Thought I would let you know what a “pig rodeo” at the Stokesberrys’ looks like. Yesterday afternoon it started with Jerry reconfiguring the fencing in the butcher hog field/forest. When Jon got back from the pastures, he and Jerry worked on convincing/motivating/tempting the hogs to follow the fence into the trailer. Jon had to finish the late chores and go home, so Janelle took over as assistant. Now it was getting serious.
The pigs were to leave the farm that night – no exceptions. Once she realized how tired Jerry was getting (it had already been about 1 1/2 hours of the rodeo) and the poking with sticks was not moving them quick enough, she decided to step things up a notch. You see, she learned along time ago that if a pig doesn’t go where you want within the first fifteen minutes or so you only have one choice: get them so tired that they will walk right to the place you want them to go. The real trick is not wearing yourself out, so you can keep them moving. I might add these pigs were an extremely energized group, and it didn’t help considering they accidentally got fed in the morning. Sometimes when you offer them feed in the trailer, or close to it, and they are hungry it works like a charm. So, not hungry, energetic pigs, and the biggest challenge – the forest.
Now keep in mind, our forest has nice big fir trees that we have had the pleasure to watch grow in the 35 years that we have been caring for our land, but that’s not all. There is also the mid-level of growth. The pigs have cleared most of the understory of salal, oregon grape, and fern. It’s the hazel nuts and ocean spray that are cumbersome when trying to corral pigs. They bow over and are at about waist and sometimes knee level, so you are constantly ducking or stepping over branches. The pigs with their awesome weight just push right past them.
So Janelle, realizing that things were getting serious starts whopping and hollering. Shouting, “Hey PIG! Let’s GO!”, as she crawls, and leaps over and around branches. After about another hour, she realizes that they were more exhausted than the pigs, and the pigs were not going to walk into the trailer. Being the advanced species that we are, it was determined that the pigs really needed to be at their destination at 7:30 in the morning, so if we got up at 5:00, we could have them loaded and ready to go with plenty of time to get them there. That’s what we did. With one exception, we took 3 other pigs that walked right into the trailer.
Oh, so you are thinking the pigs won. Not exactly. We will feed them in or almost in the trailer this week, and next week they will load like a charm. Teaching from the farm: Never give up, just think and you will always accomplish what you set out to do – perhaps just later than you originally thought.
We strive to live with nature (and make a living at the same time). One of the side effects of living this way is frequent chuckling fits. Here are some examples.
Yesterday I got to drive Blue. He is the newest truck we have and is not used for daily chores, but is saved for things like picking up supplies from the feed store and hauling a trailer full of cattle to new fields. On rare occasions he pulls a trailer over the Cascades or down the coast to get new breeding stock of cattle or sheep or pigs.
Well, imagine my surprise when I was shutting the tail gate and noticed small round poo in the bed. Now I recognized that shape, and had a fleeting image of sheep in the bed of the truck. That image lasted about as long as the sheep would have stayed in that situation. I laughed. What could it be? The only other animal would be deer. What would deer be doing in the truck bed? Then I noticed directly behind the cab a handful of feed (apparently spilled from a previous trip). Ah ha! One of the deer that blesses us with frequent visits must have decided that spilled feed was worth jumping into the bed of Blue. The image of the deer contently eating free food in the bed of a truck without interruption (a hunter’s dream) has been in my mind ever since and makes me chuckle every time I think of it.
About a week ago I was walking past the chick houses at dawn when I spied a familiar, ominous shape standing on a cross piece on the floor of an open door. Usually this hoop house would be full of chickens, but today it only held the feed buckets full and ready with which to fill feeders. My heart skipped a little as I thought about chicks being pecked off one by one by the young hawk that was waiting patiently. My anger turned to relief as it flew off. On second thought I was confused when I remembered there were no chicks in that hoop house waiting there to be breakfast. Finally I laughed and was grateful when I realized the hawk’s breakfast was mice – not chicks.
One of the funniest creatures we share our farm with are the opossums. They are slow and unpredictable. One day I was just working around the place as usual and found a opossum had walked of the porch into a clean trash bucket left right next to the porch. Now let me explain, our deck provided that opossum 112 lineal feet to use as a way to get off that porch. That opossum chose the one lineal foot that would land it smack into a bucket that it could not get out of. What really tickles me is that this has happened twice!
Yes, farming is routine and boring, like many other jobs, but if I pay attention, I am rewarded with a good chuckle and a good story to share.
This morning I walk out to the processing room down the driveway filled with mud. By the time I finish the short walk, my boots are covered, filthy, and noticeably heavier. I switch into the clean processing room boots and start work. While I am doing many of those repetitive tasks one finds on a farm, my mind wanders. While some people fantasize about what they would do when they win the lottery, I dream about mud. I imagine the mud, that marks this time of year (fall through spring), is amazingly gone. Just non-existent. Poof! It just disappears! No more having to hose down your boots. No more filthy trucks. No more having to slow down because you are afraid of losing your boot in the really thick goo. No more trucks stuck in the field or having to chain up. The joy from these images only lasts about as long as it takes to box a couple of dozen eggs, then I realize it is March and the hope of the mud disappearing soon is just not very realistic. Pretty soon I find myself preparing my prayer to Mother Nature. Knowing how she works, I try to make it reasonable. I carefully consider my options.
I won’t ask too much of her, just ask for the usual stuff she does. You know, sun, rain, wind, cold. It’s obvious that if she could just quit sending us rain, the mud would dry up, but hey, I realize I live in Western Washington and the rain is what makes this place so green. If I don’t want mud, I would just need to move somewhere drier. I was born and raised here and I love it, but hey, enough is enough. Oh, I’ve got it, how about it just freezes for a while. That would give us break. Just walk right on top of the goo. Boots stay clean. Hoop houses and nest boxes will hardly need any attention. That would be heaven. But wait, if freezing temperatures come, that means wearing a few more layers of clothes so that one works up a sweat just walking to the out buildings. In addition, the watering systems freeze up, and we have to haul water to the large animals. If it gets really cold then the pump can freeze, and then have to thaw it out before getting around to hauling the water to the animals. Okay, I’m not asking for freezing weather. Let’s see, what else is there, wind – won’t help. Sun – get real. If the sun comes out in March by August the heat will be unbearable. I just can’t make up my mind. As I contemplate different scenarios, Mother Nature came up with something I hadn’t considered.
After a half hour or so, I look out the window and see the thick snow falling. I smile. The temperature is right at freezing, so the ground is still thawed and nothing is frozen. When I finish, there is about two inches of white covering the thick mud. As I saunter back to the house anticipating breakfast, I thank Mother Nature for her unique way of giving me a break from the mud without having to freeze everything. My heart is filled with gratitude as I slide off my clean boots by the back door and smell the sausage that is waiting for me.
Oh my! I was beginning to wonder if we were just excellent farmers or if our turkeys were something special. Jerry noticed they were growing exceptionally fast this year. Instead of being pleased, he was concerned. After some investigation, we discovered, and very disappointed that we received the broad-breasted bronze turkeys by mistake (not heritage birds).
Soooooo change of plans. These turkeys will be big enough to butcher in September or maybe even August (a little too early for Thanksgiving – as planned). Janelle will be working on a turkey sausage recipe and also how to package them in parts and whole. Of course people will be able to purchase these turkeys as frozen whole birds for Thanksgiving. We can keep them frozen for you until the weekend before Thanksgiving if you like.
Well here we are just waiting for night to fall, lying on a mattress we hastily tossed into the truck used for deliveries about half an hour ago.
The chickens are just starting their nightly chirping routine. That is good. It means they are calm. There are indicators that they have been harassed by predators again within the last couple of hours. We came prepared with traps, water, an orange, my new iPad, a shot gun, cat food, and sleeping bags. As soon as we arrived we hurriedly looked for signs of trails the raccoons have been taking on their nightly (and sometimes daily) journeys to the chicken tractors. There were none that were obvious, but we guessed where they might be. The pasture grass is so tall and lush that any trails may be hidden from our untrained eyes. We set out four traps and smothered the spring bar with cat food. You know the kind you find at every grocery store. It comes in a can and smells bad, and just about every sitcom has at least one episode where somebody doesn’t know what it is, eats it and likes it. We hope the raccoons really like it.
After the traps were set, we prepared our beds. Now we are just sitting quietly waiting for the nightly routines to begin. Even though we know the raccoons have been coming during the day, we suspect they have also been coming during the night. Most predators come at night. Since they come during the day, that means they have less fear and potentially cause more damage.
The last time Jerry tried to stay out at night waiting for raccoons, he was pretty much frozen by three in the morning and had to give it up. He came home and went to bed without ever seeing a raccoon. When he told me he was going tonight, I suggested that we both go (to keep each other company) and take the delivery truck for protection from the weather. We aren’t sure this will work, but suspect it will be better than Jerry perching atop a barn waiting to get a good shot at the critters killing our chickens.
You know, I love to see nature in action. In fact, one middle-of-the-night episode made me quite sad that I interrupted it. I was woken by an awful screaming sound. I jumped out of bed and not thinking before acting clapped my hands by the wide-open bedroom window making sure they were cupped to create as loud a noise as possible. It wasn’t until I heard the whooshing of large wings just after hearing something falling through bushes that I realized I had scared off an owl that probably had a rabbit in its talons. I immediately had a sense of remorse.
We love to work with nature, not prevent it from happening. However, sometimes we need to interrupt nature. I certainly don’t mind sharing our bounty with raccoons, but 20 chickens a night is too much. Last night they did not even eat them, they just killed them. That is why we are here tonight. When we arrived, we found about five different places where they had already tried to dig under the pens to grab a chicken. Since this afternoon when Jon and Moe had been here last, they had already killed four birds. Our goal tonight is to prevent more loss and hopefully discourage them from returning other nights.
Right now it’s 9:18 pm. The birds are chirping ever so gently, and we are getting sleepy. It’s that magical time when all shadows are gone and everything starts to blend together. It’s hard to distinguish trees from bushes, and bushes from grass. A few things continue to stand out, like the white buckets that hold the water for each chicken tractor, and the grey roof of the building that serves as hay storage and junk collector. Jerry is at the back of the truck standing ever so still, waiting, watching, listening. It’s starting to get cooler, and I wonder if I will be able to stay warm enough all night. I brought lots of layers, but…. we’ll see.
We are heading home from a restless night with no sound or sight of any raccoons. Jerry was up about six times to silently overlook the pasture from the back of the delivery truck to ensure all the animals were sleeping peacefully. There were no unexpected noises. Just the gentle night sounds of very small animals such as frogs and birds, and the hum of vehicles from the busy road close by. The traps were empty and no feathers or dirt indicated a predator had attempted to attack any birds.
Our backs ache a little more than usual, the bags under our eyes are a little saggier and of course we are disappointed, but at least the chickens had one calm night, and there is always tonight.
Stokesberry Sustainable Farm
Sent from my iPad=
We are participating again this year. This time with Russ Flint from Rainshadow Meats. He will be preparing our duck. Hope to see you there!
Jerry & Janelle
An Incredible Feast – Where the Farmers Are the Stars!
All proceeds to benefit the Good Farmer Fund
and the Neighborhood Farmers Market Alliance
August 22, 2010 5-8 pm
Conceived by Chef Tamara Murphy, An Incredible Feast is one of Seattle’s premier food events and showcases an astounding variety of local flavors, all prepared using fresh farm ingredients. Held outdoors at the University District Farmers Market site (University Heights Center), guests can sample over 30 gourmet dishes, enjoy excellent local (Salmon Safe certified!) wines and beers, and meet the chefs and farmers behind the food. The event also features country-fair-style games with fabulous prizes and live music.
Check out the Incredible Feast video here: http://vimeo.com/14111168
This year’s jaw-dropping line-up of local chefs:
Julie Andres, La Medusa – Craig Serbousek, Crow and Betty – Renee Erickson, Boat Street Café – Seth Caswell, Emmer & Rye – Ethan Stowell, Ethan Stowell Restaurants – Angie Roberts, Boka - Dustin Ronspies, Art of the Table - Amy McCray, Eva - Carlos Caula, Carmelita – Zephyr Paquette, Elliot Bay Café - Autumn Martin, Theo Chocolate and Hot Cakes – Dalis Chea, Herban Feast and Fresh Bistro – Donna Moodie, Marjorie – Lisa Nakamura, Allium – Philippe Thomelin, Olivar – Don Curtiss, Volterra – Greg Johnson, Chefandfather.com – Rachel Yang & Seif Chirchi, Joule – Adam Hoffman, Rover’s – Robin Leventhal, CRAVE – Anthony Polizzi, Steel Head Diner – Russ Flint, Rain Shadow Meats – Daisley Gordon, Campagne – Matt Dillon, Sitka & Spruce – Dylan Giordan, Serafina and Cicchetti – Meredith Molli, La Boucherie – The Harvest Vine - Half Pint
Our stellar line-up of awesome farmers for the 2010 Feast:
Alm Hill Gardens, Bluebird Grain Farms, Cascadia Mushrooms, Dog Mountain Farm, Foraged & Found Edibles, Full Circle Farm, Growing Things, Hayton Farms, Kittitas Valley Greenhouse, Let Us Farm, Local Roots Farm, Loki Fish Co., Nash’s Organic Produce, Nature’s Last Stand, Olsen Farms, Pipitone Farms, Port Madison Farm, Rama Farm, Rents Due Ranch, River Farm, Rockridge Orchards, Schuh Farms, Sea Breeze Farm, Skagit River Ranch, Stokesberry Sustainable Farm, Stoney Plains Farm, Taylor Shellfish Farms, Tiny’s Organic, Tonnemaker Family Orchard, Whistling Train, Willie Greens Organic Farm
All of these farmers sell at one or more of our farmers markets, bringing an astounding variety of sustainable, fresh-from-the-farm fruits, berries, vegetables, cheeses, grains, eggs, meats, seafood and more.
Tickets available at brownpapertickets.com
Individual Tickets – $80 Pair of tickets – $150
(21 & over only)
Special note: in the spirit of sustainability and care for the environment, guests are encouraged (but not required) to bring their own plate and fork to use at the event. All ticketholders who bring their own plate and fork will be entered in a drawing to win a Farmers Market gift basket valued at $100!
A very special THANK YOU to our wonderful sponsors:
It has been awhile since I last made an entry. Lots of exciting things have been happening. Let’s see if I can catch you up with some of them.
We are now raising Peking ducks. We sell them to our wholesale people – restaurants and a meat shop called
Rainshadow Meats www.rainshadowmeats.com
as well as to our customers at the farmers’ markets (Ballard, West Seattle, and U District).
We have recently hired Josh to work with us on the farm. His main responsibility is to keep the processing room running smoothly. He is doing a great job and is always willing to learn something new that makes him even more valuable here on our farm.
Greg has been helping us this summer, and he is actually getting ready to head back home around the beginning of August. He will definitely be missed. Jerry and he have been spending down time talking about cattle and especially milk cows. It will be interesting to see how Greg’s time with us will influence our next project.
Some of you have already met Jason and Alice. They have been taking turns helping Janelle at Ballard and U District farmers markets. Thank goodness for them! We are so lucky to have their help!
Yes! Jerry finally found a sow he was happy with. Shelley at Whistling Train Farm decided to down size, and we were luckily able to purchase Tamara (now know as Tammy). She delivered 8 piglets on June 6th. They are all doing well, so pork is in our future.
We will be sending a few cattle to the butcher the first week or so of August. If you are interested in purchasing a half or whole, let us know very soon.
Just want you to know that we really appreciate our customers. Not just because you make it so we can make a living doing what we enjoy, but because you are making our world more enjoyable and healthy by making good buying decisions. Thanks!
Would love it if you join us for a dinner of fantastic food, fine wine and good people like yourselves.
Ray’s Boathouse is having a farm dinner each month this year. The month they have graciously set aside for us is June – the third to be exact. We are looking forward to this fun night out. We are not sure what our role will be, but we will be glad to be there with people who like to know where their food comes from. It is always an honor to have our food at Ray’s and this is an extra special honor for us. Please join us if you can.
The menu will be :
Poached chicken egg – yakima asparagus and black sheep creamery pecorini
Grilled duck heart and liver – caramelized onions and balsamic aioli
Red Wine Braised Chicken – saffron onions, apricots, italin couscous
Slow roasted duck – wild rice fritters, cherries, rose reduction
Roasted Apricot tart- almond frangipane and cardamom ice cream
$60 per guest (beverages, tax, and gratuity not included)
For more information about Ray’s special events, visit
Finally! I have been trying to write about events in our life that make me smile. I mean literally stop what I am doing and smile from my heart. Yesterday the third thing happened, so now I can write about it. For some reason, I needed to have three examples of where our smiles come from on the farm.
The first thing – it happens several times per week. The chickens (broilers) must be moved between pens. I went out to check with Jerry about something; he didn’t see me. He and Jon were bent over trying to convince the chickens to go in the direction of their new pen. Because they don’t want to stress the chickens, they open the doors of both the old and new pens to allow the chickens to walk from one pen to another. As you can imagine this could take all day and more likely many weeks to wait for the the chickens to decide they like the new pen. We don’t have that kind of time, because we use the aisle to do all our chores. So here the guys are bent over (chickens are pretty low to the ground), side be side, rattling empty plastic bags the shavings (bedding) comes in behind groups of birds. These big strong men, who are use to throwing bales of hay and lugging buckets of feed and water, being so gentle to and ignoring their own discomfort for the comfort of the chickens warmed my heart and made me break out in a huge grin.
The second thing that happened was on a day my granddaughter was visiting. Every time she comes to visit, I have her help Jerry or me with something. She always drags her feet because she would rather be visiting the chicks or reading or doing art. Sometimes she helps Jerry wash and box eggs. Sometimes she helps me package up chicken. I love working with her because even though she is ready to quit long before any adult, she always jumps into any task with both feet – and hands – and heart. Well, she is getting taller so I had her wash dishes in the processing room. Just before she plunged her hands in the water, she looked at me with a broad smile and said, “I think I got the best job ever, because I just love suds!” Her joy was infectious.
The third thing just happened yesterday – like I said. Daylight savings time. We didn’t pay attention, and left the house for the farmers markets over 1/2 hour late. Already stressed we turn onto the main road by our house/farm, and I start talking aloud about how could we have missed the time change. Jerry replies by saying, “Is that elk?” I search for the elusive animal that we have been hoping to find around our place for the last 30 + years we have lived here. One time – probably 20 years ago I reported that I saw elk way off in the distance at the same location on the grassy plain, but was convinced that I mistook deer for elk. I was willing to believe that because I am not a long time game “ofcionado” like my husband. I look out in the field and then finally scan the road closer to us. Yes, it is elk – at least two on our side of the road and one on the other. All are off the road, but one is trying to cross to our side. We are silent as we pass them due to being awestruck and afraid the animal could dart towards the truck any moment. As soon as the magnificence and the fear are gone, Jerry lets out a huge, “WAHOO!” That’s all I need to feel that joy in my heart again that cannot help but come out in a gigantic smile.
May we all find where at least three of our heartfelt smiles come from.
You may already know that our daughter (Jolene) is marrying a wonderful man (Jayson) during the last weekend of February. Thank you for all your best wishes and congratulations!Because the people who help us at the market will be at the wedding, no one will be available to sell you that weekend. We will be able to make our Wednesday deliveries, though.
We have been thinking hard about have a class on butchering poultry. We have finally come up with a date. If at least 6 people can attend, we will have it.
Butchering Poultry 101 – Monday (our only day off) March 29th 10:00 am to 2:00 pm
You will learn how to weigh a live chicken and determine final dressed weight. You will have the opportunity to perform the kill, scald, pluck, and gutting by hand. You will learn a few different techniques to accomplish the same things, and will able to re-create this at your own farm/home without fancy/expensive equipment. You will learn how to care for the carcass for maximum tenderness and taste.
- provide your own food
- wear clothes that can get dirty and bloody (I use rain gear) – you will be outside the whole time
- bring a cooler with ice for the one chicken’s (that you slaughter) ride home
- email us your desire to participate and then send a deposit – 1/2 of tuition
Class is restricted. 6 -12 participants.
Tuition – $60 per person