Stream Buffer Fence Done!

Weiss Creek has a new buffer fence along her head waters off Big Rock Rd. and it’s happening on Leafhopper Farm! With the help of my amazing family, we got the last of this fence line up and stretched in a final two day push. We’ll hope to hang the gates this week, focusing on final tie downs and secure post settings in prep for a walk though with King Conservation District reps this summer.

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In the fall, USDA will fund a restoration project to remove blackberry and knot-weed using glyphosates (Round Up) in a “spot treat” method for minimal exposure to the sensitive salmon stream. Don’t ask me how the county justifies using Round Up, but it does prevent continual re-occurrence of the invasive species in only two years. After the initial spot spray (they selectively treat each root base of every invasive established within the buffer zone), and then return to spot check again the following year. By then, native species will be planted throughout the habitat to restore native under story and establish new forest zones along the creek to enhance rain forest stands.

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This stream buffer represents Leafhopper Farm’s commitment to habitat restoration and natural resource regeneration. It is very satisfying to see the space cultivating healthy soil and water for future generations. I look forward to the work still yet to come as we establish new native species and design a mushroom log operation which will allow access to monitor and encourage planted spaces within the buffer, while actively maintaining the buffer zone by continuing to prevent the establishment of blackberry or the return of knot weed from upstream.

Since we will no longer be allowed to use goats or other livestock to mediate the area, more direct contact with the landscape on the part of the land stewards will be required. By folding in systems of production, like material harvesting (willow for baskets) and mushroom log cultivation (approved agro-forestry within stream buffer), the engagement with this space will remain strong, if not more connected than ever before. This is how we invest in our land, and work to restore and enhance our habitat. Without weaving ourselves into the natural world through direct engagement, it is difficult to fully comprehend, or care about the place we live.

Leafhopper Farm will continue to demonstrate good stewardship practices in the foothills of The Cascade Mountains in Western Washington. The farm will also continue to offer tours and consultation regarding stream buffer, habitat restoration, and food production systems in our temperate rain forest environment. The farm offers a physically implemented and federally recognized buffer instillation in site as part of our demonstration practices. Please contact us- info@leafhopperfarm.com to plan a farm visit, or for stream buffer consultation and planning with land steward Liz Crain of Leafhopper Farm.

 

Kids Collaborate

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It’s the first time Leafhopper Farm has had a “gang” of kids running together in the larger herd. They are most often together exploring, grazing, or laying in a big pile. There is a lot more behavior to watch with this more complex herd structure. The two male goats (Gwern and Proctor) spend a lot of time pushing each other around, mounting, and head butting. They are also the most likely to wander over to their dad, Brock, who they also butt heads with. They are still small, and Brock is so gentle, but firm. He’ll also graze calmly as shown in these photos.

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Proctor seems to be the most watchful and aware. He always puts eyes on me when I come around, and often checks in with his mom, Brownie. As lead doe in the herd, Brownie has the wisdom in the group, and I’m glad to see her son taking after her as a watchful, observant goat. His sister Gamble, is a lot more care free, spending more time romping around in her own little world. She also tends to stick closer to her mom, Brownie, and watches the world passively, compared to her brothers. Gwern had a larger frame, and was born a week before his half siblings. He was pushing everyone else around a lot at the beginning, but now the three kids seem to be balanced out, enjoying their effort in exploration together more than alone (herd animals).

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The kids are at an age of great activity, and lots of fun antics. I found all three kids crammed into the out house today, and they flew out together at once in a pile of cream colored velvet, flowing into the lush green grass. In the morning when I let everyone out for grazing, the kids sometimes get distracted and wander off instead of following the rest of the herd down the hill. When the realize the other adult goats are gone, a high pitched orchestra of bleating comes flying down the hill through the underbrush as kids pop out of the bramble and slide under their doe’s udder for some milk courage and maternal reassurance.

The kids are healthy, happy, and growing up fast. I’ll continue to soak up the cute weeks of babyhood and learning that these newest members of The Leafhopper Farm goat herd. We plan to weather the two boys, as our virile breeding buck Brockstaro is a great daddy goat, and gentle teacher for the young ones. I’m curious to see what size these kids grow to with their Nigerian Dwarf and American Boer genes together. I’m betting Gwern stays smaller, while his half siblings Proctor and Gamble, grow larger. I’m guessing this based on the leg length of the twins. Time will tell!

Morel Moment

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I’ve been away from the farm for a writing workshop, and returned to find a beautiful gift in the front garden. This spring, a single morel fruited for Leafhopper Farm. It’s the third year in a row we’ve had surprise morel action in the cultivated garden space. The personal excitement I get out of this wonderful site is endless. I never expect them, but some how, they arrive, even if it’s only a solitary bloom. On a bed of fresh dandelion flowers, I feast! It’s nettle, dandelion, and a mix of winter garden greens in a spring diet. Gratitude for such a gift from the land, and the ability to share it with another who has never enjoyed this fruit of the soil before.

Cemani Chicks

This is the 3rd generation of Ayam Cemani chicks from Leafhopper Farm. All ten chicks are developing nicely, and there are some fine looking hens in the bunch, along with a few cockerels. We’ll attempt capon action (rooster castration) soon, if timing is right. They have to be operated on while young, and these guys are at the right age. The technique will be challenging, but I’ve handled a lot of birds and want to make it easier to integrate the whole flock without the need for so many separate pens. Because this idea involves surgery, my thoughts are, this is too “high maintenance”, but the idea that hatched chicks are 50/50 male/female ratio, it could offer a lot of production worthy meat into our poultry system.

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I’m always fascinated by the barred rooster which shows up. Each batch of chicks has had at least one. In this flock, there is also a silver colored hen. I look forward to seeing what she turns into as her mature feathers come in. These chicks have moved into an outside pen, just in time for the warmer weather. They are growing up fast, and will soon be moved in with the rest of the adult flock, bringing our laying hen number back towards 40.

April Showers

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We’ve had many inches of rain over the past few weeks, and plants are erupting into production with the coming light and warming temperatures. Weiss Creek is up and flowing fast, but that’s not a guarantee of good moisture in the soil. There are typical signs of saturation, but the deep watering our large forest expects through very light rain all winter has not happened in years. Instead, heavy rain created fast runoff, not soaking in for the long haul of summer drought. The climate changes will continue to haunt this forest and many like it for decades to come. My western hemlock trees are starting to die, and they are the indicator species of drought in our temperate rain forests. Many of them are half dead, meaning that entire tree failure is inevitable. We will be seeing much more dramatic change in this lifetime, so get ready.

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The rains have also brought back our lovely fungal friends in the region, and I am happily wandering the property, looking for shy up and coming mushrooms. We had the worst season of chantrelles I’ve ever known last fall, and I hope these rains bring on a recovery bloom, because mushrooms are so good, so good.

Clockwise from top left: Gandoerma applanatum (artist’s conc), LBM-little brown mushroom (deer mushroom), Hirneola polytricha (black wood ear fungus), and a mystery white mushroom I don’t know yet! It’s endless exploration on the fungus front.

In other news of the fungi function, our mushroom logs are starting to perk up more. The mottling color continues to grow, indicating that inoculation has happened in the dead wood. Yay! With luck, these logs will be the first to produce yummy edible mushrooms for our farm by next fall. We’ve got many more logs to plug and set up before it gets too hot. Summer will be running at us full tilt before long, which dries up the environment and makes plug spawn unhappy.

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We are using red aldar, and plugging with Fungi Perfecti strains of shiitake, oyster, and turkey tail. I highly recommend this website to anyone interested in mushrooms! By ordering mushrooms at Fungi Perfecti, you’ll also be supporting great research on mycology to better humanity and the planet as a whole. It’s great to be cultivating these fungi on the landscape at Leafhopper Farm, and to see the wild ones popping up with the onset of spring.

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Delicious Duck

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We’re slow roasting duck for dinner, and the flavors are amazing. Yes, it was time to cull the magpies from the pond. Male ducks should be slaughtered when they are first mature (after 7 weeks). Ours are a little older, but not by much, and the carcass was still supple and juicy. Older drakes are tough and dry, making them stew birds, rather than meaty meals with potato and veggies above. If you have some fresh herbs in your garden this spring, or some dry herbs like the kitchen sage added to the onion garlic potatoes, such flavors go wonderfully with the oily dark meat.

My partner and I both agree that duck is indeed, a reward for the work put in. We’re expecting 20 ducklings in late April. These khaki campbells are suited to pasture conditions, with nesting space and a night shut in. The ducks will be our first layer flock study folding into our rotational grazing systems here at Leafhopper Farm. The ducks are great sluggers, and I hope to let them loose in the gardens after our harvests next fall. Depending on how the pond is looking, we might also allow the flock into the water for a little while again to help with sealing, once the water level rises again.

A special thank you to ducks, as teachers, workers, gleaners, cleaners, quacking good company, and nurturing to us as we toast the water birds and roast a good dinner!

Zombie Deer!

Did I mention there’s a lot of back-stock trail-cam footage? The vegetation has sprung forth, covering the once limp hanging vines of blackberries are now shooting out buds in preparation for the growing season here at Leafhopper Farm. Ungulates all over the place are feasting on the young growth, and this veracious herbivore in the footage above shows the almost panicked browsing on the fence line where this camera was placed. There were almost ten similar moments captured by two different does on the land.

You can see the trailing blackberry leaves in this doe’s mouth as she browses along, compelled by hunger and the onset of new growth. These does are also most likely pregnant, working to put on the weight to develop their fawns. My goat does act much the same way. This year, my goats kidded a little early; usually, they drop in April or May. The black-tail deer drop fawns from May through June. It is understandable why they are feasting with such appetite right now.

And now for something completely different…

Who do you think this is?

You’ll miss it if you blink at the very beginning of the film. I control the film with my mouse to study the movement and eyes. Theories abound! I’ll tell you one thing; it’s not a deer!