Willow Springs Farm

Vanessa & Matthew’s Story:  Our farm started off as a casual conversation among family that quickly became a realized dream.  Drawing on our experience as humble backyard… Read Willow Springs Farm's full profile here.

Chicken Politics

May 18th, 2010
Willow Springs Farm | Blog

2 weeks ago, I couldn’t sleep. This rarely happens after a hard day of manual labor but there I was was counting down the hours until dawn. Why this much excitement you ask? Well, we were expecting 26 day old laying hens in the mail. When the friendly mail clerk called to tell us that the chickens had arrived we rushed out the door in our pjs barely remembering shoes. I think I actually skipped to the car.

Incorporating livestock into farm has always been part of our plan. I believe it diversifies not only the income sources but also raises morale in difficult working conditions. After a long day of tilling or planting, sitting around the kiddie pool watching the chickens play keep away with pieces of bedding definitely lifts our spirits.

Despite never having raised chickens or received animals by mail, they are all thriving. Matt constructed a small roost for them which they love sleeping on. We have started taking them outside on warm days. They seem a little shell-shocked at the sunlight. This week we have begun feeding treats in addition to the organic chick starter. They weren’t as keen as we are about our salad greens, iffy on plain organic yogurt, but they absolutely loved the red wrigglers from our compost pile. We had a great time watching them figure out they were food!

The break from our usual farm routine to include feeding, watering, and playing with our chickens has been much needed. People have been surprised that we actually “play” or socialize with the ladies. However, I think this is an important part of getting closer to our food. I don’t know if it is enough to simply raise chickens in humane conditions. I think it is vital to understand their social behavior and then come to terms with eating meat. Maybe that makes you a vegetarian, maybe it makes you a more conscious human being. All I know is I sure enjoy cuddling a quarter pound fur & feather ball with my eyes wide open about the reality of my food.

Tags: chickens
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May 3rd, 2010

May 3rd, 2010
Willow Springs Farm | Blog
We are just getting to the end of our first weekend as market sellers.  This of course is in contrast to our recent months as market growers, which was much more what you’d think of when you picture “farming” in your head.  But as we know, there is “working in the business” and there is “working on the business.”


By the end of last week, we were a little on the fence regarding our presence at the season-opening market in Grass Valley; but after an amazingly positive taste test of our salad greens the night before, we felt it lame not to go.  So off we went, with our triple-rinsed spicy mesclun/black-seeded simpson/sunset lettuce mix…We sold out within an hour and a half!  Nice.  Besides the thrill of getting delicious food one step closer to someone’s mouth, it was great to meet a lot of the other vendors from the area, as well many self-described “farming enthusiasts.” :-D


Later that day we opened our doors to visitors for the first time for a plant start sale.  A few strategically placed stenciled spray-painted signs on the side of the road worked perfectly, and many more people than I expected followed them right in.  The added dimension of these visitors was a welcome addition to the farm space, and I realized how often it is only Vanessa and I out there.  All of our customers were super excited about what we were doing, and it felt really good to show everyone around.  We got to meet lots of people from our immediate neighborhood who were more than thrilled to learn about our venture.  Rounding out our Saturday was a visit from Drew of Coyote House Farm (you might recognize Drew as a fellow freshman farmer); we geeked out quite a bit regarding irrigation, peach leaf curl, and 100 other topics as I gave him a walking tour.  Thanks again for giving me the general logarithm for determing water pressure as a function of elevation loss, Drew!


Personally, I’m not really the type of guy who has ever felt, well, good about selling anything.  Perhaps it was an early disdain for peddling gift wrap door-to-door for the elementary school fundraiser that got me down that path. “This paper really is way too expensive,” I would often think to myself trudging around the neighborhood.  As you could imagine, my experience this weekend was entirely different.  So different in fact that I didn’t ever feel like I had to “sell” anything.  I just had to say what it was, and off the shelf it went. Go figure


Big week for us coming up…I’m just about done tilling up our field, and ready to start building trellises for the tomato plants we’ll be putting in the ground.  Enjoy the photos.


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To Market, To Market

April 23rd, 2010
Willow Springs Farm | Blog
Our first Farmers’ Market is a little over a week away and we have been busy gathering, buying and making supplies in anticipation.Harvesting/Rinsing Supplies: 2 Ice Chests - Already owned 1 pair good Scissors/Sheep Shears - $15 1 Wheel Barrow - Already owned 1 Washtub & plumbing - $150 (still needs to be purchased & installed)Packaging Supplies: 3200 Biodegradable Produce Bags - $100.82 1 lb 31/2 by 1/4” Rubber Bands - 4.99 1/4 lb 2 1/2 by 1/16” Rubber Bands- 1.99 840 Pint… Read the rest of this article »
Posted in: Farm Financials

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The Tautline Hitch - a non sequitur

April 15th, 2010
Willow Springs Farm | Blog
I couldn’t tell you how many of these I have tied over the last few months. One of the few things I learned in Boy Scouts that really stuck with me, mostly because I use them all the time.  It might sound a little far out, but you can really save money you would have spent on any number of tensioning doodads if you teach yourself how to tie this knot. :D  Really great for setting up trellises… Read the rest of this article »
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Shiitake log rolling

April 11th, 2010
Willow Springs Farm | Blog
Shiitake mushroom preparation is well underway, with about 35, 4-foot logs inoculated and set up. The process is fairly straightforward: drill a hole, load the “palm inoculator” with sawdust spawn, fill the hole with sawdust spawn, cover the hole with hot wax. Wait 6-18 months, and voila…or at least, that’s how it’s supposed to work The biggest difficulty I am expecting to deal with is maintaining the inoculated logs at the ideal temperature and moisture content over… Read the rest of this article »
Posted in: Farm Financials

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Don’t Forget to Bring a Trowel

April 5th, 2010
Willow Springs Farm | Blog
To date, we have transplanted 886 vegetables. Can’t wait for them to start producing! Read the rest of this article »
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Herb Spiral

March 31st, 2010
Willow Springs Farm | Blog
An herb spiral is a unique permaculture technique that creates a bunch of microclimates in a small space. This allows for planting sun and shade loving herbs all together. I first heard about herb spirals last summer when Matt attended a permaculture course with Toby Hemenway. I knew I wanted to incorporate one into our farm. A few weeks ago, my best friend Jessica was here and it seemed like a good idea to build an herb spiral in our “kitchen garden” area. Luckily for me, she agreed.… Read the rest of this article »

Quick farm update

March 23rd, 2010
Willow Springs Farm | Blog
Hey there, I’ll try to give you readers something a bit more substantial in the next day or two, but here’s a quick rundown of how things are progressing on the farm: Roto-tilling is underway, in a major way.  The wetness of the ground has prevented us from being able to really get this started until last week;  but we still need to turn the cover crop under at least a few weeks before we set out our transplants…getting the timing right has felt a little tense.  We’ve almost… Read the rest of this article »
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Starting Seeds

March 9th, 2010
Willow Springs Farm | Blog
In Eliot Coleman’s book “The New Organic Grower”, he describes an intriguing process of starting seeds. Instead of the traditional plastic containers and flats, he recommends using a tool called a soil blocker. The soil blocker is filled with “blocking mix” and presses out squares with an indent for planting your seed. I was immediately on board with this method. It reduces our plastic consumption and provides a more suitable home for our seeds (less likely to dry out… Read the rest of this article »

Gopher Broke

March 3rd, 2010
Willow Springs Farm | Blog
The runner-up title for this post was “Carpe Gopher.” Pest control, unlike composting, is a process I haven’t really devoted much time to…yet.  However, this week has provided us with two opportunities to dive right in. A few days ago, Vanessa noticed that something had taken a liking to our Italian kale sprouts, but no other plants, including our other kales.   A little bit of research led us to believe that it was either slugs or earwigs, and we set up beer and oil stations… Read the rest of this article »
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Willow Springs Farm
Vanessa Patterson & Matthew Wich
Willow Springs Farm
Penn Valley, CA

Farm Acreage: 2.5

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Freshman:
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Ellwood Canyon Farms
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Freestone Family Farm
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Home Plate Organic Farm
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Laughing Duck Farm
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Starbright Acres
12575 Polaris Dr, Grass Valley, CA
Willow Springs Farm
Penn Valley, CA
Wise Moon Farm
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About the Farms

Coyote House Farm
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Daily Grace Farms
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DeepSeeded Community Farm
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Driftwood Farm
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EarthDance Farm
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Ellwood Canyon Farms
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Four Frog Farm
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Freestone Family Farm
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Hand Sown Homegrown Heritage Farm
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Home Plate Organic Farm
Orleans, CA
Honey in the Heart Farm
Nevada City, CA
Laughing Duck Farm
Newcastle, CA
Starbright Acres
12575 Polaris Dr, Grass Valley, CA
Willow Springs Farm
Penn Valley, CA
Wise Moon Farm
Redding, CA

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