We have been very busy here at the farm! While the Covid-19 virus has made some things a bit more challenging, Karin and I are able to maintain our 6 foot distance and stay healthy. Our egg business has been booming! We can't seem to keep eggs in stock. I have hired a friend to help us maintain and keep the farm expanding! Karin and I have been planting starts for the past few weeks! We are engaging with other farmers for plants that we are not able to grow ourselves, until we are able to get a greenhouse.
Last week a local non-profit bee group placed a hive on our property. Their goals are to diversify the genetics of the local bee populations in our area. Check them out on facebook at #beesarefree through the Urban Evergreen Bee Sanctuary.
This week we have Jack coming to clear our pasture area that is full of stumps and scotchbroom so that we can prepare a healthy pasture for the Finn sheep coming next spring! We are also on the list of a local goat farmer for 2 goat doe's next spring! I will be sure to post before and after pictures of the field building! Another big project this year will be converting our "shop" into the barn for the animals! We have an endangered Mazama Pocket Gopher here in Thurston County which limits are ability to build on the property. So, we are taking advantage of what we already have and living in harmony with the gopher as best we can! So many exciting things happening!
There have been a few challenges for the fiber portion of our business. Last year I started my six year educational journey to become a Master Spinner at Olds College in Alberta, Canada. I'm in the process of finishing up my level 1 studies to send to my advisor, but we found out in April that this years classes have been canceled due to the virus. I also canceled all my teaching classes for the forseeable future. While I could look at this as a major setback I've decided to just switch gears and do what I can to continue my fiber education. So, my friend Meg (owner of Ewe and I Yarn shop in Chehalis, WA) and I are signing up for the three year Master Knitting program online! I believe this will help my understanding of fabrics better and how fiber behaves in fabrics. JUST KEEP LEARNING, that's what I tell myself instead of allowing myself to get low!
I hope this blog finds you well and healthy! Stay safe everyone!
Chickens working their magic on the
future garden expansion
As with all farming ventures sometimes it feels as if we are taking two steps forward and one step back. Last summer, Karin and I took a 12 week Whole Farm Planning class through Washington State University. During that class one of our speakers was a representative from NRCS (National Resource Conservation Services). It's a federal program through the Department of Agriculture. In September we decided to apply for a high tunnel grant! Well, long story short, our representative retired in December, we have prime soils for the endangered Mazama Pocket Gopher (another long story if you're not from Thurston County), and we needed to have three pocket gopher studies done on the property. Only two had been done in October, so now we must wait until June when they become active again. This study will determine whether we can even have a high tunnel. So far, this particular gopher has not been found here! So, sadly NO high tunnel this year. One step back.
In January I met with our new NRCS representative. During that meeting she asked, "Do you have water rights?". Uhhhh??? I had no idea. When we starting looking for property I spent time looking to make sure we didn't purchase something with wetlands, or in a flood zone, that seemed important. But never did I think about water rights?? If you do not have water rights on your property you are limited to how much water you can use out of your well per year. And, as I was told by my rep, with no water rights there is no way you will be able to irrigate and produce enough vegetables for a farmstand. UGH! I was feeling very discouraged in January, but never discouraged enough to quit! Last week I received an email from my representative asking me to fill out a Conservation Survey which would be required for any EQUIP grants. As I filled out the 14 page form, again I was confronted with 'do you have water rights'. Ok, I decided I am going to resolve this! I went to google and asked 'How do I find water rights info'. It took me right to the Department of Ecology. There was the link, I clicked, entered our address, and to my suprise there was a water claim for the property from 1972! There was also a copy of the document. I sent this to our rep, and low and behold WE HAVE WATER RIGHTS!!! I was so excited! When Ted got home the first thing out of my mouth was "WE HAVE A FARM!!!". This is huge! It opens up the possibilities for more grants and help with water conservation for irrigation and many other option. Two steps forward!!! Never quit!
I do a LOT of reading. When I want to learn about something I head to the library. This is something I didn’t start doing until I was older. In high school reading a book wasn’t something I readily enjoyed. But, now in my 50’s, it is something I relish! I read books about farming (soil, vegetables), livestock (especially sheep), knitting, spinning, cooking, basically if I have thought or question needing an answer I either head to the library or the internet.
Recently I was invited to demonstrate spinning for the Daughters of the Revolution. Again, I headed to the library and internet to research spinning and women’s contributions to the American Revolution. In my historical research I started seeing a pattern! Colonial Americans had a dependency on England for their goods. After the Wool Tax Act of 1699 women started spinning and making their own cloth in earnest as a protest. Later in the 20th century during the British occupation of India, Ghandi started using spinning and making clothe as a non-violent protest urging Indians to become self-reliant. This started a revolution and eventually India gained independence from Britian. I recently read a piece on the internet about Charka Wheels for spinning cotton. A university in New Delhi is offering students a spinning certification course emphasizing self-reliance, but more importantly to teach patience. When I teach spinning, frequently you will hear me say “just breathe!”. Spinning has taught me to slow down, to be calm. Sitting still has never been something I’ve been comfortable with. But, at the spinning wheel I have found I can go for long periods of time without thought of the day, or the matters of the world. However, if I forget to pay attention to my breathing or let my mind wander down a path away from the fiber, I start having problems with the yarn and get frustrated.
I’ve always enjoyed the home arts; canning, sewing, gardening, etc. I’ve also dreamt of being self-reliant in what feels like a dependent world. I’d like to think that I’m creating my own silent revolution. I can’t completely stop going to the store for groceries or clothes right now, but I certainly can by mindful of what I buy, where it came from, who made it, how does it affect the planet or people who brought it to that store, and continue reach for that goal of self-reliance.
Today while hard boiling eggs I was thinking about deviled eggs for the holidays! Yum! Which led me to thinking about the many questions and comments I receive from friends and customers. The most common one is, "I love the fresh eggs, but gosh their so much harder to peel than store bought eggs". So, I thought, great! This would be my next blog post!
When I'm selling eggs I typically ask "Would you like todays fresh eggs or are you going to hard boil them?". The best way to ensure good peeling is to wait until your farm fresh eggs are at least 5 days old. The next trick I learned from Karin's mom, Carmen. Steam them! For years I boiled my eggs, but continued to have trouble getting those pesky shells to come off. And there's nothing appetizing about a deviled egg with a shredded egg white! When I hard boil eggs I start with cold water in the pan, stack the eggs in my steamer basket and cover with a lid. I then bring the water to a gentle boil, but on medium high. As soon as you see the steam, reduce the heat to medium. If you let the eggs get too hot too quickly the shells will split and the whites will expand out. Gently steam them for 22 minutes. Have a bowl of ice water ready and emerse the eggs in the ice water after cooking. I leave them in the water for a good 10 minutes to cool throughly! You will be on your way to a wonderful deviled egg and proud to take them to any gathering!
Welcome to the first blog post for WeKare Farm and Fiber! Karin and I finally have the website up and running! This has been one of those great winter projects since things are quiet on the farm. Now is the time to plan for next season, and for me to teach more yarn spinning classes. I also have a TON of work to do for my Olds College Master Spinner level one home work! More on that later.
The only thing not taking a break right now are our Red Sexlink hens! We have 52 hens and 1 rooster named "Mister". They are still pullets and even though the weather has been on the colder side they are still producing up to 4 dozen eggs a day! I'm impressed!
We hope you will enjoy our website and this blog as we build our 3 acre farm from the ground up!