Fun on the Farm

An introduction to country living

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Once in a while, my main man gives me a sidelong glance, bats his eyelashes and tells me he thinks it’s time to add a new addition to our urban farm.

While the subject of his obsession du jour changes—sometimes he thinks goats are something we can’t live without, other times he makes the case for a family milk cow or wool-producing sheep, miniature horses, ducks and the like—my response typically centers on the phrase, “I don’t think so, dude.”

My answer is firmly based on the fact that I’m the early riser in our domestic partnership, and thus am often the one responsible for letting the chickens out in the morning and making sure they—and our Flemish meat rabbits—have enough food and water to get them through the day.

I’m not up for a new retinue of extra tasks—tasks such as milking a surly goat at the break of dawn. As a small-scale farmer, I’m aware that keeping animals around to augment our food supply is well worth it, but also requires a commitment.

The powers that be who are putting on the annual Country Living Expo and Winter Cattleman’s School Sat., Jan. 25 at Stanwood High School are also savvy to the fact that as eating locally—whether it’s raising your own animals and vegetables in your backyard or farming for profit on sizable acreage in the county—is hard work.

Although some of the workshops they’ll be offering are already full, with more than 170 classes on the roster, both urban farmers and longtime tenders of the land should still be able to find offerings that will help them on their quest for “country living.”

A quick review of the sessions reveals food-production-related classes on: beekeeping, poultry processing, cob oven-building, fruit tree pruning, raising sheep, cheese and yogurt-making, swine breeding, container gardening, cider production, pie crust creation, growing giant pumpkins and veggies, fish smoking, backyard chickens, raising beef for prime grade, pressure canning, raising heritage turkeys, finding and cooking wild edibles, mushroom cultivation and many more.

For the more dedicated farmers, workshops also abound on everything from propagation techniques to equine first aid, agroforestry, on-farm composting, how to choose the right tractor and implements for your property and projects, greenhouse growing, ewe flock nutrition, organic certification for livestock producers, sheep shearing, maximizing litter production and (yuck) livestock fecal exams.

A trade show featuring local agribusinesses and networking opportunities will also be happening throughout the day, and a prime rib lunch is included in the registration fee. Workshops fill up fast, so you’ll want to get online as soon as possible and peruse the lengthy list to ensure you can still get in on the action.

By afternoon’s end, it’s entirely possible you’ll realize that you want to begin a new career as a chicken farmer or bee whisperer. Conversely, you might understand just how much work “country living” requires, and instead continue to rely on visits to local farmers markets and other purveyors to augment your food supply. And that’s O.K., too.

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