A little frog brings a message of soil renewal

The Pacific treefrog (Pseudacris regilla)Last week Jane, Warren and I began the task of taking apart the farm and putting it to bed for Winter. Midway through the drizzly Sunday afternoon, as I was emptying and bundling hose after hose, I suddenly noticed a little flicker of green dart through my peripheral vision. I stopped what I was doing and tried to focus my eyes where it had been. I could barely see him—he was camouflaged so well—but there on the stalk of one of our squash plants was a bright green frog. He was no bigger than 3 cm long, and had a little yellow-orange spot on his head the exact color of a wilting squash blossom. Later that day Warren called me over to inspect a pile of eggs he had found! Underneath the protective foliage they were nestled into a little indentation in the earth, maybe 30 or so tiny, white, perfectly spherical eggs. After some deliberation we agreed they must belong to a reptile or amphibian: Probably another frog!

As enchanting as this wildlife was to witness in person, it is also a great sign for the health of our farm! Amphibians are known to be very sensitive to their surroundings because they have a very thin, permeable skin that allows environmental toxins to easily enter their bodies. Consequently, the presence of frogs and salamanders can be taken as a sign that an area is more or less free from pollution. What an amazing compliment to our farm that a frog chose to make its home and lay its eggs amongst our plants!

This is just one of many changes that we have seen in our mini-ecosystem over the course of the season. Back in Spring I remember looking out at fields of morning glory and hard, dry, clay soil and feeling a little daunted. But as we added organic matter to the soil, added food sources for pollinators, and created little habitats, we began to see an influx of worms, bees, butterflies, birds, and now frogs. Our weed diversity changed as well: what started off as a sea of pure bindweed is now a sea of bindweed with islands of clover, german chamomile, dandelion, dock, and lambsquarter (to name a few) speckled throughout the landscape.

As a culture and as a farm, we still have a lot of work to do as we transition back to a food system that is sustainable for farmers, communities, and ecosystems. However, as we continue on this mission it’s important to savor the small victories: like watching a frog hop around your squash patch without a care in the world.

Chloe Wood-Henrickson, First Light Farm staff farmer

 

This year’s focus on learning

Our 6th season has been so completely different than the past five seasons — a new farm location, new soil to get acquainted with, new weeds, etc.  These new challenges remind us that at the heart of our farm is our commitment to learning — to growing each day in new knowledge and shared awareness about what it means to live and participate as a sustainable farm.  We like to think we are just one of the small cells inside this collective, worldwide system on creating a sustainable world. As we grapple with the challenges that face us this year (water, energy, resources), we look to the natural world for help.  What does nature teach us about sustainability? What are the principles inherent in the natural world’s design that we can mimic and apply?

a_028To help us this season in this new learning adventure, we are grateful for our returning staff member, Chloe Wood-Hendrickson, who, although young in years, is an “old soul” when it comes to applying natural systems solutions to our farming practices.  To help spread the knowledge, she has agreed to lead a number of “hands-on” workshops for us this season with a focus on learning about the permaculture principles of water management and hugelkulture building.

We’ll also be offering a repeat of our pickling workshop with Trish Glover as well as  other workshops with Chloe on medicinal vinegar, fermentation, and making elderberry syrup.

Each workshop is followed by an optional potluck which we hope you will plan to stay for.  Please email us at firstlightfarm@earthlink.net if you have any questions, or if there’s a workshop that you’d like us to consider!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our farm is moving to a new location for 2017

Due to some unforeseen circumstances, First Light Farm will be moving to a new location for its 2017 season.  We are grateful to Michaele Blakely of Growing Things Farm, our farming neighbor, who reached out to us when she heard that we had to move.  She has offered us her acreage (farmed organically) that she is no longer farming.  Our new address is: 27307 NE 100 Street, Carnation, WA 98014.  By the way the crow flies, we’re really just a couple of minutes away from our previous location.  By car, we’re around the corner!

We are excited about our new location. When we first walked the land at Growing Things Farm, we got a very good sense from the soil.  A happy sense. Sounds crazy we know, but all locations have a different “feel” to them.  At Growing Things Farm, the soil, although not in production for the past two years, feels cared for and therefore happy. 🙂

We look forward to seeing you in 2017!

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First Light Farm & Learning Center

 

 

 

Preparing for 2017

fall-sunflowersAs 2017 quickly approaches, we at First Light Farm are busy ordering seeds, taking care of our equipment and ordering new tools, but probably most important — starting to think about our members and public and ways we can include your voice and passion for healthy foods in the 2017 season.

This year at First Light Farm, we will be opening up our Mini Farms to new members starting January 1st to take reservations for the 2017 growing season.  So if you think you’d like to try your hand at gardening on a farm, please contact us as soon as possible as space is limited.  We’ll help you decide on the right size space for you and/or friends and family.  Our mini farmers tend to stay with us year after year telling us that spending a day each week at the farm is their way to relax and renew (even though it’s physical work!).  If interested, contact us at firstlightfarm@earthlink.net or text us at 206-719-8602 and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can.    Here’s what one family wrote about what they were able to grow in one season as mini farmers (note prices have changed a bit since 2014)!

Not yet ready for a Mini Farm, but might be interested in participating in our Work Share program?  First Light Farm, like most small, sustainable farms is dependent on volunteer help.  This past season, we had people who helped with tractoring, putting up hoop houses, weeding, planting and harvesting.  I don’t think we’d have made it through the season as successfully as we did without our volunteers.  Our volunteers commit to a weekly schedule working from Thursdays – Sundays from May through September.  If your schedule doesn’t allow you to commit to a whole season, please talk with us.  We’re pretty sure we can fit you in!  Our thanks? You pick produce to take home as our thanks! ($40.00/for 4 hours of work share.)

Becoming a member of First Light Farm.  Our membership program ($35.00/year) is designed to acknowledge and reward the support of a community of people who support First Light Farm’s work.  By becoming an annual member, we thank you by giving you discounts on all u-pick vegetables, herbs and flowers, deeper discounts on bulk picks (cabbage, cukes, tomatoes, beans), and price reductions on our classes and products.  We also ask you at the beginning of each season what you’d like to see more of in terms of plantings. And don’t forget the weekly email from Farmer Jane letting you know what’s happening at the farm.  We are grateful for our membership and hope that you continue to support First Light Farm in its work of creating healthy soils, healthy families, and healthy communities.

Two nice ways to end the 2016 season – Giving and Receiving!

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Gleaners from Hopelink. Photo by Jody Miesel.

Working together to end hunger!  Last year, First Light Farm contributed 590 pounds of vegetables to Hopelink, our area food bank.  Besides the gleaning work done by Hopelink, First Light Farm was able to hold its 2nd annual end-of-the-season public glean on Saturday, October 30.  It was once again a tremendous success!

First Light Farm also received King County’s Rural Small Business Award for 2016. What a surprise!  Pictured below along with King County Executive Dow Constantine, Jesse Jones from KIRO, our wonderful staff members Reisha Beck and Maggie Seeds, and Don and myself.  We had fun at the event because we were told to dress for work.  Everyone else was in suits and ties, we were in our farm clothes!

Rural-Winner-Carousel

Unknown person, Jesse Jones, Reisha Beck, Maggie Seeds, Jane and Don Reis, Dow Constantine

Last week of the 2016 season

This weekend marks the last week of our 2016 season.  We have several events and activities going on that you might be interested in:

Saturday, October 29th, 11-3 pm is our 2nd annual public glean.gleaners

Photo credit: Jodie Miesel
Hopelink gleaners

This event is open to all food banks, churches, and non profit groups who serve the community around issues of food scarcity or food insecurity.  If you’re interested, please email us at firstlightfarm@earthlink.net or call us at 206-719-8602 to let us know you’re coming and who you will be gleaning for. Some of what will be available be available for harvest: beets, collards, Asian greens, swiss chard, kale, turnips, cabbage, winter squash, and pumpkins. You’ll need to wear appropriate clothes for fall weather (consider rain), gloves, boots, and bring containers for your harvest. We’ll be able to help some, but please know we will be very busy dismantling the farm for winter preparing for flood season. Please share if you know someone or a group that would be interested. Questions: contact Farmer Jane at firstlightfarm@earthlink.net

End of season squash sale at First Light Farm. Squash prices range between $1 each for smaller squash and $5 for the larger Cinderella squashes and blue hubbards. Stock up now for winter months ahead. Here’s a link for easy storing information: https://bonnieplants.com/library/how-to-store-winter-squash/

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And don’t forget our winter boxes: $15.00 gets you a box full of plants from our fields that will continue to provide food for you and your family. Walk the fields with us and we’ll help you pick out your plants!

First Light Farm is Thursday-Sunday, 10:30 – 5 pm. Questions? Call us at 206-719-8602.

First Light Farm sign