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  • Working with Nature Nature is humbling honesty pours out quiet shouts mistakes  seek  attention Nature shames us thinking we control confidence in understanding we know nothing Nature draws us in we begin to ...
    Posted Jul 12, 2016, 9:26 PM by Dan and Caroline Swansey
  • Turning to Education It has now almost been 5 years since Dan and myself moved to Yacolt and started our farm dream. The journey hasn't been an easy one but it has ...
    Posted Oct 18, 2015, 11:55 AM by Dan and Caroline Swansey
  • Healthy soils workshop series Soil, often called dirt, is often taken for granted and even dismissed as something that needs to be washed off as soon as possible. However soil is the medium from ...
    Posted Nov 3, 2014, 11:41 AM by Dan and Caroline Swansey
  • Our dear Bud Our dear Bud peacefully passed away 2 nights ago. At about 20 yrs old, most drafts have a life expectancy of about 18, he was an old horse who we ...
    Posted Feb 17, 2014, 8:13 AM by Dan and Caroline Swansey
  • Whats new for 2014, root cellar, farm store, heated greenhouse, ...           Winter 2013-2014 has been a busy one which has brought to the farm many new improvements and additions that will continue to improve the farms potential.November was a ...
    Posted Feb 11, 2014, 4:41 PM by Dan and Caroline Swansey
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Working with Nature

posted Feb 1, 2016, 8:07 AM by Dan and Caroline Swansey   [ updated Jul 12, 2016, 9:26 PM ]

Nature is humbling
honesty pours out
quiet shouts
mistakes 
seek 
attention

Nature shames us
thinking we control
confidence in understanding
we know
nothing

Nature draws us in
we begin to listen
we let nature
teach us
find our place

Nature agrees
we accept humility
leaders listen
wispers
continue

Nature 
beauty
connectivity
dependency
love

Bigger than us



First poem I ever wrote, it was bouncing around in my head, I don't consider myself a writer, but this farm is part poem. Hope it can be enjoyed. Caroline Swansey


Creative Commons License
This work by Caroline Swansey is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Turning to Education

posted Oct 18, 2015, 11:53 AM by Dan and Caroline Swansey   [ updated Oct 18, 2015, 11:55 AM ]

It has now almost been 5 years since Dan and myself moved to Yacolt and started our farm dream. The journey hasn't been an easy one but it has given us a life so rich of experience and community, joy and sweat, struggle and bliss. We rejoice in the fact that our life "never has a dull moment".
It seems as though the farm has reached a new chapter and that is one that synchronises production on the farm with education to the community. Although our farm production has been continually growing, like many small scale farms, the financial aspect is the most challenging part of keeping things going. 
An opportunity to teach has come along and I have taken a part time teaching position, teaching at clark college. I am now teaching "environmental biology" at clark college for the fall, and hope to be teaching every fall as the market season ends and running to markets slows down for us. 
Also, for the second year I taught a soils class for WSU extension as part of the Living of the Land series. Together with the increasing teaching practice I am receiving at clark and my own continued studies in the field that I am most passionate about, Soils, I am feeling more and more driven to include education in what our farm does.
I am working slowly at putting together a schedule of workshops for 2016 calendar that will be on Saturdays before or after store hours.
Dan too is continually furthering his experience with farming with horses and studying while practicing. He will be heading to a farmer to farmer meeting next week and I am sure getting more and more information and experience based knowledge.
As we are moving forward on our journey to farm with a sustainability goal in mind we continue to learn from experience, sharing with other farmers and studying from many resources, we want you to know that it is our goal continue to build our wisdom of how to run a healthy and thriving farm ecosystem.
We will never know everything, and in fact we will probably realize we know less and less of everything but we will know our farm better and better and we hope that that alone can teach others...

Healthy soils workshop series

posted Nov 3, 2014, 11:41 AM by Dan and Caroline Swansey

Soil, often called dirt, is often taken for granted and even dismissed as something that needs to be washed off as soon as possible. However soil is the medium from which life starts and where life ends. Soils are incredibly diverse and complex: they can be young or old, they can be depleted or full of nutrients, they can be full of organisms or lack organisms, they can be dynamic with diverse forms of life or be dominated by a few pests, they can have good tilth, with nice aggregates and a good balance of pores, or they can be clumpy or hard, lacking aeration and low infiltration, they can be sticky or silky or gritty etc. etc....
My definition of a healthy productive soil is one which gives plants the ability to grow at its natural rate, produce food full of balanced nutrition and fight off diseases and pests without the need for chemical pesticides. 
So what makes soils healthy and productive? 
In my workshop series I will address the basics of soil physical, chemical and biological properties that are important in understanding how to make a soil healthy and productive.
Week 1: Soil Physical properties
We will discuss soil texture, structure, porosity, infiltration, soil aeration, and the role of organic matter in giving your soil good tilth. We will learn hands on how to determine the texture of a soil, we will look at different amendments that can be used to improve soil structure, we will put together potting soils with different physical properties that can be used for different purposes
Week 2: Soil Chemical properties
We will discuss the chemically active part of soil, the soil colloidal fraction, and learn the basics of how nutrients are released and held onto soil surfaces. We will discuss the most important plant nutrients and their availability. We will learn how to use soil test results to make decisions about which fertilizers and amenments to choose. We will discuss the importance of pH and aeration in soils and how these two things affect the chemistry balance in the soil. The importance of organic matter will be discuss.
Week 3: Soil biology
We will learn about the importance of soil life in keeping our soils healthy and productive. We will touch on the role of a few different macro and microorganisms present in soil. We will discuss soil ecology and the importance of diversity in preventing disease outbreaks. We will look at different types of organic matter inputs and why organic matter is so important to soil life. We will learn how to increase soil life, by giving a basic overview on how to make compost and compost tea. If time permits we will discuss how the 3 different aspects of soil discussed in this series (physical, chemistry, and biology) work together and need to be seen together as a complex system.

The workshops will be given at our farm
20217 NE Yacolt Mountain Road, Yacolt Wa 98675

The dates will be 3 consecutive Saturdays from 1 to 430pm:
January 10th
January 17th
January 24th

Fee per individual: $25/day or $60/3day series

To sign-up please e-mail me at yacoltmountainfarm@gmail.com and send a check payable to Yacolt Mountain Farm to 20217 NE Yacolt Mountain Road, Yacolt Wa 98675

if you have any questions feel free to send an e-mail to the same e-mail address

Our dear Bud

posted Feb 17, 2014, 8:13 AM by Dan and Caroline Swansey

Our dear Bud peacefully passed away 2 nights ago. At about 20 yrs old, most drafts have a life expectancy of about 18, he was an old horse who we believe enjoyed life until the last day. 
Bud was an endless giver and never challenged us, leading us to believe he loved the work he was given. He was always peaceful and calm, a true gentle giant. We bought him when he was 18yrs old, such that with his age and his wisdom, he could teach us about working with horses and that is exactly what he did each day he was with us. At his old age, he had his challenges (possibly some onset of DJD and his old teeth made keeping weight a challenge) but he never complained, he enjoyed life as it was.
We're very sad to see him go, but as we've said before with the fact that draft horses don't live long and us buying old horses, we need to accept the fact that loosing them is part of the reality, and we like to think that we gave him a good last few years. 
It was a blessing and a gift to have known Bud, the nicest and most giving horse I've ever met.

Whats new for 2014, root cellar, farm store, heated greenhouse, ...

posted Feb 11, 2014, 3:05 PM by Dan and Caroline Swansey   [ updated Feb 11, 2014, 4:41 PM ]

    
  Winter 2013-2014 has been a busy one which has brought to the farm many new improvements and additions that will continue to improve the farms potential.
November was a month of patience. We worked on small projects like planting trees and berry bushes as we awaited the birth of our new son, who finally decided to join us 5 days past due on November 21st. Cyrus William Swansey was born a healthy 9lbs and 21" at PeaceHealth medical hospital in Vancouver without any complications. We were very happy to finally be holding our baby in our hands (especially me who was struggling to stay patient with 30 extra pounds on my body) and Isaiah showed amazement when he finally saw what mommy meant when she said the baby in her belly would become his little brother.
 The arrival of Cyrus was timed well with the arrival of his grandparents who helped out for the first week and who allowed Dan to get his focus back on the big projects we had planned for the winter.
My dad and Dan started working on removing and relocating the fence by the parking such that we now have a large parking lot that can cater to more people visiting the farm without creating bottle neck issues. Then began the enclosure and constructing of the farm store. Wood was provided by our friend Bill Fleming while our dear friend Kirk Chamberlain came by day after day to work countless hours with Dan to make and finish an amazingly rustic and beautiful farm store. 
At the same time they also started digging and constructing our root cellar and grading and leveling the new parking lot.  
While Dan spent every moment of the day working on these 
projects from dawn to a little past dusk,  I worked on finding a balance in my new life as a mom of 2 sons. I have to admit the first few weeks were rough and if it wasn't for the amazing warm dishes that friends brought us we would have eaten 
peanut butter or cheese sandwiches most meals, but slowly but surely I found my strength was coming back and I started to become better and better at being productive while watching the boys, and home cooked meals where making their comeback. I even felt a little adventurous and decided to use my credit card miles to take the boys to see the cousins in Santa Barbara for a week, where Isaiah experienced many firsts, including going to the beach, swimming in a pool, going to the zoo,...
.
While I was away, Dan and Kirk used more of Bill's lumber to construct a 10' x 16' greenhouse near the house which will be heated and will allow me to get our plants started sooner and get them stronger before planting them out into the field. 
Suffice to say that February came very fast and we are working on getting many seeds in the 
ground and in seed trays.
Our goals with these new projects are of course very high, but the idea is that the farm store 
will allow us to easily display and distribute the products from our farm (vegetables, eggs, CSA shares, plant starts and maybe a few pieces of art here and there), we will only sell products produced at the farm so naturally the availability will be very seasonal and will also be affected by what we reserve for our CSA and what we sell at the markets (we are planning to attend both Camas and Battle Ground Village markets this year, as before). The root cellar will allow us to keep a high volume of produce fresh after harvest and increase our potential to store certain products for long periods of time. I even imagine I may be able to grow crimini mushrooms in the cool and dark environment of the cellar. As of right now we believe we will have open hours midday on Saturdays during the "off season" (November through April) when we don't have our CSA) and on Tuesdays and Fridays from 430 to 630pm during our CSA pick-up times during the growth and production season (May through October). We will have a more official posting of this on our website when all the kinks are worked out.
This year is also the year our certification changes from transitional to organic which is great.
I probably forgot many little things that went on in the past few months but I covered the big projects and as a reminder we are more regular at posting little blurps about our progress on our facebook page so if you would like to keep in touch with the current news I suggest you take a peak there :o)


Thank you Mom for all your help this summer!

posted Aug 11, 2013, 12:43 PM by Dan and Caroline Swansey

So, perhaps a few of you check our Blog in the hopes of reading more about what is happening on the farm and constantly get disappointed that there is no new posts. My mom who has been at the farm since June 17th, helping us with just about everything from collecting and cleaning eggs, harvesting, to taking care of our little son Isaiah, is leaving in a week to return to her home in California. Well, if we were too busy to write on our blog now, I imagine writing on the blog when she is gone will be even more sparse. 
So, with this blog I take the opportunity to write about the summer and thank my mom who I love infinitely.
I can't even start to write about how incredible it is to have my mom help us at the farm. I am indefinitely grateful to her. Because she was here I was able to rest as a pregnant Mom without getting too behind on farm duties or chores and I was able to enjoy the couple of weeks my sister and her family came to visit even more. 
Many of you met my mom at the farmer's markets in Camas and in Battle Ground as she helped Dan and I run our booth week after week. The markets this year have been going very well. Both Camas and Battle Ground markets seem to be attracting more traffic and more interested customers which makes us soo happy. It is really amazing to see how these new markets have evolved in the past 3 years thanks to people like you! As farmers we see and appreciate our loyal customers that stop by week after week to buy their weekly produce and we get so excited to see new people coming to the markets and telling us how they are surprised to see how much produce and other quality products are available to them. It is these farmer to customer relationships that we depend on. To me, markets are some of the most powerful community building places. We have met all of the friends we know now through the markets either directly or indirectly.
When my mother arrived in June, we were able to harvest soo much more as we took turns harvesting or playing and caring for little Isaiah. My mom participated in it all, starting with loads of different types of greens and spring roots for our CSA and markets, and progressing with peas and beans, broccoli and cabbages, onions, garlic, potatoes, etc. to finally cucumbers, squash and our first tomatoes. We also harvested loads of strawberries for our family. As strawberry season slowed down, raspberries started to ripen and then cherries, plums and blueberries and now the first blackberries have been tasted. Although berries and fruit are not sold yet at our farm, we are planting more berry bushes and more fruit trees and as they mature, we will surely have organic berries and fruit in bounty available. 
When we had more than we could sell my mom was in the kitchen canning jams and pickles and making patee from our lamb livers. We always eat so well when my mom is here as she dug up our last pieces of farm raised meat from the freezer (as we are making room for this seasons harvest) or brought in some of our fresh eggs to accompany the farm produce in some amazing dishes.  She has been teaching me about using all of the organ meats from our animals which have been a big part of last remaining meat pieces in our fridge as I am still very new to cooking with hearts and livers. This year our farm bounty also includes fresh milk from our dairy goats.  It was so helpful to have my mom present to be with Isaiah while I could tend to the labor of the goats and get used to my new milking routine, which I will have to continue without her help when she leaves. We've made yogurt, cheese and ice cream together with great success. I was so happy as my mom keeps telling me she never liked goats milk but "this goat milk is soooo good!". Of course, nothing compares to fresh milk.
My mom's real pet project however has been the chickens as she's told me her favorite part about the farm is collecting fresh eggs from the coops. When she stays with us she insists that I let her take care of the eggs. As a math teacher she loves to count them every day and reports to me with the total number of eggs collected from each of our flocks, as we now have 3 flocks of different ages. You can be assured that when you buy eggs from us when my mom is here, the eggs have been collected with a lot of love. I cannot honestly say that I am as excited as my mom about taking over the egg cleaning and coop cleaning duties but I am soo grateful to have been given this enormous temporary break from a major farm chore.
My mom was really my "Mary Poppins" as she participated in everything, even helping me weed for countless hours and seed new crop rows. As an organic farm we really deal with a lot of weeds and since my mom could watch Isaiah both Dan and I were able to have an undisturbed meeting with our organic inspector when he inspected our farm for 4 hours such that our certification could be renewed.
As our farm is still in its very early stages and the income is still mostly being used for investments that will benefit the farm in the long run, we cannot afford paid help. Thus, it is an understatement to say that we could not run this farm without the help of my mom and the rest of our family help and support. I am so happy that my mom enjoys the farm as much as we do such that this farm truly runs on passion and love. It is her who has always taught me do put love in everything that I do. 
Mom, I am so amazed at your energy, your will to help, and your positive attitude. You are a true example that inspires me and many others every day. I feel soo lucky to have you as my mother and I thank my dad and family for letting you spend the summer with us away from them.

What we do NOT like about farming...

posted Mar 8, 2013, 3:07 PM by Dan and Caroline Swansey   [ updated Mar 17, 2013, 8:38 PM ]

So a couple of weeks ago I was asked a question: What do you not like about farming?

I answered that I liked everything about farming, at that moment, even though I could think of several challenging aspects of farming, there was nothing I could think of that I did not like about our lifestyle as farmers.
Well, unfortunately I was reminded of one thing that I hate about farming last Saturday when suddenly one of our draft horses, Charlie, started to go into a severe colic. He went from not eating at 7 am, still dry, we walked him, to drenched in sweat by 8am. By the time the vet had arrived he was breathing hard. She took his vitals and temperature and felt for his intestines and gave us the worst news we could have expected. She couldn't do anything, his intestines had shifted to the wrong side and she didn't believe he would make it in time for surgery. We cried in disbelief, even for a short moment hoped for a miracle. But it was clear, Charlie was in a bad condition and was suffering extremely. He laid down and we relieved his pain.

Although I don't want to elaborate on Dan and I's emotions, we had a very hard time accepting the reality. Did we do something wrong? Could we have prevented this? The vet told us colic is the number 1 killer in horses and it can be caused from as little as eating a clump of dirt and there is really no way of telling why it happened without an autopsy. 

So this brings me to writing this post. What I do not like about farming is that it involves as much death as it does life because nor life nor death can exist alone. The fact is that farm animals do not live as long as humans do and thus we are bound to experience many deaths when we bring many lives into our farm. And as beautiful it is to see an new life be born it will never be easy to see death come around. Even with butchering, when we take the life of  animals we did not 
particularly bond with because we have raised them for their meat, it is far from easy and we do not take their lives for granted one bit. We try as best we can to give every animal the love and respect they deserve.

Bud, our other Draft horse, also had a hard time seeing Charlie go. We let him go close to Charlie as he had past away to allow him to see what was happening (this was recommended by the vet), and the first few days without Charlie were very hard for him. He neighed for him and looked for him for a long time. 

Horses are very special animals and with every horse we have owned we have
developed a precious relationship, because horses are smart and so incredibly strong, and still they don't mind working so hard for us. At our farm we depend on them and they depend on us for food and shelter. Because our farm needs at least 2 horses to do the work and to give Bud another companion horse as soon as p
ossible we tried to find a new team of horses which we may be buying next week.

This is not easy but a phrase comes time mind: "it is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all"


We will continue to focus on bringing life to the farm and will continue to have to accept that death though not always wanted will sometimes be here as well.


In the pictures Charlie was hooked up on the left.

Winter 2012-2013

posted Feb 18, 2013, 7:37 PM by Dan and Caroline Swansey   [ updated Feb 18, 2013, 7:41 PM ]

Though we've been right on schedule for many of our farm projects we've definitely neglected our blog for quite some time, so here is my attempt to share with you our 2012 season wrap-up and the beginning of a new year 2013.
As October 2012 rolled around, Dan and I, tried to keep it together as we wrapped up the last farmers markets with loads of tomatoes still coming of the plants and a great winter squash harvest. We noticed how our efforts to add manure to our fields did wonders on the winter squash and decided to make our biggest investment yet and ordered a horse-powered manure spreader with a lime attachment. In October we also had a great turn-out to a harvest celebration farm tour we took part in. It was organized by WSU and we plan on participating in years to come. Dan demonstrated some plowing with the horses in the pasture. This plowed area we plan to reseed with a diverse pasture mix to improve our pastures. 
When we reached November we were so beat by the incredibly busy end of season we took a little break to see family on the East Coast...little did we know traveling with a one year old is far from relaxing and we came home needing a vacation. We took a couple of days though Dan didn't wait too much longer to start some house remodeling projects we had planned for this winter. By the end of January we had new wood floors in our living room and a new kitchen which will make processing farm products much more possible than it was before. We also squeezed in putting up the last part of our sheep fencing that completed our fencing efforts. Needless to say February came really fast.
Sofar February has been fun though, we took the horses back out to try the new manure spreader and had a lot of fun spreading manure over one of our large pastures. (will try to post pictures soon) This we hope will really increase the growth of the grass, add organic matter, life and nutrition, and will in turn feed our animals well. We've got one pile of manure left that we are saving for the squash fields. This year we will grow an exciting variety of winter squashes, including red kuri, black futsu kabocha, delicata, acorn, butternut and some blue hubbard. Of course, I have not started those seeds yet, however we have started seeding and harvesting some of our early greens and onions. We are applying some simple organic compost teas which I'm learning to brew to our greenhouses to help keep the soil biology balanced which we hope will reduce mildew issues we can get here in the North-West. Every year we are trying to improve our methods and with an early start we hope to have another great CSA this year.
Our new batch of baby layer chicks has also arrived and will increase our production of eggs by July.  And of course baby lambs! The 5th lamb was born yesterday and it was the first one we actually saw being born, in less than 20 minutes it has been hard to catch the sheep in labor, though it hasn't been due to lack of trying as we hang out by the sheep barn any chance we get in the hopes of being able to see a birth. It is an event that doesn't stop being exciting, at least not yet for us. We've got 2 more ewes that are due soon so we suspect not having more than 7 or 8 lambs total. This is less than last year as we reduced our flock in another effort to regain healthy pastures before increasing the flock again. Our turkeys won't arrive until April but we are taking preorders already, we are looking at the Bourbon Reds as the heritage breed we would like to try this year to compare in taste and size.

Well, that sums it up for now...we will make an effort to post some pictures of the horses in action with the manure spreader and the new baby animals on the farm!

Certified Transitional

posted Jun 17, 2012, 3:32 PM by Dan and Caroline Swansey

The summary about the certification process.... 

Since June 1, 2012 we are have been issued a transitional certification for our fruit and vegetable production and our pasture. This means that after thorough inspection it has been certified that we are following the USDA National Organic program requirements since March 2011. This is the date when we move to this property. Because we are not able to secure management information prior to March 2011 we will only be ably to get the organic status in March 2014. Though please note that we are following all organic standard at present and this property does not have a history of conventional farming.

As for our livestock: "Organic liverstock are required to be on certified organic land. Because [our] land is still in transition to organic status, [our] flock does not meet the requirements of the NOS". This is the only requirement that we do not meet as we are feeding certified organic feed and following all other requirements.

Well, as you can see getting the organic certification is a process that we are going through. On another note we believe we are going above and beyond organic certification by free ranging our animals and using many practices that would be many be considered sustainable, but we want to give the certification process a try to show to you that we are dedicated to the organic standards as the minimum baseline of our practices.

In the end, it is possible that our customers may trust us enough and convince us that certification is not required to show our dedication, but for now this process of becoming organically certified by the year 2014 is a helpful standard.

Our new team of Belgian Draft Horses, Bud and Charlie

posted May 22, 2012, 12:19 PM by Dan and Caroline Swansey

About a month ago, now, we bought our new team of Beglians, Bud and Charlie( 16 and 15 years old)  off of an Amish farm in Iowa.  Steve Krier, from Montana found us this team and was able to deliver them to our farm.  Bud, is the taller of the two standing at about 16hands tall and Charlie stands  at about 15.3 hands tall. We decided after working Lucy pretty hard this spring, that we really needed a team to get the work (plowing, discing, and cultivating, etc.)  done more efficiently. It is amazing how much more work you are able to do with two horses  versus one.  e.g.   While we were discing with Lucy,  we would work her one length of the field and have to rest her (until her breathing slowed) and with Bud and Charlie,  we could go back and forth a few times and rest them and notice that they were hardly breathing.   We have been enjoying using our "new" John Deere 191 14" inch walking plow with the team that we bought at the Small Farmer's Journal Draft horse Auction in Madras, Or earlier this spring and our new implement called the Homesteader built by the Pioneer Equipment Company (Amish) which you can attach a plow, cultivator, hiller, and potatoe plow to.  We couldn't of asked for a better team to work with. Bud and Charlie, are extremely patient, calm, gentle, and well trained.  We absolutely love working with and taking care of our draft  horses.  So, when you are eating  our produce a lot of growing that produce came with the help of our horses.

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