Category Archives: Uncategorized

Straw Vs. Hay


You have probably never thought to ask yourself, “What is the difference between straw and hay?” In fact, most people tend to use the words synonymously. I myself was surprised that there is a difference between the two, but that was no surprise – gardening and farming were not part of my daily life until several years ago. To a farmer, who has farmed for a lifetime, hay and straw are two completely different products that each have a very specific purpose.

As a kid, I would joke when someone said, “Hey!”

“Hay is for horses,” I would respond with the know-it-all sass of a ten year old.

It turns out that phrase, “hay is for horses,” has a second line: “straw is for houses”. The California Straw Builders Association used the phrase to clearly identify the difference between hay and straw.

Hay is used for feeding horses, cattle, goats, and sometimes rabbits. It is usually made up of alfalfa or clover, and may also have rye, brome, orchard and timothy grasses. Hay is a lifeline for farmers that have grazing animals, especially if their pasture is not adequate in nutrition. The cut grasses are formed into hay bales to ensure that all the moisture is released and no molds form, before being fed to livestock.

As the saying continues, “straw is for houses.” Straw is used for bedding, housing, and crafts. After the harvest of staple crops like wheat, barley, and oats, straw is what is left over. It is cut, dried and formed into bales. Straw is ideal for bedding, due to its lack of nutritional value and hollow grasses – it is fluffy and not tempting enough for livestock to eat.

Without getting crazy and diving into their chemical properties, that is the whole difference between hay and straw. If you are looking at unmarked bales, a quick determination can be made by feeling the weight – a bale of hay will be heavier than a bale of straw.

Gardeners take a particular interest in straw as a mulch for their garden. Straw provides ground cover and moisture control around growing plants. It can block out the weeds, while also keeping moisture in the ground during the drier summer days. Straw will compost rather quickly, about 5-6 weeks, forming a soft layer throughout the garden.

People that are fond of growing potatoes will sometimes prefer to fill in the trench of the growing seedlings with straw instead of loose soil. This gives the potatoes ample room for growth, and they are much easier to find when you dig them up.

Check out the Seattle Farm Co-op for locally sourced hay and straw!

Written by Natalya Roberts, local Seattle urban farmer, Seattle Farm Co-op volunteer and lover of the natural world.

Canning and Food Preservation

by Margaret Rumpeltes (Pastry Chef and Culinary Instructor)

Preparations for winter on the Farm: …The preparations were almost like those for an Arctic expedition. In the stone walled cellar were potatoes and vegetable bins and a shelved jelly, jam and pickle cupboard. Late in the fall that cupboard had no resemblance to Mother Hubbard’s. Instead of being bare, the shelves fairly bent under the weight of glasses of apple, currant and quince jelly; jars of strawberry, raspberry, gooseberry and plum jam, and apple butter. Great stone jars of sweet and sour pickles, horseradish, and sauerkraut stood on the floor beneath….Hams and sides of bacon were smoked in the smokehouse and hung in the “summer kitchen”,….Here too, were jars of headcheese, country sausage, and big pieces of salted pork and corned beef.” (A Backwoods Boyhood, L.H. Roddis, 1967).

I don’t think I have ever been in any home in this country which did not contain a bottle of ketchup, a jar of mustard, a glass of jelly, and probably a jar of some kind of pickles;….So obviously, we are used to serving condiments and relishes with various kinds of food, but we tend to become pretty unimaginative about what we can produce, relying for the most part on…the shelves of supermarkets.” (Fine Preserving, K.Plagemann,1967)

The Napoleonic wars were directly responsible for subjecting food to high temperatures and sealing it tightly in hot clean jars. When Napoleon’s troops were dying in vast quantities from scurvy…, a Frenchman by the name of Nicholas Appert…worked methodically and prodigiously for almost fourteen years before he submitted his discoveries…No other single discovery has contributed so much to the general well-being of mankind.” (The complete Book of Home Preserving, A. Seranne, 1955)

Why Can

These three quotes are from my favorite books about food preservation. The first, taken from a book my grandfather wrote about his growing up in Minnesota, first got me thinking about home preserving. Amid all of the excitement over eating local, eating seasonal, and eating well, I think we lose track of how far north we are here in the Northwest. Exactly how do we eat local when there is snow on the ground? If it is not growing in your garden it is not growing at some magic local farm within a 80 mile radius of Seattle! We live in a mild enough climate for winter greens like kale or chard to be available for much of the year, and many of the cruciferous vegetables can be stored for quite a while (think kohlrabi or cabbages). But for a good 4 months of our grocery shopping here in Seattle, we are looking at products shipped from the sunny south, sometimes as far away as Chile or New Zealand. While the availability of these shipped fruits and veggies may keep scurvy at bay, we can do much for ourselves by preserving a few favorites. Try best online casino! With care and a little know-how, food preservation can save you money, shrink your carbon footprint, and use up that bumper crop! Trading jars with friends can lend variety, and make looking in your pantry cupboard just like grocery shopping!

What to Can

What is safe to can at home? Safest is jams and jellies and acidic vegetables like pickles. This means the vegetables are brined in a mixture of vinegar, water, and spices. Canning non-acidic foods (meat and fish) require more know-how and absolutely require processing in a pressure canner.

Looking for inspiration? Visit that condiment section of your local grocery store and consider what you could make on your own instead of buying. Look at old fashioned cookbooks…dill pickles, pickled green beans or carrots, chow chow (mustard pickle), chutneys, and spiced jellies for eating with savory goods, horseradish, pickled peppers! Look at ethnic cookbooks for great items like preserved lemons, chermoula, and salsas. Put up cherries for your Manhattans or asparagus for your Bloody Marys, cocktail onions for your martinis, and do a whole craft cocktail theme! Try not buying a single commercial jar of jam for one year. Dehydrate your own hiking foods. Flash freeze your own berries for smoothies. The possibilities are endless.

As a professional chef, I have three guiding principles to suggest:

  1. Sanitation! Sterilize jars and lids, cutting boards, knives, your hands, everything!
  2. For any food you are unsure about, process using water bath processing or a pressure cooker. Better to err on the safe side than unknowingly eat a deadly pathogen!
  3. Start simple, make a small batch of something before you launch into canning your whole garden. I recommend jams as a good starting point, they are expensive to buy, you can make yours without high fructose corn syrup, and they are “easy peasy.” Make it a party and do a few with friends then trade jars to take home.

Here are a few helpful items to start you on your way:


Jars: Available at the Seattle Farm Co-op ($11.39/6 64oz). You can also find smaller jars at hardware stores, larger grocery stores in season, and online.  Price range:  $11.99-15.75 for twelve with rings and lids. “Vintage style” colored glass are about 2x more. ($10.45/6, Amazon). Alternative: keep wide mouth jars from things you buy in the grocery store and use paraffin wax to seal. You can cover this with a bit of parchment paper tied with a ribbon or keep the lid to put on after sealing with wax. Cheaper up front but a bit more of a hassle. It is not recommended to water bath process jars unless you know they are tempered glass, kind of a problem, if you are sealing. But for freezer jams, this works.

Lids and Rings:  I buy new self sealing lids for every new jar of jam (you can purchase both at the Co-op!).  Rings I use over and over until they either get bent or show any signs of rust.

Wooden Spoon, 6 qt. Saucepan or kettle for cooking jam. I like an enamel ware pot I have: It is non-reactive and really smooth so I can clean it really well.

Knives, pitters, corers, peelers, wide mouth funnel: Basics are just fine but if you are a gear buff, there are many options.

Canner and rack, jar tongs: I find it easier to use one made for this but you can do very small batches 4-5 pint jars using a rack like this (pictured below) in one of your own pots with a lid. You should have 2-3 inches of water over the tops of the jars when processing.

Jelly bag and strainer if you are making jellies.

Labels. It is a good idea to label and date your jars. I generally try to eat anything I preserve at home within 2 years.

Local purveyors and prices:

Maclendon’s Hardware Store (Renton): Complete line of jars, (12-pint jars with lids and rings $11.99) lids, equipment, as well as various sizes of water bath processors and pressure cookers. Smallest pressure cooker $99.99/16qt. Smallest water bath canner 12qt/$244.99.

Amazon: wide mouth pint jars with lids and rings: $15.78

Safeway: jars,lids and rings available seasonally.

Craigslist: used canner, jars, lids, rings and tongs $30.00

Vacuum sealer $89.99


More Resources:

My go-to book, probably out of print but there are many like it on used bookstore shelves:

The Complete Book of Home Preserving, by Ann Seranne. Doubleday and Co. Garden City NY, 1955.

Joy of Cooking, by Irma Rombauer and Marion Rombauer Becker, Bobbs-Merrill Co, Inc. Indianapolis/New York. 1931-1975 copyrights.

WSU King County Extension Service
Wondering why these very old fashioned sources and not some spanking new chef resource? Canning and preserving is something we have lost touch with in our regular lives. The extension service was established in connection with the original land grant colleges, schools established to teach the vocational arts. For many young women this was home economics, gardening, food preservation, and nutrition. Out of this also came 4-H, a youth organization, aimed at linking rural youth to concepts taught at the land grant agricultural colleges and so to higher education. In 1912, there were 23,000 girls canning clubs across America! This is all very quaint and nostalgic sounding, but the county extension service, ultimately under direction of the USDA represents the best and most trustworthy source of safety information.


Good luck canning!

We’re in Parent Map!

Here’s an excerpt:

Raising Urban Farmers at the Seattle Farm Co-op

Dreaming of raising chickens, rabbits, goats and bees right in the city? Here’s your source

“Seattle loves its urban agriculture. Thousands of Seattle families grow their own food. Through the city’s community gardening P-Patch program alone, more than 2,000 plotholders cultivate around 32 acres of land. This is in line with a global trend: The USDA reports that around 15 percent of the world’s food is now grown in urban areas, including backyards, vacant lots, balconies and parking strips.

Increasingly, Seattle’s urban farmers are also taking on an area usually associated with rural farms rather than kitchen gardens: animal husbandry. We’re all familiar with the urban chicken movement, but local families are also raising ducks, goats and rabbits, and keeping bees. And an organization that is helping these families access what they need to thrive is the Seattle Farm Co-op.

Founded in 2009, with a retail warehouse and educational center in Seattle’s Rainier Beach neighborhood that opened in the spring of 2015, the Seattle Farm Co-op supports and fosters urban farming, with a mission of serving as a resource for both material supplies and knowledge, especially for urban farmers raising animals.”

To read the whole article, click on this link:

Feed and Fines: Maximizing Value with Fermented Feed

We’re reprinting this great post from Scratch and Peck Feeds about getting the most out of your feed.

Boost Your Feed Benefits with Fermentation!

Ferment toolsOne of the most frequently asked questions we hear is, “Why are there all these fines in your feed and how do I get my chickens to eat it?”

This question is important as it identifies one of our core philosophies as a company; we believe that a raw, whole grain feed is nutritionally superior to highly processed products. Most mills producing poultry feed use a combination of heat and water to process their products into pellets and further into pellet crumbles, reducing the shelf life and nutrient content of the grains. At Scratch and Peck Feeds, we focus on providing a product that is as raw and natural as possible; something we would want to feed our own animals.

The ‘fines’ in Scratch and Peck’s balanced feeds consist of the added protein, probiotics, vitamins and minerals that support an animal’s health and development. Although fines can sometimes accumulate, many of our customers feed our products dry, as is, without issue. Recommendations for helping the flock to eat all the fines include: Adding the accumulated fines to the top of the newly added feed, using a trough style feeder rather than a gravity feeder, raising the feeder to the height of the bird’s back, collecting fines to include in yogurt or an oatmeal treat, or simply adding moisture to the mix prior to feeding to help the fines bind to the whole grains. For even better results, we recommend taking these recommendations just a bit further and fermenting the feed!

Lacto-fermentation has been used for thousands of years for human and animal nutrition. Lactic acid bacteria, like the probiotics you find in Greek yogurt, is beneficial in making the feed easier for the chickens to digest and it improves the overall bioavailable nutrients. Studies show fermented feed has been found to have increased levels of Vitamins B, C and K, along with increased protein as well! The simple process of soaking the whole grains before feeding helps to release the stored nutrients by breaking the dormancy in the now softened, potentially sproutable whole grains. Because digestion becomes more efficient, fermenting the feed stretches your feed dollar further as the birds are able to get more from the same amount of feed, reducing the volume of feed required to satisfy their caloric needs. Whether fed daily or used as a treat, the fermenting process for Scratch and Peck poultry feeds is as easy as adding water and letting the feed soak for about 3 days. Really – it’s just that simple! Nature has the amazing ability to create complex nutrients from very simple ingredient combinations. As an added bonus, providing wet, fermented feed instead of dry feed helps your flock with better water management as less additional water will be needed for the digestion process!

Getting Started: Container Selection –

To get started with fermenting feed, you will need to choose containers based on the number of birds you are feeding. If you have a smaller flock, you will likely do just fine long term using quart or half-gallon sized Mason jars, or even a repurposed water pitcher. If you have a larger flock, food grade buckets or bins will be a better choice once you get the hang of the fermenting process. We even hear some larger farms simply use clean 55 gallon bins or barrels! As CO₂ gasses are a natural by-product of the fermentation process, the fermenting feed should never be tightly sealed or pressure will build up, damaging the container and creating a potentially explosive mess. Whatever type of container is chosen, some experimenting will be necessary to get the best results as the fermentation process will be faster in warmer environments and much slower if it is cold.


Mad Scientist: Chicken Feed Mixology –

Once a container has been selected, simply measure out the estimated amount your flock will consume in one day and place it into the container. (We estimate an adult chicken will consume approximately ¼ – ⅓ lb of dry feed per day.) Add unchlorinated water at about 2-3 parts per one part feed. Especially for the first few batches, it is important to check the mixture after 30 minutes to make sure enough water is being provided to cover the feed after initial absorption. Once the ferment batch has been prepared, move the container to an area with a consistent, moderate temperature away from sun exposure. For the next 3 days, let the mixture sit with a loose fitting cover, stirring the mix 1-2 times each day. You will know the fermenting process is working when little bubbles start appearing on the surface!




Picky Chicky: Feeding Consistency and Feeder Type

After a few days, the fermented feed should smell slightly sour which is a good indication that the process has been effective and is ready to serve to your flock. Before feeding, drain off any excess water before stirring to reduce the soupiness of the ferment – the extra liquid can then be used to jump start the next fermentation batch! If the mix is still too runny, try adding a little dry feed or even a small scoop of Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth to absorb the excess moisture. Keep in mind, if the fermented feed is too soupy, the chickens will not want to eat it. Ideally, the texture will be closer to clumping than runny. In our experience, a trough or open bowl will be easier to use for feeding a fermented mash rather than a gravity style feeder.



While many birds will have no problem transitioning to fermented feed, we do hear from time to time that some owners may have a difficult time convincing their flock to eat wet feed and may choose to stay with a dry feed. Even chickens have opinions and can get set in their ways! Fermenting feed may not work for every flock or situation but it can be a great way to add additional nutritional benefits to your flock and help to save on your feed bill over time. Give it a try!

Fermenting Feed Tips:

• Start small! Even if you have a large flock, practice with a small batch or two to get a feel for the ferment process and feeding texture before moving on to using larger containers.
• Do not use chlorinated water! If you only have access to chlorinated water, fill a container with just the water and leave it sitting on a counter for 24 hours to allow the chlorine to dissipate.
• Always use clean containers and stirring implements to prevent mold and contamination.
• Do not put fermenting feed in a sealed container.
• For best results and to prevent mold, make sure there is enough water to cover feed during fermentation process.
• Stir or shake the fermenting feed mixture 1-2 times per day.
• Can’t tell if it’s fermenting? During the fermenting process, small bubbles will move up through the mix! If there are no bubbles occurring, try adding more water as the consistency may be too thick.
• Too runny at feeding? Drain off the extra moisture before stirring the batch for final feeding; add a little dry feed or Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth to absorb access liquid.
• Mixing prior to feeding is important as fermented feed will naturally settle with fines at the top and heavier ingredients, like Oyster Shell, at the bottom.
• Ground mash feed, like Naturally Free Starter, will absorb more water than a whole grain mash product and may involve more trial and error to get the best results.
• Don’t worry – the 3 days it takes to lacto-ferment the feed will not lead to intoxicated chickens! Lactic acid fermentation is not the same as alcoholic fermentation.


To download our Fermenting Feed Guide or Fermenting Feed Slideshow, select ‘Helpful Guides’ at:

Fermenting - Dry FeedFermenting - Feed soaked 3 hoursFermenting - Feed soaked 3 days


  1. Dry Feed
  2. Feed Soaked for 3 Hours
  3. Feed Fermented for 3 Days

Chick Sale 2016 sold out, but wait… there’s more!

We hope there is more. If you want to get on a waiting list for chicks, give us a call at 206-258-1669 between 10-4pm Friday, Saturday, or Sunday or pop by for a visit. We might be able to get some more ordered from our hatchery.

In other news, Christy is presenting another chick care workshop on Thursday March 3rd from 6:00-7:00 pm at the warehouse. Please RSVP if you are planning on coming:

bees, seeds, and chicks

Hi folks,

As I sit here in the warehouse office while the rain pours outside I’m thinking about my garden and all the plants and animals that are waking up. Yesterday I spent an hour pruning and cleaning up my raspberry patch before the leaves emerge. As I cut the old canes down, I made sure to leave several inches of each cane in the ground to be used by solitary bees this spring. Many important pollinators including mason bees create habitat in places we don’t even think about. With caneberries like raspberry, elderberry, and marionberry, some species of bees will bore a little hole in the pith of cut canes, and will lay their larvae inside.

All of the solitary (non-hive) bees are important for a healthy garden, including the mighty Mason bee. We’ve got some Mason bees in stock right now, 10 bee cocoons for $12.00, or $10.56 for members. If you purchase Easy Tear Tubes or Natural Reeds, you get $2.00 off a box of bees.

Speaking of animals and spring, we are sold out of chicks!! If you are still interested in getting some, come on down and get on our waiting list, we might be able to order some more from our hatchery. In case you missed our free chick raising class last week, we are hosting another one on Thursday, March 3rd from 6:00- 7:00 pm at the Farm Co-op Warehouse. Please RSVP to if you plan to intend.

For you gardeners out there, we have garden seeds from two local, farmer-owned companies. Please support independent farms and seed companies, and come on down for some great Northwest varieties!

By the way, since I know many of you have been to our new location, you’ve noticed we share the space with the Seattle Tilth Food Hub. Our friend and space-mate Chris Iberle, who has been managing the Food Hub is moving on and we just wanted to say goodbye and good luck to him on his new agricultural adventure!

Speaking of Seattle Tilth, they have a Master Composter program coming up starting in March. If you’ve been meaning to gain some skills in the art of organic matter, I highly recommend this program. Details can be found at, or by calling 206-633-0097.

Okay, that’s all for now. See you at the warehouse!


seeds, chicks, and bees

Happy Friday folks!

It’s the end of January and I’ve got lots to talk about for this week, so here goes!

We are starting to get our seeds in stock! Right now we have a few select varieties from Root and Radicle Seed Co. (that’s me) and next week we’ll be getting a nice selection from Deep Harvest on Whidbey Island.

Next up: bees. We just got some mason bees in, as well as some straws for the mason bee houses and a little booklet on how to have and care for your bees. On Sunday there is also a free class here at the Co-op Warehouse all about Mason bees. Please sign up at!

In preparation for chick season, we brought in some new waterers and feeders. Also, for all you procrastinators, it isn’t too late to order chicks. We still have plenty of Black and Gold Sex-Links and White Plymouth Rocks left, and a few Australorps, Wyndottes, and Buff Orpingtons. Ordering deadline is February 16th!

Also, for those of you who have been asking for large mason jars, we just got half gallon wide-mouth jars in. These are the perfect size for making yogurt, kombucha, or other fermented vegetables. Jars are $3.38 each retail/$2.97 member, or $16.24/$14.29 per case. That’s a savings of $4.04 if you buy the whole case!!

Last on my list today, we have two upcoming Yard to Table workshops at some local libraries. The first one is Saturday, February 6th at noon, at Boulevard Park Library 12015 Roseberg Ave. S. The other one is at Renton Public Library 100 Mill Ave. S. on Sunday, February 14th at 2 pm. You’ll learn about chickens, goats, bees, and veggies. Come one, come all, they’re free!

Okay, I’m sure there is more to say, but really… how many of you are still reading this post?


Celebrating the Sun’s rebirth

by Rachel Cardone

We’re a few days from achieving the end of year hat trick of American holiday season: we binge on candy at Halloween, then food at Thanksgiving, and Christmas, oh! Sweet Christmas! When we binge on stuff.

A quick Google query reveals that Americans spend an estimated $465 billion during the Christmas season. That means retailers can count on Seattle to spend around US$463 million. Yes, retailers count on us to spend money to stay in business; our economy and social order is premised on consumption. And yes, I like to give and receive gifts. But the numbers still make me a bit queasy.

Consider what US$463 million could do to bridge Seattle Public Schools’ budget gap. Or to improve school lunches: imagine the possibilities to ramp up integration of locally grown, organic produce into kids’ diets, while strengthening our local food economy. It could buy affordable housing units for over 8,000 Seattle-based homeless and low-income people, including families, so that they could celebrate the season at home.

I realize that these numbers are useful but not realistic. Homelessness, after all, is not merely a function of lack of housing. And I also realize that it’s dark outside. Very, very dark. Which makes me want to eat carbs and be inside somewhere, whether in my house or meandering in a shopping center somewhere. It makes me want to put lights all over the place, which is what I’ve been doing for several years until this one, when my eldest daughter became savvy.

The first request was a tree. “I want a huge tree just like the one (our friend) has.” Most of our friends have sizeable living rooms that can accommodate large trees. Unless we eliminate our couch, there’s no room in ours. And anyway, around 33 million Christmas trees are cut down every year – 9 million in Cascadia. We don’t want an artificial tree – leaving aside the unnecessary waste of plastic, we don’t have storage space for it during the other 50 weeks of the year. To the nursery we went, and I gave my daughter a choice between two living trees. To her credit she picked one, and said in the sweetest voice that it was the most wonderful, perfect tree ever. It is also living, in a pot, and we will return it after the holidays for salmon restoration. I count that as a huge win.


Then came Santa. “Santa Claus is real,” she insists, “because he’s everywhere.” She is so earnest about it, she’s already convinced her 2-year old sister, and some days I imagine them as present-demanding zombies. And suddenly I understand why parents buy into the idea. Why not? It keeps kids excited and promises to carry us through to the other side of January. Still, I’m tepid about it, not explaining it to her, but not hyping it, either. For example, to dilute her expectations of Christmas morning, we opened a few presents on the solstice – the real reason for the season. And you know what? She flashed from giddy to disappointed because what was under the wrapping paper didn’t meet her expectation. She quickly composed herself. “Can we open more?” We’re hard-wired to be consumers, I suppose.


My sister suggested we introduce the concept of Krampus or Elf on the Shelf, but why create more work for myself when I’d prefer to slow down and reflect on my life? Enforceability is also a challenge: I can’t quite call the monster with claws to take them away. No, we’re not doing Krampus or Elf.

Santa also leaves a lot of room for gift inequality among groups of friends and neighbors. The average US family spends $700 per year, which is far more than I spend, or even want to spend. A friend suggested Santa-lite: he can exist but can’t give the “best” gifts. If widely adopted, it would resolve the challenge of inequality and, one hopes, increase gratitude and appreciation for the gift-giving people who actually exist. Because let’s face it: one day, my kids will see what others kids get and wonder why Santa stiffed them. And other kids will look at my kids and think the same damn thing. If my kids are going to resent someone, I’d prefer they resent me, not some mythical creature on whom they’ve placed their hopes and dreams (for stuff).

Before I had kids, it seemed cut and dry to focus on the solstice, and not much more. This year the girls got on board with a living tree without much fuss, but it hasn’t even been a full Santa season and it’s clear he’s not going away quietly. I want my kids to appreciate the magic that I see and feel in the winter solstice, and I hope some day to reconcile all that is beautiful about lighting up the dark with cultural practices that can get ugly. I want to celebrate the shift towards the season of the Sun, not celebrate the birth of a Son. I’m learning that’s easier said than done, even in our non-religious household. I suppose the good news is, I’ll get another chance to figure it out next year.