There's Nothing Like It!
Randy, the son of a Michigan dairy and crop farmer, and I (Kelly), a country girl from Alaska's Kenai Peninsula, moved here to our small farm in 1998. We have been privileged to raise our two boys here in the Matanuska Valley. Our property was first farmed in the very early 1900's when it was part of an original Alaskan homestead. Then, in the 1930's, our property became part of the government's "New Deal" to help end the depression. Our home was built by the US Government to house colonists who were relocated by the government, mostly from the midwest, to the Valley to give them an opportunity to farm and build a new life. A colonist from Minnesota, Johan Johnson, drew the lot for this farm in 1935. The homesteaders and the colonists knew how to pick land that was the best of the best and our land continues to produce abundantly. After Johan Johnson's time here, our farm became part of a dairy owned by Bob and Merlie McCombs. The neighboring farm owned by Joe and Myrtle Gislason suffered loss when Joe was killed in a farming accident. At that time, Bob and Merlie partnered with Myrtle and the two farms operated a dairy together for decades.
To me, every home with children must have livestock. Randy milked cows growing up and insisted that we look for a dairy cow and, definitely, NOT a goat! However, after much convincing and a visit to a wonderful neighbor with goats, (Thanks, Tina!), I talked my husband into accepting dairy goats into our world. I very much prefer their smaller size, friendly personality, & pellets instead of pies, if you know what I mean. They've added many joys to our family, along with hard work, a lot of learning, and delicious raw milk.
Having this milk led to making kefir, yogurt, cheese, and goat's milk soaps for our family. In 2014, we started making and selling goat's milk soaps as a fund raiser for a school-sponsored trip to Washington, DC for our oldest son. The kids helped cut and package soaps, and they had a great time joining me at various winter craft fairs where we sold our soaps. We had so much fun working together on this project, that we decided to continue offering our soaps for sale.
In the fall of 2014, we broke ground with a plan to plant peonies in the fall of 2015. These peony roots arrived in September 2015, and 560 peonies were planted in our field that fall. Blooms are not cut from peonies for harvest until the third year after planting. Each plant can live 20 or more years. The peony industry is Alaska's newest "gold rush" thanks to an in-the-know tourist who spotted Alaska's peonies blooming in the "off season" and very exuberantly declared that he wanted "100,000 of those a week!" The "gold" was right here in our home gardens and in the gardens at the University of Alaska Fairbanks where this tourist was visiting. Alaska is the only place in the world where peonies bloom in July and August. Our unusual summer weather produces unique peony colors and blooms, typically bigger, brighter, and more beautiful than anywhere in the world. And so, the "gold rush" is on. I don't know if there will be any gold at the end of our peony road, but we sure hope to enjoy working together as a family on the journey. We're excited about it!
Thanks for reading about our farm.