Monday, March 28, 2011

Q: For some reason this winter we've lost more trees and big limbs than any year in the past.

We called several logging outfits and they said they wouldn't even come look at the fallen trees unless we had acres of them. Then we called lumber companies and were appalled at how much they wanted to charge us to cut down a couple of dangerous trees and cut up the fallen ones. It was in the thousands! We can't afford to pay someone to cut these trees up and we don't want to watch them rot. What can we do?

A: It seems that the lumber companies and loggers are not interested in residential property much these days and will charge you to remove the trees. It used to be the other way around and they would pay you. I suggest a couple of things that won't make you money but might at least clean up the mess and make you feel better.

One option is to contact Vashon Forest Stewards on the Island. Their manager, David Warren, can be reached at 463-9405. Check out their website: You may be able to get a tax write off for donating the trees to this group and they will do the cutting and hauling. They provide Island jobs and recycle the trees into finished lumber to support their education programs.

You might also consider offering the wood to some of the local organizations who cut, split and deliver wood each winter to house bound elderly folks, very low income families and others in need who heat with wood. These volunteers do the work so that people in our community can stay warm in the winter. These groups include the local St Vincent DePaul, several island churches, Vashon Rotary Club and others. You can call Kris Hvatum, at 408-7267, who helps to coordinate these efforts.

One last thing. Leave a few downed trees and snags for the woodpeckers. They make quick work of turning those trees into sawdust and, along the way. provide nest sites for owls and other birds

Monday, March 14, 2011

Q: We have been so happy with the little farm you sold us!

We're all settled in and have already started a garden and have a few chickens. We think we'd like to have some goats or cows and start making cheese. I'd love to work from home and we might be able to make enough selling cheese that I could do that. Are there County regulations we have to know about?

A: Yes, there are regulations concerning how many animals you can have on your land, as well as other regulations regarding farming. Check the King County site, Department of Environmental Services, bulletin 41A. For your site, which has about three acres of pasture, I believe that you can have up to nine cows or fifteen goats in a fenced area. However, you will need a livestock management plan to have that many. The County wants to encourage small farms in the rural areas so you should be able to get some help from them on the management plan.

To sell your products you will need a special permit and will have to adhere to County food safety regulations as well as those from the State Department of Agriculture's food safety program. All that information is online.

I'd suggest you start with the Washington State University (WSU) Extension and their program on making safe cheese. They are here to help small farmers get started, trained and operate in such a way that they protect public health at the same time they build a successful farm business.

I know your place so I know there are no neighborhood restrictions against having livestock. However, for others who might be thinking of doing something similar, they should check their title documents and be sure there are no local restrictions against keeping livestock.

It would also be helpful to talk to others around the island and around the region who have done similar small farm projects to find out what they went through and learn from their experience. It's better to do your homework and save yourself from preventable mistakes.