Today is Food Revolution Day, a day that is committed to learning about where our food is sourced. I thought it was a perfect day to share a recent visit to my new favorite farm on Bainbridge Island, Secret Spring Farm. It was a great day to get together for a Secret Spring Farm Field Trip for all ages. This small farming family has been back on their homestead for almost 2 years working hard revamping this land that their Great Grandfather, Frank Williams, purchased in 1912. Erik and Felix are cousins and this is where their family history started on Bainbridge Island. Erik is married to Maia and they met at Felix’s wedding to Sola, Maia’s sister. So Erik, Maia, Felix, Sola and their baby Aine all live on the farm. Did you get that?!?!
I met Erik and Maia a few months ago at a community meeting. When I told them about my blog, I asked if it would be ok to visit them with some friends at their farm. So last week, we decided that we needed a field trip to see what this small farm life is all about. I asked a friend of mine, Shealeen Stabelfeldt (owner of Building Blocks NW) and her 2 adorable children – Maia and Luke to join us for the field trip. Shealeen home schools her children, so this was a perfect lesson on the farm. I invited my mother, Ginger as well. So we put our boots on, grabbed our cameras and went out for our little farm adventure a few miles down the road.
We were greeted by the roosters crowing as they played king of the hill.
Secret Spring Farm has approximately 50 hens and 30 baby chickens. Their flock is a variety of Golden Stars, Black Stars, Rhode Island Red, Astralorpe, Ameraucana. They also have horses and mules to help plow the land. Maia says, “the animals are more environmentally friendly than tractors. She said, “I know how to handle a horse or mule. I don’t know how to run or fix a tractor.” The farm cats don’t get to nap all day. They work on the farm as the special task force on rodent “re-direction” work.
Secret Spring Farm is 6 acres of cleared land where their Great Grandfather planted a dozen apple trees in 1920. They have terraced garden beds where they grow a variety of kale, potatoes, lettuce, fenugreek, asparagus and more. They kept some of the raspberry bushes and grapevines growing nearby. Additionally they have young and old Apple, Cherry and Pear trees. Their hope is that their pear trees will grow tall in 3-5 years so they can make some cider. They are also hoping that the BARN Commercial Kitchen will be built and ready to share the space and equipment with other farmers and artisans to make their cider.
Erik was telling us that their great grandparents lived on the farm and orchard in 1920. They live in the same house. Erik is now in the room that his Grandmother grew up in while she lived in the house. He says that he is amazed to think about it when he has time to go in the room to rest. They recently updated the house to allow for current wiring and technology. Felix works from home and is also the webmaster for their beautiful web site. When he is done with the computer work for the day he steps outside and helps out on the farm.
While we were talking it was quite fun to hear all of the animals in the area. It was a melody of coyotes howling in the forest nearby, the roosters crowing every few minutes and the birds and eagles swooshing by from above. I asked them about unwanted visitors and if they have problems with the animals taking freebies. They said that the coyotes will try to get a “free lunch” when they take a break to go inside. The farmers have installed electric fencing to help deter prey but it is usually on at night time while they are not working. The deer roam and take nibbles or samples and are a bit easier to scare away. The eagles are perched high in the trees surrounding, keeping an eye on the perfect moment to swoop in and grab a feast to bring back to their nest. I asked them, “how do you stop that?” Maia said, “you run about, make tons of noise and move your arms about. It’s a group effort but that is about the most you can do. It is farm life!”
I guess I never really thought about having to protect and secure the goods in that way. Today we talk so much about technology security that this just really brings it back to nature and protecting their life’s work and investment.
As we toured the farm the hens, chickens and roosters were all around us. I couldn’t believe how beautiful they were, so many beautiful colors. The golden and black ones are Ameraucana. The black and white striped ones are Barred. They also have some Astralorpe, which lay their eggs the fastest.
I asked, how many eggs will the hens lay? On average the 3 hens will give you 2 eggs every a day. Roosters just eat, eat, eat!
Maia, grew up with chickens in Rosemeade, CA until she was 8 years old. Her family has had a flock of chickens all their life. When they moved to Arcadia, CA ,they lived on a farm with roosters. Maia’s sister, Sola also learned about chickens from a young age. They brought the Ameraucana from their mom’s flock in California. I was very curious, I had to ask how they all met. Secret Spring Farm is the perfect small family farm. They all work very well together and each of them have their strengths and special knowledge that make it the perfect mix.
They feed the chickens Organic food. Their plans are to grow Quinoa and other GF grains to feed the chickens to produce GF eggs. You can tell by the color of the earlobes in general. A white lobed hen will lay white eggs, while a red lobed hen will lay brown eggs. Ameraucana lay eggs with colors ranging from khaki green to sky blue. Maia was so great in teaching the children about the animals and how to communicate with them safely. The kids had a chance to hold the chickens, pet the horses and mules.
Eventually the farmers would like to get the farm in better shape to have more people visit the farm. They want to connect with the community by having Secret Spring Farm Field Trip for all ages, so that people can see, learn and experience how their food is grown.
The farm was covered in blackberries when they moved in. They said it took a ton of work to clear it. Their great grandparents had a farm and orchard with big trees that are still there and are 50-80 years old. When they had kids, they stopped the farm and let it grow over. The trees grew big and tall while they raised their family. They would clear cut the trees to sell for lumber. Now that the great grandchildren are back on the homestead, the family roots continue to grow with the farm and some of the original trees.
For now you can find Secret Spring Farm produce, eggs and honey (soon), at the Bainbridge Island Farmers Market and at the Farm Stand at Bay Hay and Feed. For more information about Secret Spring Farm, please go to www.secretspringfarm.com
Later that day I received a very nice treat! An email with the project that little Maia Stabelfeldt wrote about her day on the farm. She also drew a picture. Lovely!