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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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Chicken For Every Pot

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Chicken For Every Pot

In today's industrial food system, chicken is raised by farmers who don't own the birds, only the infrastructure used to raise them. Or at least they own the debt as the agro industrial poultry corporations require farmers to build facilities to their specifications on their own dime, carry the debt of hundred's of thousands of dollars while the corporation has the right to cancel their grower's contract with a thirty day written notice, leaving them with expensive empty buildings to pay for. The feed that is used is heavily made up of subsidized corn and soy grown in depleted soil propped up with synthetic petroleum nutrients and sprayed with herbicides all of which end up in the food chain. The subsidized grains mean that the taxpayer is footing the bill for these less than nutritionally valuable food products and the corporations are able to buy them for less than it costs to produce them. The finished birds are then rounded up and shipped to processing plants where underpaid workers are hired to process them. The parts are then shipped out to the domestic and global market. If all this wasn't enough, the chicken is then often plumped up with saline injections to repair moisture and flavor compromises during growing and increase market weight.

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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.

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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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This ain't no disco

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This ain't no disco

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Scottish Highland The season is in full swing and we have more animals on the farm then we have ever had before. So many chicks, turkey poults, ducklings, and lambs its hard to keep count. We are also without help again and doing it all on our own for the most part. We tried interns for a third time and just didn't work out. Every time we start with high hopes that we are bringing people onto the farm and into our lives that really want to farm. We pick people specifically because they say they want to start a farm of their own but the one thing we have been successful at is showing people they don't want to have a full scale farm. Maybe they want a little homestead, or just a garden, but they sure don't want the kind of responsibilities that we have taken on. We are thinking about and working on the farm 24/7 at this point. There is still infrastructure to build, also a learning curve figuring out how to manage a much larger group of animals, and also experimenting with value added products to make the farm financially sustainable. Everyday is different and full of chances to learn, adapt, and adjust what we are doing. Lets be honest doing this kind of work with a busy family life is not for everyone. The ability to juggle lots of different hats and also do a job that isn't always going to be laid out for you and may require some critical thinking is a tall order but really a must if you want to start your own farm.

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The most disappointing thing about not being able to successfully have interns isn't just the much larger work load and not being able to do all the projects we wanted to do this season but the fact that we wanted this farm be a place where people could learn about grass based farming and also give them a chance to see how a farm is built. We have been planning and building fencing, irrigation, ponds, and shelters for almost three years now and its the kind of thing that many young new farmers would also be faced with because your not going to necessarily get a farm that has all of those things and the amount of land you want handed over to you. So for now we will try to teach people through our blog when we have time or if people want to come visit the farm we will teach them as much as we can but we won't be taking on any interns anytime soon.

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We have been getting by with the help of friends and neighbors lending a hand when they can. I also have a friend that is going to work in the garden once a week in exchange for some veggies so even though the season isn't working out they way we hoped we still feel good about the future. I have also enjoyed working more one on one with Farmer Matt. Our first summer on the farm I was pregnant and last season our son was just a newborn so as you can imagine I had a hard time taking care of three little boys and getting actual work done on the farm. Now I try to wake up before the older boys and Malcolm and I will start doing morning chores near the house, I even have a sitter coming a couple mornings a week so I can help Matt move larger projects forward. We also try to split up and get things done by one of us taking one or two of the boys and vice versa. Its not perfect, things take a little longer, the house is a little messier, and many nights we eat nachos for dinner but we are making it happen. We are also taking copious notes for how we want to do things differently next season. There is always room for improvement, especially in farming. You can't control the weather or the animals most of the time but you can create the best possible environment for them to thrive.

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On a happier note we found out the breeder that we got Lulu, our Great Pyrenees, from just had another litter so we will be going to pick out another puppy in about a month. Lulu, Bella, and our soon to arrive puppy are and will be  integral members of our farm team. Lulu spends time going between the sheep and the chickens day and night keeping prey both in the sky and on the ground away. Bella still officially a pup helps us heard the animals even the chickens, although that is something we have to work with her on on a daily basis so she just herds them when we ask and doesn't chase them for fun. Both of them alert us if something is amiss and I really appreciate Bella always wanting to be by your side especially those night time runs out into the pasture to check on animals or to lock the chicken tractors up. The second Great Pyrenees will help us cover more ground especially when we have groups of animals on separate sides of the culvert and also give Lulu another companion. She spends much more of her time out in the pastures and could use another dog to keep her from getting bored. Lulu was an amazing puppy and although she was and still is  harder to train basic commands to, unlike Bella the border collie, her strong guarding instinct plus her incredible gentle way with the kids make her the perfect dog for our farm.

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 Farmer Matt sees spring in sight

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Farmer Matt sees spring in sight

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It has been a very productive winter for us. We finished our website www.greenbowfarm.com, worked on some grant proposals, but the majority of it was spent planning our next year, talking about what worked and what didn't, and the new things we want to try out and grow into over the next couple of seasons. Last year we were building up our breeding flock of sheep and figuring out if there was a market for our eggs and poultry so we haven't had much to sell this year, but we will have more than double the amount eggs and meat to sell next year at our farmers markets. Last year we tried a little bit of everything and quickly learned what we wanted to put our time and energy into the most but also keeping the key elements that create biodiversity on the farm. EggsInFridgeIn addition, we spent the winter selling at the West Seattle Farmers Market where we sold our late season pasture raised broiler chickens, all our fall lamb, and of course our pastured eggs. One place where we took a risk was investing a large amount of money to send our lamb pelts off to be tanned and turned into lambskins not really knowing if people would want to buy them. Luckily we were overwhelmed by peoples interest in them so much so that we will probably be selling the one that we were going to keep for ourselves. Believe me it's a good problem to have.  We are enormously grateful to all our wonderful customers and all the feedback they've provided us. It's really hard to imagine farming without the community we have found at farmers markets. This spring, we are getting busy on fencing with help from the NRCS and improving our pastures by finalizing our rotational grazing system. It amounts to dividing our  large pasture with two permanent fence lines. From there we will be able to section off smaller pastures using temporary fencing. This style of rotational concentrated grazing improves soil health and there by grass production. It also greatly benefits the animals by moving them to fresh ground regularly and allowing the chickens to follow cleaning up and sanitizing after the ruminants so that when the cattle and sheep return all the manure they left when they were there before has been scratched out by the poultry and returned to the soil, greatly reducing the risk of parasite infection. It is a symbiotic relationship that regularly occurs in nature and with a little help from temporary electric fencing we are able to mimic it. All of these activities builds soil, builds forage production and protects the health of the soil. In effect, we are grass farmers first and the wonderful beef, lamb, chicken and eggs are simply a byproduct.

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Weather wise, winter didn't seem to show up until February. We had some cold spells, but mountain precipitation was absent and the threat of drought was worrying everyone in the northwest. But at the beginning of February, the high pressure ridge off the coast broke up and brought us winter. The mountains began receiving heavy snow fall. Getting over the pass every Sunday morning for market became challenging as it seemed to snow every Saturday night and into Sunday. Once, I even drove from door to door on snow, getting to the market 100 miles away  and shoveling our booth spot free of snow.

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This week our new apprentices arrive on the farm. Ryan and Crystal found us through a social media site and sent us their letter of interest. After a brief discussion, we invited them to come and stay with us for a few days as a get-to-know-you session. We hit it off famously and invited them to be here for the 2014 season. They are very serious about starting a farm of their own and its that desire to learn by doing that feels like it will be a good fit for our farm. We are very excited to have them here and their presence, I suspect will greatly improve our farm. You'll see them at the markets, so please give them a big "Hello".

Our chicks begin arriving soon and with the break in winter weather the workload will begin to increase rapidly. With a couple of nice days in March I already feel behind on all the repairs and building work that needs to be done. With a growing family and growing farm there really isn't a day that goes by that I don't feel behind on projects but we are hoping to get the boys out with us more often and have more projects be a family affair now that they are getting older.  With a toddler though, that won't always be possible so we'll also try to get some family days squeezed in hiking and camping or just exploring our valley. We have been so busy starting our farm there are still many parts of our valley and surrounding mountains we have yet to explore.

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News both big, small, and in between

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News both big, small, and in between

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Farm Sign There are so many changes and things moving forward I'm not even sure where to start. What kept us up at night most was installing a new sprinkler irrigation system with the help of conservation district grants and after over a year of planning, applying for grants, and 6 weeks of 14 hour days it is finally done and passed inspection with flying colors. We needed to hire a little help once we got into the project and it was worth its weight in gold. This was a concern as our year was already financially burdened with all the infrastructure additions, but it proved to be the best thing we could have done. Farmers seem to talk about three things when they get together: weather, any animals lost, and how difficult it is to find good help.

Irrigation project

Irrigation is not the most exciting topic but the results we have already seen on the pasture have made it all worth it. The plan we designed utilizes tail water so as of now we aren't using the irrigation water we pay for every year which amounts to something like 8,000,000 gallons of snow melt. A huge Thank you to Mark Crowley of the Kittitas County Conservation District for helping us see the plan through logistically and taking a couple of his weekends to help us get the project done. We would probably still be working on it if it wasn't for him. The boys were also thrilled to have his son Wyatt here who has been a farm boy all his life helping his dad raise pigs and cattle. The boy knows his way around a farm and his confidence was inspiring for the boys and in many ways for me to see. We also need to thank our neighbor Cleatus and everyone at the National Conservation Resource Services office, especially Erin who worked some magic for us many times.

Eggs

Our first Farmers Market season has been successful, we sold out of our first two batches of broiler chickens and our pasture eggs seem to be sold before we have them. The Roslyn market is done for the season just as our ladies egg production is ramping up and we will soon have more pasture raised lamb and chicken available so we started looking for new farmers markets to try out in addition to our Ellensburg one. We didn't have high hopes for getting in to the Seattle markets so late in the year, but just this week we found out we will have a spot at the West Seattle Farmers Market starting in October. We are really excited about the West Seattle one because it is our old neighborhood and we have had so many people reaching out to us wondering when they could get some of our pasture raised goodness. I am really looking forward to seeing friends and familiar faces from my food co-op days.

Heriloom Tomatoes

We had a harder time selling our produce. Partly because there is so many people selling it at the markets but also on this side of the mountains they don't put as many regulations on who can sell at farmers markets. In some of the Seattle markets they actually require that you put signs up if you spray your produce with pesticides and they make it their mission to support small sustainable farms so you are less likely to see large conventional farms selling at the Seattle markets. While growing a market garden isn't our focus, we are dedicated to a sustainable local food system so we hope to influence our local farmers markets and community in the years to come. This experience also put us on the path of looking into getting Certified Naturally Grown. It's a grassroots movement of farmers who could no longer afford the cost of organic certification or all the paperwork and record keeping that went along with it once it became a national certification program. Certified Naturally Grown bases their guidelines on organic standards but they make it much more economical to obtain. For a small diversified farm like ours certifying our pastures, compost, garden, and each different kind of animal organic is not economically feasible. We are already transparent when it comes to our farming practices but this will hopefully spark more conversations with people who are unaware or want to learn more. We often tell people at our market booth that if it isn't healthy enough for our family we won't feed it to theirs.

Scottish Highland Cattle

Our biggest piece of news is that we are adding a herd of Scottish Highland Cattle to our farm. We read about a farm down in Southern California called Apricot Lane Farms with a similar farm model to ours but on a larger scale. They also focus on mixed species rotational grazing and utilize compost tea, apple cider vinegar, and full mineralization to keep their animals and pastures healthy. I was reading about them and their Scottish Highland herd that put us on a path to finding some for our own farm. They are a very gentle and docile breed, but the other important quality to us is that they browse and graze similar to our Icelandic Sheep. So in a few short weeks we will have three cow/calf pairs and two older heifers arriving at the farm. We will still keep our family dairy heifer, Love and the four steers we got from Pride and Joy dairy but the Highlands will be our giant leap into breeding our own cattle. It's exciting, terrifying, but most importantly it means we need more infrastructure as far as a wintering shelter and a place to corral them. For now though I will leave you with a beautiful quote from John Chester of Apricot Lane Farms  "You have to trust the magic is gonna happen when your heart's desire is in sync with your conscience. Never in a million years would I ever have been able to predict that simply watching animals eat grass would make my chest feel like it's going to explode." 1

Corn Tassel

1. Quote from The Stockman GrasssFarmer Volume 13 #9 "California Grass Farm Focuses on the Symbiotic Relationship of Mixed Species Grazing"

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Farmer Friday

photo(151) It's Farmer Friday and Farmer Matt's Birthday. This is a picture of Matt with our three year old Boden in the middle of our gigantic irrigation project that I am happy to say is officially finished. Farmer Matt inspires us everyday working hard, problem solving, and taking breaks to be goofy and change a dirty diaper when needed. There are many inspiring farmers out there working from sun up to sun down to bring us clean food that is good for our families and the planet. Please give Farmer Matt a shout out and tell us the name of your favorite farmer and what they are doing to create a healthier world.

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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.

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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.

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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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The road we travel

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The road we travel

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H on a farm hike

We have been working on putting field fencing up around the perimeter of the farm for over 9 months and we finally finished this week. I would say it's time to celebrate but there are too many things to accomplish to get the farm fully functioning before we can crack open the bubbly. The fencing will help us utilize all of our pastures and we will be a little closer to fully realizing our rotational grazing farm model. One other step in this process is getting a more efficient irrigation system installed. The farm has received two grants for the project but because of the sequester everything has slowed down dramatically. I am not complaining because I feel incredibly grateful to even have the grants and there are so many other things that have lost their funding that are much more essential. We had been planning on breaking ground this month but we are still in the review part of the process. The grants will allow a small farm like ours to use all of our pastures and to grow good quality grass during the months of the year we don't have any precipitation. Right now when we use our irrigation water it runs through a series of ditches and most of the water gets wasted and over waters creating bad quality grass that is not good for foraging. Most of our precipitation comes during the winter months so being able to use a small amount of water during the dry months in an efficient way will make it possible for us to practice our grass based farming in a way that needs fewer inputs (feed for chickens and hay for sheep) from off of the farm.

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Bella and Wyandotte Rooster

Another way to practice rotational grazing that creates healthy soil and healthy food is to have the right amount of animals grazing for the size of the farm. Right now we don't have quite enough animals to keep up with all the grass we are growing. We are adding on one more flock of laying hens, expanding the number of breeding sheep we will have year round, and looking for a couple bull calves to raise. So what else makes us different from conventional farms besides the fact that our animals are not caged and we don't spray pesticides on our pastures? We keep the number of animals we raise low to create healthier soil by not over grazing and in turn the soil gives us healthier eggs, meat, and someday milk. We produce less food than a conventional farm and we will do it by using fewer inputs (subsidized soy and corn feed) and instead use our own labor moving animals around on pasture. So we produce less food and we need more man/woman hours to do it. What does this mean? It means in no way can we compete with the prices that conventional farmers sell their food for. They are basing their farm models on an economy that relies on cheap subsidized feed and that doesn't give them much room to care about the health of animals and people. In every aspect of our farming decisions we take into consideration the health of the animals, the farm as a whole, the people who eat our food, and the long term health of the environment. So how do we accomplish all of this, farm the way we want and make it economically sustainable? We will have to spend time educating people, taking the time to talk to them about the way we choose to farm and why it is worth their hard earned money to pay more for food. We will also have to make sure we are paying close attention to economic forces and utilizing all the resources we have at hand. It is also why we pay close attention to the breeds we choose. The Icelandic sheep are tri-purpose which means you can get Fiber, Milk, and Meat from them and it will make our farm that much more economically diverse. When we pick a breed of Cattle we will make sure we have one that grazes in a way that will work best with our farm model. We will also be growing the vast majority of our own fruits and veggies (utilizing all the great compost we were able to make with a winters worth of sheep manure) this year and selling what we have in abundance at the farmers market along with our eggs and meat.

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Now that all of our serious business is out of the way we can move onto all the great moments from our first lambing season. It's technically not over because we have one ewe still pregnant but I can't resist sharing this special time with you. In addition we have our bottle fed lambs back and a shelter set up for them near the house. We moved the other sheep into a small paddock nearby so Lulu could keep an eye on everyone and well the grass was starting to look like it needed some four legged mowing anyways.

First two lambs

Bottle Feeding

Evening Grazing

Lu and Ram Lamb

Sheep with beehives

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Joy and Pain

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Joy and Pain

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Planting I can't hear those two words without the song getting stuck in my head and now the part "it's like sunshine and rain" has a whole new meaning being a farmer. A good rain means growth and more forage for the animals. Pain is having below freezing temps mid April after you have dozens of seed trays started in the hoop house without a good way to keep them warm. Rain is no longer a pain.

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I should really start with the joy of the last couple weeks. We had our first of many lambs born on the farm. It happened less than an hour before we were having a community potluck for the first time. So minutes after we welcomed her into the world we then shared a bountiful and tasty feast with some new friends and introduced her to all of them. There was no drama with the first birth only the beauty of seeing this ewe take on her new role as mom and the little lamb latching on right away like a champ. It was also a huge relief to see how easily it was for Lulu to transition into her new role as protector for the new lamb, never leaving the pairs side and even keeping Bella the border collie from playing too rough. The second birth was also uneventful but the lamb hurt one of his legs the second day and was abandoned by his mom in the pasture. Matt brought him back to his mom and kept an eye on him and slowly the lamb healed up and the ewe was no longer abandoning him.

First Lamb

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Our third birth was one of the ewes who was huge and we suspected she was going to have twins, which is unusual for the first year of breeding. She did have twins but she quickly abandoned the second lamb born and head butted him away, not letting him latch on. It was heartbreaking to see not only his mom but all the ewes do this to him. Luckily we found a local farm that dairys and was already bottle feeding goats and sheep that was willing to take him on and bottle feed him until he is ready to come back to the pasture. We noticed the ewe that had given birth to the twins was showing signs of pneumonia so we gave her some medicine but by nightfall she had died. It was shocking how quickly it all happened and then we had another lamb on our hands with no mother. So now our new farm friends at Parke Creek are bottle feeding both of the twins for the next couple of months and in exchange we are going to raise some turkeys for them. We are still awaiting the arrival of at least 6 more lambs and hoping we have learned a thing or two from the first four births on the farm. This has gotten us interested in doing all of our own breeding so we think our next flock of laying hens will be homegrown.

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While all these births were going on we celebrated two birthdays in the family and also had to put to sleep our long time companion and rescue dog, Cooper. I could think of no other title for this post because I have never had a time in my life that was filled with so much joy and celebration but also the pain of losing animals that we loved. We can look at the death of the ewe a little more pragmatically but the death of a incredibly loyal dog you have known for over a decade is a little harder to get over. We had hoped he would spend his last couple of years enjoying life on the farm but by the time we got here his health was declining and we just did all that we could to keep him comfortable.

Red Rangers

We had yet another experience this week where we felt we took one step forward and two steps back. It was always a part of our farming model to have pastured poultry and we were excited when we got over the hurdle of finding a place that we could process them and also be able to sell them at farmers markets and restaurants. Then we started to look for business insurance and found that there was only a couple companies that would allow us to raise pastured poultry but they were going to charge us so much money that the only way it would be financially sustainable is if we were raising 500-1000 birds a year. We had been planning on just a couple hundred including turkeys. We don't have the right kind of land that it would take to raise that many and we honestly just don't want to raise that many. So we are back to square one, raising chickens and turkeys that will most likely be for ourselves and rethinking our farming model. We do have some exciting plans to bring pastured pigs and cows to the farm in the future but for now we are enjoying our first lambing season, busy moving chickens around the pasture, and looking forward to some planting in the next couple of weeks if it stops snowing.

Birthday Party

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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."

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Fulfill

When our to do lists started to need spread sheets because there are lists within lists, I could almost start to feel the ice melt and the grass begin to peak through the snow in anticipation of spring. It's a mix of excitement and worry. I know we can grow vegetables, but will we be able to grow on such a large scale and with such different growing conditions than what we are used to? I know we can produce large eggs with rich orange yolks, but will we find a market for them all and will our plans for a new chicken tractor work out? The possibility that we will get grants for irrigation and fencing are looking promising but will we be able to juggle all of the work that goes into those kind of projects on top of our daily farm chores? Will we get the rest of the fencing done before the lambs arrive? The question marks are endless. Luckily we have a couple of distractions in the form of puppies who are spending an increasing amount of time together now that the weather is slightly warmer than last week when it dipped down below 10 degrees several mornings in a row. I really can't get enough of watching Bella run at Lulu full steam, sometimes jumping on her head, and Lulu wrestling or batting at her with her giant paws with just the right amount of gentleness as to not hurt her. Bella and Lulu 1

Bella and Lulu 2

A couple other distractions have been talking to a graphic designer about a logo for the farm and interviews for our farm internship. Both things have let us step back from our lists and all the small decisions that need to be made in the next couple of months and look at big picture ideas. Why are we doing this? It's definitely not to get rich or to fulfill some lifetime dream of living on a farm, although we are enjoying that part of it. It's really all about feeding people and feeding them the same kind of food we want for ourselves. The most nutrient rich food possible that enriches the earth and doesn't just deplete it's resources.

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It's a pretty gutsy move to think we could do this without much experience but if not now, when? We could spend years working on other peoples farms to learn and make the mistakes that we will make on our own farm. It might be a less painful proposition but it would be less time that we would be getting to know our piece of land. Less time to watch our tiny orchard of apple, pear, and peach trees grow.

Bella and Ewe

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Farm Dogs

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Farm Dogs

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FarmDogs_01 It has been almost six months since we brought Lulu home to begin training her as a guard dog for the Sheep. She is a couple months away from turning one year old so still a long ways off from being out of the puppy stage but her guarding instincts are strong.

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Lulu has been rather lonely since the Sheep started breeding with the Ram and she started roaming off of the farm to play with the neighbors dog Dora. We have been thinking about getting a Border Collie for awhile to help with herding the Sheep and to have a companion for Lu, but the ones we found were either gone before we had a chance to see them, or just bad timing. When we put the word out that we were looking on our local farm exchange we almost instantly found some a couple miles down the road from us. We went to see them on New Years day and picked Bella out of the three puppies that were left from the litter. Bella is 1/8 bulldog which the breeders said would mellow out the Border Collie breed a bit. She was born just a couple weeks after Malcolm so still incredibly puppy like and too tiny to be outdoors by herself in this icy wonderland we have on the farm right now.

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Luckily her and Lulu seem to becoming fast friends. We want her to be mostly an outdoor dog so we get her out as much as we can and we introduced her to all the other farm animals yesterday.

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We will be moving the Sheep constantly come spring so we are hoping to start the almost two year training process soon which will make our intensive rotational grazing system that much more closer to a reality. We would also like to add on a couple of Cattle to make the most holistic grazing system we possibly can but for now we have two puppies to train, chicken tractors to build, and our first lambing season to look forward to while keeping our family and growing farm warm and fed.

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Happy Solstice from Green Bow Farm

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Happy Solstice from Green Bow Farm

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We finally decided on a name and this one has been a long time in the making. Our oldest son called it Green Farm from the moment he first saw it because of the tall Green house that would eventually become our home. Maybe he also somehow knew that what we were really coming here for was the many pastures of green grass that would make a good home for our the animals. For awhile he called it the Green Windy Poopy Farm after a windy walk through the back pastures, but we decided it didn't really flow off the tongue very easily. We wanted our younger son included but he was so young that he had no opinion on the matter. His middle name is Archer so the name Green Bow was born. It seemed fitting because a bow made from green wood is strong but more importantly flexible. In the coming years we will be green and always trying to educate ourselves, but our ability to adapt to the needs of the land and the animals will be what really sustains us. Snow covered field

Our big move here was just a couple days after summer solstice and somehow we made it through two wildfires, many days over 100 degrees, countless missteps, taking on projects we weren't quite ready for, and bringing a new baby into the world, all unscathed. Winter Solstice feels like the perfect time to celebrate all that has happened and start looking forward to the longer days and of course our first full season as farmers. We will celebrate with a bonfire, a slow cooked meal, while we hold our little ones tight and welcome the sun back into our lives.

Boys X-mas

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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.

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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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Thank Full

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Thank Full

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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.

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New Arrivals

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New Arrivals

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I had this absurd notion that once the baby arrived everything would calm down and we would have many days of quiet and rest. There is no such thing on a farm, especially one with so many animals depending on you every day. Our family of 4 has now become 5 and we're all in love. It's as if the new little guy can sense how busy we are and has decided to be the most easy going baby he possibly can be. He spends most of his days eating and sleeping while we juggle how to get everything done both inside and outside of the house. We have been fortunate to have Matt's mom here for the last several weeks so now that I am all healed up and she is headed home the real test begins.

We have been playing around with the sheeps feed and mineral supplement, because of where the Icelandic sheep originate they do better with a much higher amount of minerals than most sheep. The more we learn about natural care of the sheep it seems as if you can keep their reproductive health at its optimum, prevent illnesses and parasites all through the right balance of minerals. Our fingers are crossed that they're all healthy enough to breed and that we'll have many lambs running around the pastures come spring. All due to the second new arrival on the farm.

The Ram made its arrival at the farm about a week after we came home from the hospital. He is at least twice the ewes size and with his huge coat of black wool a formidable presence on the landscape. Their first moments of being introduced were like a small dance, the flock fled his approach and then slowly approached him as a group and fled again. This little sequence was played over and over again. They eventually got used to each other but Lulu, our pyrenees puppy, is still skeptical and doesn't want to be in the temporary paddock we set up for the Ram's time on the farm. Luckily there is still a large part of the paddock that Lulu can have to herself and one of the shelters for her to sleep in at night.

The farm was covered in four inches of snow yesterday and we started to worry because the hoop house where the chickens will winter is still not done. The side vents are finished and the wiggle wire we used to frame the plastic arrived and was installed around the door frames but we are still without doors. The chickens didn't seem to mind the snow and it mostly melted away by the afternoon so hopefully we can get them into their new shelter before the real deep freeze sets in.

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