Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Building a corral, part 3 of 5, rails and gate framing

Completed all of the rails today for the fence. So far it's taken 4.5 man days of labor to get this far. Next on the list are the man gates (2 of those) loading chute gate, main entrance gate, and crowding gate. The chute pictured below is to the left in this picture.
This chute is the loading/working chute. At the end of it there will be a Y and one direction goes to the loading ramp, the other to the squeeze chute. It'll be faced with plywood so that the cattle aren't distracted or caused to balk by stuff outside the chute. Because this chute is 6' tall, there will be a 2' tall catwalk along the right hand side of this picture, on the inside of the corral.

I'm probably going to add two blocking gates to this chute so that I can both stop the cows from backing up, and so that I can control how many cows I have going in at a time. One blocking gate just in front of the squeeze chute, with a gate on the side will allow me to empty the chute to get to a cow that I'd like to work on. An example might be having 3 cows in the chute. You want to get rid of the first two to get to the one who needs attention. A blocking gate allows you to stop all of the cows in the chute from rushing the gate at once.

The bottom of this chute, and part of the entrance, will get a 4" concrete slab to complete the structure. Since it's relatively dry now we can wait a month or two to pour the slab with no harm done. I'm choosing to put a slab under this part of the structure because I'm sure that it'll turn into hip-deep mud if I don't.

It blends right in. Next steps:

#4) 6 gates to be constructed/attached

#5) Adjustable loading ramp

Monday, June 29, 2009

Introducing the new geese

I hatched some goose eggs earlier this spring, and the new geese are ready to be introduced to the existing goose flock. Both sides are a little tentative, but the existing goose flock is pretty sure that these guys need to be picked on a little. So there's some neck posturing and vocals.

The new geese have been living in a calf dome inside the range of the older geese, and they've had a chance to look at each other for a couple of days now. I watch them carefully for a couple of hours to make sure that there's no blood. Some feather pulling is expected, and there's a pecking order to establish -- the new geese go straight to the bottom of the flock, and each older goose has to prove it to them and to itself.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Building a corral - part 2 of 5 - Working with radius curves

With every post hole I dig through this thick sod I regret not having brought the tractor. It doesn't help that each sack of concrete weighs 80lbs, and that we need two or three of them for the base of every post. I'm missing my tractor and its hydraulic bucket and post hole digger right here.

The key point to this design is the exact swing and coverage of the gates. So I finish one side of the design, and then carefully measure the radius of the swing of a gate. This takes a while, but after carefully measuring, I place the pole that the gate will be mounted on.
The pole closest to the camera is canted to allow the boards that form the diagonal corner to be flat against it.
So here's the final version. The green T post closest to us marks the corner of the corral, but this is the corner that's got a diagonal across it. to place the posts on either side, I measured from each side the length of the gate. In this case, the gate is 14' long. So i measured 14'2" in from the face of each side. Then to determine where the diagonal needed to go, I measured 14'2" from the mounting post (first post in line with the two green t posts) and then planted a T post there. That's how the second T post got there. I then placed two posts so that they would miss the green post -- representing the swing of the gate.

All of that is to make certain that the crowding gate allows minimum space between it and the wall.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Killer rabbits!

I'm at a local feed store, looking at gate hinges and barbed wire and stuff like that, when I ran across this bin. I'm laughing at the thought of a vicious bunny, when a 12 year old girl walks up and says "yea, they didn't have the sign yesterday and I was petting the black one, and it did THIS to me!" and she showed me an 8" long scratch down the inside of her left arm. Apparently it bled quite a bit.

So if you want vicious rabbits, Del's in Monroe, WA. has them in stock.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Building a corral part 1 of 5 - plan and layout

Having looked at the new land, I think that the best use I can put it to is as a seasonal pasture. It's got good water, lush grass and good shelter. Since it's in the floodplain it's going to be best to pull the animals off it during the flood season (November 1 to March 1), but it should work great as a rotational pasture. I don't want to put sheep on this pasture because i have no idea what the predator load is -- there's 300 acres of wildlife refuge around me -- but I think that adult cows should be ok.
So to do this right, I'll need to be able to drive a stock trailer up, and load all of the cows into it with a minimum of fuss and time. I'll only need to load and unload them once a year or so; drop them off in march, pick them up in October, so I don't need anything really elaborate, but I do need the ability to work on the animals that are there; medical care, branding, weighing, or whatever else I might need to do. Having a proper facility to do that will make it safer for both the cows and I.
So off to the Internet I go, to find the Canada Plan Service CPS 1000 series, beef cattle. after looking at various plans on the Internet, I finally settle on plan 1831, minimum working corral.

After consulting the zoning code, I find that fences can be on the property line, but that there's a requirement that any structure that might house animals must be 25 feet from the property line. So to make sure I'm in compliance I arbitrarily set the working corral 30 feet from the eastern edge. To do that I string a line on the survey points to describe the property line, and then measure off it to set two corners of the corral.

Here's the trailer with the basic supplies for starting the corral. Having looked at the drawing it calls for 33 posts, two gates and a whole bunch of planks. I'm using pressure treated posts because I don't want them to rot off in this wet environment. I'll be using galvanized fasteners for the same reason, and making sure that everything is securely anchored and fastened. This is the flood plain, after all. I expect the corral to be there after a flood event.

Baling twine is really handy when you want to make a 100' line. and its cheap. Everyone should have a roll of baling twine.
That's me in the red shirt. I'm 6'2, and this lush grass is taller than I am. So we're tromping around trying to get a square corral by doing diagonals. this takes a while.
Bryan and I decided to dig the post holes by hand -- there are only 33 of them -- and not to bring the tractor. Somewhere in the middle of this as we struggle with the long grass, we're both really regretting not bringing it to mow down this grass.
We finally get the string marking the edges of the corral up, and start digging holes and planting posts. We use a dry-set technique here.

Dry-set means that you dig the post hole, insert and level the post, and then pour in the dry concrete. Tamp it down, and walk away. You can do this where the soil is moist or damp, and it results in a very strong concrete. The moisture in the ground seeps in and causes the concrete to set. Its very strong because only the minimum amount of water actually gets in -- and the less water you use to mix concrete, the stronger it is.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

About that property line

My property is surrounded on three sides by a wildlife refuge. I don't know why the county didn't buy my land to complete the refuge, but they didn't, and the people who owned it didn't pay the taxes and now it's ended up as mine. My property line is the orange twine in this picture. You can see the corner marker and rebar in the ground in front of the gate. This gate was built on my property.

The county's put in a variety of improvements in the last two or three years. Gates to control access, trails, bridges over the ditches that were dug... unfortunately, most of the improvements they've made have been done on my land. That picture shows the situation at the southern access gate. My property line goes down the center of that road. The gate is mostly on my property. Not sure what I'm going to do about that; but I can't allow the continued use by the public; this is privately owned land, and I intend to use it as pasture, so I can't have random folks wandering around opening my gates and bothering the animals.

So around the perimeter i go, and I find this.

If you click on this picture you'll see a larger version. If you look closely you'll notice some orange baling twine. I'm using that to mark the edges of my property. This is my north property line, looking south. The county has constructed this bridge mostly on my property. It's a nice bridge. It's constructed of pressure treated 8x12 timbers and galvanized fittings and looks sturdy enough to drive a truck over. They've piled at least 100 yards of gravel fill here, on both sides, both to put the bridge on, and to provide a ramp up to either side.

The path that this bridge serves is entirely on my property as well. In fact, if you want to go from the north end of the park to the south, you can't do so without crossing my property. That's interesting. I'm guessing the county didn't survey their land when they bought it. In my book that's a BIG MISTAKE. You don't spend $30k building something like this when you might be forced to remove it, and compensate the landowner for the encroachment and damage. Bad county! bad!

I'm working on figuring out who's in charge of this land, and when I do they'll get a certified letter. Always nice to to do business with the county.

Well, maybe they'll only have to remove half the bridge.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Surveying my new land

I attended a tax foreclosure auction earlier this year and purchased an 8.5 acre parcel of land. The land I purchased is in the 100 year flood plain, and is zoned agricultural. When I first went to look at it I couldn't tell what the land was like under all that snow and was kinda busy with other stuff for a couple of months.

I finally got the survey completed by Hank and Jake, who work for Harstad Consultants, who I recommend for land surveys. The trouble with buying pastures, particularly if they're not mowed, is you have no idea what's under the grass. The 12 acre parcel that I'm farming had been an auto junk yard 40-50 years ago, and I'm still plowing up 1963 license plates and car axles and stuff.

So the way I did it this time was to enlist my brother, Bryan. He'd walk in front of the tractor through the 7 foot tall (not kidding, it's seven feet tall, see the picture below. Bryan is 6'3")
So hes walking slowly in front of me, fighting through the grass and I'm on the tractor with the brush hog mowing a path. I had 1,000 feet of cable and pulleys and tackle to retrieve the tractor waiting on the road if we got stuck, but we didn't, and manage to mow a trail around the perimeter of the property so that the survey crew could do their work. This is peat bog, and there's holes here and there that have nothing underneath them. Other places have a lush, thick covering of delicious (to a ruminant) grass. Good pasture.

Here's what the mowed path looks like. You can see the flag for the survey in the middle distance. The surveyors couldn't always flag the edge of the property due to various ditches that had been dug in the past, so there's a lot of stakes with markings like "property line 30' to the west' or "corner 6' east".

A lot of people buy land and don't have a survey. I've found that an accurate survey is well worth the money. This particular one, due to the amount of time it took and the complex shape, will probably cost me $3500.00 to complete. Probably worth every single penny in this case. You'll see why tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Another swarm

So catching another swarm today; these bees ended up in a bush in the cow pasture. Routine sort of capture; prepare a box, put the box under the bees, shake the bees into the box, put the box lid on. Kinda routine. I went away to do some other chores ,and returned to find...

The cows helping me. Well, as much as cows can help. They've knocked the top off the hive, and messed with the swarm, and it might not stay in its box. This is very annoying.

Ok. So I go get a bale of hay and bribe the cows with it. Even though there's fresh green grass all over, they like a bale of hay as a nice alternative. And then I rearrange the hive, and pick up the whole thing and carry it out of the cow pasture.

But the lid of the hive gets caught on the fence as I pass through the gate, and 20 or 30 bees pop out of it and land on my face. This is actually where you use your internal discipline -- I'm not wearing protective gear, and getting my face stung is my least favorite thing. So I carefully put the box down, and start brushing the bees off my face, and only get stung once, on the bottom of my nose.

The lengths I go through for sweeteners. I must really like honey.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Wood chip polluting wildlife refuge!

The Washington state department of ecology has issued a stop work order based on my using wood chips on my farm. The exact charge is "discharging pollutants into the waters of Washington state". You can see my appeal letter here.

You see, they are claiming that by spreading wood chips that I'm affecting water quality.
The problem with this theory is that none of these pictures, of hundreds of cubic yards of wood chips spread up to 5' deep and 12' wide and 1500' long... are taken at my farm. They're taken at the portage creek wildlife refuge, where the folks at the snohomish county parks department inform me that they've spread HUNDREDS of dump truck loads of the stuff since 1992. In fact, they spread more all the time.
there's 7' of wood chips there.

This pile of wood chips is 15' wide, and over 1500' long. It's through the wildlife sanctuary, and it was put down as mulch to suppress the reed canary grass that is the primary vegetation here.
This land is identical in all respects to mine -- but this is a dedicated wildlife preserve. If wood chips are detrimental to water quality, what the heck are HUNDREDS OF DUMP TRUCK LOADS doing in a wildlife preserve?
I called four different wholesalers of wood chips, and have a list of sites where hog fuel has been delivered in large quantities. For something that pollutes the waters, it's used all over the place. I had no idea.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Legal stuff; PDS and "complaint driven" enforcement

Snohomish county Planning and Development services has a simple answer when you ask why they're enforcing some rule on you, but not apparently on your neighbor. They smile and say "Why, it's because this is a complaint driven process, and we haven't received a complaint about that property".

It sounds reasonable, and since the last thing most people want to do is to have some regulatory agency go after their neighbors, that's where it ends. who wants to cause trouble for folks you have to live with?

The problem with this theory, at least in my case, is that EVERY SINGLE COMPLAINT has been made by a planning and development services employee.

In the picture at the top, that's Roxanne Pilkenton, who, apparently in consultation with a couple of other PDS employees (see the note, per xxx and yyy at the bottom of the form), made the latest complaint. So another complaint is entered by a PDS employee about my property.
When a public agency claims to be impartial, and to be complaint driven, and then does this sort of stuff it erodes confidence in the overall fairness of that agency. Once employees start writing complaints, why aren't they writing complaints about every violation?
The code enforcement officers have had to drive by multiple examples of the same violations they've been whipping me about to take pictures of my property. If PDS is in the business of writing complaints so that they can enforce it, they should be writing complaints in an even-handed manner. There are other properties on each side of mine that have equivalent "violations".
I've been wondering what's going on -- but the explanation is pretty simple. Unequal enforcement sucks. If the rules are important enough to enforce on me, they should be doing the same for all of my neighbors.
If you're going to enforce a law or regulation you cannot be seen as selectively, unfairly enforcing it. This sort of crap is why I don't trust the county government to deal with me fairly and is actually radicalizing me. I am much more motivated to resist every single thing the county does on suspicion and belief that this is a selective enforcement towards some agenda that I'm not privvy to. This will cost them thousands and thousands of dollars that could otherwise be spent on more productive items.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

how does the garden grow

The greenhouse plants are a mixed bag. Some success, some failures.

The watermelons seem to really like it. They're starting to vine out, and the foliage is looking good; nice green. This a sugarbaby watermelon plant. It's supposed to produce 5-7lb personal sized watermelons. So far so good.

The tomatoes are big enough now that I'm going to start staking them. Plenty of flowers, some small fruit set.

I'm realizing that I planted too many zucchini plants. These guys are 2' tall and going for the moon.
The basil is looking good. That's a double row of basil on the right side of this photo.

Harvested the first basil of the year today, trimming off the flowers and growth.
Yum! A whole box of fresh basil! YUM!!!

Andrea is horrified at the size of the squash patch. The squash are rapidly filling that end of the greenhouse.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Hundreds of chickens

The chickens are about ready to go out on pasture. This has been an interesting flock to brood; half black australorp, half pearl white leghorns. The leghorns are more excitable, more flighty. So they've been teaching the australorps to freak out, too. As a result I can count on waves of chickens to flee and then approach me, like waves lapping on a beach when I'm feeding them each day. It's been interesting.
As they've gotten bigger their food intake has increased. Right now they're drinking 12 gallons of water a day and eating about 60lbs of food a day. That's for 550 birds and a couple of goslings. We've stopped using the smaller feeders and started bringing the food in with buckets. Two five gallon buckets of food a day, three 5 gallon buckets of water. Good for the biceps.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Legal stuff; appeal of SnoCo PDS case #09-102455-ct

Snohomish county PDS issued me a notice of violation for a trailer that I use to raise birds, and for my greenhouse. Here's the appeal letter:
Appeal of notice of violation in the case #09-102455-ct

Basis for appeal:

The code enforcement officer in this case did not return repeated phone calls made to him and did not talk to me about either of this structures prior to entering this order.

The "mobile home" is a farm trailer used for the brooding and raising of chickens. It is not permanently affixed to the ground, it is licensed and towable. Farming on the flood plain does require evacuation of animals in the case of flood, and in the most recent flood event in early January, 2009 Snohomish county PDS videotaped me loading animals and equipment on these trailers to evacuate my property. Roxanne Pilkenton has viewed this video and is in possession of it to the best of my knowledge.

This farm trailer is in response to over 2 years of attempting to permit a permanent structure to raise and brood birds in. If the PDS will ever approve my structure I'd be happy to use permanent, anchored buildings to accomplish the same purpose. But since this process apparently takes years to complete, trailers are a legal and appropriate alternative.

This trailer has no water, power, kitchen or working bathroom. It's used exclusively to store feed, animals and tools. It currently contains 778 chickens and 150 turkeys and 3 geese.

With respect to the membrane structure, since temporary buildings do not typically require flood hazard permits I did not apply for one. Having been informed that one is required, I will file for such a permit, but my expectation is that the permit process to approve that building will span several years as has the last.

In the interest of resolving this issue, if Mr. Odegaard wishes to come an inspect the trailer in question, he's welcome to. He can reach me at 206 940 4980 to arrange a time to do that inspection.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Look who's promoting the use of wood chips!

In spring of 2007, the department of ecology funded the promotion of wood chips for use as stall bedding here.

In 2007, wood chip and pellets were a good choice for economic and ecologic reasons. Now, of course, they're pollutants.

The turkey trap

This is a turkey trap.

Actually it's a prototype of a field pen that I built a couple of years ago that's sitting in the front pasture. I haven't bothered to pick it up, and walking by today noticed that the turkey trap has caught 5 turkeys.

As far as the turkeys are concerned, they're completely caught. It doesn't matter that there's open air right behind them. They were walking by, on the way to the gate, and stepped into the turkey trap, and that was that. I noticed them in the morning, about 10am, and they were still in the turkey trap at 3pm, pacing back and forth. You see, they can see the gate where they want to go, in the direction of the corner of the turkey trap. They want to go there. They are fixated on going through the gate. But the turkey trap has caught them. At 5pm, after they've been stuck in the turkey trap for 7 hours, I finally go over and shoo them out the other side.

They panic as I approach. "Oh dear! we are completely trapped and must ESCAPE! RUN!" and they try their hardest to strain themselves through the fencing in the corner that they've been staring at for 7 hours.

30 seconds later they're all on their way to the gate, relieved that this time, the turkey trap failed. They don't notice me laughing at them as they traipse off, all in a line.

This is the turkey trap.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Coyote regulations

I've gotten several questions about hunting coyotes in Washington state, or in snohomish county. So this post is the regulations related to hunting or trapping coyotes. I'm offering this as my opinion, but I'm not an attorney and this is not legal advice; for that you'll have to find someone with a credential.

Your best defense

First, your best defense against coyotes is to secure your animals at night. Although coyote predation does occur in the daytime, it's pretty rare. it is actually pretty hard to make a coyote-proof fence -- they will dig under it, and they can jump a 7 foot fence if it doesn't have a coyote roller on top of it.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (wdfw) has a good publication with pictures showing fencing ideas and other notes about coyotes here.

You may not be able to fence

If you are in the flood plain of any river, you are not allowed to build the sorts of fences required to exclude coyotes, or you may not be able to afford them. In Snohomish county, you are only allowed to build a 3 strand barbed wire fence or a 3 strand electric fence, neither one of which will exclude coyotes. Your second choice is to confine your animals every day, which may or may not be practical.

Regulations related to killing coyotes

First, check here to make sure that you're actually looking at a coyote. Wolves are protected, you can't kill them legally in Washington state.

WDFW says that a hunting or trapping license is required to take coyote here. The exception to this requirement is when you, a tenant or employee are hunting on your own property. Here's the quote:

"The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife does not classify coyotes as game animals, but a state license is required to hunt or trap them (RCW 77.32.010). The owner, the owner's immediate family, employee, or a tenant of real property may kill or trap a coyote on that property if it is damaging crops or domestic animals (RCW 77.36.030). A license is not required in such cases. Check with your county and/or local jurisdiction for local restrictions. Except for bona fide public or private zoological parks, persons and entities are prohibited from importing a coyote into Washington State without a permit from the Department of Agriculture and written permission from the Department of Health. Persons and entities are also prohibited from acquiring, selling, bartering, exchanging, giving, purchasing, or trapping a coyote for a pet or export (WAC 246-100-191)."

Your location may have restrictions on firearms use

If you live in an incorporated city or town, there may be restrictions that you'll need to know about. You can generally ask an attorney to research this for you. Calling a local police department can get you an answer, but there's some chance that the officer you talk to doesn't know himself, and if there's a misunderstanding between you and the local police, it's generally not in your favor. If you live on land that is unincorporated, not part of any town or city, the chances are good that firearm use is allowed. In unincorporated snohomish county there are no restrictions on firearms use other than the normal ones. Don't shoot across or along a road, don't shoot from a public road, be aware of your background, make sure you know what you're shooting at.

How do you hunt a coyote?

I've killed the coyotes bothering me by noting what time of day they appear, and where they come from and go. I did this by finding feather piles from turkeys they'd killed, and by carefully tracking them each time I lost a bird. Pretty soon I had narrowed down the area they entered my property, and the time of day they entered. They were coming between 4:30am and 6am, entering my property from a small patch of forest about 100 yards wide. I positioned myself on a barn roof with some stuff stacked around me to break up my outline, and was in place each morning at 3:30am waiting. I shot three coyotes in a week, and had one get away.

The coyote that escaped me was one that entered my property, and then worked its way around so that it was downwind of my barn. It scented me at 150 yards, and turned and ran away. So when you're waiting for your coyote, make sure to keep an eye on your downwind side. I didn't have to bother with calling, or bait -- the coyotes were after my birds, so I had a good lure already. There's a pretty good exploration of hunting coyotes here.

What do you shoot a coyote with?

A soft-nosed high velocity bullet is probably best for medium to long range. At short range or in cases where you don't want the bullet to go a long ways, say 30 yards or less, a shotgun is a good choice. I use a .308 calibre scoped rifle, and the shots I've made have been between 150 and 250 yards. It's worth practicing a bit to make sure you can hit at the range you're setting up. The kill zone on a coyote is about the size of your hand laid flat, just behind the front legs. You'll have one shot each day, and if you miss the coyote might not come back for a few weeks. Take the time and make sure you can make that shot count. Other calibers that are popular for coyotes are .223, .22-250, .243, .25-06, .260, .270. You can see a discussion on coyote guns here

"Shoot, shovel and shut up"

It's a fact of life that if you live in the country or you farm, you'll have some issues with predators. Most folks in the country follow this maxim for any predator that they encounter. Myself, I'm law abiding. If you find that you cannot kill your coyote yourself, you can generally call the WDFW for assistance. It's your government -- they're here to help you, right?

What do you do with the coyote once you've shot it?

I skin mine and have the skins tanned. You'll find a good site on skinning coyotes here.

You can have it tanned by these folks. They want the hide raw and frozen, shipped to them. Don't salt the hide, freeze it as soon as possible.

Legal stuff; appeal of Dept. of Ecology order 6708

This is a copy of the appeal of an order issued to me by the department of ecology for spreading wood chips on my property. The best information I have is that these appeals will typically result in a pre-trial hearing in 4-6 weeks, and a formal hearing in 9-10 months. So we'll resolve this one sometime in 2010.
This notice filed per WAC 371-08-340

Appellant: Bruce King
444 Ravenna Blvd, Suite 308
Seattle, WA. 98115
206-940-4980 (voice)
206-985-4464 (fax)

Apellee: Department of Ecology, order #6708

For site located at 1905 55th avenue SE
Everett, WA 98205-2132

Tax parcel #29052200300300

The area in question comprises 1/8th of an acre, located on the south east corner of my 12 acre property. The Department of Ecology has caused an order to be issued that prevents any work on my entire property, a working farm. I am contemplating seeking an injunction against this order because it substantially interferes with normal daily activities on my farm, such as repair of existing fences, planting corn or other crops, tilling, mowing, haying or any other activity. This order is causing me severe hardship and economic damage.

This order was issued in response to my spreading wood chips on my property to prevent erosion and serve as mulch to control reed canary grass,a non-native and invasive species of grass listed as a noxious weed by the snohomish county weed control board and other agencies. Spreading and use of wood chips as mulch or soil amendment is a common and legal practice.

The department of ecology has not offered any proof of any discharge and wishes me to spend thousands of dollars in the hope that my money will prove their assertion. Such fees prior to any finding in any competent court or jurisdiction present a fine or penalty that is prior to any due process. If the department of ecology wishes to press this point and believes that there is a violation, at the very least the department of ecology should pay for the assessment and survey. There is no proof, measurement or indication of any sort that any detectable pollutant is emitted from my property, much less that wood chips on my property created any such pollutant.

The department is able to collect samples of the water from the state right of way, over 1,000 feet of linear distance that comprises the south property line of my property, or from any other point or points, but has not done any testing that I know of. The areas that I have spread chips on are only inches away from this right of way, so any pollutant that is produced would surely show on tests if they chose to perform any. They have done this sort of testing in other cases but have chosen not to in my case, despite the Department of Ecology assertion that he was aware of this matter as early as January 11, 2008.

The have had over a year to do any testing by their own admission and this appears to be more than adequate time for them to do so.

It is unfair to attempt to have me pay to prove their case for them when they have every right and ability to do their own testing and have chosen not to do so.

Relief sought: I want this order struck and a declaratory order entered stating that use of wood chips on agricultural land for mulch or soil amendment is consistent with normal agricultural practice, is legal and permissible, and to have the department of ecology enjoined from further harassing me on this matter.

Facts in support of this appeal:

Mr Anderson, the ecology biologist responsible for this order, directed and approved the filling and grading of a hole created when a neighbor of mine sank an excavator on his property that adjoins mine. On multiple occasions, in the presence of at least 5 witnesses, Mr. Anderson threatened Jim Clementson, the owner of this neighboring property, with fines of $10,000 a day and continued to make those threats to Mr. Clementsons attorney. Later, he threatened me with the same fines. Mr. Anderson has used these threats on multiple property owners which I intend to show at this hearing. He makes these threats verbally.

In order to facilitate the removal of this equipment, because the state DOT refused to allow any access under highway 2, the recovery effort was mounted over my property. I received no recompense for any of this work, and did so under the direction of Mr. Anderson, believing that removal of this equipment and nuisance was best for all parties - those parties being the state of Washington, Mr. Clementson, and myself and various other state and federal agencies. I have incurred substantial loss to facilitate solving this problem and am puzzled by Mr. Andersons actions in light of his complicity in this recovery effort. Mr. Anderson took many photos of this recovery effort and published those photos in various journals. The recovery of this equipment was a public spectacle, and Mr. Anderson was there the entire time. No action I have taken was done with any intent other than best agricultural practices for a small, working farm and to restore the land to its original status as productive pasture as rapidly as I could.

Mr. Anderson was present at multiple times during the recovery effort for that equipment and approved the actions required to remove that equipment from the property.

My property is zoned AG-10, an agricultural designation in snohomish county and has been in continuous use as agricultural land for at least 50 years. It is within the 100 year flood plain.

Mr. Anderson directed Mr Clementson in my presence to "Do whatever you need to do to get equipment back there and fill that hole". and told Mr Clementson to fill his hole with whatever material he could. Mr. Clementson, obviously very disturbed by these threats, representing financial ruin for him, has abandoned the property, leaving the hole that Mr. Anderson wished to have filled.

The land prior to the recover effort was a meadow that has been used for decades to graze cows , sheep and other animals, and to grow peas and hay. Historic photos dating to the turn of the century show a variety of uses of the entire parcel, including as an auto junk yard, commercial log yard, pasture, row crop and other typical agricultural uses as allowed by past zoning and regulation and by current zoning and regulation. The use of this land has not changed.

After the equipment recovery effort the canary grass that comprised the bulk of the vegetation in this 1/8th of an acre and still does comprise the bulk of the vegetation surrounding this area, was mashed down and unusable as pasture. To restore the land to useful pasture I initially planted several species of pasture grass and forage grass with an eye towards improving the protein content of the forage. I found that the reed canary grass was too well established and out-competed more desirable strains of grass. After consulting with the weed control board, I chose to use a layer of wood chips to suppress the canary grass, which worked well.

The choice of mulching with wood chips in the opinion of the noxious weed control board of snohomish county, was the most ecologically friendly method and posed no danger of herbicide runoff or any other form of pollution or damage to the surrounding area or vegetation.

The snohomish county planning and development service served notice on me that fencing was considered to be an obstruction in the 100 year flood plain, and this prevented me from fencing off that 1/8th acre of restored pasture. Given that I could not fence and so could not contain my animals on my property, I decided to use that 1/8th acre area of land to construct a temporary greenhouse to use as part of my small integrated farm. This is a lightweight, membrane (plastic) covered structure that I use to extend my growing season. This sort of building and its location is allowed by the zoning and is common on farms in western Washington. This building was constructed on grade by driving metal pipes into the dirt and then mounting metal hoops on those pipes, covering the resulting structure with plastic. There is no foundation and there was no disturbance of the soil required to construct this temporary structure.

I raise chickens, pigs, cows, goats, sheep, turkeys and geese on this property.

I use wood chips in my farm operation as a source of organic material for compost, to control weeds, and to amend my soil as indicated by soil tests and experience with my land.

When the state, county or any other entity creates a new wetland, one of the key components of that construction is wood chips, also known as hog fuel, and woody debris such as stumps, logs and branches. At times they dump these items on the banks of a river or stream, or sometimes directly into the stream or river itself. Given that accepted science and practice in this state has led to the dumping of millions of cubic yards of wood chips in tens of thousands of "wetland" sites, to now claim that wood chips here are a pollutant is inconsistent, at best.

Mulching to control noxious weeds is considered to be best practice, as evinced by the publication attached to this appeal.

Heavy rains in the earlier part of this year led to standing water on my property, which borders on highway 2. Runoff from the 76 acres of concrete from highway 2 are not controlled or impounded in any way. This huge impervious surface next to my property and the surface roads underneath this elevated highway have diverted water that would normally drain to the south onto my property, leaving the impression that it is wetter than it is. The department of ecology approved plans for this section of highway 2 require a lower area and plantings designed to aid in the impounding and filtering of water, none of which has been completed, and none of which have been enforced. The state department of transportation has had to post "Water on roadway" signs on the surface roads for months this year, something they have not had to do in previous years.

My property sits entirely within diking district #6, which dike was established in 1905. Prior to the construction of the dike the area was a tidal marsh. The presence of hydric soils or plants in the surrounding area may not be indicative of wetland status. Inundation by runoff from highway 2 combined with local random distributions of wetland plants means that they will re-establish themselves very quickly if standing water is present, but this is caused by the surface roads and construction of highway 2, along with the department of ecologies complete failure to enforce the approved plan for highway 2. This standing water is a recent occurrence. Peat bog will persist for centuries after the water is removed, and tannic acid, one output from peat bogs, is an excellent preservative.

This appeal pleading may be amended as the county and state respond to my public document requests. I believe that there will be information material to this appeal that will be disclosed by these requests.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

The bantam hen and her turkey godmother

I have a small flock of bantams that I maintain as yard art; they pretty much fend for themselves. They're too small to eat, and they lay little tiny eggs, but they're good mothers and manage to produce two or three sets of chicks each year. Here, a little black bantam hen is brooding her chicks.

She crouches down and spreads her wings a little, and all the chicks crowd in under her.

But then I noticed this turkey hanging out. In fact, the bantam hen and the turkey hen appear to be friends. It's odd because there's no other turkeys around.
As i watch, the turkey hen is clearly hanging out with the bantam, but...
...then I see the turkey hen crouch and the bantam chicks run under her and brood.

This turkey hen has decided that these chicks are hers, too, and is sharing the mothering of the chicks with the bantam hen.

itchy piglets

This is a recycled street sweeper brush. The pigs love it to scratch on, and the piglets are just discovering it. They're a little tentative at first, nose up, moving closer, backing off, and then they discover the joys of stiff bristles. Now it's a daily stop on their piglet tour. Everyone scratches their sides and head and butt and then off to the food.

Mom wanders over to scratch herself, too. this brush is very popular.

Saturday, June 13, 2009


I was doing my weekly round around the pasture, and i noticed something odd. I couldn't really see what it was, but it was alive.

The pigs have dug out their own private lagoon, and they're floating around in it like alligators.

I'm guessing this started as a wallow, and they dug down to the water table, and then dug a connection to the local drainage ditch. The result is that they've got a mudhole. But then I noticed something funny. They're not moving. These pigs are stuck.

They can move around in the water and mud, but the sides of the pit they've dug are too steep and slippery for them to climb out of. Now I'm counting. there are 12 pigs stuck in this hole, with an average weight of around 300lbs.

Even my big boar is stuck in the hole. He weighs in at around 600lbs. So I'm looking at half my pig herd stuck in this hole. Best I can figure is that the first few were drinking there, and then it got steep and slippery, and now and then another pig would fall in. there's brush and mud and stuff for them to eat, and they're all in good condition -- lots of body fat. Hmm.. wonder how long they've been in there?