evacuated were so far away from us and the fire still looked far away. Eventually we did evacuate when the smoke got too thick.  We packed some travel bags, boxes of family photographs, and anything we couldn't live without and left for a hotel in town. It was our dog Lulu's first night sleeping indoors and she seemed upset about being away from her sheep.  Matthew and I spent the night listening to the scanners hoping the fire would not spread to our road.

Early the next morning Matt went to see if they would let him back on the farm so he could check on the animals and feed them. It feels weird to say we were lucky, the word doesn't feel quite strong enough, but after listening to other peoples homes being consumed by the fire all night its the first word that came to mind when we found out all of our animals were alive, the house, and even the pastures were untouched by the fire.  All around the valley in almost every direction there are houses and pastures that were devastated by the fire. No homes on our small stretch of road had any damage and most of the fires that were in our area are now contained or at least smoldering. The fire is still a powerful force in the Cle Elum and Liberty areas and they have fire fighters from all over the state working around the clock to put it out.

A couple of days after the fire started there was another large flare up in the Cle Elum area and more evacuations.

During this whole ordeal we had neighbors checking in on us offering help and advice, the boys new preschool teacher came down our road with her horse trailer looking for us to see if we needed help loading the sheep, and even one of the local land management authorities who we have been working with called to see if we needed any assistance. So in addition to feeling incredibly lucky, blessed, fortunate, or whatever combination of those words could possibly come close to describing how it feels to not have lost everything, we also have a new sense of community. Our friends in Seattle didn't forget about us either, we had dozens of phone calls and messages offering help, moral support, and also help in finding some of the best online resources for the progress of the fire. So we would like to give a huge THANK YOU to everyone that helped out in all different ways, near and far.

2 Comments

We're in love with a girl

4 Comments

We're in love with a girl

first-day-5.jpg

and her name is Lulu

We had been searching for a Llama to guard the sheep for weeks but all of the leads were dead ends.  Then we started contemplating the idea of a puppy but with a baby on the way we were worried it would be too much to handle. Everything we read about the Great Pyrenees breed seemed to fit exactly what we needed. They are an older breed that has been used for hundreds of years by shepherds, and also good with children and a family dynamic.  We found a breeder in Spokane that had three female puppies that had grown up in a barn with sheep and chickens. So we made the leap of faith that this would be a better decision in the long run and we haven't regretted it for a moment.  Her first day on the farm was full of trepidation, mostly on the Sheeps part, but soon she was a part of the gang.

A week has gone by and there were definitely moments we were worried that she was going to bond with us more than the sheep, but she now spends most of her days and all of her nights with the sheep, happily even. She is far from full grown and we are not sure how she would hold her own with a coyote so everyone is still locked up at night.  We are hoping in the future we will be able to leave her and the sheep to roam their paddocks and not need the gates and electric fencing to keep them safe at night. This means we will be able to use the pastures farther away from the house, but it also means we have more fencing and irrigation projects to start.  More to add to the to do list but its exciting to be able to utilize more of the land and see our plans become reality.

4 Comments

Animal Farm

Comment

Animal Farm

thunderstorm.jpg

This week has been full of thunderstorms, double rainbows, and getting to know our 13 Icelandic Sheep.  They were a little worked up after making the long trip from Whidbey Island in a little trailer Matt had made for them. We were also a little nervous not having found a Llama to guard them so we made one of the horse shelters as secure as we could and breathed a sigh of relief when we woke up in the morning to find them all there and ready for us to let them out on the grass. They are warming up to us a little bit but still a little camera shy.

The chicks and turkey pullets have doubled in size since we got them just a little less than a month ago. Between them growing out of their watering trough and having lost one turkey during the triple digit weather we hoped they would fair better outside in their chicken tractor with some added protection from tarps.  They seem to be enjoying their extra freedom and rolling around in the grass. They are also learning how to use a water feeder with nipples, which we had to switch the older chickens to also because so much of the water was getting tossed out when we have a windy day in the valley.

We have also adopted a young rooster from one of the Seattle Urban Farm Co-op members and although he has grown much larger than our hens they still spend most of the day bossing him around. He is a dapper young man with some of the most beautiful plumage I have ever seen. He's been slowly working on his rooster crow and what once sounded like a dying seal now sounds like the real thing. His first call of the day is usually around 4:30 am.

Comment

Don't fence me in

Comment

Don't fence me in

img_6620.jpg

The sheep are coming in less than a week and Matthew has been working long hours making our fencing more secure for the sheep and putting in new fence posts and gates. The fencing will be an added security measure to keep the sheep in their pastures along with the temporary fencing we will use to practice more intensive rotational grazing. It is also a way to keep the wee ones out of the two ponds. Luckily there have been some calm, not too hot days to make the long days easier and of course some little helping hands.

It all started with the first new fence post that the gate secures to alongside some impromptu sculpture that the little hands made when they were tired of helping.

Then came the all important H-brace, three wooden posts and wire, that create an anchor for the rest of the fencing and also attach to the gate.

Once the H-brace was finished and he secured the pasture fencing to it, he attached the end of the fencing to a bracket he made that was hooked on to the tractor's bucket and pulled it tight against the old fence posts. Then all that was left was to secure the new fencing to the old posts. So simple, right?  I'm glad my job was just to explain it to people.

The week would not be complete without some pictures of the napping Chicks and Poulets. I love it when they sleep in a heap, when they sleep in pairs, but especially when they fall asleep in their feeder(which we didn't get a picture of but trust me it's adorable).

Comment

Blank Slate

7 Comments

Blank Slate

books-1.jpg

We are starting out as farmers with only a small amount of experience and working with a large piece of land that has almost no infrastructure and very few trees. Working with this blank slate, both the land and ourselves, is one of the most exciting parts of this new venture but also the most frustrating. We don't have a rhythm to our day with set farm chores or an exact idea of what we will produce or how we will sell it to people.  What we do have is an enormous amount of ideas, future plans lists and current projects lists, and his and her stacks of farming books to read. I will let you guess which one is mine and which one is his.

Here is a short list of plans we have for the farm-

  Current                                                                                                Future

Reinforce fencing for Sheep                                            Build Sauna

Three new gates to separate paddocks                           Build High Tunnel for Garden

Finish second Chicken tractor                                        Winter Chickens in Tunnel

Start Turkey tractor                                                          Build Barn

Plant late summer veggies                                                Find a breed of Pigs

Amend soil for healthy spring garden                              Build Pigs a Home

When I make lists one of my favorite parts is crossing off the things I've done so I will share with you a couple of the things we have accomplished. We had a work party with friends and planted 75 saplings, Built a Pond and Culvert so we could drive a tractor to the back pastures and for future irrigation plans, and tilled our first garden and planted alfalfa and wild oats in it to enrich the soil.

7 Comments

Chicklets and Poulets

2 Comments

Chicklets and Poulets

chicks-1.jpg

We received a call at 5 am this morning that our chicks and turkey poulets had arrived at the post office.  We knew they would be arriving in a small box and that they will have been without water or food for 24 hours so before anyone had coffee or breakfast we rushed down to our local USPS where our friendly postal woman Diana was keeping them safe on a table with boxes full of other peoples chicks. This is our fourth brood of chickens but it still feels like Christmas morning anticipating their arrival and getting to hold our fuzzy little feathered friends for the first time. The kids got to help me free them from their tiny box and put them in their new home, which is an old watering trough for the horses that used to live here. Our farm family now includes 25 Bard Rock Hens, 5 Roosters, and 8 Bronze Turkeys.

2 Comments