A Little Bit of everything
Farm lover embraces agricultural diversity
Sarah Syverson is the project director of the Montezuma County School to Farm Project, a program started by the Mancos Conservation District and LiveWell Montezuma.
Syverson and her partner have lived in the straw-bale house on Road J for almost three years now, raising a garden and keeping a few animals. They call it Little Bit Farm.
This is her third season having a garden, and it gets bigger and better every year. She put in 12 raised beds and started what she calls lasagna layering. It is a no-till method of working the soil which starts with wet cardboard, she said. “Then you put on a couple inches of manure, wet it down, a layer of straw, wet it down, a layer of manure, wet it down, and a layer of straw ... and wet it all down. Then you put dirt on top of that and let it sit for a year.” The method, though the gardener has to wait to get results, produces a nice moist soil, instead of the hard, dry dirt that she has.
There is a “little bit” of everything in the garden. Parsnips, carrots, tomatoes, peppers and jalapenos; herbs such as comfrey, horseradish, mint, chocolate mint and tarragon; greens such as tat soy, bok choy, arugula; radishes, rhubarb, gooseberries and raspberries. And, in their first small greenhouse, she has planted tomatillos, a plant of the nightshade family. It produces small, round green fruit that is used in Mexican food, but is also used for other dishes.
She’s planted purple things — potatoes, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and bush beans.
“I thought they might be an interesting change,” said Sarah Syverson.
Everything they have on the farm gets the organic treatment. The animals get organic food, and the garden crops have no chemicals on them. That way, Syverson said, they are assured of healthy food.
They have more animals than they thought they’d have as well, she said. With a handful of laying hens, a couple turkeys, two dogs, five goats and a donkey, Syverson said, she spends a lot of time making sure they’re fed, watered and comfortable. The donkey — a “guard donkey” — is named Molly, who they’ve had since she was young. She will make a typical donkey noise when any strange animal comes near, such as a mountain lion, a recurring problem in this area.
That’s why the goats and chickens are also penned up, and go inside a shed at night.
The goats and chickens are raised for their by-products, mainly the eggs from the chickens and the milk from the goats. “We don’t raise either of them for the meat,” said Syverson. From the goat milk, they also make cheese and yogurt. Chevre, or goat milk cheese, is easy to make and is a good way to use the abundance of milk they get from their goats. They have two mama goats that had kids about two months ago — one had twins and the other had one.
Most of what Syverson has done in her garden is done by trial and error. But she also has the mentoring and help of Mary Vozar and Paul Bohmann of Confluence Farm, and the knowledge and proximity of Lew Matis, who lives right across the road. Many of her neighbors have gardens and/or animals, too.
“They’re so friendly about sharing information,” she said.
Syverson has two dogs — Kona and Leroy. Kona is a mixed-breed rescue dog. Leroy is a plott hound, Syverson said, a breed from the South. “He loves the warm sun,” she said.
“When we moved into this place, all we knew was that we wanted a garden...it’s all been an experiment since then,” said Syverson. Most of what they’ve grown is for themselves, she said. “More like subsistence farming.” They put up a lot of what they grow and raise, freezing and dehydrating what they can.
Syverson continues to be involved in the Montezuma School to Farm Project. Many of the plants she gets go to help them out and further the kids’ education.
Contact Syverson at 903-8831 or by going to http://www.facebook.com/MontezumaSchooltoFarm.