Viewing entries tagged
Community

Power In Numbers

4 Comments

Power In Numbers

boys-playing.jpg

From a very young age I have memories of being on a picket line in downtown Minneapolis when my mom and her fellow union coworkers were striking against the phone company that they worked for. Many years later I chose to work for a cooperative natural food store that was unionized and eventually took part in negotiating a union contract with a small group of people all trying to collectively be a voice for a much larger group of people. When my son was born it seemed like a natural fit to be apart of a cooperative preschool even though it wasn't always the most convenient fit for my work schedule. I won't tell you that any of these experiences were easy or perfect but each time I walked away with a wealth of knowledge, enriching new relationships, a feeling that my voice had been heard, and an overwhelming conviction that people have power in numbers.

Farming has not changed this conviction, if anything it has shown me how even more reliant we are on friends, neighbors, and complete strangers the more we strive to learn skills that will make us a sustainable farm. These skills are seen by some as means to be completely self-reliant but I think the idea that any one person or family can be completely self-reliant is a myth. It's partly the upcoming election, and partly from reading one too many farming blogs that focus more on how to keep the neighbors from learning that they are stock piling food instead of growing food for their community that made me feel like this was an important thing to be said. It also comes from a great appreciation we as a family have of the three different weekends having groups of people come out to the farm and help us accomplish building two shelters and one hoop house. Not to mention our immediate neighbors, and community loaning us tools, giving us advice, offering help, and a warm welcome to our new town. We did not move to a rural area to get away from people and become autonomous but instead to broaden our community.

Really the hoop house is only 90% done but the hard part is behind us and the rest is about tweaking how the sides of the house will come up and installing the doors on both ends. Here are some pictures of our progress.

We hope that we will soon be able to give back to our friends and community by producing the most delicious and nutrient rich food we possibly can. I hope there are other ways that we will be able to give back that we can't even conceive of yet. No matter how self-reliant we become this will always be a part of our bigger picture.

4 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

Community

2 Comments

Community

chicken-sculpture.jpg

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.

2 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