As the fog rolls into the valley, and we prepare the farm for the upcoming winter months, reflections on our first year of farming in Oregon begin and the anticipation for next year is REAL. This has been a rollercoaster of a year, a nonstop learning experience from day one. A time where we have to put it all on the line because this is the start of the rest of our lives.
Packing up and leaving our restaurant jobs, moving from all over the country to Oregon, and finding a starter property in hopes of building a dream. We, as friends are pursuing our individual passions to create one larger vision and dream in hopes of making it into reality.
Once we were all here, moved in and have had a couple days to settle down, we asked ourselves: ok, well where do we start? We know we want animals, pigs, laying hens, lamb, goats, meat birds, cows, ducks, rabbit’s. We want any and all vegetables we can grow. What can we respectively do on this piece of mountainside we have leased for two years in West Salem, Oregon? We go back and forth throwing out ideas, wants, goals, you name it we talked about it and continue to talk and discuss this ever-evolving dream. How do we take these first two years to build the foundation for not only our own education, but also the education of the community and collective we are trying to grow?
Through the building of LETumEAT we have met and been welcomed in with warm hearts by a community of seeders who want to share. Sharing their stories, knowledge, experience, trials, mistakes, do’s and don’ts. Nadine from Soter and MSR, Dan from GTF, Evan and Rachel from Boondocker’s farm, to name a few members of the collective that have been extremely helpful and mentoring towards our team and our desires to do the right things and coach us moving forward. With the help of everyone in the community we have overcome leaps and bounds and have high expectations moving forward with our farm and dream.
With like every dream and vision we go back to the first question; where do we start? How are we going to bring people closer to their food and where it comes from? And so we started a farm,
1.2.3. GO!!! Let the learning begin!
Mind you it is December when we moved in, so that leaves us limited as to what we can actually accomplish during these months. We decide to start with the animals. We jump right in, we start by sourcing some laying hens that come with a coop. Perfect, easy, set up some fencing, set the coop in place, let the birds do their thing. Head down the road to the local feed store, find a quality feed, pick up a couple heat lamps, good to go.
Next, comes the first of many piglets. We start with just two. We build a small enclosure for them inside the chicken area out of scrap wood that is around the house. A few heat lamps, some hay for warmth, they are some happy little pigs. They get to run around with the chickens and play all day.
With no infrastructure in place, we are on a hillside, no barn or outbuilding’s; we need to build a couple shelters cheaply to protect everyone from the wind and rain. We start picking up all the free pallets we can find, once we have accumulated enough pallets we begin construction. We cut some down tree limbs to frame out the shelter and then build the walls with pallets. A little white paint and some metal roofing we scored at the salvage yard, it actually looks like an outbuilding that will keep all of the animals warm and dry.
Next, we pick up 15 Lacaune sheep from our friend Paul over at Ancient Heritage Dairy in Madras, OR. Ranging from 4-10 days old, we set up a pen made from pallets and twine in the garage with a tarp and hay on the floor to keep them warm for the time being. We bottle feed them for two weeks, then they are weaned off the bottle, and moved outside to the sweet pallet house we built for them. Now they are eating alfalfa and a nice feed on their own. They are dry, warm and in good spirits in there new surroundings.
All this may sound well and good, but as first timers, the learning curve is exponential. From selecting the right animals, to the housing they need, the quality of feed, the environment, medication, bloating, moisture, this list never stops. Are the Lacaune sheep going eat well if they are primarily a dairy sheep? Are the chickens still laying eggs or did the person we got them from lie about their age? What do you do when your pig is three months old and has a prolapsed rectum? These are all questions you have to figure out the answer to. Yes, the Lacaune sheep do eat well according to some people, luckily for us, they were delicious and all of our eaters loved every bite. The chickens although slow with their egg laying because it was winter, did still lay and once spring hit with warmer weather production increased. Unfortunately, there is not much you can do for a pig who prolapsed rectum. Research why, quality of diet? Quality of breed or breeder? Quality of environment? But you show respect to the young pig and his life by curing various cuts and savoring every part he has to offer. Some things just have to be figured out along the way. Note to self; don’t get meat birds before the rain has stopped and the warmer spring weather is upon us. Lesson learned, we won’t make that mistake again.
The animals are the easy part. I haven’t even started on the soil health and trying to make things grow on our little piece of mountain side.