Early Spring Session Newsletter

Spring Farm pic

Hi Everyone,

In this update:

  1. Could it get any wetter?
  2. Tall Chief
  3. Riparian Restoration at Jubilee
  4. Hedge Row Workshop March 19th at Jubilee
  5. Early Spring Session: Now is the time to sign up.
  6. Compost facility nearing completion
  7. Flour: Will make its DEBUT in Early Spring Session
  8. Beef and Pork available.

 

  1. Could it get any wetter?

This has been a winter that for all kinds of reasons we find ourselves anxiously wishing to put behind us!  We in the northwest—maybe especially “natives,” although I’ve seen some transplants that catch on pretty quickly—have such an intimate and thorough knowledge of what it’s like to be chilled, wet, and soaked, not to mention hunkering down for winters under a cloud ceiling so low you feel you can’t stand up straight!  But of all the winters I remember, this seemed especially, well, “challenging.”

But all this is going to change.  After just one more week (heard that before?) it’s going to be behind us.  Although we haven’t done much outside here at the farm, we have a lot of seeds germinating happily in our propagation house, and for the first time in ages have made a serious attempt at planting greens in our tomato green houses for early spring harvest.  It has been warmer lately, and that warmth (albeit of the wet variety) has caused the grass to start growing, and those green houses to produce greater warmth yet for our starts.  The 2016 season is under way!

 

  1. Tall Chief

As always, the off-season has had its share of farm-related issues.  I’m sure you all know that the Tall Chief issue is behind us, if not happily.   At least it is over.  The County approved the sale of the former golf course to the proposed use of growing GMO corn.  I know that many of us find this hard to accept.  I’m one of those.   Having served as a co-chair of the Executive’s “Local Food Initiative” I must say I am extremely displeased with this outcome and believe it to be a betrayal of the vision that came out of the Food Initiative.  But it’s time to move on.  We can learn from this situation, and hope for better outcomes in the future.  I’m ready to do that.

 

  1. Riparian Restoration at Jubilee

We are working toward another major riparian restoration project in conjunction with the Department of Ecology.  Our hope—we’re still in the planning stages—is to see a “swimmable” (for fish) water connection between the river and the very large, deep pond on the SW corner of our farm.  At this point the creek between the river and the pond is obstructed and sun-exposed to the point that juvenile salmon would have a very hard time getting to the pond.  But if they could get there, the pond would provide very good habitat.  The fishery folks are quite optimistic that “if we make it traversable, it will be traversed.”  There are, surprisingly, a few political issues that have come up regarding this plan, but we’re hopeful about a good outcome.

I think I’ve mentioned in a previous update that Wendy and I both read David Montgomery’s King of Fish while we were on vacation.  Dr. Montgomery is a professor at the UW.   His book is about salmon (the “king of fish”) and its decimation throughout the world, and the current status of salmon in the northwest.  In many ways the book is a tragic history of the trade-off of lost fish populations for the sake of fortunes that have long ago been spent.  But there is also hope that even now we might be able to rebuild the salmon runs that remain.  In the Snoqualmie River Chinook salmon are on the Endangered Species List, with current runs at less than 5% of historic levels.

It’s not clear that there was ever a hydraulic connection between the main stem of the river and the pond against the hill.  It seems likely that there was.  But the guiding principle is this: what we can do to help salmon survival, we ought to do.  It’s may be just one very small step toward turning the tide that is propelling our salmon toward extinction, but it is a step in the right direction.

 

  1. Hedge Row Workshop March 19th at Jubilee

Wendy and Eagle Song (of Ravencroft Garden) are teaming up to do a workshop here at Jubilee on hedgerow plantings.  Wendy has planned another hedgerow here, and she and Eagle Song will be both presenting some information and providing hands on experience for those who attend.   You can learn more about the workshop by emailing Wendy or Eagle Song (eaglesong08@gmail.com).

We’re very pleased about the prospects of another hedgerow here, and are envisioning the day when most if not all of our fields/pastures are boarded by mature hedgerows.  The habitats created by the hedgerows are extremely beneficial for the health of our Valley, and for the health of our farm.

 

  1. Early Spring Session: Now is the time to sign up.

Next week we are starting our Early Spring Session.  We’re coming off a very successful Winter Session, and are hoping to ride that success into a great Early Spring Session . . . and beyond.

I have to say that the strong support from so many of you in the Winter Session meant a great deal to me.  Coming off the deeply disturbing loss of the Tall Chief property, a summer drought that left us needing to buy way more hay and bedding materials than we’d planned (to carry the herd through the winter), and the fairly costly completion of our composting facility—well, let’s just say the farm’s check-book was mirroring the down-ward spiral of my emotions.  Fortunately we’re not “down and out,” but I have to confess I’ve been struggling a bit.

I hope that the general impression you all have of these off-season updates isn’t that they have become forums for me to complain about how hard farming is—both physically and financially.  I really try to not do that, even though at times I’ve felt like it.  I love farming, and find it to be very satisfying work.  This winter was especially trying financially.  The amazing thing, though, was that without any prompting, we had the strongest Winter Session we’ve had in several years.  If we have an equally strong Early Spring Session, it will be a great help to us.   I’m not trying to “guilt” anyone into subscribing.   But if you can we’d be pleased to have you join us in this Session.

 

  1. Compost facility nearing completion

The composting facility, when completed, will provide a double blessing.  First, we will finally succeed in keeping winter cattle manure from getting wet from either rain or floods.  And secondly, we will vastly improve the quality of the compost we make from the manure (nutrients) and straw (carbon) that are the abundant concomitants of maintaining a herd in a flood plain.   It’s a worthy endeavor, and the high-calling of our commitment (short term or long) to closing the farm to outside inputs.

The day the cows go out of the barn this spring, for the first time in the life of this farm, we will begin making what will become a top quality agricultural fertilizer.  That statement may sound like dangerous over-confidence, but we’ve paid the price for that confidence, having in the last couple of years run tests on small but representative piles of the compost.  I’ve been aided in no small way by Bill Austin, a person we call a “workshare emeritus,” who is also a retired engineer, and who has become a close friend to me.  Bill’s helped me on this and on many other projects, researching and providing technical and technological expertise gained throughout a long and very successful career.  We are optimistic, and have good reason for that optimism, as we have “paid the price,” in more than one way, to make this happen.  And we can see, also in more than one way, the payoff of our endeavors.

 

  1. Flour: Will make its DEBUT in Early Spring Session

It’s taken a bit longer than we expected to bring our Austrian flour mill into production.  There is a learning curve with this, as with every new piece of equipment on the farm.  But thanks to Jon Romanelli, long-time friend, workshare, and co-conspirator in all things to do with building and farming, and thanks to many of you who generously contributed to the “Mill fund,” we are about to launch.

The last step in a long process was sending off samples of our grain for testing.  I don’t know why I was so nervous about this, but I guess I shouldn’t have been: the tests were all passed with flying colors.  But there is one more test for us.  Over the last few years the head chef of the Herb Farm Restaurant, Chris Weber, has taken an interest not only in produce grown from the Snoqualmie Valley, but especially in our farm.  Chris, who not long ago was named the “top Chef under the age of 30 in the Greater Seattle area,” is an avid bread artisan.  Bread is a standard part of his menu, he bakes every week, and Chris’ interest was an important inspiration in us getting the mill.

So Chris and his entourage of assistants are coming over today (Thursday) to see the mill in action, and—more importantly—to rush back to the restaurant to make bread with it.  As you might guess, even though our mill has a built-in sifter, our goal—and Chef Chris certainly shares this passion—is to grind whole grain flour.  Whole grain flour is different than what we all buy in the store.  Store bought flour, for the sake of a nearly infinite shelf-life, has the germ (nutrient dense core) removed (sifted out). The down-side of this is that flour made from from whole grains is not shelf-stable.  It needs to be refrigerated and used within a few days, or it begins to literally decompose.  On the plus side though, whole grain flour has vastly superior nutritional qualities, and a taste highly sought by people like Chris (and many of you, I imagine) for whom cooking with flour is more of an “art” than a mundane procedure.

Here again, there will be a learning curve for many of us.  But things of value are rarely obtained without paying some kind of price.  And we still have a lot to learn!

 

  1. Beef and Pork available.

We have 8 quarters of pork that will be available by the end of next week.  We also have USDA inspected/packaged beef, beef burger patties, and some packages of bratwurst.  If you’re interested, please send Wendy a note and she will fill you in on amounts and prices.  There is further information on beef and pork on our website here https://jubileefarm.org/pork/

 

  1. Workshare Opportunities

This week I sent updated work share program out to last year’s work share members, and to the many people who have contacted us over the winter about the program.  If you have an interest and somehow did not get on my list, please drop me a note and I’ll be sure to get you the updated information and an application for this season.

Rudolf Steiner, the great educator, scientist, artist, and agriculturalist (founder of Waldorf schools and Biodynamic Farming practices) believed that the life of a farm calls for communal rather than individual participation.  As we have diversified here at Jubilee, and with our commitment to not use the arsenal of chemicals that allow in many instances a single person to farm thousands of acres, we have felt the desire and the need to incorporate interested CSA members into the life and work of the farm.

The workshare program allows people from the community who have the interest and time to invest themselves—for four hours a week, at least—in the life of the farm.  It’s hard to overestimate the impact of the many hundreds (probably thousands by now) of people who have given a portion of their time and energy to become more personally involved in the act of growing food.  Farm chores—harvesting food, weeding, packing irrigation pipe, trellising tomatoes and grapes—to many people seem mundane.  But we’ve seen over the years that even the most tedious and “lowly” of tasks can become engaging and meaningful when “good work” is respected, and engaged as a shared project.

The work share requires a commitment of four hours on the farm each week during our 20 week Summer Session.  It doesn’t work for everyone, but if you have an interest, or know someone who might, let us know and we’ll get send you the details.


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