River Farm, Deming

River Farm is a rural community near Deming, WA which is about 20-30 miles east of Bellingham. There are 8 adults and6 children with families pretty much living in their own houses. The community has really evolved over the 20 years that it has been in existence. These days there are once a week meetings, and a few small income generating projects.

We ended up staying as unofficial WOOFers so that we did 4 hours of work per day for the two full days we were there. The first day we worked with Erin and she was really nice so the first hour+ of our “work” pretty much just involved walking around the farm, her giving us a tour. She showed us the community building, where they had meetings and where WOOFers and farm interns stayed and we walked down to the barn where the 2 horses and 12 sheep and the multitude (maybe 30?) of chickens lived. All the while we were taking along 4 fairly stubborn goats on our walk. We saw most of the individual houses and when we got to one end of the little dirt road that led down the farm, we tied the goats up next to a little hexagonal 1 story house and walked down to the river. We walked along the river and saw the beautiful little rock beach that everyone hung out at during the summer. Erin explained that they used to have fairly large (herb?) festivals on the order of a few hundred people, but that one year there had been a propane explosion, and while no one was seriously hurt, it brought the fire department in and all of their codes, and since then they haven’t really hosted anything of that size.  They do still have smaller gatherings, including permaculture instruction and spiritual celebrations.

As we were walking, Erin explained to us that 2 of the goats had contracted an uncurable, debilitating virus, and that they were going to be put down that night. She showed us the grave that she had spent some time working on and asked if we could help dig it out. So Rachel and I spent about 3 hours the first day we were there digging a goat grave. It was pretty morbid, although doing it together made it ok.

The next day we worked with Doug, the member of River Farm who was “hosting” us for that day. We were originally going to be pruning blueberries, so we watched an instructional video about how it was to be done. It was a video from probably the early 90’s with a man in Corvallis, OR demonstrating the proper way to prune blueberries. It was a decent video, but most of what I got from it was that we were to prune the low shoots and the twiggy branchy parts. It seemed much more complicated and subtle than I had expected. It turned out that Doug had never pruned blueberries either, and the woman who knew what she was doing wasn’t around, so we decided that we didn’t want to risk doing it wrong. Instead we helped clean and weed the giant greenhouse and shoveled some gravel from the river into potholes on the road. Afterwards, Doug showed us his beautiful house. It apparently started as a tiny one room cabin and he’s been building onto it for the past 20 years. River Farm mills some lumber as part of an eco-forestry program, so his house was sided with some of the planks that they didn’t sell. He also showed us his solar panel and electrical system. He’s totally separated from the grid, so he has a small set of solar panels and a battery bank. All of his lights are 12V DC led lights, which are really bright and very energy efficient. He heats most of his water on giant woodstoves that are kept running during the winter and uses that for hot water around the house. It was really cool to see the way that one could live in synergy with energy constraints as opposed to the way that most people demand instant access to all of their utilities.

Oh and there was a really cool old schoolbus probably from the 60s that was just hanging out way out in the kind of farmland. It had been renovated on the inside with a woodstove and wood floors and a nice propane stove/oven. No one was living in it and it seemed like it was half abandoned half farm equipment storage.


One Response to “River Farm, Deming”

  1. Maggie Rose Says:

    I am inquiring about camping. There are about 10 students in a Seattle High School who would be interested.
    Maggie Rose

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