August Farmer Notes

Farmer Notes

An old fashion scorcher here in the Methow this summer: Dry, hot weather beginning in early June has run on into the dry month of August leaving little but wildfires and whiskbroom hills in wake.  Before the Twisp River fire broke out and killed three local fire fighters on the afternoon of August 19th, this is how I’d begun the August notes.  Scorcher to be sure.  Now each day we pray for no more.  With the heaviest of hearts we try our best to go about our daily routines of checking updates, securing our homes, helping each other, and holding tight the best we can while firefighters from all over and performing all sorts of duties do their damnest to try and protect us residents.  We praise them daily and pray for them.  We pray for each other.  We try not to get angry for loss.  We try to release our stresses in positive ways.  It doesn’t always work but we remind ourselves there already has been enough negativity to last a lifetime.

After all, most of us were warned to get the hell out within hours of the Wood Canyon blow up.  Most did; some left and came back. It comes down to individual choices and whichever way one goes, they second guess it hourly.  I made sure no Bluebird staff hesitated to get to their homes and loved ones soon as the worst reared up.  Wednesday afternoon I was combining grain 2 air miles from the fire and the granary was running full tilt haven gotten most orders for the week processed.  Two days later I finished the grain on Mocassin lease and yesterday, Saturday, I made local deliveries to most of our local businesses. We embraced each; we wished each other the best.  We realized, truly, what community means. Our love deepened as  skies grew ever smokier.  Amazingly, we’ve been without power only once so far and for less than 24 hours.  We hope tomorrow, Monday, everyone can return to work.  Giving the impression of security builds on itself, yet we try not and be fools.  So… here is what I was going to write…

Early mornings generally are a reprieve but in the last week, hardly a bird song at daylight?  The hummingbirds have left, so have the swallows, wrens and  bluebirds.  Yellow jackets now have taken over the countryside, including any piece of fruit or meat or veggie left unattended.  A hard month to get excited about this year and yet, this is harvest time!  Cruel irony in some ways, but it is excellent harvesting weather.

Due to the early and continued heat, grain crops across the inland west are down considerably.  Here at Bluebird we’re experiencing lower yields in some cases, but excellent quality in our first emmer field and our hard white.  We’ve cut most of our einka so far and it, too, has been compromised by a brief yet serious hail shower.  The heavy precipitation once predicted so far has eluded us, but it doesn’t take much hail to disappoint and we sure are hoping that was the last of it.

To be sure, we’ve been harvesting  a couple weeks ahead of average which isn’t a big surprise given the fact that everything has been running two to three weeks ahead since the early spring.  Now with about two-thirds of the crop in, we’ll learn even more how the bluebird crops look as we roll on and the numbers accumulate.  I look forward to continuing getting the crops in early because my guess is Mother Nature will round things out, as has been her age-old pattern, and we’ll begin to see moisture in September and certainly in October.  I for one don’t want to be wishing the rain would “hold off” when it comes!


Harvest 2015, Photo by Brooke Lucy

With Bluebird’s 10th anniversary here, it actually is our 11th crop year for Bluebird.  I’ve been a certified organic grain grower now for 15 years,  selling raw wholesale grains prior to Bluebird.  It will be our 13th year of growing the wild emmer.  In this time I sure have learned that I have a lot to learn when it comes to growing healthy, nutritious and abundant grain crops!  Each year is different and has its own challenges and yet as the years add up one has hope that knowledge is accumulated and filed away for the “next scenario.”  It is challenging not to have other grain growers nearby and yet I’ve made some great contacts with organic producers elsewhere and treasure the notes we share.  One thing about farmers over the years, they’ve experienced about every scenario possible and in most cases have invented a way to deal with each one.  This is reassuring even during the most frustrating of times. Heck in another 20 years, I may be that farmer I’d wished I’d met back when!

One of the true joys of the past 10 years has been developing and building both personal and business relationships both here in the Methow community and afar.  I’ve said before that we feel blessed to have started Bluebird here in this special (maybe not in August!) community tucked away in the Cascade foothills.  Morally, we’ve had great support here from both neighbors, local businesses, employees and landowners.  When one becomes reliant on so many in so many different facets, it forces one to take a look at themselves and try and grow along with the relationships.  Challenging at times, but often  rewarding.

Ten years ago we had no idea whether or not offering local grains and fresh milled flours would be viable or not? Today, we continue to expand to keep up with market and to employ as many of our neighbors as we can.  To do this we will continue to develop relationships with other growers and at the same time, look to expand our tilled acreage here in the Methow.  As our marketplace expands, we have vowed to continue our great service and deliver top quality products.  Living in this quaility, “top notch” community makes this easier.  We like to think this place and the Bluebird brand are synonymous.  And that you are all part of the compliment.

The next 10?  Oh boy!  We have plans… One of our plans is to get to know more of you and to build a business worth carrying forth for another generation.  Lofty goals?  Looking back, I’m not sure any more unrealistic than our original goals.   We’ll report in another 10!

Near term, our hearts and thoughts go out to all the folks in strife again this year, due to the raging wildfires all over the west.  We think of you daily.  We grieve the loss of life.

For those that can and want to celebrate with us at our Labor Day wing ding, I damn sure hope we have a lot to celebrate besides our 10 years in business.

Peace, Farmer Sam

DC-10 on Twisp River Fire, photo by Tom Forker


Twisp River Fire blowing up, Photo by Tom Forker