This Drought has Clout

You guys. It has been SO hot and SO dry this summer. It’s astronomically ridiculous. It’s all anyone can talk about around here, and not just the farmers. It started with us though, a curmudgeonly lot griping about the unrelenting heat while the sun sucked the moisture from our overworked bodies. Our office-dwelling friends and families loved the early summer; for once the sun was still shining happily for them when their weekends rolled around. Things have changed though. Everyone is running around trying to find plug-in air conditioner units. People are complaining. People are wilting. This is the Pacific Northwest after all, and we’re not cut out for this.

That same relentless sun that has us moping our foreheads has also sucked what little moisture remained in the land. With record low levels of rainfall this spring, our pastures are suffering and our vegetable farming friends are almost at crisis mode. Irrigation is being run non-stop, and drip lines are being moved around their crops all day long. Alice, one of the vegetable growers from One Leaf Farm who shares land with us, just told me their recent harvests are 50% less than normal due to loss. The lack of moisture has weakened the plants which then succumb to pest and weed pressure more readily. On the animal front we are constantly checking water levels, making mud wallows for pigs, and helplessly watching our chicks pant in the brooder. Today we are forecasted to reach 90 degrees, and around here that is just too damn hot.

I know I don’t live in California anymore, and that’s where the “real drought” is happening, but for some reason this feels different. I was raised in Arizona and California, so water conservation and drought have always been a part of life. I think this is the first time that my life has so directly revolved around the weather so I’m more aware of the change, perhaps. Also the spectrum is greater: we’re used to cold wet springs followed by short dry summers. Seasons are a real thing here, unlike in my previous home states, so this prolonged summer is a crazy outlier. For a good read and interviews with local vegetable growers about the drought, click here. Of course compared to California, we are lucky. We still have a pond we can pull water from, and our well hasn’t dried up. These things may change though, as they are predicting an El Niño year for the west coast. In California that means drenching rains. In the Northwest it means little rain or snow to replenish our rivers and reservoirs. Add to that the recent terrifyingly brilliant New Yorker article about how we’re doomed to suffer a catastrophic earthquake within the next fifty years…and I’m thinking maybe I’ll go join my sister in Maine! Just kidding. Kinda.

Other than the crazy weather, we’ve been grinding away trying to promote and sell our meat. We’ve been attending a couple farmers markets, and the chickens are a little slower to sell than I expected. Ditto on the restaurant front. We’ve given sample chickens to several reputable farm-to-table restaurants in Seattle, but so far it seems our chickens are a bit large for most chefs. Customers at the market are often unprepared to take home a whole frozen chicken. But I am having many new interested people join my mailing list, and am doing a lot of educating about our food system and why we do what we do the way we do it. Building a business and a presence takes time; in the meantime I’m doing a lot of networking and trying to find creative new ways to get our name out there!

Over the past couple months we’ve made friends with a wonderful photographer named Tom Marks who is based out of Seattle. He has come to the farm several times to shoot us for his portfolio, and the attached photos for this blog are from those trips. They give a good snapshot of what our daily grind looks like, and he has a wonderful eye. Please keep in mind these are taken a while ago. While I may look nice and chilly in a sweater and scarf, rest assured I’m melting in my chair, occasionally peeling my sticky arms off the table to wipe off the sweat. Cheers!

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