Here at Half Acre Homestead, we don’t practice any particular methodology or lifestyle that has a label. We draw instead from sources that make sense to us, conform to the best possible standards for our size farm and situation, and meet the needs and desires of our customers. We are pragmatic in our point of view, coming from a scientific background as well as a spiritual respect for nature and the world around us, and choose to follow a middle ground in many aspects of our lives.
Throughout our property, we avoid the use of chemical herbicides and pesticides, with the occasional exception of organic-approved methods such as Bt for severe cutworm infestations. Our chickens are our key pest-control method, and love nothing more than to follow Lisa around the yard while she weeds, looking for bugs! It is important to us that our daughter has a yard free of pesticides to play in, that our chickens can freely range about the Homestead without worry that they are consuming fertilizers or pesticides, and that we are not contributing to the chemical load of our soils and water table. Though Todd sometimes falls back into old habits and protests a bit, we weed by hand or with the use of a flame weeder, rather than through the use of chemicals. After discovering that our local rabbits prefer the clover and dandelions to the vegetables, and that the honeybees love both as well, Todd has also been persuaded to give up on the suburban ideal of a green carpet of lawn in favor of a wilder combination of “weeds”, grass, and moss, ensuring that the roots of the trees receive no herbicides, and the grass trimmings are clean enough to compost or lay directly into garden beds. We also resist watering in the summer, and let most of it go dormant. As an added bonus, what lawn we have left needs to be mowed much less frequently, reducing our lawnmower emissions even further.
We use some permaculture methods and grow as many perennial crops as we can, and we grow a very large variety of plants on a very small plot of land. Through the use of organic controls and maintenance of a healthy, balanced environment we’re able to keep the natural checks and balances in place to ensure a thriving micro-ecosystem. We encourage wildlife to make their homes on our property by providing food sources and habitat for creatures like bumblebees, rabbits, snakes, songbirds, and tree frogs. We’ve even had deer visit, though they were gently discouraged with the use of a completely natural, completely foul smelling homemade brew.
Our bees are kept as organically as possible, which means we do not treat with chemicals for mites, fungi, viruses, or bacteria. Of course we can’t control what they encounter in terms of chemicals while they are out foraging, but we provide a wide variety of flowering plants for all seasons on our property. We allow our bees to draw their own natural wax combs, free of the chemicals found in the recycled wax frames, and we offer them nutritive plants and solutions made of herbs when necessary. We believe that a healthy colony of bees is a gestalt animal, and like any animal functions best when its immune system is up to the challenges presented by the environment, and that Colony Collapse Disorder is a symptom of a much larger problem with the paradigm of modern monoculture and large-scale agricultural practices, including dependence upon chemical pesticides.
Our chickens are raised on a combination of ground whole grains (commonly referred to as “mash”) and organic layer crumbles. They receive medicated chick food from hatching to approximately 16 weeks, a choice we have consciously made to prevent coccidiosis in the flock and which we see as a balance between 100% organic practices and judicious application of modern health advances. From 16 weeks on, the hens do not receive medications except natural remedies such as apple cider vinegar, ground carrots, and ginger. They have free access to oyster shell for calcium enrichment and grit for digestion, and are allowed to roam about the property and eat whatever strikes their fancy when the weather is favorable. They do receive kitchen scraps that sometimes include meats, eggs, and small amounts of dairy products. Because chickens are omnivorous when allowed to choose their own diets, we choose to offer them the same in kitchen scraps. Believe it or not, some of our girls prefer veggies, some prefer bugs and meat scraps! They come to the sound of Lisa’s voice and the rattling of the scrap bucket, and many of them enjoy being scratched and carried about.
Though we live in a region blessed with abundant but not overwhelming rain, water is still a precious commodity, and all over the planet groundwater reserves and rivers are being drained faster than nature can replace them. Water is becoming increasingly contaminated with chemical traces from human activity as well. To conserve water, we conduct much of our watering by hand, a practice only possible because of the small scale of our operation. Where possible, we use water from our rainbarrels. When the time comes that our garden is completely planted, we will be installing a complete drip irrigation system, allowing us to deliver the right amount of water to individual plants. The system not only conserves water by watering only the targeted plants and reducing losses through evaporation, it suppresses weeds by depriving them of water, and helps prevent many plant diseases by avoiding overhead watering and moisture throughout the plant. By watering deeply and less often, we encourage deep root growth to enable the plants to thrive with less water.
We start many of our plants from seed, and avoid the use of GMO seed stock. Seedlings and starts are housed in cleaned, reused nursery pots whenever possible. Seeds destined to be transplanted into the garden are started in recycled paper pots that can be planted right along with the seedling, reducing the need for plastic pots and giving the plants a head start without the trauma of transplant shock.
We compost our clean organic matter (chicken manure, vegetable trimmings, grass clippings, leaves, etc.) and return it to our planting beds to enrich the soil and build up the nutrients for use by our plants. We further enrich the soil and plants with the use of micronutrients, compost teas, and glacial rock dust minerals. And Lisa has been known to chat with the plants from time to time, though as of yet they have never replied to offer an opinion on this practice.
We believe in reducing, recycling, and reusing wherever possible, while merging that ideal with the reality of also being self-proclaimed geeks living in the modern world. We are big believers in Freecycle and Craigslist for redistribution or acquisition of gently used goods, and build as many things as possible out of scavenged wood, metal, glass, stone, and more, including a planned 8×10 greenhouse made of reclaimed wood pane windows! Where customers are concerned, we balance the need for new materials for health and safety considerations with creative uses of recycled and reused materials.
We are also strongly interested in building ties to our history, as a family, as a community, as a country, and as a species. We are thrilled to now live in a house that has stood here for over 60 years, watching over the changes in the area as it’s grown from a sleepy rural town to almost 18,000 people. Lisa in particular enjoys reading about “old fashioned” processes and recipes, and has learned over the years to churn butter, cook without a recipe, bake bread, make cheese, use sourdough starter, can fresh produce, brew ginger beer, make jams and jellies, sew by hand and machine, crochet, and make sauerkraut and pickles in a ceramic crock. She’s been known to hang laundry on an outdoor line when it’s nice, sometimes uses an oil lamp to read by, and can even milk a goat if required. Tatting, bobbin lacemaking, cider pressing and mead brewing are on her list of new skills to acquire. She’s a Master Food Preserver through WSU Extension, and a member of the Clark County Beekeepers. Eventually, she hopes to share some of these skills with the community through classes and instructionals!
Todd has been practicing his construction skills steadily. After he built the triple-ringed raised beds for the garden plot, he’s learned to make Warre and top bar beehives, and designed, built, and remodeled a chicken coop. He built a beautiful 10×8 greenhouse out of mostly recycled windows, and crafted a brilliant clear glass door for it out of an old sliding shower door, a reused piano hinge, and a couple of pieces of sanded wood. He created naturalistic trellises for the grapes and cane berries out of salvaged branches, and has built a bat house to entice the local bat population to make a more permanent home on the property. And his most impressive endeavor to date has been the complete renovation of an 8×28 construction trailer into a cozy, functional commercial kitchen.
We have very strong ties to the area as we both grew up in Vancouver, though Todd originally hails from South Dakota and Lisa spent a decade and a half in Seattle after high school. We’re very pleased that many of the people we grew up with here (and many of Lisa’s friends in the Seattle Area, who also know our home as a convenient Bed and Breakfast) have been so supportive of our vision of becoming a microfarm, so interested in becoming customers, and so amused by our anachronistic idea of fun! If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to contact us. Thank you all, and hope to see you around the Homestead!
Lisa and Todd Linderman