The crisp September air welcomed the staff of the King Conservation District to Soggy Bottom Farm. We opened the farm for a Staff field day. This was the fifth field day the KCD has had at Soggy Bottom, but is has been a few years. Typically, our field days start with coffee, tea, pastries, and "Conservation Jeopardy." Topics included watersheds, geography, and Conservation District policies.
Next, we moved to the barns and talked about resource assessment for the farmyard. I led the discussion by talking about soil, water, air, plants, animal, and human issues. We explored the conservation practices that I have installed and the practices that still need to be installed. Buffer fence, cross fence, and rotational grazing have been installed or practiced. Downspouts and manure bins are still left to do. Ahh, always another project on the farm.
The stream assessment was next. The KCD team moved just over Spring Lake Creek into the hay field. KCD riparian team members Zach and Ashley discussed how they evaluate streams for planting projects. We looked at the existing vegetation in the riparian area then used the evaluation tools they use in new projects and already planted ones. Spring Lake Creek, apparently, does need more riparian plants.
Mark, the Engagement program manager, gave us an iPhone photo seminar. Using some simple tricks, we should be able to take better photos. The tricks are: the rule of thirds, never into the sun, shade is better, portrait mode does wonders, no backs of heads, and closer is better. Here’s to better photos from KCD staff. With those instructions, Mark kicked off the day's photo contest for the day. The prize for the winning photo was an Orca Recovery Day Hat. I was lucky enough to win!
the winning photo: me and Megan
We celebrated the field day with the famous KCD potluck lunch. There was lots of fresh and interesting food foods for all. The weather warmed up to a comfortable 70 degrees. It was perfect for a meal and great conversation.
The buzz of conversation ended when special guest, Eric Lee Mader of the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, came for a talk. The Xerces blue is thought to be the first North American butterfly to go extinct. Eric is an expert in insect conservation, specifically pollinators. We chatted about habitat requirements for all kinds of insects: Food (and water), Habitat (shelter, over winter, structure), Protection from pesticides (such as corridors, protected areas, wilderness, and buffers) and Heat. It is surprising that the Pacific Northwest has some of the fewest amounts and lowest diversity of insect life. Our insects and pollinators are all worth saving!
With the fate of the insect world on our mind, the last stop was the Soggy Bottom Forest. We crossed the hay field, passed the blueberry patch, and entered the Soggy Bottom Forest. This spot is particularly interesting with its old growth spruce trees growing along the edge. It is perfect habitat for all kinds of animals, including a huge black bear that was sited a few weeks ago. We at Soggy Bottom, completed a forest stewardship plan in 2014, and a KCD Landowner Incentive Program cost share project 6 years ago. Foresters Mike and Brett were excited to share how they discuss forest health and KCD forest restoration programs. I keep up on my forest stewardship so things are looking pretty good. However, eagle eye Liz C. spotted an invasive English Holly growing off in the distance. It is time to grab the shovel and dig that out.
With the afternoon upon us and the sun starting to get low in the sky, the staff departed. I feel incredibly lucky to work with a group of people who have dedicated their lives to the conservation and enhancement of natural resources. I could not have asked for better coworkers or a better career. I am also truly honored to spend my life on a place like Soggy Bottom. We have made sharing Soggy Bottom part of mission here, from sharing the trail to hosting farm tours and letting people visit.