Intro to Sustainable Family Farming

Intro to Sustainable Family Farming


Is it possible for a family to produce nutrient dense eggs, milk and meat without being full time farmers?  If you are interested in growing more than a garden on your property, or are dreaming of getting started on a few acres, we’d love to encourage you!  Come join us as we share the joys, challenges and surprises we’ve had as we’ve made the transition from urban life to urban farming since 2005.

19506 SE 138th Pl
Renton, WA  98059

Contact Nathan or Kathy for detailed directions or other questions
425 306 5679

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Spring 2012 Gypsum Application

I’m getting good at getting this stuff spread.

On Sunday, June 3rd, I applied 13 bags/520 lbs in less than an hour using my “flower pot” technique.  I fill 2 plastic flower pots with gypsum, hold one in each hand and shake them as I walk to evenly spread a 10 ft swath.  I started doing this because it could be done in the rain, but I’ve continued it because it’s about 10 times faster than using a 22 inch drop spreader.

On Saturday, June 9th, I applied 17 bags/680 lbs to cover most of our remaining pasture & grazing area.  There are 5 bags left and a little more space remaining, but I’m glad to have the bulk of the work done, and more than 3 acres covered with 1200 lbs.  I thinks that’s pretty good for 2 hours work with 2 pots and a wheelbarrow!

Why gypsum?   Our soil test showed we had very low sulfur levels.  Since sulfur is part of all proteins, and it’s got to be there to grow good enough grass to support animal health.

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Fall Lime Application

Empty flower pots work great to spread lime in the rain too

October 22nd, 2011.

We had friends over and spent a little more than 2 hours spreading lime.  There were six of us filling and shaking plastic flower pots over about 3 acres.  It was a wet day, and everyone was covered with a patina of white by the time we finished and took our lunch.

We applied 32 bags (1600 lbs) of powered agricultural lime at a rate of  533 lbs/acre. Next time I’ll buy a little more to ensure that I can cover all the corners that we didn’t quite reach.

Many hands make light work, and I’m very happy that such a low tech solution works so well!

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Improvements noticed after lime, gypsum & boron applications

White clover showed up in force after lime & gypsum soil supplements

Last December I applied 500 lbs/acre of agricultural lime to our place.

In March, we put down about 300 lbs/acre of gypsum, and about 0.5 lb/acre of boron.  Gypsum has sulphur which is needed in protein, and boron enables the calcium to be used in the plants.

So what did that accomplish?

The grass was sweeter last year.  I knew that, because I went around tasting it.  I also knew that because I test the pasture juice with a refractometer (and a garlic press).  In absolute terms, we still have a long way to go because our brix readings topped out at 6% total dissolved solids.  In relative terms, it’s a huge leap because last year we were at 4%.   These are low numbers because to animal health really depends on grass with brix above 12, but we are getting there! Continue reading

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Keeping the grass fresh in the goose pen

March 6th, 2011 Grazed & brown goose paddock next to fresh & green paddock.

I love grass. It feeds the animals and keeps things nice & clean. The geese love it too, and will eat it down to the roots if they are on it long enough.

The challenge is: How do you keep fresh grass around a nesting goose, without moving the nest? I do it by putting the nesting shelter in the middle to the paddock, and then splitting the paddock in half with a temporary fence. When it’s time to shift the geese to the other side, I move the temporary fence over to the other side of the nest. This puts the nest on the “green” side of the paddock without having to relocate the eggs or the sitting bird. Continue reading

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Eagles love to eat ducks

Can you find the eagle in the tree?

It’s not uncommon for us to have eagles come by, but we got to know one up close & personal last week.

Most of our ducks are penned up in 5′ x 10′ open bottomed pens.  They get moved to fresh grass every day, but they don’t get to run free.  Our runner ducks are the exception.  They are too high strung & intelligent to be happy in a pen.  They are excellent foragers, and do a great job on holding the slug & bug populations down on our place.  At night, they are closed up for protection against raccoons, but at first light, they have been free to roam….    But not any more!

On Monday we heard the geese making a terrible noise.  When Kathy and I went out to see what was the problem, we discovered an eagle had decided to breakfast on one of these free range runner ducks. Continue reading

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Selling blown duck eggs

Abigail helps blow the eggs for breakfast

The value of my eggs tripled this week.  I just sold a dozen duck eggs on ebay this morning for $16.50, shipping not included.  The best part is that I got to eat them before they sold!

I’m moving into the egg shell business.  Blown goose eggs move out pretty regularly–I’ve already promised to ship off the rest of the ones I get this spring.  The surprise came when I found out that there is a market for blown duck eggs too! Continue reading

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Goose Laying an Egg

Here is a sequence of photo’s I never expected to get.  I was building nests for my geese (hole+sand+straw+shelter) and I happened to have my camera along.  Good ol’ Splotchy was having contractions, so I snapped these as the egg came along.  This is my 6th spring with a flock of geese, and it’s the first time I’ve seen the event.


A lovely pair of geese.

Contraction in progress


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How to nest a goose

This hole is 3 inches deep and about 18 inches wide

It’s spring (or nearly so), and that means nesting time.  Now that I’ve finally got the routine worked out for successfully nesting geese, I’ll share it with you. For those of you who just want to see how much I’ve learned from doing this the wrong way, you should skip to the list of mistakes at the bottom of this post.

First is the hole.  I dig out the sod a little more than 12 inches square.

Next I fill the hole back up again with sand.  The sand keeps the eggs much cleaner, allows the rain to drain away from the nest, but still keeps enough humidity in the nest for a good hatch. Continue reading

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Blown eggs–an easier way?

A small air compressor is a handy kitchen tool

I love finding ways for my birds to pay their own way!

Spring is coming, and the ducks, chickens & geese have been laying more eggs–good news!  Our surplus eggs (pastured, organic, no-soy, no-corn) have gone to friends.  That “egg money” goes into an envelope to help pay for the feed.

Finding ways to fill that envelope has had my attention for the last couple weeks.  Besides selling eggs, I continue to ship blown goose eggs for $1.50 each, which also helps.  The blown shells go for Pysanka, which are decorative Ukranian-style Easter eggs.  I’ve recently discovered blown duck eggs are selling for $6/dozen, which is a dollar more than I’m getting for them raw.  The challenge is finding a way to quickly and easily empty the contents from the egg.  This is a perfect (maybe) application for power tools! Continue reading

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