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2014 Farm Business Planning Course!!

Plan to Succeed!

Farm Business Planning Course beginning in Kitsap County

BREMERTON – WSU Kitsap County Extension will be offering its popular Ag Entrepreneurship Course on starting and sustaining a profitable small farm or agricultural enterprise beginning January 22nd.  Community members are invited to sign up for this intensive, hands-on learning opportunity.  The course features a full line-up of local guest speakers: bankers, accountants, attorneys, and successful farm owners.

Participants will gain skills in business planning, direct marketing and record-keeping. They’ll also receive information on federal and state programs targeted to the needs of small producers, including resources to improve risk management and conservation practices.

The Ag Entrepreneurship course costs $250, including materials. The cost to community members has been reduced due to a USDA grant and partial scholarships.  Continuing Education Units are available.  The course will be held Wednesday evenings from 6:30 to 9:00 pm at the Norm Dicks Government Center located at 345-6th Street in Bremerton.  To register for the Ag Entrepreneurship Course or for more information contact Diane Fish at 360-337-7026,  Registration information can also be viewed on the web at:  

Ag Ent S'14

It’s Autumn!!!


There is this wonderful scene from Pooh’s Grand Adventure (persevere through the advertisement!) that perfectly captures my feelings about this time of year.

“It’s Autumn!”

“Hot chocolate-y mornings and toasty marshmallow evenings indeed!”

Summer is hot and bright and the day is filled to the brim with endless tasks on the farm.  After the sogginess of spring it is a warm and welcome relief to be planting, weeding, and eating the early harvest of new greens and sweet berries.  Seems that there just isn’t enough daylight for the tasks before you.

Autumn brings the fruits of your labor.  Like the ant, endlessly preparing for the winter to come I am grinding through canning and preserving.  Right now the harvest is in full swing, canning and pickling and freezing and butchering and storing.   About the middle of October someone will mention putting something up in jars and I think to myself that I just can’t do one more batch.  Just can’t. Lost my will to can.  Do not have to fill EVERY jar.

Then it is done.  The frost hits the pumpkins, rain starts and harvest is finished.  The endless trips down the stairs to the basement canning pantry with full jars and the commensurate number of trips upstairs with boxes of empty jars – wide mouth quarts for pickles, peaches and tomatoes, narrow mouth for grape juice and apple cider – it just stops.  And then, a reversal happens and suddenly the full jars are coming back upstairs – two, three, four at a time – to make stew, soup, chili and other warm, comforting meals for cold, dark, winter nights.

Autumn is also a busy time for local farm with pumpkin patches and corn mazes.  Great article in the Sun the other day about Kenneth Jensen’s B-17 Corn Maze in Poulsbo. For a list of other harvest related activities in Kitsap check out the Kitsap Visitor and Convention Bureau’s Harvest Festival Page!  Farmer’s markets will all run through mid-October.  Bainbridge and Poulsbo markets have extended winter seasons through December for holiday shopping so even if you didn’t plant a garden you can still enjoy the bounty of the season!

Gimpy Farmer

Q:  What happens when a farmer with a bad knee chases pigs through the garden?

A:  A farmer with a torn ACL!

Now, if this were a real joke the punchline would be funny rather than painful!!  Why was I chasing the pigs through the garden?  Because they were out of the pen and having a joyful, if short-lived piggy frolic through the fall plantings!!

Last Wednesday reminded me of several things…the importance of latching the gates, how much damage livestock can do in a relatively short period of time, how quickly hogs can move when motivated, that pride cometh before the fall, and the fine and perilous line between health and injury.

On Tuesday I took some pictures of the garden to share with friends because while it was a bit weedy it was producing like gang-busters.  Tomatoes, potatoes, beets, onions, corn, basil, cucumbers, peppers…the list goes on and on!  I was putting up pickles like crazy, making pesto with the basil, freezing gallons of green beans – and in one quick trip through the garden the cows and the hogs took care of all that.

Cucumber patch
Morning harvest
My laying flock – and the Rooster!
The flea-bitten, bad-smelling, egg-sucking farm dog in the penalty box after running through the garden…yet again!
Green beans (foreground), lettuce, cabbage, beets, basil, onions, peppers and celery (bit of random planting toward the end!)
Broccoli and corn

What?  Cows too??

Yes.  When I got up early Wednesday morning the cows were standing in the front of the house having spent an hour or so trampling things down and mowing through most of the beets, green beans and corn.  With a little cajoling and bribing with grain the girls went back in their pasture, I got the chores done and went on with my day.  THEN, right before dinner and in the aftermath of the bovine invasion, hubby looked out and said, “Are the hogs supposed to be in the chicken pen??”  The answer of course is “NO!” We dashed out and herded the hogs back to their pen.  A couple thoughts about big hogs: capable of short bursts of high speed, they are short on stamina and quickly get hot and tired.  Pretty soon they just want to go back to their wallow and cool off!  Before they get there they can make you dodge and run a bit – which is when the torn ACL happened.  The hogs zigged, I zagged, and my knee didn’t so I ended up hobbling back to the house for an ice pack.

Convalescing helps with the pain but my mobility is still pretty compromised and I will find out on Monday if surgery is in my future.  In the mean time teenager #3 is doing most of the chores, including milking and feeding the chickens, in addition to her own chores. Regretfully, this solution isn’t sustainable as she starts OC next week and won’t have time to milk in the morning before school.  To deal with my limitations we are working on getting rid of the hogs a couple weeks early (okay – tomorrow!) the flea-infested, egg-sucking farm dog is going to the groomer tomorrow so I don’t have to wrestle her into the tub and I am working on finding a temporary home for one of the cows.  I can milk but it takes forever because I move very slowly!  Snail’s pace!

As I make calls and get offers of help with milking and chores from other farmer friends I am very touched by the out-pouring of compassion and concern. I have also spent lots of time thinking about what would happen if I was farming full-time.  I have several other off-farm jobs, including my gig at WSU Extension, most of which can be done sitting down.  And, more importantly, we have one full-time off-farm income with good benefits and health insurance.  As a full-time farmer I would be hard pressed to take time to recover properly.  Cows need to be milked and hay needs to be cut.  By way of illustration, one of our hay growers took a fall off a horse last summer and broke his pelvis and one leg.  His neighbors cut and stacked his second cutting hay and his father-in-law did all his irrigation for the remainder of the season.  We saw him in October and he was still limping badly but he could get up on a tractor and do his own farming again.  It was a significant challenge for his family and they are still digging out from the medical bills – and his wife works for the local school district s they actually had medical benefits.

A frequent comment about farming in Kitsap is that it is “Part-time” and while that is a valid observation – this isn’t solely a Kitsap phenomenon.  Nationally, 85-95% of farms have off-farm income.  Kitsap merely mirrors the trend nationally.  Reasons for off-farm income are varied – but many farmers I know rely upon off-farm jobs for health insurance.  Given that farming is one of the most dangerous industries,  the importance of medical coverage can’t be understated.  As more and more young people enter agriculture (which is great given that 60% of farmers in the US is over 55) the trend of relying upon off-farm income is going to continue.

The next time you are thanking a farmer for feeding you, wish them good health as well.  They can use it!!


Gratuitous cuteness

Several people have asked about our recent arrival.  Since Lexie had health issues around calving the last few times I didn’t post a big birth announcement.  It is terribly awkward to have to say to people, “The calf is doing great.  The cow is trying to die though!”  Sort of a conversation killer.  Fortunately this time she came through birth and transition with flying colors and is milking up a storm.  Heifer calf Persi (short for Persied – as the meteor showers were happening the night she was born) is getting fat and sassy and all is well with the world.

Without further ado:

Sambo’s Dazzling Alexis and her relatively adoring family are delighted to announce the birth of Princess Persied on August 12, 2013 at 6:30 am (or thereabouts as I missed the actual delivery this time).  Mother and baby calf are doing very well indeed.

Lexie and Perci2

Seduce Me (with safety!)

Making Peach Pickles today (see the recipe from “So Easy to Preserve” below) because that is one does this time of year when you have green peaches and don’t want to wait for them to ripen because you MUST can something!


Peach Pickles


8 pounds peeled peaches
2 tablespoons whole cloves, crushed
1 tablespoon ginger
6¾ cups sugar
1 quart vinegar
4 sticks cinnamon (2 inches long)

Method: Wash and peel peaches with a sharp knife, and drop into a cold solution of ½ teaspoon ascorbic acid and 2 quarts water. Dissolve sugar in vinegar in saucepot and put on range to heat. Boil 5 minutes and skim. Add spices (tied loosely in cheesecloth). Drain peaches. Drop drained peaches into boiling syrup and cook until they can be pierced with a fork, but are not yet soft. Remove from range and allow peaches to set in syrup overnight to plump. Bring to a boil and pack into hot jars, leaving ½-inch headspace. Cover with syrup, maintaining the ½-inch headspace. Remove air bubbles. Wipe jar rims. Adjust lids. Process 20 minutes in boiling water bath. Yields about six pint jars.

This extension-tested recipe is safe for home canning if the directions are followed.  But it is sort of boring – it makes me wonder if there isn’t something more.  I miss the days when community recipe books said things like:

“According to Mrs. Ina Mae Jones of Petersburg, these pickled peaches are a perfect accompaniment for roast pork and delightful on ice cream.  Her bridge club is clamoring for the recipe!”

If the bridge club is clamoring then this is something that I MUST make!  It seduces and entices me – I can envision the pork roast on a beautifully appointed table with a gleaming jar of beautiful golden pickled peaches bringing a bit of sunshine to a dark winter meal.  Oh, wait, that is just what the blog post will look like!!  The reality is quite different – at least at my house!  I also recognize that however glamorous and attractive the cookbook or blogger makes a dish or recipe sound, if it isn’t safe for my family then I want nothing to do with it!

WSU Food Safety trained me – vigorously I might add – in safe and appropriate procedures to preserve all manner of foods at home.  I am anointed by The Mother Ship (WSU Pullman) to provide information and answer questions about all home preservation and food safety issues using APPROVED MATERIALS.  These are defined as anything that was tested for safety (for processing time and preservation method) by the National Center for Home Food Preservation or any Extension program dated 2010 or later.  We are not able to teach classes or certify volunteers in a Master Food Preserver program because our office (WSU Kitsap) does not have a food science or food safety faculty member on staff.  Right now there are only four counties with a food safety faculty member – which is about par with the rest of the nation. Shifting priorities within the national land grant university system in general and extension programming in particular 15-20 years ago moved resources from traditional home economic and natural resource faculty (food safety, clothing and textiles, agriculture) into economic development and youth and family since folks weren’t cooking, canning, sewing, and farming as much as in the 40s and 50s.  Like all large institutions this change took place slowly and over a decade or so and was combined with regionalization of programming in an age of cost cutting, changing the face of extension considerably.

The problem?

A few years back we had this little economic downturn and families and individuals returned to many of those tried and true ways to save money in tough times – cooking, canning, sewing, gardening, farming – and not only did they start to do those things – but they started to BLOG about it!!  Many folks tried to pick up traditional food preservation and canning skills after their families had taken a couple generations off.  Lacking experienced teachers and taking the lead from the explosion of DIY and cooking shows folks started trying new things and tweaking recipes not realizing that the principles of safe home food preservation are based upon the acidity of the product being canned.  Low acid foods CAN NOT be processed safely in a water bath canner.  So, that onion jam recipe that looks so tasty?  It can’t be safely preserved – you can make it and keep it in the fridge – but don’t can it!  When Martha Stewart makes jam and seals it with paraffin?  Run away!  Use the jar labels but not the food preservation advice!  Someone gives you Grandma’s cookbook?  Put it up on the shelf along side those vintage kitchen tools – it will be a nice decorator touch.   I know that this may hit close to home for some because often if I suggest that using a recipe from 1940 might not be safe in an online forum, a Facebook flame-war errupts as everyone weighs in with “I have been doing it this way for years and we are fine!!!”  My response is often: “If your doctor pulled out a medical book from the 1940s as his major resource in treating cancer for you or a member of your family, what would you do??”

So, what are you to do if you have a question about a recipe or need food preservation or food safety questions answered?  Extension is online and here to help!   Check out the WSU Kitsap Food Products page for links to all of all the extension publications containing safe and tested recipes for a wide range of home preservation.  Check out the National Center for Home Food Preservation for recipes and tips.  Or, give us a call at 360-337-7026 and leave a brief message.  We will get back to you within 24 hrs if possible.  If you are right in the middle of a project and need help NOW you can tap into the resources of our neighbors to the south and call the OSU Food Safety/Preservation Hotline at 1-800-354-7319.  It is staffed from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from July 15 to Oct. 11.  In 2012 they responded to about 3,500 calls from consumers!

Happy (and safe) canning!

The Taste of Summer

Blackberries and heavy cream.  The taste of summer.

Blackberries and cream

There are many reasons that I own a Jersey milk cow, and this right here is one of them.  Seems a silly thing to feed and milk a cow twice daily for two tablespoons of heavy cream on a bowl of blackberries a couple times a year but you do what you have to do!

As a kid we picked gallons of blackberries.  Dad would head out to check the cattle and we would all pile in the truck with plastic buckets and pruning shears.  We would chop our way into the thicket of brambles along the pasture and pick for an hour or so.  Every. Night.  Mom made jam and froze the whole berries for winter. It was hot and murderously scratchy work – and our nightly reward was a bowl of berries with a bit of sugar.  If we were milking a cow we would go to the fridge, open the milk jar and scoop off a dollop of the heavy cream of the top.  So thick it folds into leathery pleats as the spoon skims the top, this cream is the food of the gods.

The Slap

Diane and a cow – 1982

Fair week is finally here!  The 2013 Kitsap County Fair and Stampede runs through Sunday night and all week long the 4H and FFA kids are competing for ribbons and bragging rights on their livestock – from beef cattle to bunnies!  They are all looking for the Grand Champion – which says that your animal is the closest to the breed standard or is the most structurally correct animal in the competition.  Then, you participate in Fitting and Showing when the judge is looking at YOU more than the animal.  Showmanship is about …. well…..showmanship!  Effectively exhibiting your animal can make the difference between first and second place – or Grand Champion or Reserve Grand Champion.  Fitting, or preparing your project for exhibition, starts long before the fair.  Project animals need to be properly fed, housed and trained in the months and weeks leading up to the show.  I showed cattle beginning at age nine and wound up putting myself through college showing professionally.    Then I got married and had babies stopping all that foolishness, but it was fun while it lasted!

The best part about showing was the thrill of competition – and “The Slap”

Now, a few of you might be thinking – showing cattle?  Thrilling competition??  Just remember – everyone has their freak! (A few years ago I read the delightful “Candyfreak” – this quote is my fav take away from the book!)  Otherwise how can one explain Duck Dynasty, SCA or Serial Rollercoaster Riders!

Back to The Slap.

Four-H and FFA use the Danish System of evaluation and judging.  Each competitor is evaluated (for either their project animal or showmanship) and are awarded a blue, red or white ribbon.  This system best supports the educational mission of 4-H.  Everyone gets a ribbon and comments on how to improve or information on what they did right this time!  Make no mistake, 1st blue is definitely better than last white.  But you learn as much or more from the latter as you by winning the class.  My first showmanship class resulted in last white, which means you have to really suck.  But, when you completely ignore the judge that is what you get.  Lesson learned!

At the end of each class the top two competitors will be invited back for the championship round.  This is the final time for them to strut their stuff for the judge and there is no small amount of drama involved.  Typically the judge will bring everyone in, take a final look, make remarks about all the animals and competitors and then make their selection.  In the cattle industry it is traditional for the judge to walk to the winner and slap the animal on the rump and shake hands with the exhibitor – just like this!   Look at the excitement on that young man’s face!  What a  moment pure elation – and a well-deserved reward for much hard work!

As you are walking around the fair this week and see the 4-H and FFA youth dragging a lamb around the ring or driving their hogs toward the championship, stick around and watch for a bit.  Listen to the judge make comments – teaching and sharing.   Cheer the successes and hard work.  It isn’t quite the same as baseball or dance lessons, but then, everyone has their freak!  Ours just happens to be livestock!

Diane and a cow - 2013
Diane and a cow – 2013



True love … and home grown tomatoes!

“The tomato sandwich on white bread with mayonnaise is, however, a tomato’s highest calling!”

I have posted about this in the past but there is NOTHING BETTER than a tomato sandwich, made with a fresh and warm from the garden tomato, sliced thick.  I came across a post on Eatocracy from a few years back about tomato sandwiches.  We are of the same mind on this – it is the perfect sandwich!  You can’t get this at Panera or Subway – simply because the fresh tomato is a fleeting and seasonal fruit – it doesn’t ship or store well and what makes them so delectable is the fact that they are fresh from the garden!  If you don’t have tomatoes of your own you can get wonderful tomatoes from the local farmers market – these beauties are from Farmhouse Organics in Poulsbo and were at the market this week!

Farmhouse Organics Tomatoes

Where ever you get them, please don’t put them in the refrigerator.  Store them on newspaper in a cool dry place.  Eat them out of hand, make a caprese salad or some bruschetta, or just make endless bunches of tomato sandwiches – on white bread with good mayonnaise.  No substitutions or additions.

While you are eating your sandwich – over the sink – you can listen to John Denver sing his ode to “Homegrown Tomatoes”.  Two things that money can’t buy – true love and homegrown tomatoes!

The things you learn when you aren’t expecting it!

Educational Poster JudgesSpent the day with a bunch of amazing 4H volunteers judging the educational posters today.  We were looking for well-designed, eye-catching, informational posters.  Can they been seen from 10 feet?  Any spelling errors (a big no-no!)  Do the illustrations add to the content of the poster?  Some yes, some no.  Anyhow, a good time was had by all.  In the process I learned a few things.  For example, did you know:

  • Persian cats can have excessive lacrimation (tearing),
  • There are 13 breeds of cavy,
  • Goats can live as long as 12 years,
  • How to clip a rabbit’s claws (hint, it involves a flashlight!),
  • How much water a horse drinks daily (5-10 gallons),
  • Iceberg lettuce is toxic to rabbits,
  • Grapes are bad for dogs,
  • All the body parts of an American Cavy (commonly called a guinea pig).

As I was working with this great group of adults and teens I reflected on the good people that are working behind the scenes to make this year’s Kitsap County Fair and Stampede a success.  County fairs have struggled with declining revenues and tight budgets.  Many counties have discontinued their fairs as a way to cut costs.  We are fortunate that Kitsap County has found a way to continue their fair – and the 1000s of hours of volunteer service given by community partners like 4H, local sailors and soldiers, clubs and organizations and individuals make this possible.  In addition to giving time, pressure washing and painting buildings, staffing display areas, taking tickets at the gates, parking cars and sharing educational materials and activities with the fair-going public, these volunteers pay for their own parking and admission.  Many of the folks in the livestock and equine exhibit areas even take their vacation during the week of the fair so that they are able to exhibit at the fair.  I am sure that there are others who exhibit who do the same – I just don’t know them personally!

So, if you haven’t been to the “Big County Fair” in a few years, it is time to go back and enjoy it!  Eat some fried food, buy a couple knives in the Pavilion, eat some cotton candy, visit the WSU booth in the Cat Barn, eat an elephant ear, check out the livestock and still-life exhibits, and pay attention to the educational posters!  I guarantee – you will learn a few things!

Agricultural Code & Signage

I know that MOST of you will be coming to our Canning Q& A at the Bainbridge Island Grange that night…but should you be so inclined to skip that there is lots of other aggie stuff to check out!

KCAACome to learn more & ask questions about what’s happening with the Agricultural Code in Kitsap County. Featuring members of KCAA’s Policy Committee, staff from Kitsap County’s Department of Community Development, and other involved farmers & citizens.  We would love to have some questions submitted in advance to help get this discussion started. For those interested please submit questions to

What: Roundtable Discussion on Agricultural Code & Signage

Where: North Kitsap Fire & Rescue
26642 Miller Bay Road NE
Kingston, Washington 98346

When: Tuesday, August 13th @ 6:30pm

What to Bring: Yourself, a friend, questions, and a dish to share (not required to attend).

No reservation is needed for KCAA’s Monthly Meeting. Please come to learn and share.

This is a FREE educational opportunity and community potluck – we hope you will join us!

Questions? Contact us at
Kitsap Community & Agricultural Alliance