Garden Growth

IMG_8675

The feast of growth in the gardens at Leafhopper Farm texture the landscape with beauty, form, and function. Wildflowers boarder the front gardens. Pictured above is the nursery garden where our perennial native plants mature from young root stalk. There are also companion edibles like kale and yacon root, snap peas and borage. The kaffir lime is potted to go in during the winter, and some rooted grape cuttings will be planted out along a holly hedge which should serve as a great trellis. These plants are all on a watering schedule together, and with many of the nursery plants so young, it is imperative that a regular watering schedule be implemented. Luckily, these plants are right off the front porch of the main house, and I walk by it several times a day to monitor the health and happiness of our long term herbaceous investments.

img_8674.jpg

Another garden out front of the main house is hosting some important young plants. Ever heard of chinquapin? Think of a smaller chestnut tree with more resistance to its larger cousin’s blight. The verity we’ve selected for future nut production on the farm is an east coast species. There is also a native western verity called Golden Chinkapin. We’ll also plan on introducing this more regional species, but the eastern verities produce an easier to harvest nut. The young trees will stay in the garden for a few more years while they put on more growth and establish in this environment.

IMG_8673

Oh how a rose- this shrub of ruby red beauty has exponentially stepped up production over the past few years and is noticeably thriving now. It’s blossoms are very fragrant, and add color in the house as well as a pleasant scent. Cascading down below the rose are the two plots which hosted cold frames last winter. Now, the spaces are full of mature seed for next year; from radish to chard, any seeds not harvested will go into the ground for fall crops. Our potatoes are also maturing nicely, and we expect a good crop this year. Beyond the seed crop is the new cloche location with a crop of mixed greens, flowers, and herbs. Below the cloche is a large bed with carrots, squash, and cammas bulbs. Along the fence line at the very bottom of the garden is a young hedge trying to set, but also getting crowded out by mature seeded kale, tomato vines, and roses.

IMG_8672

There are a couple of raised beds near the spigot by the tenant kitchen, and there is a great mix of growing friends together building layers of green vegetation to protect against drought. This bed will eventually have partial shade from the crabapple Malus fusca, which is to the back northwest of the bed. In old village sited around western Washington, these modest fruit bearing trees were planted and well tended around the edges of a seasonal or permanent camp area. They were coveted as a food source, and the bark is medicinal. At Leafhopper Farm, we are establishing these trees around the landscape as an emergency food source, and also, a great food for wildlife.

 

IMG_8671

We’ve been growing a red lettuce at Leafhopper Farm continuously through two years now, and the seeds from these plants will be saved again for another year of good fresh salad greens. Mustard seed is also collected and reseeded in the fall, some of the later seed is turned back into the beds during weeding in late summer. Since this bed is drip irrigates, we usually establish transplants during the summer around the hose, but this bed is going to be refreshed with additional soil, adding another foot of root space, so we’re waiting to put in perennials till after the new bed is set.

 

IMG_8670

Our frost peach has been trimmed up a bit, as you can prune stone fruit any time of year. We will trellis it this winter against the kitchen to combat curly leaf in early spring. The passive solar heat radiating off the south side of the building creates a wonderful warm climate for the fruit tree. A carpet of herbs, oregano, kitchen sage, and chives, establish below within easy reach of the kitchen for culinary use. These herbs can handle full sun, and will be expanding in size enough to protect the soil moisture during the summer drought time. We’re also mulching the bare ground with good leaf litter.

These well tended spaces are productive and ever growing in their abundance. More companion planting will continue to encourage diversity and inner connectivity between species. Cooperation in nature ensures a wider range of survival and security for both the plants, and those who steward them. No matter the size, tended space with intention, weather growing food, or beautiful flowers to brighten the day, stewardship of place is so important. Making that space you tend most accessible and easy to water, all parts of smart design, will encourage successful cultivation and enjoyment of production.

 

Mushroom Blooms

The red alder logs inoculated last year at Leafhopper Farm are colonizing nicely; even fruiting in some cases! The shiitake are still shy, maybe even predated by another fungus – we’ll hopefully know this fall when the logs fruit. You can see in the stack pictured below, mycelium is spreading across the wood layers and turning the ends of these logs white. If we really wanted to get technical with the stack, we could send a scraping of the mycelium to a lab for confirmation, but for now, we’ll just keep monitoring the stack and hope that by October, fruit will bloom.

IMG_8628

Blooming is the name of the game with our turkey tail stack next door. Trametes versicolor is one of the easiest mushrooms to cultivate on a log stack, and sure to show fruit within the first year of inoculation. Here below we can see the young fruit developing from a more subtly whitened log butt. This modest polypor is a popular medicinal mushroom. Polysaccharide-K is a very promising medicine that The American Cancer Society claims “slows the spread of cancer cells. PSK also appears to have some immune system–boosting properties in people undergoing chemotherapy and may lessen some side effects of chemotherapy and radiation therapy. PSK is also believed to be a strong anti-oxidant, a compound that blocks the action of free radicals, activated oxygen molecules that can damage cells.” (ref.)

IMG_8629

Here at Leafhopper Farm, we’re interested in diverse cultivation of food, medicine, and materials for daily use. Turkey tail mushrooms are a part of the pharmacopeia, and increase mycorrhiza in our landscape to cultivate fertility and the neutralization of things like free radicals in our soil and water. Our turkey tail will be harvested, dried, and used in teas. This species of mushroom has shown to be the easiest and most successful colonizer in our log stacks so far, and we would encourage anyone trying out mushroom cultivation in logs to try this species first as an introduction to the process.

IMG_8630

 

Duck Departure

IMG_8133.JPG

Ducks have played a role at Leafhopper Farm on a few occasions now, but our most recent flock of Kaki Campbells is departing to another nearby permaculture farm for good. Though the ducks have burdened our pond with nitrogen, causing an algae bloom, it was not the cause of their leaving. Instead, it was the acknowledgement that the electric mesh rotational system was not working, as the ducks were getting out constantly and going to the pond. Also, because I am traveling next month, there is no opportunity to solve the duck system quirks in the next week and when you hand off your farm to others in a temporary care situation, it’s best to have things simple and working.

IMG_8175

The ducks could have ranged freely, with a night pen to go into, but the pond was still a draw, and even after we fenced it off, the ducks were still getting in. To protect the integrity of our water feature, and to make things easier for farm care while I’m away, the ducks had to go. Luckily, the farm taking our ducks on short notice, special shout out to Alexia of Hawthorn Farm, has said I can have some eggs to incubate any time. Reacquiring livestock is not hard, and the flex to have and have not is important to accept from time to time. If ducks to return, it will have to be in a much more enclosed and controlled environment. Perhaps we will short fence our pond permanently, to encourage a boundary. Maybe the electric mesh just needs a little more tweaking, and maybe ducks are not meant to be on Leafhopper Farm.

IMG_8668.JPG

Looking Back

When I first arrived at Leafhopper Farm in 2013, things looked very different from today. There were no food gardens, lots of rusted metal, and lots to do in turning land back into a thriving place for both people and animals. The task was daunting. When I first saw the land that would eventually become my home and the farm, I thought “no way! Too much work.” and walked out with a feeling of overwhelming repulsion at all the damage. But as I thought about it, and saw other home options, I realized that if I pulled back the ugly layers of neglect and detritus, there was a diamond in the rough.

IMG_0153.JPG

IMG_8539.JPG

In five years we’ve shifted the landscape from overgrown and abandoned to vibrant and engaged. We’ve removed almost all the metal on the property, cut back the overgrowth, and seeded wildflowers in decaying spaces where we cannot grow food at this time. The transformation is ongoing, but there are noticeable differences between then and now that are quite palpable.

IMG_0158.JPG

IMG_8091.JPG

IMG_8293.JPG

Many changed on the landscape are nearly impossible to capture in photographs, but these following aerial photos through the years might help show the larger scale of cultivation and change at Leafhopper Farm.

IMG_8632.JPG

The picture above shows the land as it was in 2013 just before I acquired it. It so happens, that on the day I was looking at the property, this aerial picture for the county was taken. My green truck, with red cap, is parked just outside the main property in top right corner of the photo. Note in this shot, where the lawn is mowed, and where it is not. The un-mowed areas are full of junk, metal, and trash of all kinds. This was part of what made the land more affordable, but also meant a lot of cleanup. Rolling up the sleeves is something I love doing, and though daunting, provides a clear light at the end of the tunnel motivation that has paid off in spades.

I’ll note one more thing in the photo above before moving on. See the large pile of stuff to the left of the big box truck center frame? That pile of discarded waste was burned and buried before I purchased the space. That whole area of the property will not grow safe food to eat in my lifetime, which is the consequence of burning petroleum based products and other chemicals on the bare earth.

IMG_8638.JPG

In 2014, our earthworks began, and it was an exciting time of much change at Leafhopper Farm. We had picked up all the garbage and metal scrap form the land, then dug swales and a pond in the upper cultivation space of the property. There are also gardens established around the house, and the rehabilitation of heritage fruit trees in the orchard. Firewood, gravel, and other bio material it accumulating in stage piles around the land, as we stock up on useful organic material to reinvigorate the soil fertility, and infrastructure. Note the muddy ruts in top right corner of the landscape. That was the parking area for guests, with permission from my neighbor who asked that I tend the space and keep it open. In the picture below taken in 2017, we have rocked that parking space (with permission of the neighboring land owner.

IMG_8642

By 2017, Leafhopper Farm was an established place of cultivation, community, and stewardship. All the earthworks are cover cropped, with some of the swales already planted for an experiment in cut flower growing by one of the residents. New personal kitchen gardens also went in to the southwest of the pole barn in center frame. We have not mowed the landscape for a few years, and it’s looking rich and diverse with texture and health. The fruit trees are reinvigorated from a few years of pruning, while the addition of a greenhouse, and more organic material bank fertility for longer growing seasons. The Sun Coop 3000 can be sighted top left, where a young flock of home bred and hatched chicks wander in the pasture.

It’s been a real journey of restoration and regeneration at Leafhopper Farm. Now in 2018, we’re taking a little time off to travel, reflect, and get ready for continues work and joy in tending land. The YouTube channel is gaining speed, as I routinely share the experiences and learning around the farm. Our WWOOFers continue to have positive experiences at Leafhopper, and I am glad we’re cultivating more local roots too, with single day activities for nearby residents of Seattle to come take a day on the farm. I’ll also continue to offer monthly classes for Women Owning Woodlands, an organization started through Oregon State University, which encourages women land owners who cultivate forested property to come together and share knowledge. It’s been great hosting and going to these events, and I look forward to more.

IMG_8643.JPG

rose from the garden at Leafhopper Farm

Gratitude to all who are helping to develop this dream; to the plants and animals who work and grow under the care of the farm, family and friends who visit and encourage, the community for investing in healthy food, and the greater world which continues to inform and inspire. I am so thankful for this opportunity to keep learning and cultivating place, while demonstrating for others the simple pleasure of stewardship.

Food Connection

IMG_8623.JPG

The colorful eggs of Leafhopper Farm show the mixed flock of ladies working the land and turning it into gold (with some great Scratch and Peck layer mix). The last of one of my deer harvested in 2015 is being ground up for some good sausage. Protine is very challenging to come by in wild foraging. Eggs are one of the easiest agricultural production models in farming. Together, these wild and domestic foods satiate the pallet at Leafhopper Farm.

Another quick reflection on harvesting your own food and how important it is to stay aware of consumption. When we no longer know where our food comes from, we are severed from the very life which sustains us. The majority of civilization are not aware of what goes into growing food, how it does directly affect us, and what can be done to reconnect with our diet in a more holistic, and nurturing way.

It is through the conditioning of our society that we have come to assume the grocery store will have what we need to eat, and in some cases (more than many would like to admit) a growing number of people are eating out of gas stations and fast food establishments. The quick mart food is not fresh, and often has the most additives of any food choice. On the other hand, it is convenient, and we are cultivating a society of convenience, so reach for what’s closest.

When the first frost comes, and I know, because one verity of Leafhopper apples are picked after the first frost for peak flavor. This heritage fruit was cultivated for maximum seasonal growth, ensuring good sugars for our winter diet. People continually grafted this frost apple to root stalk and carried it into The Pacific Northwest. Eventually, it found it’s way onto Leafhopper Farm; that’s deep culinary survival for both the apple and human beings. Survival is truly the end game, for all life.

Chickens come from jungle fowl in Indonesia, yet we now cultivate endless verities and types of chicken today that barely resemble their ancestors back in south east Asia. The Europeans took this bird and bread it up to make a larger egg for humans, giving us an easy source of protein in return for stewardship of the birds. The heftier animals need more food, especially in colder regions of the world where many of them are now bred (Barnevelders of Holland are an example).

By this time, people were settled in homesteads and small villages, where they could not only keep a flock of birds near by, but also grow the grains to feed them. Agriculture was a great advantage for human development, and the development of all livestock. I put a lot more faith in living stock, as opposed to the stock market of flashing numbers which runs our economic success, for now. The benefit of livestock is the immediate return in food we can utilize if needed. Why is currency not measured in living stock? Can’t eat money. That’s a classic fact.

What would happen if we, as a species, decided to look at the collective support each species brings into being; the added strength and resiliency the diversity of connectivity brings, instead of monetary value?

The venison often enjoyed at Leafhopper Farm is wild harvested in our local forests each fall. Hunting is a privilege, not a right, and many people do not realize this. America and Canada are anomalies in the Western World. Europe is small countries owned by the rich. There is little public land in most countries. The United States has the most public land of any country in the world. But it’s changing fast. We’re selling it off to developers, and renting it out to natural recourse extraction companies. My hunting grounds are in a logging operation working 100,000 acres along The Central Cascades.

At least I can appreciate the land and harvest something wild to eat there. I do pay a fee, but just a few miles to my west is another forest with totally public access and lots of great hunting. Logging is happening there too, and in most forests across the country and the world. You have to step outside your neighborhood to really understand this. Then look back at where you live and ask yourself what was there before people developed it. The old growth stumps around the farm bare witness to an ancient forest that once thrived here.

You do not have to be growing food or harvesting it to know the land and understand living systems, but it helps to know what you eat. What does that even mean; know what you eat? Well, to me, it means connection to food, land, place, people, nature, nurture, world perspective. This is where your own individual needs, wants, and dreams come in handy. Community can also greatly enhance ability and action, so connect, like all growing things do. At Leafhopper Farm, we’re connecting to food and place, stewardship and abundance; what’s connecting you?

WWOOFers Welcome

IMG_8618

A wonderful couple, Gina and Judd, came for a day at Leafhopper Farm. They are part of World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms- a non-profit organization matching organic farmers with people looking to volunteer and learn. I learned a lot with these two wonderful people as we tended young fruit trees and talked about the state of food, living in Seattle, and working spread sheets in the 9-5 office world and why getting outside for some “real” work is so important to health and happiness. All work is important, whether in a cubicle or an orchard, our collective labor helps tend community and survival. Taking time outside is part of living in balance, and for Americans, less and less of a priority as we urbanize and socialize. A hive has to feed from surrounding gardens, and the plants don’t survive without pollination. Where do we stand in that cycle?

IMG_8619

Planting and tending fertility, diversity, and thriving productivity seems to be a good mantra. Fruit trees offer lots of flower, fruit, and seasonal canopy. They are growing slowly, but continue to go up, expanding branches with the space for more fruit every year. We took time to weed, mulch, and water these young trees, and they look good. These young plants have been fending off goats for a few years now, and though some of the leaves may be missing, or a branch torn off, they manage to continue reaching into the sky and enlarging their canopy. We are expanding the fences and putting down new cardboard to prevent grass choking out the young tree.

IMG_8620

This line of trees thrives along the east fence-line of the property, along the swales where we will be planting a food forest next year. The fruit trees currently establishing are not only a nice reinforcement of our fence line, but also acted as test trees for the soil and climate. By observing the health of the cherries, plum, and apple trees, we can better decide which verities work better in this location. Though the cherries struggle a little, all the trees (save one apple the goats completely cut down) are thriving in their soil.

The WWOOFer help was greatly appreciated; we all learned, laughed, and lunched together in harmony. It is so good to share my passions, encourage stewardship, support mental health for those working so hard in other important technologies which keep our world thriving, and meeting new people. Please take a moment to visit the WWOOFer website for more information. You can find Leafhopper Farm there, as well as thousands of other farms around the world. All are organic, and eager to connect people, food, and farming.

Dinning Ducks

IMG_8598.JPG

Our aquatic feathered friends are on the landscape eating slugs with gusto. We’re thankful for their work and apatite here at Leafhopper Farm. The challenge is keeping our flock of ducks moving around the land, and they don’t do that often right now, because of our pond. I’m going to have to fence off the pond so the ducks can’t get in it any more, as they were never supposed to go into the pond, and the water is now very poopie, causing an overabundance of nitrogen, which is clogging up the water with algae and making the whole pond unhealthy. This is the challenge with keeping a flock of ducks out of the open water.

IMG_8605.JPG

Ducks need a lot of water, and though they would LOVE to swim all the time, it’s not required. Enough water to dunk heads in is plenty, and a 5 gallon bucket works just fine once the ducks are old enough to reach it’s edge. Right now we are working on a problem with the ducks fearing a new kitty pool. They are in the habits they formed as young birds, and it’s not in rhythm with the other systems; that’s my fault. I was not around to encourage them in a good routine, and because this is a new system (pond and ducks together) it was bound to have some issues. So, we’ll be wrangling the flock into a pen where we can reintroduce water, food, and roaming habits in a mindful way for the ducks to get their needs met and provide work on our farm where needed.

IMG_8610.JPG

The ducks do play an important role in our farm’s plan for good fertility and healthy soil. Their poop on the landscape is a rich gift, spread by their wanderings through the fields and garden edges. Below is a video of the ducks eating slugs. They can really slurp em’ down! Just listen to that feasting.

The ducks will need to be “sheparded” around the landscape, and I hope the electric mesh will serve as enough for our flock, especially at night for protection. We’re also looking into a simple coop for the ducks, which would allow them to roam freely during the day, and remain sound at night in a confined space like the chickens. This experimentation will continue, as the ducks find their place in the systems of holistic management here at Leafhopper Farm.