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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

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

Public Hearing on Agricultural Sign Ordinance – TONIGHT

A while back Dragonfly Nursery and Farm in Hansville ran afoul of county ordinances for their signage (among other things) and it brought up yet again the tenuous position many farmers in which many farmers find themselves.  I commented recently that every farmer I knows breaks the rules – somehow, someway!   There are so many federal, state, and local regulations that compliance is incredibly challenging.  Worse yet, many farmers often don’t know that they are breaking the rules.

Ag sign

Ag signage rules are just one of the areas where there is a lack of clarity.  Many small farms have seasonal produce available and put up signs to attract passing motorists – savvy business practice or illegal signage?  Depends!  Title 17 (Agriculture) is scheduled for a rewrite in 2014 (postponed from 2013).  This project definitely needs to go forward because farmers are wanting clarification on zoning codes that impact farming.   Like confusion over the sign ordinance.  So, for 2013 a group of farmers got together and worked with the Department of Community Development to come up with an interim solution to the problem.   DCD hasn’t always been completely responsive to the needs of the farming community – so this ordinance was a big deal for local farmers.  There is an informational flyer on the DCD Website with the main points are outlined below:

The agricultural sign registration program is being administered by Kitsap County Department of Community Development (DCD). Please follow this link for on-line
registration instructions:

Terms of participation in the program include:

  • Up to four off-premise signs (sellers name and contact info on back)
  • A-board signs shall not exceed twenty-four inches by thirty inches
  • Stand-alone (post driven) signs shall not exceed three square feet
  • Signs may be placed up to three days prior and shall be removed within one day following the event or sale being advertised
  • Signs shall not create hazards for vehicles, bicycles or pedestrians
  • Attachments, including balloons, shall not be placed on signs
  • Wire shall not be used to secure signs within the County right-of-way
  • Symbols and arrows are preferred to minimize wording and enhance legibility
  • Signs shall maintain a 200-foot setback when approaching an intersection or a  yellow and black county warning sign

There is a public hearing on the interim sign ordinance TONIGHT.   If you are a farmer and want to speak out about how this ordinance helps you and your business, now is the time!    The hearing takes place at the regular Board of Commissioners public meeting at 5:30 p.m. in the Board of Commissioners Chambers, 619 Division Street Port Orchard, WA 98366.  Written comments can also be submitted to the DCD point of contact Katrina Knutson, or (360)337-5777.

Heat Wave!

According to weather guru Cliff Mass we are warming up!  That is good news for local farmers who have been battling unseasonably wet weather the last couple of weeks!   A rare summer atmospheric river brought thunderstorms and lots of moisture to the area.  We are used to this phenomena during the winter months here – though we get enough rain so that perhaps you hadn’t noticed it!   But, it is rare during the summer months – as Cliff explains!

We need the warmer weather – berries and cherries have suffered this year due to the rain.  Talking to a friend who farms cherries in Eastern WA and last week they took pickers into the orchard to see if the crop could be salvaged.  They left after a couple of hours.  Depressed and tired, he was philosophical.  “You win some, you lose some in farming!”  Local strawberry farmers have also been battling the weather with high losses due to mold on berries.  Both berries and cherries are high value crops, and with high value comes a high risk!  Other farmers report damage to locally grow early maturing garlic as well.  When garlic is just about ready to harvest it needs a couple weeks of warm, DRY weather to cure and lots of rain during that time can cause mold damage and reduce storage life.  Later maturing varieties should be better off with the warm spell forecast!   My garlic isn’t quite ready yet…but not because I am some weather predicting savant.  I was just so late getting it planted that it is later maturing!  Sometimes being too busy to farm is a good thing.  Regretfully, this spring the weeds have taken over a couple sections of the garden, so procrastination isn’t always the best way to manage!

Farming certainly isn’t for sissies.

In one regard the wet weather has been good…transplanting tender young plants in hot weather is challenging and cool damp days are the best.  But, with all the rain we have had it is lucky that it hasn’t washed away!  Farmer Nikki over at Pheasant Field Farm has been busy making raised beds and putting out crops for her fall CSA and market customers.   Kale, cabbage, cauliflower!

Nikki Tractor




As the Dust Settles…

Title sounds like a title for a soap opera, don’t ya think?  I guess in the week following the West Sound Small Farms Expo, it feels a bit like a soap opera.  Still trying to find the plot to my life after planning such a large event, I do have a few projects that are demanding attention.  The projects are quite sexy. But first, to kick this Valentine story off, here’s a picture to make you drool:

Poulsbo's Washington Tractor brought TWO lusty green tractors to the Expo...and look at that no-till drill!

Wipe up the drool and let’s get back to the projects!

Community Supported Agriculture–  It is CSA time, what doesn’t turn you on about fresh veggies grown right here in Kitsap County?  There’s nothing greater than true love and a homegrown tomato.  We will be developing a one pager list of local CSA’s.

Farm to Table – Cascade Harvest Coalition, WSU Kitsap Small Farms, and the Kitsap Food Chain project are teaming up to bring a Farm to Table.  This is an event for our local farmers, chefs, schools, distributors, etc. to gather, gain some wisdom, share some food, and then speed date with one another in search of the perfect fit.  Romantic, eh?

Good Gut Health – Nothing sexy about guts, however a gut out of balance leads to disastrous results.  Two workshops in the series, these are the first food preservation workshops of the year to be held at the dearly- loved Haselwood YMCA.  March 3, 1-3 (Vegetable Ferments) and March 10, 1-3 (fermented drinks – non alcoholic).  Pre-Registering is required!

Kitsap’s Horses for Clean Water project – Collect, Cover, Compost – Manure Management– Looking out for number one, and taking care of number two… we have failed to nail down the perfect title, but basically it is a steamy story that aims to reach out to the owners of the 8,000 horses in Kitsap.  The Puget Sound is in trouble – take care of your poo!  Coming to a 4-H club near you!

Diane’s love life is shaping up, too.  She is all sorts of twitterpated over the No-Till Drill project she is in charge of.  Farmers reducing their carbon footprint is hot!  Of course every Thursday night she is out on the town teaching the ever popular, Cultivating Success – Ag Entrepreneurship class.  This session is pretty full – 40 attendees!  That’s more people learning how to bring us more LOCAL FOOD!

Okay, that is enough of the Farmer Love Story, the roosters are signaling chore time.  Want more?  Though our blog postings are erratic, you can get your daily dose of all things farm girl at our Facebook page, “WSU Kitsap Small Farms”.



A “Souper” Small Farms Expo


Beef and Barley, Tomato-Pumpkin, Kale and Sausage…from amazing chefs crafted with local ingredients…Rolls and yummy desserts…AND a day filled with opportunities to learn about developing a value-added food product, growing flowers for profit, implementing conservation tillage on your farm, or improving marketing and production for your farm.

What more could you ask for?

Well, let me tell you…there is going to be farm machinery, mason bees, chicken pluckers, books, feed and seed….and the new Kitsap County Conservation Tillage Program no-till drill!

The vendors for this year’s West Sound Small Farm’s Expo include:

  • Farmland Feed and Pet
  • Washington Tractor
  • Scratch and Peck Feed
  • Kitsap Conservation District
  • House of Bees
  • Kitsap Poultry Growers Cooperative
  • Poulsbo Junction Insurance
  • Pheasant Field Farms
  • Kitsap Food Chain
  • Poulsbo Acupuncture and Wellness Clinic
  • Washington Department of Agriculture
  • US Department of Agriculture
  • Kitsap Farmers Markets
  • Mason Kitsap Farm Bureau
  • Kiwi Fencing
  • Cascade Harvest Coalition
  • Liberty Bay Books
  • Trillium Press

If you weed, feed, raise, sow, plow, grow, dig, till (or not!), compost, spread, plant, brew, ferment, harvest, preserve, bake, cook or EAT there is something for you at the West Sound Small Farms Expo.

Register online at


Giving Thanks

Early this summer I posted about the busy-ness of farm life in the summer.  Now that we are in late fall there is much less going on but there is still some activity.  Here is a sampling of what happened this week on the farm.

We got a new rooster the other day.  Until now we have only had roosters on a temporary basis.  When you raise chickens straight-run (from eggs instead of buying them at the feed store) at least half of the flock will be roosters.  But, on our farm – when they crow, they go – straight into the freezer!  However, a good rooster takes care of the hens in his flock.  He will call them to tasty tidbits, send out the alarm when predators come around and for natural flock behavior hens need a rooster.  So when Shannon ended up with an extra roo this year we offered to take him.  Foggy (a nod to Foghorn Leghorn!) is a handsome fellow with golden plumage and a dark brown tail.  Perhaps we will have some chicks in the spring if we get a broody hen!

Time for once a day milking!  Alexis has been dried up for about a month now, Ellie is on her way.  We went out of town for Thanksgiving after morning milking so Ellie is now down to once a day milking.  She is still giving almost two gallons a day, most of which is going to Frank.  He is the bucket calf we got last summer after I had a moment of insanity and bought a second cow!  Originally the plan was to just graft him on to Alexis and let her raise him so I only had to milk one cow.  After two weeks of tying up a homicidal and unwilling mother cow twice a day while he nursed to make sure she didn’t kill him outright, I decided that I would rather spend 5 minutes milking her than 20 minutes watching her.  Frank took to the bucket like a champ and is growing nicely.  He is scheduled to go into the freezer with the hogs in a couple of weeks.  Everyone is appalled that I am going to process a veal calf because there has been so much press around animal welfare issues on veal but  Frank is not locked-in-a-box-in-the-dark veal.  He is running-around-the-pasture-drinking-milk-being-a-nuisance veal.  We also need to have fewer animals in our pasture during the winter to keep down the mud and because both cows are going to calve in March, Frank has to go.  Besides, by Christmas there will be no more milk.

We enjoyed Thanksgiving with family.  My contribution was PIE.  I spent the last week making apple pie filling with Shannon.  I put 15 quarts in the canning pantry and I think she ended up with about 12 quarts.  I still need to do some apple sauce but that is it for canning for this year.  I called my sister-in-law all excited about the prospect of bringing an apple pie – only to have her say, “…and I will be making apple and pumpkin so how about you bring something else!”  So, I brought Pecan, lattice-topped Cherry, and Chocolate Silk Pies.  The chocolate silk pie was a last minute addition because I had extra pie crust and have been on a pudding binge lately.  When you have gallons of extra milk you get creative – and a batch of pudding uses 2 quarts of milk!  My recipe is adapted from one I found on Culinate for Creamy Chocolate Pudding.  I make a triple batch with whole Jersey milk and omit the butter (there is a limit to how much fat one needs!)  For pie filling I add a bit more corn starch than the recipe calls for and the resulting pudding is more like chocolate ganache than pudding.  It is dense, chocolatey, smooth and creamy.  Heaven!   I brought home leftovers of the pecan and cherry, but the chocolate was GONE!  Our turkey dinner will be either Sunday or Monday depending upon when my bird is defrosted.  Sooner would be better than later because it is taking up precious fridge space but I am willing to wait for turkey leftovers!

My mom’s firewood is finally done and in the woodshed.  After 40 years of heating with wood I keep thinking that she will give up and get a pellet stove.  After all, she will be 78 this year and doesn’t get around as well as she used to.  But, no!  Last year when her woodstove died she bought – you guessed it – another woodstove.  Because she has a small house she has a small stove – with a 14″ woodbox.  This means that we need to make sure that the wood is cut small enough and the pieces are well split.  Every year we put her wood up, and every year we wait until it starts raining.  This year was no exception.   But, the wood is in and she will be warm this winter.  My kids used to grumble about helping split and stack 3 cords of wood but now they are older and appreciate the chance to help their grandma.  It is gratifying to see my grown kids serving others and reaching out!

Our family is blessed by a bountiful life and at this time of year we are very conscious of our fortune.  We have a full pantry and freezer after a summer and fall of “putting up” from the farm and garden.  Our children are growing up to be generous and capable people.  We are part of a wonderful community of farm friends and others who enrich our life.  We have good health, a comfortable home and stable jobs in a time when many don’t have those blessings.

As we approach the holiday season, I try and keep in mind that the most important things in life aren’t really things at all.  We try and give experiences for gifts but if you are going to give this year, be farm-friendly.  Several local farms offer CSA’s or Farm Share programs and I can think of nothing better than the promise of fresh veggies during the depths of winter.  The local farmer’s markets have extended their season so you can still buy gifts from local vendors.  And for the kiddos on your list there are a couple books that are favorites around here and help children learn more about farm life.

In Memory of Parker


Parker 2000-2011

He was my buddy, my true companion, my watch dog, the best rat wrangler ever, chicken protector extraordinaire, child herder.

Parker was “MY” dog.  And I miss him.

I have had a post in me for quite some time, but it has been a rough couple of months around here.  The clincher was losing my beloved, Parker.  His poor old body withered away over the summer and finally he looked at me and I knew.  He was dying.  Never far from my side, Parker’s best days were spent working right alongside me in the garden, barn, or fields.  Perhaps his favorite chore was “mowing” the pasture.  Parker would anxiously await fleeing varmints, never missing a beat.  When we first came to the farm in 2006, he was overcome by chicken lust. A quick lesson in farm dog ettiquette and he never harmed another chicken, in fact, he assumed the role as chicken protector and all-around best farm dog ever.

Our farm is just not the same without him.


“Not the least hard thing to bear when
they go from us, these quiet friends,
is that they carry away with them so
many years of our lives. Yet, if they
find warmth therein, who would
begrudge them those years that they
have so guarded?
And whatever they take,
be sure they have deserved.”

— John Galsworthy —

“Get back to work!”

If you were to ask one of our children to recite our family motto quick as a bunny they would rattle off: “Get back to work!”

(A close second would be “No one was killed” but that is an entirely different post!)

Yesterday while friends of mine were taking their kids to a corn maze, my children were using the loppers to cut down a chunk of the corn patch and feed it to the cows.  The girls were more than happy to be part of the farm waste stream and stood at the fence bawling encouragement to the loppers.  As my kids were doing this they are letting me know that they are not enjoying this family work activity in that way the kids have.  Mostly they were saying things like: ” Why can’t we just visit a corn maze…like normal people?”  “You know Mom, there are actually people that buy milk instead of making it.”  (For the full effect, please read the quotes aloud and roll your eyes on the italicized bits!)

As they were doing this I began thinking about the difference between our household and those of many more mainstream folks.  In our household, because we grow our own food, produce our own dairy products and preserve and can excess produce to eat during the winter we differ significantly from the cultural mainstream.  Most households are consumptive in nature and ours is productive.  Having this type of household requires a shift in thinking – seasonal thinking – what do we need to plant now to eat in July thinking! 

Raising children in this type of environment also requires a shift.  It means we have conversations with band directors about fundraising (“My kids have jobs…can they just contribute their own money rather than selling wrapping paper?”) and youth group leaders (“My kids know how to do hard physical labor, so if you are going to plan an activity for them, perhaps it should involve meaningful work, rather than just making them sweat!”) It also means that my kids have skills and are responsible in ways that their peers may not be.  They do know how to work hard, and the work they do matters to our family.  If you need three cords of firewood for winter and you help split and stack it, your work keeps us warm.  Picking 50# of green beans or digging 100# of potatoes means we have veggies for the entire winter.  You see the fruits of your labors on the dinner plate. 

Now, the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.  I keep telling them that they are better off living in a family that cuts corn for the cows and harvests pumpkins to “put up” for winter!  When you visit a corn maze you  PAY for the privilege!  Here you get to do it for free AND it feeds us!  How cool is that?!

Dead Cuke Vines Lead to Passing of Dill Pickle Season

Now, THAT’s a catchy title.  Well, I think this weekend I canned the last batch of dill pickles for the year!  I came pretty close to my goal this year.  I am estimating (because I am too pooped to get off of the couch) when I say I have 54 quarts of pickles stored and another 3 gallons of sour pickles in the fermentor.  Not too bad, considering the growing conditions this year!  We love pickles around here, and they are always a welcome gift.  I am not a gift-giver, so this makes my life a little easier.

There’s plenty of time left to preserve and so much more to harvest.  More to pickle, just not cukes.   If you don’t know where to start on food preservation, here’s a great place...

Preserving the Harvest Classes –  CLASSES START NEXT WEEKEND!!!  

Start getting your “nut” count for the year together so we can compare.  For encouragement, feast your eyes on this:

Delectable Dill Pickles