Farm Eclipse

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This picture was taken through solar specs as a near total eclipse of the sun by luna occurs. It was just our luck to be located in the 92% coverage band of the show. There was a plan to drive south into Oregon, but the highway patrol was warning motorists to stay away from the event if possible due to gas shortages and facility limitations. Leafhopper Farm had a great view none the less, and we watched with great joy as this astronomical event took place.

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This is the light as our maximum coverage happens for a few minutes. We also walked around the land making observations of animals, insect behavior, and other environmental factors. As the moon came before our star, the first change we noticed was a temperature drop. Though it was still sunny, the chill that came upon us over about a ten minute period left my teeth chattering and a need to put on a sweatshirt.

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For a while, it felt like the light of late afternoon, though it was about 10:30am and shining from the east. Sometimes, color appeared slightly washed out, but nothing drastic in our color spectrum of white light was overtly different. I wonder what other light frequencies might have been affected. I’ll have to look that up. Oh physics!

Yes, so the moon blocked out the sun and we were never in darkness, as enough sun was shining through to keep us illuminated, though the chill left me so thankful for our full sun and the energy it gives to our survival.

There are many stories of animals reacting to a total solar eclipse. Well, we didn’t get the full darkness, so none of the chickens went to roost. Goats lay down, that might have been digestion time, having nothing to do with the light change. What we did see was a bumble bee halted on a leaf acting lethargic. I think it was the temperature change affecting the bee. Birds kept singing, we got a normal number of eggs from the hen house, and nothing too out of the norm happened throughout the rest of the day.

Watching heavenly activity is a real treat, and can tell you a lot about your world and its place in the universe. Stars, planets, our sun and moon, all these celestial hosts gift us stories of time and space. Our ancestors worshiped the sky and knew the value of following heavenly procession to know the change of seasons, passing time, and rhythms of our universe that are signals of coming change through thousands of years.

Growth 2017

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Leafhopper Farm has been growing for 5 full years now; on July 31st, we begun our sixth. It has been a wonderful unfolding of tended soil, grazing animals, and a budding community. Above is one season of growth in the Asparagus bed. I wrote about the lone stalk earlier this Spring, and now there are three additional friends joining to create a green party. We might get to harvest some in 2018. For now, the plants are encouraged to grow and seed as they wish, encouraging larger roots for greater production next year.

The growth of the farm’s Asparagus is a great metaphor for the farm its self; start small, grow slow, and keep adding every year. Highlights from this year’s growth include more goats (including a new buck), double our chicken hatching with help from the incubator, a farm manager, wildflower pollination stations, kittens, an outdoor kitchen, more community garden space, native plant instillation, raspberry patch, and much more!

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The Cascadia Hops Humulus lupulus are looking great. I’ll have the largest harvest ever at Leafhopper Farm this fall. Young hop buds are full of sticky yellow resin located in the Lupulin glands, and the scent of its essential oil is overpowering. Hops are part of the Cannabaceae family, and are very medicinal in nature, like their other relatives. The past two years of harvest have produced great beer attempts. This year, they will also be dried and stored for use in future batches of bitter drink. The roots will then be relocated into their own space away from the front garden to allow them plenty of place to expand.

That expansion is felt at the farm this year, both in living space, garden space, and dreaming space; for the future of this land and the community enjoying it. We’ll host classes, students, teachers, farmers, activists, inventors, horticulturists, writers, WWOOFers, service men and women, children, feminists, mothers, fathers, grandparents, elders, story tellers, and guests still unknown. Weiss Creek is singing her song through our drought and the pond still hosts fish.

So much gratitude to all the people who use this place, from the two legged to the four legged, creeping ones, and the winged ones; all are here to grow with us, all will add to the web of life. Thanks for the chance to build this dream, together with so many others who support and share such positive energy. The land is ready to be asked for its blessings of abundance. Though stewardship, the earth gives endlessly to all who work with her in splendid harmony.

Parting Shot:

Muir caught a mouse this week, and reveled in his skill as a hunter. This is the original instructions for domesticated felines. He will be an invaluable support to the future growth of Leafhopper by keeping the rodents at bay.  Though his work, we have eliminated all toxic baits from the land to protect owls and raptors who also help to hunt  prolific vermin. The cats are new working animals we’ve teamed up with this year, and comforting when engaged in furry, purring cuddles.

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photo courtesy of Annika

Harvest Time!

The fruits, herbs, and veggies are all ripe and ready here at Leafhopper Farm!

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I’ve been running around the gardens weeding and discovering all the bounty ready to harvest. Herbs like kitchen sage and oregano, which I trimmed back earlier this summer, are now regrown in an explosion of energy and need another cutting back. I’ll hang these green medicines to dry for now, as it’s too hot to be running a dehydrator in the house and sunlight is free. The pot of peaches was boiled down to make jam. This fruit is a little young, pulled off the Frost Peach tree to save some heavily laden branches from snapping off. No fruit goes to waste!

In The Netherlands, I gathered a lot of rose hips to bring back for propagation. Roses are a wonderful pollination species, and produce rose hips, the original apple! The big red ones you see are especially fruity, and I hope to establish this wild verity along my hedgerows for flowers, fruit, and that glorious scent of wild roses in summer. The smaller verity is low growing, and I need a few more plants to fill in the bottom of my hedges. Small rose hips can go into infusions to add vitamin C and flavor. I like to put them in honey. Honey is a natural preservative, keeping the rose hip essence while preventing mold.

Yarrow will go into tincture for lung health. We’ve been breathing a lot of smoke this summer from all the wild fires up in Canada. The Yarrow will help clear the lungs and strengthen breath. Achillea millefolium is also great for colds and fevers, menstrual cramps, used topically for skin irritation, and to treat wounds. Other common names for this plant include staunchweed and soldier’s woundwort. In Greek mythology, Achilles (part of the Latin name for this plant) used yarrow to protect himself from arrows, but he missed his heel. This plant is a great addition to any garden, offering pollen, beautiful white umbels of flowers to enjoy, and medicine.

Our garlic crop has also been harvested. We did not get very big heads this year, and I think that was due to a lack of rain. Other local farmers I have talked with say their garlic crops have also been poor, so I’m not alone. Luckily we will have enough to get through this year, but I might have to purchase some new cloves for planting next year, or find a fellow farmer to trade with. I’ve still got a few cloves from last year, and perhaps I can plant some of those. I get why traditional farming tells you to save enough seed for a few years of planting, not just relying on the previous year’s harvest to restock your fields. Agriculture is so much work! It also gave us civilization as we know it today, but I don’t think it will sustain us at this rate of growth. Remember, the earth and it’s soils are finite resources.

In the picture above, I also included my tobacco. When I harvest anything from the earth, I give a prayer of thanks and offer tobacco. It is good to give something back to the earth when you take from it. This exchange keeps  material need in balance and offers those in need prospective. It is good to tend the soil, and reap the bounty of that tending, but the earth is doing most of the work, and thanking that energy keeps it healthy in our own minds too. Gratitude is key. I use tobacco because its what the native people of this area use and I like to think the ground here is familiar with it. I also mix in sage to cleans the space when I disrupt and take from it. The intention matters, my land responds vibrantly to the thanks.

 

August Farm Update

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Well, I’m back from traveling and flew into SEATAC airport to find the whole of Puget sound engulfed in smoke. When I arrived back at the farm a film of grey haze lingered around the property. This air quality issue stems from large forest fires burning up in British Colombia. My weather ap shows “smoke” as an actual meteorological event. Wow!

Here’s a view of the farm from the front porch:IMG_7038

It may be hard to see, but the smokey haze is lingering in the trees. My throat became quite dry later in the day and warnings on air quality abound. I’m making sure the animals are well watered and in the shade as we struggle to combat the heat. One chick was lost during the heat wave, but we’ve now got them in a cooler situation and all is well. IMG_7036

Our pollination stations are working great, bees love the poppies, borage, teasel, and yarrow. Our humming birds are thriving on bee balm too. I hope to see these self-seeding species return next year to continue our flowering plant expansion here at Leafhopper Farm. IMG_7039

Flower boarders around the garden help encourage plant reproduction and habitat for benificial insects to stave off pests like cabbage moths and aphids. The kale crop is looking good! Our beans were picked this week, and blueberries were harvested, giving us a good two gallons of fresh yummy fruit. IMG_7040IMG_7041

The hops are going buck wild! I’ll be moving the root systems to better locations this fall after harvest. I knew the hops would be tenacious and hope now to have enough root mass to really cultivate my Cascadian Hop natives for future brewing. IMG_7042

In other news, the kittens are growing up healthy and just had their second vet visit. The babes are now hunting and bring me mice, young rats, and a vole on occasion.

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There were some new animals on the farm, living under my house, which I had to trap and remove to avoid issues. You can see one of the little feral friends below:

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These wild cats are an issue around the world, and I trapped 3 kittens to be relocated to another home where they will be pampered by a friend in need of rodent control. No babes were harmed in this relocation, and Leafhopper is happy to be back down to two resident cats once more.

The farm also got a visit from our farm planning friends at King Conservation District to discuss funding for stream buffer fencing we plan to put in next month. With their financial support, we’ll install good fencing along out salmon bearing stream to make sure native plants and the water are kept free of livestock to promote healthy fish and riparian zones around Weiss Creek.

I’ll be taking a Forest Stewardship class this fall to finish writing a forestry plan for the land. This plan is about cultivating healthy trees and native plants on the land to enhance wildlife productivity with a focus on native edible and medicinal vegetation. We’ll develop a food forest while continuing to steward the forest already established on the property. Many people think a forestry plan means timber management. This is one method of forestry stewardship, and I do plan to harvest a few trees for building timber, but only trees which need to be culled to keep the other trees happy and healthy. You can plan your forestry stewardship any way you like, providing you maintain the canopy and enhance native diversity on your land. This fits perfectly into the vision at Leafhopper Farm, and I look forward to sharing the plan once it is in action next year.

A special shout out to all the people who helped take care of the farm while I was away! You all did a great job in keeping the birds alive, kittens well fed, plants watered, and the land humming with joy. I am so happy to have such great tenets and friends here at Leafhopper. Thanks to the people for sharing and caring!

Wild Food Slow Food, The Netherlands

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While visiting the Netherlands this summer, I was offered the rare chance to join a local fishing family on their boat for the day in The Wadden Sea, a shallow, coastal  water way between the north coast of mainland Holland and The Frisian Islands. Barbara and Jan have been fishing here for over 25 years, and follow old traditions of coastal fishing. This means they use a small, flat bottomed boat (pictured above) with simple nets which they cast and retrieve by hand. The Wadden Sea is also a UNESCO wold heritage site with many environmental protections in place. Barbara and Jan are very proud to be one of the few small family fishing companies allowed to harvest within these waters using low impact methods for sustainable fishing.

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Barbara gave a great talk on sustainable fishing, in English, which you can find here:

<https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Cf3N-YuJ9U&gt;

Her other Ted Talk can be watched here:

<https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M7F98yRQIRQ&gt;

Though most of the trip, they were conversing passionately in Dutch. Jan and Barbara are both very good English speakers, and did take time to talk with me about their shared passion for slow food, and ethical fishing. They work very hard to catch enough product, while still abiding to strict regulations which limit what they can catch and how. We went out into the very shallow water and actually walked in the sea to set the nets. Then, in our chest waders, we drove the fish into the nets on foot, literally running at the school to push the confused animals at the net. That day we only caught two fish. Jan explained that eastward winds were pushing in jelly fish and driving out the schools of fish for the day, so we were not going to catch much, but we tried none the less, and had a great time learning about the slow methods uses by sustainable coastal fisherpeople.

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At the close of our fishing day, Barbara invited me to take the wheel, literally, and I enjoyed a little experience in guiding our boat back to the harbor in Lauwersoog. You see me wearing an oil slicker jacket in this picture, and I want you to know; even though it was mid July and a relatively nice day out (no rain), I was still cold and wet most of the time working, and that’s summer weather. These amazing people fish this sea year round, and yes, there is a wood stove in the hull of this boat. The cold and wet were not difficult when I had the chance to leap off the boat and wade out into the shallow sea to work the nets. It was such a beautiful place, and so worthy of our attention as a world heritage site; a special habitat for many sea creatures, from seals to salmon. That’s right all you Pacific Northwest people, the salmon are coming back to The Netherlands too!

Though Leafhopper Farm is a totally different ecosystem, it shares the same principals of people like Barbara and Jan. We all want small, local, sustainable food for out community. We understand that large, commercial industry around food has no real connection to the land, the ecology, or the communities near them, which they directly impact with pollutants and abuse of natural resources.

Environmental protection is very important, but it can also be a hindrance to the small businesses that are most connected to the landscape they make a lively-hood from. Sometimes in the quest to protect, we push out the very people trying to make a difference. For Jan and Barbara, this battle is very real. They are only one of a handful of small businesses still legally allowed to fish in the Wadden Sea. That privilege is quickly disappearing.

For Jan and Barbara, keeping a close watch on the health of their water is so vitally important. They see it first hand every day, walking in it, observing the health of the fishery in everything they harvest.  These holistic actions are very connected to  environment, and the local community they feed. If you are ever in The Netherlands, and would like some great fresh seafood, which was harvested holistically by people who practice good fishing methods, check out: http://www.ailand.nl

For more  videos and a chance to directly fund these thoughtful people in their work, check out: https://crowdaboutnow.nl/tailand

Please take time to get to know where your food comes from and how it gets to you. Go and see farms; meet farmers face to face. Talk with fishermen, trappers, hunters, mushroom cultivators, bee keepers, and anyone else you know who produces food. Connect with what you eat, please, because if we do not start paying attention, asking questions, and supporting local food, it will disappear. I am very passionate about this, and I hope that by taking time to connect with other small, slow food producers, I will better understand the mission of Leafhopper Farm.

Hay Day

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Make hay while the sun shines! There is a lot of tall grass around Leafhopper Farm this week, so I took the scythe to the fields and did a little mowing. I’m getting the hang of using a large cutting blade in rhythmic swinging to bring down cane and brush. These hay stacks are glorious shaped mound of bounty from the land, and a pleasure to sculpt. Each cutting was brought down, sun dried for a day or two, and them raked up. If the grasses sit in the sun for too long, all the nutrients is cooked out of them, so I have to time all this harvest just right.

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These cuttings are still too green to stack, so I’ve spread them out for another day of drying. If you stack up wet hay and put it into the barns, you could end up with a fire. Green manure left to pile up will get so hot, it combusts. I’m not dealing with a lot of hay at this time, just what I cut around the buildings and driveway in zone one, but it’s still a lot of biomass.

Keeping walking paths and roads open is most important. Last year, I used a weed wacker borrowed from a neighbor to keep things clear. This year, I fully embraced my scythe and have really enjoyed the non-motorized work. I get an ab work out, avoid fuel consumption, and remove material with more awareness, leaving flowers and rare species intact. I’m also taking time to really look at my land, learn the grasses, and better appreciate the growth developing here.

This is the third year I’ve gathered hay, and though it’s only a small amount of what I will need to feed my goats through the winter, it’s a great use of grass clippings and the goats are happy with their native feast. In late August, I hope to have a larger mower make a sweep of the place, because there is a lot of grass still up. Cutting it makes the grass healthier, and more palatable to the grazing animals. Ideally, in the next few years, there will be enough grazing animals here at Leafhopper Farm to do most of the mowing themselves, but it’s nice to have a little hay put away for a rainy day.

Community Gardens & Outdoor Kitchen

One of the important design systems at Leafhopper Farm revolves around community space. We’ve been carving out individual gardening spaces for a few years now, along with fire pit area, outdoor kitchen, and other beautification for the people living here and enjoying the land.

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Lavender Cabin Gardens

Many spaces are still “in the works” so to speak, and it’s going to take more time to fully see this vision carried through, but the trend of growth so far is wonderful to watch. The raised bed built by WOOFers in summer 2016 is now full of vegetables. Flowers are blooming out in other beds where soil is still poor, but wildflowers flourish.

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raised bed on left

The stairs I roughed out two summers ago are now filling in with stone crop, and the yellow plumb tree is in its second year of fruit production. Clematis trails along the wall of Lavender Cabin and new beds along the structure invite a colorful walk through vivid growth. I still have to do some scything of grass and weeds in this space, but it’s putting down more mulch for the soil and giving me a great ab workout.

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stairs and clematis with more flower gardens

Micro-habitats are forming around each living space, much like the kitchen and front gardens of the main residence. In the picture below, I’m standing near the tiny house looking northwest at the herb garden planted below a nice old growth stump supporting the life of a red huckleberry bush. The shade from the dwelling casts a shadow into space that was once full sun. Now a cooler region of air mass stands to support moister soil and sanctuary to more sensitive plants species. If the house moves out, the entire space will change overnight. I try to keep this in mind when setting up impermanent spaces of habitation.

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Tiny house herb garden

The tiny house gardens are a little weedy, but as first year beds, they have a lot of good edible plants, and some usable wild ones amongst the weeds. Daily watering is a must for such open beds, though they get a break from morning sun, shaded out by a cedar grove, which will one day have to come down because of overgrazing damage caused by previous caretakers of this land. Hungry cattle will strip trees of their bark in winter.

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tiny house gardens

The blue tent erected at the back of the pole barn shades a work space erecting the outdoor kitchen. This facility will be near our community fire pit. One of the residence sourced free granite counter top scraps from a neighbor down the road, so our kitchen might be the nicest one on the farm (once water is hooked up). Another couple of tenants put together this construction and I’m so glad for it, as I am personally, not a great builder. Each person in a community has their talent, and skills to offer the farm if they so choose. It’s been a great week of work on Leafhopper Farm.

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outdoor kitchen