When I first arrived at Leafhopper Farm in 2013, things looked very different from today. There were no food gardens, lots of rusted metal, and lots to do in turning land back into a thriving place for both people and animals. The task was daunting. When I first saw the land that would eventually become my home and the farm, I thought “no way! Too much work.” and walked out with a feeling of overwhelming repulsion at all the damage. But as I thought about it, and saw other home options, I realized that if I pulled back the ugly layers of neglect and detritus, there was a diamond in the rough.
In five years we’ve shifted the landscape from overgrown and abandoned to vibrant and engaged. We’ve removed almost all the metal on the property, cut back the overgrowth, and seeded wildflowers in decaying spaces where we cannot grow food at this time. The transformation is ongoing, but there are noticeable differences between then and now that are quite palpable.
Many changed on the landscape are nearly impossible to capture in photographs, but these following aerial photos through the years might help show the larger scale of cultivation and change at Leafhopper Farm.
The picture above shows the land as it was in 2013 just before I acquired it. It so happens, that on the day I was looking at the property, this aerial picture for the county was taken. My green truck, with red cap, is parked just outside the main property in top right corner of the photo. Note in this shot, where the lawn is mowed, and where it is not. The un-mowed areas are full of junk, metal, and trash of all kinds. This was part of what made the land more affordable, but also meant a lot of cleanup. Rolling up the sleeves is something I love doing, and though daunting, provides a clear light at the end of the tunnel motivation that has paid off in spades.
I’ll note one more thing in the photo above before moving on. See the large pile of stuff to the left of the big box truck center frame? That pile of discarded waste was burned and buried before I purchased the space. That whole area of the property will not grow safe food to eat in my lifetime, which is the consequence of burning petroleum based products and other chemicals on the bare earth.
In 2014, our earthworks began, and it was an exciting time of much change at Leafhopper Farm. We had picked up all the garbage and metal scrap form the land, then dug swales and a pond in the upper cultivation space of the property. There are also gardens established around the house, and the rehabilitation of heritage fruit trees in the orchard. Firewood, gravel, and other bio material it accumulating in stage piles around the land, as we stock up on useful organic material to reinvigorate the soil fertility, and infrastructure. Note the muddy ruts in top right corner of the landscape. That was the parking area for guests, with permission from my neighbor who asked that I tend the space and keep it open. In the picture below taken in 2017, we have rocked that parking space (with permission of the neighboring land owner.
By 2017, Leafhopper Farm was an established place of cultivation, community, and stewardship. All the earthworks are cover cropped, with some of the swales already planted for an experiment in cut flower growing by one of the residents. New personal kitchen gardens also went in to the southwest of the pole barn in center frame. We have not mowed the landscape for a few years, and it’s looking rich and diverse with texture and health. The fruit trees are reinvigorated from a few years of pruning, while the addition of a greenhouse, and more organic material bank fertility for longer growing seasons. The Sun Coop 3000 can be sighted top left, where a young flock of home bred and hatched chicks wander in the pasture.
It’s been a real journey of restoration and regeneration at Leafhopper Farm. Now in 2018, we’re taking a little time off to travel, reflect, and get ready for continues work and joy in tending land. The YouTube channel is gaining speed, as I routinely share the experiences and learning around the farm. Our WWOOFers continue to have positive experiences at Leafhopper, and I am glad we’re cultivating more local roots too, with single day activities for nearby residents of Seattle to come take a day on the farm. I’ll also continue to offer monthly classes for Women Owning Woodlands, an organization started through Oregon State University, which encourages women land owners who cultivate forested property to come together and share knowledge. It’s been great hosting and going to these events, and I look forward to more.
Gratitude to all who are helping to develop this dream; to the plants and animals who work and grow under the care of the farm, family and friends who visit and encourage, the community for investing in healthy food, and the greater world which continues to inform and inspire. I am so thankful for this opportunity to keep learning and cultivating place, while demonstrating for others the simple pleasure of stewardship.