From the Farmer

Week 10 – 7/20/2016

Wed, Sat Boat House Hosts Sought
We are looking for one or more hosts for our Boat House pickups, both Wednesday and Saturday.  If you have a share, or want one, and can commit to a few hours a week (3:15 – 6:15 pm Wednesday or 9:45am – 2:15 pm Saturday) please let us know.  We welcome several people to create a revolving schedule for both pickup days.  Hosts receive produce

The work is easy and social – be there to help members (and often their spouses or friends) check in and find their items, answer questions, or contact us if something is amiss. 

If you are interested email us at or call the Veggie Hotline at 571-297-6900.  We will provide details and work with you to create a schedule.   

In Shares this Week: Goose?
You may know that this year our flock of laying hens, nearly 500 strong, is busy fertilizing new fields in The Grant.  We run between the two farms several times a day, which in addition to being expensive in time and fuel, leaves us without a good watchful eye on our ladies.  Our early plans foresaw us raising livestock in a single place, with a farmer dedicated to just that.  I don’t know how we were convinced to start raising poultry early, but here we are four years into juggling veggies with livestock.  There is a special corner in the barn reserved for banging my head against the wall.

There’s a certain learning curve to distributed production, and we’re still figuring out what shape it is exactly.  Kubler-Ross?  Manifest Learning Curve Reality?  Adjusted Startup Curve?  As our infrastructure there develops things become easier, but predator control is one piece of the production puzzle that we have limited control of.  We use several strategies to manager predators: electric fence, little blinking red lights (thanks Bio-Dad), mood-altering medications (to battle anxiety), and guardian livestock.  All have varying rates of efficacy.  As seen on Instagram and Facebook, the latter approach, Ben and his Police Geese squad of six American Buffs, was a great Anserini Hope but has proven to be only mildly effective.

According to a Bill M via post on our Facebook page (so I’m told), geese, which are said to have excellent hearing, warned Romans of an approaching Goth army, alerting the guards in time for soldiers and citizens to defend their city.  It does work to keep the Goths away, I had a girlfriend, Theodora, who wore her lipstick dark and her fashion late Victorian and had a hard time accepting we broke up.  I had a pet goose who’d make noise anytime she visited or The Cure came on.  She was a dancer and an actress and didn’t stop coming around until she met my friend Justin.  Our Buffs seem to do good work with aerial predators like hawks and owls but we’ve lost several birds lately, mostly at night, and I’m not sure they really work if there’s no one to respond when they raise a ruckus if a raccoon or fox gets through the fence.  After all, does Mike really swear at the tractor if there’s no Deb to ignore him?

Speaking of zoning, we’ve had good news recently.  A few agricultural uses associated with active, on-site farming on open space have been added to a list of acceptable changes to the county zoning ordinance.  This is not a done deal, as the Board of Supervisors still has to weigh this and approve, but it is very supportive of real agricultural uses of open space, particularly community-oriented agriculture like this.  This kind of farming requires people, equipment, attention and some point of distribution, and the proposed changes address these needs.

We feel strongly that a project like this will work best if we (or farmers in similar circumstances) are able to live where we farm.  There is a particular use, “tenant dwellings” that we hope will pass with the others.  Tenant dwellings are strictly regulated in size and scope and would be further regulated in open space, and they do not give developers additional density (in our case, any farmhouse or barn apartment would be owned by the Conservancy).  But, they would give us farmers a place on the farm to live.  We don’t believe this can be abused, and the county likewise wants to ensure the same.

There is still time to support these changes.  Please do.  There are two board members who represent us, Supervisor Buffington and Chairwoman Randall.  If you write, thank them for their support so far and please tell them you support these farm uses, including tenant dwellings.

Enjoy your veggies, and

Be great,

Mike, Deb, Al, Lex, Jennifer, Anya, James, Kay, Sonya, Julia and Kelly, Radish and Bella, Goats x 12, Camilla x 492, dinner chicks x 999 in the freezer, Roscoe RIP and Popcorn, whose parents impressed upon him values like, work hard for what you want in life; that your word is your bond; that you do what you say and say what you do; that you treat people and chickens with dignity and respect.

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Willowsford Conservancy

41025 Willowsford Lane, Aldie, VA 20105

Phone: 571-440-2400

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23595 Founders Drive, Ashburn, VA 20148

Phone: 571-297-6900

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