Sunday, August 10, 2008

Here is a little movie -- really little -- featuring Richard "Combine Love" Wiswall giving Kristi a quick tour of his new infatuation-- a 1954 Allys Chalmers Combine for the Oats and Rye Growing in the back 40. Having fun on the farm in Vermont. video

Friday, April 18, 2008


Organic Prices Creating Sticker Shock
Story in NYT

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

21 ACRES FARM
DRAFT FOR REVIEW

21 Acre Farm Woodinville

Imagine starting a community supported, small organic farmer growing and teaching, green building practices model facility unique in King County. Can it be possible? Is such a synergy possible— or just a green dream?

21 Acres is bringing this green dream to reality in Woodinville Washington on the north end of King County’s Agricultural District. 21 Acres includes a 5 acred productive farm, over 50 community gardens, nature trails, wildlife corridor, a clay lined pond tied to water recycling systems and an orchard starting up.

“21 Acres started with Friends of the Woodinville Farmers Market deciding to buy this property in 2003-4 to showcase sustainable systems, garden demonstration center. We had a dream of building a farmer’s market community center — a permanent center for Woodinville and Redmond community to grow, buy and sell fresh produce, eggs, and get to know each other.” said Brenda Vanderhoop, 21 Acres Communications Director.

“So the north 3 acres is community gardens for nearly 50 people — many having been here since the inception of our farm. And this year we’re going to break ground on a new 17,000 sq foot facility for farmers to clean, process and store their produce. Our architecture for the new building is going to be LEED Platinum — best green certification— including a living roof where we’ll grow rooftop gardens. Inside the Center will be the works composting toilets, commercial kitchen for Washington Grows and other farmers to take advantage of right here where they grow their crops. We even have a garden shed demonstrating solar, geothermal and living roof with a completed solar powered irrigation system,” said Brenda.

“The Center will be a highly visible example of people, land, agriculture and wildlife co-existing productively and harmoniously. The 21 Acres Center will also provide a year-round farmers market, an accessible system of interpretive trails, ongoing educational programs, and a beautiful venue for community gatherings and celebrations.”

Green dreams are not reserved for the buildings at 21 Acres either.

Washington Grows is partner for the farming that is happening on 5 acres Clayton Thomas and Vince are cultivating.

“Our work on 21 Acres is cultivating 5 acres for organic produce. We are cultivating the land with permaculture principles. That means we aren’t using pesticides — we have small mechanical methods when tilling our soil. That keeps erosion to a minimum and keeps the soil on the land — not running off into the waterways that cut across our land.” said Clayton Burrows.

“We’ve worked closely from the outset of our farm at 21 Acres — which is really just two years old — to revegetate the sides of waterways — growing green buffers 20 feet across from the water. We are in the education business at Washington Grows — helping new farmers learn about organic farming principles, watershed and wetlands protection, and how to balance our need for farmland with wildlife corridors and nature trails.

Teaching conservation practices begins in the field. Vince

“We host a Youth Volunteer Corp -- 6-8th graders who work on the farm for 2 weeks-- a total of 40 hours. Those kids learned about what farming is really about!" I see this work as an opportunity to change a lives -- starting with my won and all the people we involve through our produce stands, through the fresh soups we serve at the market, and the kids who work with us in the field."

"This is my 4th year farming. I started by working with John @ Nature’s Last Stand. Then I met Clayton Burroughs — director of Grown In Washington”. Grown in Washington started in Arlington on 4 acres tough work— just Clayton and I working the field. Clayton operated it alone for years. We kept growing that farm, and it led to another farm Food bank Farm up in Bellingham area— the mission is to grow food for the food bank in Bellingham. After that farm got going, we started 21 acre farm here. It is my life dream— I have to grow great food and then have to sell it.”

Now we have 100 CSA members and 2 farmers markets.

We got encouragement early on from everyone we met starting 21 Acres. “People said ‘You’re going to do it!” which helped along with all the work getting started. The tilth of the soil here isn’t great. The land needs lots of organic material — too sandy in some places, and clay in others. But every year we manage to make the land a little more rich and fertile for planting.

We have a greenhouse, a Japanese tractor and I work the land with Clayton and my true love, Gabrielle.”

“This year we’re growing evergreen strawberries (?), sugar snap peas, melons, a lot of other crops and lots of education to kids who get their hands muddy and start learning about what to grow in each season.”

“We’re naming rows for all the crops this year so kids and folks in the community on a walking path through 21 Acres can learn abut the varieties of vegetables we grow. The high school kids that come here are doing it sometimes against their own wishes. One bunch just wasn’t clicking with the farming we had to do— so I taught them a farm song— everyone started singing and then the work with the hoes in the field got easier — they had fun.” Call him to find out more about this scene.

Interns are crucial to our farms success. We have a range of people. Last year I worked with a 39 year old who wants to start her own farm. Several are late teens or early 20’s — and that’s really satisfying — because we’re getting the next generation of farmers farming.

“We’re in an evolutionary time with this farm in suburban Seattle here. People can still buy anything they want at the grocery store— the farmers market brings back a seasonal rhythm that connects people to local produce.

The farmer’s market where we sell our vegetables can be the first time someone actually sees fresh produce.”

What else do you want me to focus on to tighten up this story?
SUMMER RUN FARM DRAFT
For Jessica Editorial Review.

Cathryn at Summer Run Farm: Strong smart woman who is building community and bringing pleasure to herself and birth to fields that have laid fallow for a generation.

The row crops are all organic and what you'd expect from this post modern farmer. She has done her time teaching and thought-- well-- its a short life-- and I'd rather be outside. Farming satisfied needs she had that couldn't be met with other people's children-- teaching them was good work, important.

So this is her baby-- 20 acres minus the mule. She bought out a man who has been meditating about farming -- but not plowing the land-- for a fair price.

"There are not that many pieces of land left -- 20 acres here is the size I wanted. I did a lot of research finding this place. Then I had to do a lot more once I found it to make sure I could build a barn and my home on it."

The land sits in the Snoqualmie River flood plain. Her land has a creek that once was just ditches running through it. The ditches were built over time with the first settlers making arrangement with each other to clear out some of the water -- the ever present ingredient to all the land out here next to the river.

Ditches hold a certain amount of responsibility to people living with them.

You and I can drive by a thousand acres in the Snoqualmie River Valley and see flat land, farms housing creeping in here and there-- but we seldom give ditches or old creeks a second thought.

Ditches were created to help communicate the flow of water -- especially too much water-- back and forth across the dairies that were here when the first Dutch and Scandinavian settlers came out and buiilt their cow barns.

“When I decided I wanted this parcel of land for my farm, I also contacted Stewardship Partners to tell them I wanted the land certified “Salmon Safe”

The team from Stewardship Partners came out and set out some goals to get my farm in shape for salmon safe certification — including ripping out the invasive blackberry and grass that is everywhere— and planting natives like alder and fast growing shrubs that will shade out the grass along the creek/ditch so that natives can get established again.

“Stewardship and organic certification is not based on good wishes. Salmon safe means my farm is recognized for having good general land stewardship. On the ground— this Salmon Safe certification means some tangible improvements for the farm and watershed. For instance, by working with Stewardship Partners and King Conservation District, I was able to get a road that used to run right beside a fish bearing creek removed — and built a new road that is up to code farther away from my creek. It helped to have King CD and Stewardship Partners working with me on this plan for my farm — got me through reviews with King County government that I couldn’t have managed or would have been more difficult on my own.
That old road was eroding the creek bank, spilling run off from the farm into water— all kinds of stuff that isn’t happening now that we moved the road away from the side of the creek.”

What does that mean? Organic certification and salmon safe farming merge to include crop rotation, cover crops, and participating in long term planning that trades places of crops one after another. So if I plant root crop in one part of my 10 acres, I don’t plant root crop there next year. Some crops — like potatoes need longer rotations. I don’t plant potatoes in the same land for seven years.”

“This year I will plant seven of my 20 acres. A part of it needs to be that way for cover crop and rotation of crops. It’s not like you just say “I’m going to change the soil structure and poof! It is done. You can damage the soil by overtilling. You start seeing the loss of topsoil. Over cultivation leads to killing off— pulverizing beneficial insects. So organic farmers like me use disc or spader, s tine cultivation, harrows — tools that are not damaging. Irrigation is another tool for good stewardship because drip tape or having crops that you aren’t watering at all is important. For instance, my melons, winter squash, and potatoes didn’t get watered at all last year.”

Baerwald’s Summer Run is joining forces with two other women farmers in the Carnation area to expand their Community Supported Agriculture together. Their CSA serves Seattle three times a week with deliveries around the city.

“I found some fellow farmers who aren’t really competitive and are similar to me in commitment level — hard workers all. So the three of us have put together a plan to complement each other— growing a diverse number of crops for our CSA boxes. Of course, we all grow some of the same crops because farming has risks— you can’t tell if your crop is going to grow for sure— and so having another farmer grow kale for instance guarantees that we’ll have it in the box for our customers when they expect to see it.”

The learning curve for farming is ongoing even for someone like Baerwald who has been farming for several years. “I think being a farmer means you have to do an internship with people you hire to come out and fix things. IF I hire someone to fix my tractor, I need to learn what that person is working on. You can be respectful and humble and not walk off when they come to the farm to fix whatever you need fixing— they become your teacher. If I ask a guy to come out and fix my tractor, I ask them “Please teach me what you know” so I don’t have to pay someone to come out and fix it next time.

Stewardship Partners is going to help restore the creek that was a ditch so it is cooler for whatever fish live there. Name of creek?

Greenhouse, cloches, and barns made of storage units for now.

Well drilled to give her fresh water.

Animals that live -- coyotes, bears, elk, deer all come to visit. Geese in the field, lots of birds coming through all year. Compensatory storage for any of her farm animals.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Happy Mountain Panda Mini Cattle

Dick http://www.minicattle.com/index.cfm?select=developepanda

To find the last cattle ranch in Covington Washington you have to drive into — not through a huge suburban development. Happy Mountain Mini Cattle’s six acre “ranch” is surrounded-- tucking themselves in on over 30 acres, Dick and his wife Arlene and family are the last vestiges of rural farm life in Kent Washington.

This farm is small by design. Dick and Arlene grow mini cattle-- and have been growing their own small cattle for over 30 years.

How did he start farming? "My wife said-- I grew up on a farm in Snohomish County-- and I want our kids to grow up on a farm, too." She wanted the farm as context for learning how to work.

"We started the industry-- with hereforts and angus. We lasted a few years at another farm near here. Then finally we got taxed out. We started selling five acre lots off when we need to-- finally ended up with just 5 acres -- and decided it was time to move here."

I can tell you that all it took to get this farm with our mini cattle was a trip to England. They have over 850 breeds of cattle over there. And they aren't big cows. They don't have the room. And there they were --
we found original stock for the mini cattle we grow."
"Did you know why? Well it was really a practical matter. The cattle in England were grown on small lots-- no more than 5 acres. So having small animals was really livestock efficient."

And this is our niche business. We started with small cows-- different breeding techniques to get smaller and smaller cattle.

Why does Dick and Arlene's trademarked Mini cattle look so different from the cattle we call American Angus and Herefords?

“Well-- the American Cattle started with the same stock that came from England -- short cows. But instead of keeping the cows small-- cattle breeders made them bigger and bigger.

Cattle here in America could get bigger and bigger because we didn't have to be so concerned about feed- it was subsidized with public grazing rights across the West.

After WWII -- beef producers realized they had an opportunity to feed all these new veterans returning from the war-- and making babies.

But America is changing again. People are living in smaller and smaller spaces. And there is growing concern about the harm caused by cattle overgrazing America's public lands run by BLM and Forest Service.

Now America is beginning to look and feel like England -- with higher density and less space to grow livestock.

So mini cattle make sense for more people today.”

Dick knows his business. “There are 6 niche markets for our mini cattle:

1. Breeders
2. Show
3. Minimilker
4. Pet
5. Organic Beef
6. Farm grown grass fed beef

So far we've developed 18 breeds. And we're involved in marketing and selling semen, embryos, breeding stock-- everything you'd see with the bigger American cattle.

There was no registry for our mini cattle. So we started "International Cattle Breeder Registry" to establish Animal pedigrees. We now have over 34,000 registered worldwide.

Today we have the largest website for cattle.

And probably the smallest parcel of land. Six acres we own -- and we lease the rest from Puget Power & Light. So we have 36 acres to work.

The power company doesn't want to develop it. So we keep some of it fenced off and wild -- as a buffer.

But here we have all this land and little cattle-- almost 50 here today-- with different breeds.”

What practices do you keep to mitigate mud and manure?

"Well-- we have smaller hoof size -- and they are gentler on the land as a result. The impact on the pasture is less when you see the mini cattle. We have some mud in the feeding area but otherwise significantly more feed efficient. There is also less damage to trees, and because the mini cattle are lighter impacts on the ground we see more wildlife and more species. We don't have any big herds."

We've taken some pasture and fenced it off so no one gets in but wildlife. We have deer. opposums. squirrels, coyotes, blue birds, blue jays, hawks and eagles. Because we have three areas set aside for wildlife, we have quite a nice buffer for them in the midst of this big suburb.

How much do animals eat and poop? Where does the land drain to? What do you eat?

Dick said "They're all pets. Sell when 4 months of age. We deliver our mini cattle all over the world."

“ I don't have an exact measure of how much they poop. But we scoop up all the manure -- once or twice a day. Composts over there on the hill when it gets to be a pile 12 feet high we move it out over in back and let it sit for 2 years.

It is great for flowers- and we get master gardeners coming by to dig it up and carry home.”

UNCOVERED POOP!

Three generations growing cattle.

“Our son Mike and and daughter Michele run Happy Mountain Cattle Ranch every day now. And my grandson is helping out when he is not in college. He is learning business right now and working with his Dad.” Said the proud Grandfather.

Dick has worked as a college professor at Highline CC-- teaching entrepeneurship, salesmanship, and how to start a business. He taught for 34 years, juggling the ranch and mini cattle with his wife and raising a family. And he started 16 different businesses!

His business background and teaching has helped Dick protect his work-- he has trademarked all his brands of mini cattle. coming up with products that no one else has in the world.

Where is he headed with the little cattle business? “We hope to keep it in the family-- and have the grandchildren celebrate a third generation of mini cattle.”
Photo of Andrew with wife and kids. Stout has all photos we need
Picture of the Snoqualmie buffer
Plants growing

DRAFT Full Circle Farms interview with Farmer Andy Stout.

Full Circle Farms

Full Circle Farm is the first farm in Washington State to earn Salmon Safe Certification.
The Farm achieved this Certification on July 9, 2004.

Farmer Andy Stout has a farm and a river runs through it-- literally -- several months every winter

“We're basically sitting in the Snoqualmie flood plain. The river comes in every winter and sits on saturated ground until later in spring."

Stout and his team work the soil, digging in organic compost for fertilizer, seed and a lot of sweat and toil-- turning the fertile muddy farm land into a cornucopia of organic vegetables and herbs.

Full Circle Farm's one of the largest community supported agriculture (CSA) in America -- with 5000 people subscribing to a year of abundance from Alaska (via mail order), Oregon, and all over Washington. Full Circle Farms now has CSA drop offs in over a hundred locations. Full Circle brand brown boxes are filled with beautiful color and great taste: carrots, beets, rainbow kale, root crops like potatoes and carrots, and spinach to name a few.

And Stout’s green acres are growing abundantly in strong sales, too. In addition to the CSA, Full Circle’s delivering organic vegetables to 50-60 restaurants, 15 grocery stores, 15 farmer’s markets, and five wholesale customers.

With annual sales over $5 million, Full Circle manages to grow crops nearly year round thanks to the Seattle area’s mild climate. Stout has 175 of 300 acres in production in 2008.

Each winter the land rests, each spring the snows in the Cascades flood, and the Snoqualmie River pours up up and over its banks onto Full Circle's hundred acres.

The river laughs at our human boundaries, renaming places in a flash. Or so it seems. Come by Stout's Full Circle Farm in early February and you might call it Stout's Pond for all the water that sits on the field-- inviting blue heron, eagle, redtail and ducks to search for food in the large new water body left by Snoqualmie's periodic floods. The only thing missing is the old man and a fishing pole.

Keeping water clean is at the heart of what makes Full Circle Farms vegetables to great. Griffin Creek runs along the north side of the farm. Farmer Andy set aside land along the Griffin Creek for a conservation easement. A berm was built up to give the salmon stream -- with wild coho and pinks running up it getting retrenched banks and woody debris added.

The farm then replanted the berm with willows.

“We set aside set aside another 4 acres near the Snoqualmie River that Stewardship Partners is replanting so we have a good size buffer.

Jones & Jones, a landscape architecture firm volunteered two members of their team who designed an interpretive trail along Griffin Creek -- all the way out to the new native plants that are along the river bank. We had volunteers from Stewardship Partners and Starbucks come out and help clear out the invasives and start planting natives along the berm we built. The trail is a five year work in progress— but over time— people coming to visit us can take a nature walk from Full Circle barns out to the edge of the river. ”

“We installed a fish screen and new pump in the main irrigation line coming out of Griffin Creek. Water is pumped 100 feet from the creek— and fish can’t get through the screen so they can’t get sucked into the pipe anymore. That project alone was $13,000 cost sharing.”

Water is kept clean through out Farmer Andy's operation.

Here are some highlights:

Irrigation is being built into the ground, cutting down on disturbance of soil moving portable irrigation pipes.

Almost all of the tractors and other gear uses biodiesel to cut down on toxic waste and oil dripping into water.

Farmer Stout is building a new compost building this year that is covered -- complete with forced air to give him completely usable organic fertilizer in 6-8 weeks.

The farm’s 300 acres is a rich reservoir for biodiversity -- from signature blue heron, eagles nests -- a good sign for plenty of salmon. And lots of smaller wildlife calls the farm home, too. In addition to ducks using the farm for a base when the flood waters have made a pond on part of Stout’s property, kingfisher, even cougar have been sighted along the creek. In addition to the big animals and birds, freshwater mussels, caddis flies and other favorite fish bugs are abundant.

All this biodiversity occurs because farmers along Griffin Creek have changed the way they work with the land— and logging practices upstream have had to mitigate some of the damage done to stream banks, clearcuts.

Cultivation practices have changed on the farm to reduce run off and erosion of soil.

The main buildings are greenhouses and a couple big barns have gutters and drains that have gravel under them-- allowing the natural filtering of land to help keep water clean.

You put it all together and you get this: fresh and delicious organic food for your table that sustains local ecosystems, too.

Full Circle has grown and benefited from the rich natural resources left in the Snoqualmie River Valley. The land benefits from being a dairy for years before Stout transitioned it to organic certified farming. The farm does a big part of composting cow manure from area dairies— hauling over 100 dump trucks a year of crop growing composted cow pies.

Best management practices appear to thrive on this farm. Manure is hauled in from a nearby dairy and composted, Griffin Creek's berm has built up and protected the soil from erosion, and a deep understanding of living with a big river has paid off for Farmer Andy, the land and wildlife he enjoys working.

“It is exciting to make a difference on this land with our family farm. We have lots of work left to do.” Stout and his team mentor people interested in going organic — including some local Viet Namese Hmong farmers wanting to go organic.

Stout’s growing visible in the politics of food regionally, too. He was recently appointed by Washington State to a USDA planning commission to help direct what food policy will look like in the years to come. “ Imagine if USDA policy promotes fresh local fruits and vegetables to be purchased by local schools. We’d make a world of difference in the health of thousands of kids right here in our community.”

With two kids of their own, Andy and his wife Wendy have a big stake in making sure all our kids grow up with healthy affordable organic food.

Full Circle’s Stout family promises many years of cultivation ahead.
South 47 Farm: Dr. Maze is in!

Roger Calhoon 425 869 9777 runs South 47 Acre Farm

Calhoon has great photos.

The Doctor is in. DR. MAZE is actually Roger Calhoon, farm manager for South 47 Acres Farm.

And he is a real doctor— but of biological sciences — not medicine. A former biochemist, Calhoon quit working for a high stress biotech in suburban Seattle for a new life growing a farm back in 1999.

Dr. Maze’s work builds all year toward fall. Imagine if your life’s work each year on your farm culminates in a corn maze with thousands of kids and parents roving through it.

“I never saw kids come up and hug me for a job before.” The pleasure he has putting the maze together is matched by community involvement just about year round.

What a life! Where is this place that has everything right?

The corn maze is what Roger Calhoon and the folks at South 47 Acre Farm live for each year. Every fall, the man who's Washington license plate say Dr. Maze hosts hundreds of kids every weekend from urban areas surrounding this suburban Seattle farm. And every fall, Roger Calhoon is so happy-- just to give these kids and their folks a place to explore farming and have fun.

South 47 Acre Farm -- a living breathing conservation project on the edge of suburban Woodinville in what is formally known as the King County Agricultural District.

South 47 Acre Farm gets its name after it's measure. The parcel runs 47 acres along the edge of a busy road near Woodinville WA.

The land has a great history. Japanese farmed this land before WWII. When the war began, most Japanese had their roots ripped out from under them and forced into internment camps for being Japanese. Indians worked the land before that-- but it is unclear what purpose.

Dairies took over after the war. At one point there were many dairies in the Samamish River extending north up into Woodinville. Now only a few remain.

The land where Roger's family found peace and harmony is tied to a cooperative dream with Claire Thomas and the Root Connection -- one of the first organic farmers in Samamish River watershed.

Roger and several of Root Connection’s customers pooled money to help her Claire launch the first community supported agriculture (CSA) in the area. One thing led to another and the farmer who owned the Xmas tree farm north of Claire's Root Connection sold some land. After a few years they had assembled the South 47 Acres that became their collective name.

Now the cooperative is what Roger runs- often working 50-60 hours a week with a team of 4 or five farmers.

And he couldn't be happier. "My wife likes me a lot better now" — I suffered from bad boss syndrome in my biotech science work.”

“So the long and short is the cooperative put together a few parcels adjacent to each other and came up with the 47 acres that makes this a vibrant farm today.

Well the farm has been a big hit with the larger community-- and reason for it is the Farm's focus on creating community and teaching through experiences on the farm.”

“We rent space to a horse owner who teaches kids how to ride horses -- and the twelve horses have a sizable riding loop around the property.

"We want to create a four generation farm in five years", says Roger. "Farming is always a little dicey, but I think we have a good plan for this land going forward. We lease some land to The Herb Farm, and another few acres to the chef at Trellis -- another upscale restaurant in Kirkland where the chef prides himself on growing his own food." The Herb Farm and Trellis are gourmet restaurants that thrive on very fresh quality food.

"And then we cultivate the rest of the land. It is working for me on a personal side. My wife likes me more --because I have never been happier. I never had a job where kids come up and hug me for a J.O.B. Families bring their friends here, and word of mouth keeps growing. And this is just what we want to encourage. We are in the midst of creating a four generation farm here that brings people and their families back again and again. Kids, grandkids, great grandkids — "

“Small farms like ours will only survive if people think they’re worth keeping.”

Calhoon’s team hosts a Farm Tots every week in summer —

“We give Moms a chance to come out with their kids and get a hay ride. The parents get “Frequent Farmer Cards” and the kids get Farmer Roger and Farmer Everett Dolls. No kidding! This isn’t just a grocery store — but a way of life that gets into kids lives. And that’s the gratifying part for me and South 47 Farm,” says Roger.

Plans for the future include developing another farmer’s market, figuring out some more marketing to Seattle area. “We have to figure out what we can accomplish. We have to balance the plans for future with limited resources.”

The farm has greened itself up over the past 10 years, too. Organic farming practices are complemented by a biodiesel tractor that tills the fields. Buffers have been planted and kept up along the Sammamish River at the farm’s eastern edge.

“We get neighbor’s compost from their horses and cows. Add that to a lot of yard leaves and our soil gets better every year.”

The farm's new life after years of laying fallow has paid off for people, plants and wildlife. “We get blue herons here looking for frogs and other critters to eat. I see ferrets or weasels — can’t tell for sure, voles of course, and coyotes come through. Deer run along Samamish River trail. We get pheasants nesting here in the far fields each spring, too”

Roger's resident birdwatcher sighted an array of birds on South 47 Acres on day last fall.

Not just one or two, either:

Red-tailed Hawk--3
Killdeer--4
Anna's Hummingbird--1
Violet-green Swallow--25
Barn Swallow--150
American Crow--4
European Starling--40
Common Yellowthroat--2
Savannah Sparrow--20
Song Sparrow--1
Lincoln's Sparrow--4
White-crowned Sparrow--20
Red-winged Blackbird--1
House Finch--35
American Goldfinch--40
House Sparrow--15

These birds and wildlife have a home in perpetuity. “The County bought the development rights — so this farm is going to stay farm forever. This constrains the amount of development we can do here. In addition to the wildlife, Roger and South 47 Acres raises goats, 30-40 chickens for eggs, and the horse riding lessons take up the rest of the room on his farm.

"I work with Rob and his team of three farmers. It works out that I start planting and he finishes. We'll have 60,000 transplants in March. What kind? Lots of pumpkins and winter squash. And we have a big p patch here that brings in residents from all around us. In 2007 we had over 86 plots— just a great group of folks that add a lot to the farm’s mission. In fact we had to stop advertising for the p patches — there is a waiting list now. But this is what I want to nourish here — a place for people to encourage their inner farmer— especially for people who don’t have their own place.”

And the abundance this past year bodes well for this new one: over 250 different kinds of produce -- a dozen different kind of cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, big fat juicy tomatoes, red, green, and butter lettuces. And corn of course. Lots of corn.

What’s next for South 47 Farm? “We’re working with community college people, Lake Washington Voc Tech, Cub Scouts— we have people who grow food in the p patches to feed homeless and poor people at food banks. What it gets down to is tasting the food. If a kid comes here with her Mother and gets to pick a fresh berry off a vine, eat a tomato they pick right in the field— it tastes so fresh and good. That’s why we’re here— to connect the future generations to the importance of growing local food.”

The End.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Pat Cosgrove
43017 234th Pl SE
Enumclaw WA

Newauken Creek's Chinook, coho, sockeye, and chum salmon as well as winter steelhead have been observed spawning through it.

The Enumclaw plateau stretches below Mount Rainier's belly, a sprawling mass of rural homes on farms, and dense housing in Enumclaw and Auburn. And salmon find there way home here every year.

Long before white settlers invaded Indian land, the Newauken Creek and its main tributaries that empty into the Green and Duwamish Rivers carried salmon. Newauken means "gently flowing waters" according to one translation.

Before logging, salmon ran up hill, through deep forest, to the headwaters in the Cascades where they spawned and created one of the richest salmon habitats in mid Puget Sound.

The Newauken Creek still carries some salmon, but the trees are all gone. Once the logging companies had clearcut the plateau, farmers moved in and started settlements. Dairies grew and prospered. The milk flowed, the buttern churned, cheese made. Manure flowed, too. And the creek life suffered.

Salmon are running strong still-- in large part thanks to public salmon restoration projects. Education campaigns to clean water in rural areas has helped as well.

One of the Newauken Creek's best neighbors is Pat Cosgrove, horse owner and nature lover. She has improved her small piece of land for salmon's benefit, through proper drains around her horse barn, native plantings, and encouraging wildlife to prosper.

Pat Cosgrove has bought 5 acres from a farmer in Enumclaw fourteen years ago. She moved from a neighborhood in north Seattle to get some fresh air and raise horses. The land is filling in with houses after all that time, but Enumclaw still has a rural feeling where Cosgrove lives.

Her family includes a Lusitano horse named Rosa, a little pony to keep her horse company, and her ever present fetching border collie "Name"

Pat's small barn would whistle it is so clean. She has big French drains that collect rainwater around the barn and keep the area dry.

Her 30' x 60' big fenced area has a bed of gravel. "Sand pulverizes under the horse's foot and begins to hold water-- which is the biggest problem here on my land. A good part of the back is a winter wetland. "

For some people this winter wetland would be a pain to work woith, or better fill in so that she could use it all year. But Pat has always had two goals for this land.

I've wanted horses, and to promote wildlife. We planted dogwood, spruce, other trees along the property line to encourage cover for birds and little animals. Bald eagles fly by daily. They are scavenging this big green space for food. And my next door neighbor has a pond in the wettest part of the year-- so I see lots of ducks, vultures, and hawks. " Cosgrove points out the big swales on the eastern edge of her land that serve as a buffer to filter water and keep it clean.

"My neighbor's got Neuwauken Creek running along the edge of my property . There are salmon coming up that creek still, and I like to think they'll keep coming if we take care of this land."

Middle of winter when Seattle is at her grayest and wettest, or so it seems after months of the same all winter, Cosgrove anticipates the return of frogs. "It is quiet now, -- but in the past in February is a big chorus. And you have to watch it coming out of my home-- I'll have frogs on every window, flowerpot and door. I even get them hanging out under the towel I keep by my back door to wipe the dog off with-- they hop up and hold on at night.

"This past year has been different. I've seen less than ten frogs all year." Cosgrove and many other people are concerned about what that means. " Is it a seasonal problem? Or did something happen to their habitat around here to diminish the number of frogs so quickly?"

In the mean time, Cosgrove says she has lots of other company. "I have possum, skunk, and as you can see from the little hills and holes in the gorund-- lots of voles. The voles bring coyotes, and the raptors overhead for lunch. I bought a hawk plattform in the back along the edge of my pasture, but so far have seen mostly crows roosting there. They hang out there and in the big cottonwood. One of my favorites is visits from violet green swallows that follow me on my walks with my horse. They love it when we are out in the pasture because it stirs up bugs."

Her big field is full of native plants and plenty of blue sky in summer. Of course there have been disruptions. Cosgrove and her husband split up years ago. I looked at this place -- the barn, the house, animals and felt overwhelmed. But staying here was the best decision I made. I just knew if I sold the farm, I would be living in a crappy slum in Auburn, suffocating from being back in city living. Out here I can breathe, and enjoy all that nature provides. It isn't fancy, but this is home. "

Looking through Cosgrove's bird list, it is easy to see her home is shared by many: American bitterns, Great Blue Heron, the requisite Canada goose, mallard, American widgeon, black turkey vultures, black shouldered kites, California quail, Anna's Hummingbird, common snipe, Downy woodpecker, northern flicker, common raven, lots of ring necked pheasant and northern bobwhite are a few of the diverse birds that call Cosgrove's five acres home. " I even have a merlin on my list" - Pat says with a hint of one who know the magic of being one with nature.

"I've seen two skunks fighting out here. That isn't pretty."

Today, she takes Rosa along with her friend's pack mules and goes on hikes into backcountry around Mount Rainier and a number of weekend hikes. "I love living here in the country-- and being so close to that big mountain. It is so peaceful -- and our horses love packing into the back country."

Life is a good mix right now. And Pat's grateful everything has worked out so well.
Alayne Blickle, Horses for Clean Water Maple Valley Washington

Horses for Clean Water, now in its 8th year, offers people across our country ways to care for horses that improves the farm they live on and reduces non-point pollution. Techniques such as mud management and composting manure offer a way to care for animals that benefit the animals, the farm, the owner, the community and the environment.

If horses have a fairy Godmother– she would be Alayne Blickle.

Tucked away on a back road in Maple Valley Washington on 20 acres of pasture and forest you will find the headquarters for Blickle (pronounced Blick LEE) — and her husband Matt.

Blickle is horse lover, teacher, and a passionate advocate for healthy equine practices.

Blickle is also a force for change in the way small farmers work with their land, their horses and neighbors.

She is the go to expert in Seattle, and western US for educating horse owners about sustainable ways to care for horses through her business Horses for Clean Water. And you can see that with her husband Matt that the horses are her family.

She has a straight forward routine that promotes a healthy ecosystem and benefits people who own horses, too.

Why go to all the trouble? What's a little horse manure on a big 20 acre place in rural Maple Valley?

“I found out it is more convenient for me - and keeps my horses healthy when I made a simple mud and manure management plan,” says Blickle.

Acts of love get expressed on Blickle’s 20+ acres simply: clean up horse manure, carry water runoff away from where horses live.

What got her started working with horses? “I’ve loved horses since I was a kid. I feel like it is genetic — I just have horses in my bones. “ She says she has run into other horse people who say the same thing.

To look at her dressed in jeans and her horse riding gear, a well worn Carhartt jacket you'd think Alayne comes from third generation Washington cowgirls and boys. Say hello Chicago!

"When I was a kid I knew I wanted to ride horses. My folks basically said -- sure-- if you earn the money. So this city girl would go to work after school to raise money for my riding lessons. It was the best investment I ever made. I learned to ride horses- better yet -- it confirmed my passion for horses, and has led to years of happiness.”

What are the practical steps to help keep her horses healthy and happy?

Mud and manure management is as different as the land you have your horse living on. But there are get down to a few basic steps. Rain gutters, gravel, French drain and slope.

Recipe for Healthy Horses:

1. Manure composting, and keeping water clean.

2. Add about six inches of gravel and rake twice daily.

3. Add exercise, and good food.

There you have it. A recipe for clean healthy horse life in King County.

Horses happy. Streams and runoff from Blickle's place cleaner. Streams cleaner, salmon have a better chance of surviving.

It is a beautiful world.

Alayne and Matt decided rural Seattle was going to be home so they could have animals and some peace and quiet.

Alayne has a special relationship with her horses

"My family had no interest in horses to do with horses-- I grew up in suburban Chicago IL. I had to do some serious lobbying to even get riding lessons." I had to pay for it all, too.

I rode at riding horses-- I rode from 5th grade to college. I had wonderful lesson horses.

I rode at riding academies, rode wonderful riding horses that were already broke and educated horses.”


She and Matt do lots of riding together. “ Matt helps with chores and riding -- Matt and I do everything together-- we compete in reigning-- at national levels. He is a a national judge at the NRHA Nat'l Reigning Horse Assoc -- he is a judge which is hard to get to-- highly skilled.

Alayne and Matt have integrated lots of wild areas into their land. " We have wild area-- 5 acres logged at turn of century, replanted, planted some more natives and trees every year. When we bought this property we went to WSU and took a Forest Stewardship Plan. Public Benefit Rating System-- King Co program-- reduces taxes in exchange for not developing it.

We really enjoy the wildlife-- 12-15 elk, coyotes, deer once in a while-- we can recongnize the difference. Horses don't care-- the elk really devastate everything-- we have to take horses off pasture a few months early because the elk live in the pasture-- the elk run it down below three--

We have a pair of eagles or ospreys all summer, a lot of hawks and birds of all kinds. We have barn swallows, violet green swallows-- great for insect control. We also have a female bear in the woods since we've lived in our other house.

"She is a good bear-- she's very afraid of people and taiught all of her cubs that-- I have seen her in our pasture, in the woods-- she sends the cubs up the tree and then -- I haven't seen her. That is the great part of this land: we have 164 acres of state land right next door."

Once I was working on part of the pasture and feeding horses. A bull elk and a couple other elk showed up not 50 yards away. The bull elk has 8 point antlers-- he was in back out there with one of his young ones-- usually they leave when the sun is up. He was trying to lose his antlers-- I went out to be within 25 yards of him -- he basically gave them to me-- flipped the antler off right in front of me.”

What has been the biggest surprise on the Blickle ranch? "It is really neat seeing the horses watch the elk-- they seem to be calmed by the elk-- they enjoy and are curious about the elk-- when they are in the front yard-- no one is afraid.

Coyote --We call him Limpy-- I've seen him several times-- and he was in the front pasture once and then in early summer-- I was going to ride in the arena and my dogs staret barking at my rose bushes -- Limpy is in the bushes -- he is in the bushes just yipping. I don't want them to get used to humans-- so I thought I shout and flush him out-- push him out -- we have back pasture gates open so elk can get out.

I felt like someone was watching me and I turned around and he was right there staring at me. They are quite curious about it all-- they're hunting mice."

In addition to great wildlife habitat, Blickle has greened up her farm pasture and horse care. “For the horses --we've stopped using bedding, and that substantially reduced stall waste-- so we use rubber matts. Wood shavings have gone way up-- high cost of horse bedding-- we try to teach people to not use shavings, they don't compost or absorb things. Pellets are really absorbent."

Blickle dreams include keeping Horses For Clean Water-- want to get a PhD and work on water conservation , irrigated pastures, thinking of moving to a dryer area — inland Washington.

We are really serious about competing and reigning so we want to go to a dryer area which is still in the Northwest.

What has been the biggest surprise on the Blickle ranch? "It is relaly neat seeing the horseswwatch the elk-- they seem to be calmed by the elk-- they enjoy and are curious about the elk-- when they are in the front yard-- no one is afraid.

I felt like someone was watching me and I turned around and he was right there staring at me. They are quite curious about it all-- they're hunting mice."

If she could click her heels and get three wishes Alayne would like:

“I'd like a covered arena, more sunshine. That's not being very accepting of the environment and where we are-- I am pretty happy with our place and what we've done. We've accomplished what we have hoped to-- bringing it from a place of point source pollution-- mud and manure and no pasture. Used to be mud and rocks and tansy wragwort-- it was like a tansy ragwort farm. Makes it really to take care of all of it now that we have practices in place.”

“ As an environmental educator, it is exciting time-- there is no shortage of work-- it is interesting the -- people who aren't even aware of horses and clean water-- water is finite and precious. Things have changed so much in the past 15 years.”

It isn't going to be there unless we all change. Stop non point, organic production, reduce pesticides--

The work is there but it is hard to get funding for it.

The work is getting to it.”

And the Blickle’s home for horses, wildlife, and teaching make all the work worthwhile.
April and Mike LaLande run a growing small business near Issaquah Washington distributing garden supplies, fertilizer, and other chemicals to nurseries and garden centers across the country.

And so spray for weed management, heavy chemical pest control, and fertilizers are abundant at home on their 7 1/2 acres, barn, two horses and home sweet home on top of a hill, right?

Not a chance. The LaLandes have created a nature sanctuary for their horses and a lot of wildlife. And they manage to do it all with very few or no pesticides and chemicals at all.

“When you work full time, have horses and you love being outdoors like we do, you have to find a way to balance everything out.

“When we first got started with the horses here, we knew about integrated pest management practices which help eliminate disease carrying pests such as certain flies and mosquitoes and harmful soil and pasture pests. We are a chemical free farm, so we use methods such as 1) attracting natural predators by providing food, water and shelter. Some of the ones we work on attracting are swallows and other birds, bats, frogs and snakes. 2) buying and releasing predators such as fly predators (nocturnal wasps that eat fly larvae) 3) using biological traps, lures etc. The second thing we do is to continually build up our soil by adding our own compost and other organic amendments. This frees up a lot of time and money dealing with manure piles, having to use chemical fertilizers to get the grass to grow, by not having to manage horse care with insecticides. Since our property is basically a large aquifer recharge area this is good for the environment too. “
And the payoff is not just in chore efficiency -- a crucial element to juggling work and home. While there is quote a distance between them and their next human neighbors, their home is full of native plants and animals -- by design rather than accident.

“We are fortunate to have a lot – Bear, Cougar, Bobcat, Coyote, Elk, Deer, some great birds….but I have to say my favorite are the Robins. My little story is that when we moved to this property 8 years ago it was REALLY quiet. We had the elk (up to 50 at a time) visit and some occasional large birds like pileated woodpeckers.”

April looked around their new home and wondered what they had gotten into-- “It took me a while to realize there were no robins, chickadees or other small birds hanging out which is why to me it was so quiet. I remember thinking, wow this is a mini “Silent Spring” that first year and realized that the former owners used a lot of pesticides and herbicides because they didn’t want any bugs or weeds around--all the birds were apparently hanging out elsewhere. Ironically, there WERE a lot of pests like carpenter ants, crane fly larvae, etc., but none of their natural predators. So we used some natural controls like nematodes, over seeded the pastures, good old fashioned fly swatters and patiently waited. Now we have tons of birds, and every spring when we see the robins feasting on grubs and earthworms and singing their little songs, it makes me really happy.”

So how many chemicals do they use in keeping their horses? “The only chemicals we use on our horses are de-wormers, which are dissipated by the composting process. We don’t use any for horsekeeping practices. Anyone can keep their animals and property this green with a little effort.”

The land where LaLandes’ home and barn sits is at the top of a hill that slopes down into a second growth forest with 100 yards of pasture in between. Where they live is wet more than most places in Seattle. The big trees call in the rain and it lingers on moss, tall timbers, salal, and oregon grape. And blackberries, of course. Their land had been logged back at the turn of the 20th Century, and old growth stumps going back 600-800 year old trees sprinkle the second growth forest that sits at the bottom of their hill.

And looks can be deceiving. A lot of restoration and native plant buffers has gone into the ground that create natural sponges for rains and habitat for animals.

Wow, we’ve done a lot, but it’s a little hard to notice since it all mostly looks like ‘native’ land. A few off the top of my head are:

First, we started making a buffer zone 20-40 feet wide between the wild area and pastures/house by removing 300-500 alder saplings and replanting a large variety of native shrubs, trees and grasses and trimming or eradicating invasive weeds and blackberries.

Then we moved 5 or 6 old growth stumps that were in the pasture and not really being utilized to the buffer area with a big trackhoe – they are pretty heavily used now by wildlife.

One of the best things we did was working with King County DNR to design a forestry plan. Implemented a Forest Stewardship Plan for our property with the help of Kristi McClellan, a forester from King County DNR. From that we horse-logged eight logging trucks full of mature alder that were at the end of their life cycle and which had outgrown the conifers and were stunting them and making a really dark forest without much diversity. That was two years ago and the changes in the forest have been great. Many of the hemlock and Douglas fir trees have shot way up, the canopy is now multistoried with lots of great species of plants below. We’ve planted some trees – about 100, but mostly all the new undergrowth has come in on its own just by letting a little sunlight in.

In the process we created wildlife corridors for the large game in and around all of our human and horse areas.”

Are there quiet places that aren't cultivated to encourage wetlands, swampy areas?

So instead of clearcuts and grass fields LaLandes have cultivated a different yard -- “We devote about 1⁄2 of our property (7 1⁄2 acres) to native forest and vegetation. We do not have any wetlands on our property so we focus on wildlife enhancement areas.

Have your manure and weed management practices changed since you started keeping horses?

A little.

How? We have always composted our manure but have upgraded our composting system to be faster and to produce a better ‘finished product’. We have never used herbicides on this property; however we now occasionally use natural weed control recipes that we make up for the gravel areas. There are a few really invasive weeds (like Japanese Knotweed) creeping our way, so this may become a little more time consuming and challenging.



Do you have a favorite story about water on your land? No. There is no surface water, just rain, rain, rain!



How has your thinking about manure management, animal care evolved over the past ten years? A lot. We took some classes from the Conservation District and Horses For Clean Water when we first bought our property. These classes, lectures and farm tours have been an invaluable resource and have really changed my thinking about how to keep horses healthy in the Western Pacific Northwest. The concepts we’ve implemented for ‘sacrifice areas’, ‘manure management’ and ‘pasture management’ have really changed our horses and our land’s health for the better, I never realized how many benefits there are to doing these types of practices…anything from keeping your neighbors happy, to keeping the fish happy. I’d really encourage anyone with horses or livestock to take advantage of this wealth of free help and advice. Our area has changed so much lately, it’s nice to have some ways to positively impact and maybe counteract some of the negative impacts that all this growth brings.



Horses and rain equals one constant in King County. Mud. But Lalande has figure out a path of least resistance, and is philosophical about mud. Plus -- guess what? They don’t have it.

“Mud is the enemy for horse owners. Beside degrading the environment and making poor use and value of property, it is an incubator for many common bacterial and pathogenic problems that horse owners and vets spend many hours and dollars trying to fix. We don’t have it – which I think is amazing considering the rainfall we have. We manage to not have it by the bmp’s of keeping horses off saturated pasture, making the paddocks ‘mudless’, keeping enough forage available for the quantity of wildlife that’s in our area. It took a bit of expense to be mudless, but it has saved many hours of labor not having to deal with it. “

Is it a hassle to manage? Has mud and manure management gotten easier over time?

It is easy to manage. King Conservation District has many cost sharing programs and can help develop farm plans to help set up practices so management is pretty much painless.

What is next in April and Mike's thinking about their land? The question runs deep-- and to an unexpected place.

I think about protecting groundwater-- we are worried about it, and don’t think enough people ask how their livestock and farm practices harm it or protect it. Many farms have wells, or are close to areas where aquifer protection is critical to public health and clean water supplies – as hard as it is to clean up the sound…it will be much harder to clean up aquifers. I think that with some good education and incentives this potential liability could be turned into an asset – it would be great if farms could be ‘drinking water stewards’ by practicing good land management. Puget Sound clean up gets lots of attention. But we need to be concerned about what we’re let drain into the ground and deep into aquifers as well as what is going down the stream to the Snoqualmie and into the Sound.”
River Valley Farm
Fall City Washington

Here is your Goat Cheese making pop quiz:

1. Can you name the six dairy goat breeds in the US? There are six types of dairy goats that are recognized by the American Dairy Goat Association: Nubians, LaManchas, Alpines, Oberhaslis, Togenburgs, and Saanens. Throw in a couple yaks, a few Brown Swiss Dairy cows, a small herd of sheep and you have River Valley Farm of Fall City, Washington— the ultimate niche cheese maker in the Snoqualmie Valley.

Don’t forget “Woodstock” the riverine water buffalo. He basically started this dairy with his charismatic demeanor, attracting all the other animals at River Valley Ranch. OK— maybe with the help of Julie and Rod’s desire to try something new and different. How different? Formerly Regional Sales Managers for a southern real estate co. — Julie and Rod’s complete transformation with accents to expert Northwest cheese makers.

2. Do cows or goats make most of the milk in the world? The answer: goats!

3. Does mozzarella cheese originally get made from a) goat’s milk, b) cow’s milk or c) Water buffalo milk? Answer is c) water buffalo are milk source for mozzarella cheese first record of in 12th Century Italy.

4. What do you get when you cross a water buffalo with a Brown Swiss Milk Cow? Swissalo ? Get it?

The goats, yak, water buffalo, brown Swiss bovine and bah bah sheep herd all blend together under the guidance of gourmet cook Julie and her cheese maker. Julie ______ is the dynamo behind this growing dairy operation. After years of running a successful real estate company, she and her husband decided to break into something new and challenging: cheese making.

Most of us know that Carnation, Washington was the center of the dairy cow universe in Washington just a generation ago. But those days have gone. A few dairies remain— but Carnation is no longer the center of the diary universe. California is. And small cow milk dairies are scarce as sun in monsoon season around here.

Enter Julie and her dream of making the best cheeses in the Northwest, Goat cheese is the new gourmet food — fastest growing cheese in America according to the American Cheese Makers Assoication. River Valley Ranch Goat cheese’s rich creamy flavors being blended into everything imaginable — and River Valley Ranch has a range of goat cheese to meet anyone’s desire:

Did you know that goat cheese is the fastest selling cheese at local farmer’s markets in Seattle?

River Valley Farm-- Julie and Rod grew a few goats and liked iti so much they added a few more. Cheese has become the reason they live. Work never stops, and they like the pace.

And their farm in Fall City is just a start. Now they plan on getting 1000 goats to milk on a dairy farm in Orting with partner PCC Grocery store.

But for now there is plenty to keep them busy on their 10 acres in Fall City. They're building cheese caves into the side of the mountain behind their house. And you can find their cheese is sold at several farmers markets, Whole Foods, QFC, PCC and other top grocery stores.

The first few weeks Julie found herself trying to make cheese — with little success. The usual cooking technique — a little of this and two of that wasn’t working for this master chef from the South.

So she ended up doing what many great cooks do when frustrated time and again with gallons of wasted milk.

She followed the directions. And the result has been a number of exceptional flavored soft cheeses that has River Valley Ranch fans across the Seattle metro area.

Chevres are fussy cheeses. You have to cook the milk to just the right temperature. Then the bacteria gets added. Finally, the cheese chills out at 55 degrees. Raw milk ages between 45-55 degrees. And the cheese then sits for anywhere from 2 days to 6 months.

“We’ve got 48 girls milking”— Julie said about her goat operation. We got everybody’s birth pens and schedules marked so we know when they are going to give birth.

Trial and error has now given way to Taste and Delight for River Valley Farm’s thousands of customers.

“Now we have varieties of cheese that defy gravity they taste so different and good. We have chevres, we have a creation I call “Tipsy Cow” with a subtle wine skin around the cheese, I have created something I call Naughty Nellie— which has to be tried to understand, and Cherry and Walnut Goat Cheese log, Apricot & Almond Goat Cheese log, Rancher Rob’s Pepper Jack, and Fire Roasted Chevre. Every week I try out a little different flavor— just to see what happens— and discover new and interesting cheeses. This variety and the adventure of trying out new flavors is what makes life so interesting.”

River Valley Ranch is also starting work on a farm plan that King Conservation District has helped them create.

They are just starting out — and are learning about mud and manure management as well as how to handle compost and storm water coming off their barns.

“We are busy every day. Between our five boys and all the animals here we have a lot of work— but it makes me so glad we decided to make cheese and create food people enjoy, said Julie.
Mike Reynolds interview Enumclaw Cattle Company

Out in the rolling hills of Enumclaw -- up the hill from the winding Newauken Creek lies the most efficient cattle ranch in King County.

Run for over 30 years by Mike Reynolds -- attorney and cattle rancher raised 50 cattle a year for beef.

Reynolds owns 30 acres all together -- and to look at his place for the first time, the well cared for house and barns on the hill are beautiful red...

Reynolds moved here and bought ten acres 30 years ago. He knew he wasn't going to be a farmer in real life-- so he went to school and got a job as an attorney so he can pay for his passion raising cattle.

Over 30 years he has bought parcels of land that surrounded his home-- and now has the 30 acres that give his cattle plenty of room to move around.

There are four different areas divided up on his acreage --giving his cattle plenty of room. The maternity pasture has all the moms and calves . There is a sacrifice area, and off to the side in one barn an area where Mike's cattle have a chance to eat under one roof.

The creek on his property runs down to the White River -- and all his land is designed to drain through a number of swales.

With over 50 cattle, four barns, 30 acres -- how many people did he have on staff?

"I do all the care and management of my livestock on my own. I have developed some efficient ways to feed and care for the animals-- and I like the work. It balances out my work as a lawyer. I can raise all my cattle on this 30 acres-- and because the herd is right here in front of our home, it is the best kind of work. I 've done it for a while-- so that helps." Mike says with a smile.

The big man with a beautiful silk tie and suit and his barns, his cattle look like he could be on the cover of "Better Home and Cattle Barns" if there was such a magazine.

But looks can be deceiving. Is raising cattle an inherited gene? Did his love of farm life at Enumclaw Cattle Co. start with is Dad and Mom or earlier generations?

" My father delivered papers for a living. My Mother was a seamstress. We were poor-- and I moved around a lot as a kid. But I remember when I fell in love with farming. My folks had a place next to a dairy-- and I used to go over to the dairy and watch the farmer milk his cows. I loved it. I must have been 4 or 5 years old. I knew then that was what I wanted to be."

The journey to Enumclaw Cattle Co. took a while to achieve.

When I was on my own I penciled out a business plan and just couldn't get the numbers to make sense on my own. I didn't have any money, and credit wasn't going to happen. So I did the next best thing. I decided I would go to college and get a job that paid well enough for me to start a farm on the weekends and evenings."

Reynolds got into Notre Dame for law school, and ended up back in Enumclaw practicing law in the prosecutors office?

" I found out this 10 acre parcel of land and house -- which was really run down-- none of these barns were here-- and bought it with my savings from my law practice. Over the last thirty years I bought back pieces of the original farm that had been broken up and sold. So now I have all the land in front of our home to grow my cattle on." He has slowly added 3 barns and landscaped his yard with apple orchards and native plants. The farm property has a number of swales that run across it to act as a water filter, and keep the stream and rivers clean in the process.

Mike's works out his land so there are 1.5 acres per animal. There are 50 cattle in the herd, and of that 20 are mothers. The Heifers are replaced after they are sold for meat, he has a bull to grow new cattle, and that is it. The animals all stay at his farm the whole time they are alive, so he knows they are raised at the highest standards.

Looks like his dream has come true. He and his wife -- who works at another law firm in Enumclaw -- have put together a beautiful home and farm.

Mike Reynold's passion for farming extends beyond the bucolic Enumclaw countryside, the well kept red barns, the chickens running under foot and his new puppy to keep his family company.

The whole food chain with the Enumclaw Cattle Co. is as clean as you can get. "When I started raising beef cattle, I thought-- we ought to do this the right way. I wanted to be as green as possible, and so I researched ways to make cattle raising environmentally sound. Our beef are grass fed -- which is what they like to eat-- instead of corn which makes them fat and is tough for the ungulates to digest.

I also read enough about the antibiotic overdosing of beef cattle and dairy cows to know we simply had to cut them out -- stop using them with my herd.

"I decided we would not use any antibiotics with my cattle. And it really makes a difference. Whatever the cows eat or get in them is passed on to us. Do we really need to dose ourselves with antibiotics on top of all the other stuff in the environment? No-- there is enough of that stuff in the world.

And Reynold’s attention to treating his animals well has paid off. He is sold out every year for all his beef. And he has people just starting their own small farms buying his cattle for their starter kits. “This is a dream come true for me.”

Sunday, October 21, 2007

April and Mike LaLande run a growing small business near Issaquah Washington distributing garden supplies, fertilizer, and other chemicals to nurseries and garden centers across the country.

And so spray for weed management, heavy chemical pest control, and fertilizers are abundant at home on their 7 1/2 acres, barn, two horses and home sweet home on top of a hill, right?

Not a chance. The LaLandes have created a nature sanctuary for their horses and a lot of wildlife. And they manage to do it all with very few or no pesticides and chemicals at all.

“When you work full time, have horses and you love being outdoors like we do, you have to find a way to balance everything out.

“When we first got started with the horses here, we knew about integrated pest management practices which help eliminate disease carrying pests such as certain flies and mosquitoes and harmful soil and pasture pests. We are a chemical free farm, so we use methods such as 1) attracting natural predators by providing food, water and shelter. Some of the ones we work on attracting are swallows and other birds, bats, frogs and snakes. 2) buying and releasing predators such as fly predators (nocturnal wasps that eat fly larvae) 3) using biological traps, lures etc. The second thing we do is to continually build up our soil by adding our own compost and other organic amendments. This frees up a lot of time and money dealing with manure piles, having to use chemical fertilizers to get the grass to grow, by not having to manage horse care with insecticides. Since our property is basically a large aquifer recharge area this is good for the environment too. “
And the payoff is not just in chore efficiency -- a crucial element to juggling work and home. While there is quote a distance between them and their next human neighbors, their home is full of native plants and animals -- by design rather than accident.

“We are fortunate to have a lot – Bear, Cougar, Bobcat, Coyote, Elk, Deer, some great birds….but I have to say my favorite are the Robins. My little story is that when we moved to this property 8 years ago it was REALLY quiet. We had the elk (up to 50 at a time) visit and some occasional large birds like pileated woodpeckers.”

April looked around their new home and wondered what they had gotten into-- “It took me a while to realize there were no robins, chickadees or other small birds hanging out which is why to me it was so quiet. I remember thinking, wow this is a mini “Silent Spring” that first year and realized that the former owners used a lot of pesticides and herbicides because they didn’t want any bugs or weeds around--all the birds were apparently hanging out elsewhere. Ironically, there WERE a lot of pests like carpenter ants, crane fly larvae, etc., but none of their natural predators. So we used some natural controls like nematodes, over seeded the pastures, good old fashioned fly swatters and patiently waited. Now we have tons of birds, and every spring when we see the robins feasting on grubs and earthworms and singing their little songs, it makes me really happy.”

So how many chemicals do they use in keeping their horses? “The only chemicals we use on our horses are de-wormers, which are dissipated by the composting process. We don’t use any for horsekeeping practices. Anyone can keep their animals and property this green with a little effort.”

The land where LaLandes’ home and barn sits is at the top of a hill that slopes down into a second growth forest with 100 yards of pasture in between. Where they live is wet more than most places in Seattle. The big trees call in the rain and it lingers on moss, tall timbers, salal, and oregon grape. And blackberries, of course. Their land had been logged back at the turn of the 20th Century, and old growth stumps going back 600-800 year old trees sprinkle the second growth forest that sits at the bottom of their hill.

And looks can be deceiving. A lot of restoration and native plant buffers has gone into the ground that create natural sponges for rains and habitat for animals.

Wow, we’ve done a lot, but it’s a little hard to notice since it all mostly looks like ‘native’ land. A few off the top of my head are:

First, we started making a buffer zone 20-40 feet wide between the wild area and pastures/house by removing 300-500 alder saplings and replanting a large variety of native shrubs, trees and grasses and trimming or eradicating invasive weeds and blackberries.

Then we moved 5 or 6 old growth stumps that were in the pasture and not really being utilized to the buffer area with a big trackhoe – they are pretty heavily used now by wildlife.

One of the best things we did was working with King County DNR to design a forestry plan. Implemented a Forest Stewardship Plan for our property with the help of Kristi McClellan, a forester from King County DNR. From that we horse-logged eight logging trucks full of mature alder that were at the end of their life cycle and which had outgrown the conifers and were stunting them and making a really dark forest without much diversity. That was two years ago and the changes in the forest have been great. Many of the hemlock and Douglas fir trees have shot way up, the canopy is now multistoried with lots of great species of plants below. We’ve planted some trees – about 100, but mostly all the new undergrowth has come in on its own just by letting a little sunlight in.

In the process we created wildlife corridors for the large game in and around all of our human and horse areas.”

Are there quiet places that aren't cultivated to encourage wetlands, swampy areas?

So instead of clearcuts and grass fields LaLandes have cultivated a different yard -- “We devote about 1⁄2 of our property (7 1⁄2 acres) to native forest and vegetation. We do not have any wetlands on our property so we focus on wildlife enhancement areas.

Have your manure and weed management practices changed since you started keeping horses?

A little.

How? We have always composted our manure but have upgraded our composting system to be faster and to produce a better ‘finished product’. We have never used herbicides on this property; however we now occasionally use natural weed control recipes that we make up for the gravel areas. There are a few really invasive weeds (like Japanese Knotweed) creeping our way, so this may become a little more time consuming and challenging.



Do you have a favorite story about water on your land? No. There is no surface water, just rain, rain, rain!



How has your thinking about manure management, animal care evolved over the past ten years? A lot. We took some classes from the Conservation District and Horses For Clean Water when we first bought our property. These classes, lectures and farm tours have been an invaluable resource and have really changed my thinking about how to keep horses healthy in the Western Pacific Northwest. The concepts we’ve implemented for ‘sacrifice areas’, ‘manure management’ and ‘pasture management’ have really changed our horses and our land’s health for the better, I never realized how many benefits there are to doing these types of practices…anything from keeping your neighbors happy, to keeping the fish happy. I’d really encourage anyone with horses or livestock to take advantage of this wealth of free help and advice. Our area has changed so much lately, it’s nice to have some ways to positively impact and maybe counteract some of the negative impacts that all this growth brings.



Horses and rain equals one constant in King County. Mud. But Lalande has figure out a path of least resistance, and is philosophical about mud. Plus -- guess what? They don’t have it.

“Mud is the enemy for horse owners. Beside degrading the environment and making poor use and value of property, it is an incubator for many common bacterial and pathogenic problems that horse owners and vets spend many hours and dollars trying to fix. We don’t have it – which I think is amazing considering the rainfall we have. We manage to not have it by the bmp’s of keeping horses off saturated pasture, making the paddocks ‘mudless’, keeping enough forage available for the quantity of wildlife that’s in our area. It took a bit of expense to be mudless, but it has saved many hours of labor not having to deal with it. “

Is it a hassle to manage? Has mud and manure management gotten easier over time?

It is easy to manage. King Conservation District has many cost sharing programs and can help develop farm plans to help set up practices so management is pretty much painless.

What is next in April and Mike's thinking about their land? The question runs deep-- and to an unexpected place.

I think about protecting groundwater-- we are worried about it, and don’t think enough people ask how their livestock and farm practices harm it or protect it. Many farms have wells, or are close to areas where aquifer protection is critical to public health and clean water supplies – as hard as it is to clean up the sound…it will be much harder to clean up aquifers. I think that with some good education and incentives this potential liability could be turned into an asset – it would be great if farms could be ‘drinking water stewards’ by practicing good land management. Puget Sound clean up gets lots of attention. But we need to be concerned about what we’re let drain into the ground and deep into aquifers as well as what is going down the stream to the Snoqualmie and into the Sound.”

Follow up: Horses names.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Noelle Richards lives near the headwaters of the Newauken Creek-- her farm tucked in the Cascade foothills on the edge of Enumclaw. She owns 10 square acres -- half forested and half pasture. The forested part is kept that way to protect the salmon bearing stream. And the pasture is lush and green with lots of grass for her horses.

Noelle owns two horses that hang out in the pasture across from her home and the Newauken Creek right now-- but specializes in hosting race horses who board on her pasture.

Richards has loved horses since she was a kid. "Ever since I was 4 years old I have wanted to ride horses."

Her property hosts a grand snag of a tree left over from the logging days of Weyerhauser. "We planted lots of native conifers, maple other shrubs and plants there to give the land a chance to do what it is best at-- grow trees." Richards has found some real benefits to keeping the trees on her property.

"The horse runs we have used to be covered in water -- no fun for horses or for me. When I planted a dozen conifers between my two horse runs from the barn to the field, I haven't had a problem since. The trees act like a sponge and soak up all the water. Of course I have a few inches of gravel down on the path, too. That helps a lot."

Richards found her home through a friend. "An old friend of mine came over here to visit a horse over 30 years ago, and I fell in love with the place. I told the owners if they ever wanted to sell their house to let me know." Well -- 30 years ago I was 26 and it was quite a bit of work to get mortgage and ownership set up for this parcel. But I did it.

And I have been taking care of this creek and the horses around it ever since. I love this place."

"Back in the 80's after I bought this farm, the King Conservation District called to see if they could stop by and walk around the property. I think the fellow who stopped picked my place because we are right up against the hills here-- kind of the headwaters for the Newauken Creek. He taught me to see the difference between the side of the creek that was full of native plants and good banks, and the side of the river near the horses that has been worn down by livestock.

They showed me how to fence the horses off, and the District plant sales have been a steady source of new plants to keep greening up this part by the creek that I want to be wild."

Salmon have been running ever since: "Chinook and coho spawning right here in our front yard. Here in end of September you won't see them, but after the rains start up in October the water levels will rise. The fish that are hanging out down in the Green River waiting for a little more water before they are going to make their way up here. "

"It takes them about a month for them to make their way up here to spawn under this Big Leaf Maple" Richards points to 100 year old tree that shades the creek and has a spawning area next to its roots. "Someday next month I will be working on the yard next to my home and hear splashing in the creek. I'll walk over and their they are-- making their nests and spawning. It is really something to behold."

The hills around her home are the upper watershed for the Newauken, which is one of the last best places for salmon coming in from Puget Sound and the Green River.

"The hills had been owned by Weyerhauser when I got here. And the land has been through some ups and downs. One year W clearcut all the forests on one swath of land above us -- and you wouldn't believe the problems. We had flooding -- the run off from the mountain side they cleared was too much. So we organized a meeting with Weyerhauser and they improved somewhat." The next cut wasn't quite so hard on those of us living downstream in Enumclaw.

But then Weyerhaueser sold their land to Hartford Insurance Co. and you wouldn't believe the mess they've made up in the hills here. And worse than Weyerhauser-- they won't meet with us to talk about our problems with them ruining our water. The flooding is bad and not being a good neighbor doens't help. They shouldn't be cutting here if they aren't going to do it sustainably."

Bad corporate neighbors or not, Noelle has worked with the facts on the ground -- in her case a lot of water-- and made the best of it.

Noelle has set up her paddocks for race horses -- they are longer and narrower so the animals can run. And she has contributed a lot to current understanding of how to care for horses and pasture management.

Conservation district efforts in the 80's was all based on dairy cow manure lagoons- and educating farmers and dairymen about what it took to care for the land while raising their livestock.

"The Conservation Districts and the NRCS were great at developing environmentally sensitive livestock -- but they didn't have know what to make of horses out here. But they knew enough to get started. It is amazing what some education has done to the way I see the world. I learned so much I started teaching people about ways to develop chore efficiency, how to care for their pastures, and of course their horses, too."

" I started teaching other people about how to care for their horse responsibly -- and I have a passion for teaching people how to be better horsemen and women."

"We started the King Co. Model Horse Farm project back in 1990. Since all the best management practices in those days were based on dairy cows, people came out on farm tours, showing people what we had learned about keeping horses, and how to care for them in a way that is efficient for the horse owner. There is no point in getting someone so much information that they get overwhelmed-- because then they won't do anything. The key is to make the environmentally responsible thing also the easiest and most efficient. And that's what the district staff has taught me."

Noelle teaches small groups of farmers -- and has seen several thousand people a year for some time now. "We teach people to grow healthy strong relationships with their horses and other farm animals."

These days Noelle is more interested in research. "When we teach now-- I work to teach using livestock procedures that are natural for the animal. We teach people to rotate their fences, to let an animal graze one area and then come over to the next section, and work across the pasture for the summer."

"The Conservation District teaches to grow grass for 10 inches and when they eat down to 3, then pull them off. If you don't you turn your pasture into deserts. Pastures that are low grass-- eaten down to far are a danger to the horses, because clover and other weeds can outcompete the grasses the horses like to eat. But even then, the pasture is susceptible to weeds at 3 inches."

"What do you do about it? I think even eating down to 3 inches is part of the problem now. My research show that if you grow a pasture out to 14 inches and then move the animals when they get down to 7" you get a lot sturdier grass in the field, and fewer weeds. We want the pasture to last and not get overworked."

Richards research is not accepted wisdom of the conservation districts -- yet. But she is confident once the results she has seen are known to more horse people, better pasture management for horse owners is right behind.

Noelle Richards home is proof positive that salmon and livestock can get along-- even thrive together with some thoughtful planning and planting and persistent work.

And Richards is rich in the ways we usually don't measure -- whether it is the sound of a fish tail splashing as it nests, or horses that love her gentle attention. Her attention to land and plants and animals living on it, her teaching and research have all contributed to wealthy and healthy life on her own terms.