By Mary Ellen Psaltis
As the morning sun reaches up for the horizon, Wendy Clark has already pulled on her boots and grabbed a large wire basket. She’s headed to the chicken coop to let the flock loose and provide their breakfast. Mr. Sunshine, one of the proud roosters, announces her arrival. A cackle of 88 hens surges at the chance for fresh feed. The other six roosters join in, as they puff up their chests and chase the hens. “I want to keep doing this,” smiles Clark, who calls herself the eyes and ears of the farm. She and her husband Ted Clark, a software developer, live on the Scatter Creek Farm and Conservancy.
The Scatter Creek Farm is part of South of the Sound Community Farm Land Trust (SSCFL), which is dedicated to preserving and keeping farmland. Kirsop Farm owners Colin Barricklow and Genine Bradwin are leasing 60 of the 100 acres. They also purchased several outbuildings, an historic farmhouse and three barns.
While Kirsop Farms grows rows of nutrient-packed vegetables, Wendy tends to the Rhode Island Reds and Plymouth Barred Rocks. If you have ever stroked the silken feathers of a nesting chicken or listened to their throaty coos, you might know the calming joys they inspire. Cracking open a fresh egg to discover an intense orange yolk and eating it is another high point in chicken ownership. The rich yolk color is indicative of the nutritious diet these birds enjoy. Ultimately they impart to the eater higher levels of carotenoids and micronutrients such as vitamin A and omega-3. Many locals love these eggs.
The less fun part of chicken ownership is the regular moving of the coop. Of course, this means daily when the weather is sloppy and the ground a mess. The portable electric fence also requires regular moving to provide plenty of grass and grubs for the birds. Hay is changed, eggs are gathered, and care and attention is given to the flock. At evening time it’s necessary to make sure all the guys and gals are back in the coop. Predators like chicken for dinner.
Soon Clark’s brood will grow by 500 broiling chickens. These are not egg layers. They are raised for their meat. The birds will grow up in separate areas, as they have different requirements for their care. Kirsop Farms previously had chickens for sale twice yearly, but this summer they will have broilers regularly available at the market.
Farming runs in Wendy’s blood. For years, she had it in her mind to live and work on a farm, in spite of the fact that she lived in a house in Lacey. As Wendy became a regular customer, she and Kirsop’s Bradwin developed a relationship. Her love of fresh, local food grew. Clark took Master Gardener classes, grew some of her own vegetables and canned like crazy. Kirsop Farm’s desires for property and Clark’s dream of living on a farm unfolded together. Her time on the land trust homestead will end in approximately two and a half years when Kirsop Farm owners Colin and Genine take residence. However, Wendy still sees farming in her future. Perhaps it will manifest as ‘hobby’ farm – that’s a scaled down operation with the ability to have a few selected animals and room to do some of their own food growing. Who knows? It’s an ongoing journey.
In the meantime homeschool studies are coming to a close with their son Ryan, a talented musician who will be starting college at Centralia Community College. But, Wendy will still have her newest family addition – Buttercup – a young Jersey who will eventually provide milk for homemade butter. She is a shy cutie. Wendy spends more time at the farm instead of working the stall at the Olympia Farmers Market. She misses chatting with customers but is finding pleasure in all aspects of animal husbandry.
Her convictions to educate people about local food continue. Ask her about chickens, CSA’s (community support agriculture) or what’s happening in the world of farming.
“Farmers aren’t just farmers,” noted Clark. “They attend civic meetings and are on boards. They are tireless, hardworking people who are always ready to jump in and help.” I’d say that describes Wendy.
She and Ted appreciate the peaceful country quiet and are regularly dazzled by the display of stars. They wake up to various birds each morning. John Denver sang that life on the farm is kind of laid back. I don’t know if that’s true for Wendy, but I can confirm that she is grateful that she’s a country girl.
Learn more at Kirsop Farm’s stand at the Olympia Farmers Market.
Eat Well – Be Well