Down on the Farm: A Working Vacation

    1902

    Photo © Paul Deatherage

    By Amy Whitley • Illustrations by Jeff Woodley 

    As dusk fell over Oregon’s Coastal Range at Leaping Lamb Farm, my kids and I realized we had a problem. The smallest (and naughtiest) lamb in our charge hadn’t turned up for the dinner bell. “Boots!” my sons called, splashing through Honey Grove Creek and scrambling up the adjacent bank.  “C’mon, Boots! Dinner time!”

     They jogged between trees to the open pasture, the rain jackets tied around their waists fanning out behind them like kites. It wasn’t long before we discovered

    Boots munching meadow grass, but our triumph led quickly to laughter: the little lamb wasn’t easy to herd back to the barn, and we certainly weren’t farmers.

    As guests at Leaping Lamb Farm, we were encouraged by owner Scottie Jones to help out with daily operations exactly as much (or little) as we liked. After correctly assessing that we enjoyed getting our hands dirty, Jones treated us as welcome members of the team, not in-the-way guests. This departure from your typical staff-only-beyond-this-point vacation is a large part of a farmstay’s appeal: guests feel like family, and the farm feels like home.

    Like many small, family farms in the Northwest, Leaping Lamb Farm turned to tourism after struggling to make a traditional farming income. On our visit, my kids jumped right in, starting from the moment eight-year-old Tobias picked up a rake on our orientation tour and began mucking out a stall. Within our first few hours on the farm, Jones taught us about Leaping Lamb’s composting system, pointed out the property’s numerous pastures and enclosures, and gave us the skinny on Tater, the resident gelding who’d mastered the art of picking a stable lock with his equine lips. Naturally, he became a favorite.

    The next morning we woke with the sun—by choice—and joined Jones for a hike on Leaping Lamb Farm’s 60 acres and adjacent woodlands. We returned in time for a breakfast of farm-fresh eggs, pancakes, and juice, then assisted with the morning chores. Starting in the massive barn, the boys stood on stools to measure grain and divide flakes of hay for the horses, the resident donkey Paco and herd of sheep, then situated themselves on hay bales to bottle feed the littlest lambs, including the infamous Boots.

    Moving out to the chicken coops to greet the hens, roosters, and resident peacock, we learned about free ranging fowl, then returned to the barn to let the sheep out to pasture. It was here we saw firsthand the inspiration for the farm’s name: the kids laughed with delight watching the young lambs leap into the air in joy at their release into the green pastures.

    During the course of our morning, Jones introduced the kids to various points-of-interest: favorite climbing trees of past guests, the gurgling eddies in Honey Grove Creek, and—best of all, in the eyes of my boys—the shaded hayloft, complete with basketball hoop and perfect hide-and-seek spots. Released to roam free range ourselves for the afternoon, we explored the far pastures, enjoyed a picnic lunch on the sunny deck of our guest cabin, and watched birds dip and dive through the flower garden. The boys spent almost two hours in the hayloft as a spring rain fell softly outside. Should we have desired to venture farther afield, the Oregon coast stretched out only one hour west.

    The Leaping Lamb guest cottage sleeps six (with rates from $175/night), and includes a full kitchen and bathroom. In continuation of the at-home feel, extra rain jackets line a bedroom closet and rain boots stand in a neat row on the porch. Jones anticipates nearly every need, from the port-a-crib and high chair tucked into a closet to the washer and dryer at guests’ disposal. Every morning, fresh eggs and bread are brought to the cottage door, and the kitchen comes stocked with essentials such as milk, pancake and waffle mix, butter, coffee and juice. Depending on the time of stay, Jones allows guests to participate in sheep herding, feeding, vegetable garden harvesting and even lambing.

    Despite staying active morning to evening during our two-day visit, my kids and I departed for home more refreshed than when we’d arrived. We never did get the knack of corralling Boots, however. leapinglambfarm.com, traveloregon.com/cities-regions/willamette-valley

     

    Additional Northwest farmstays to consider:

    >> Willow Witt Ranch (Ashland, Oregon): On 440 acres in the Southern Cascades, Willow Witt offers both studio cottage lodging or spacious tent cabins, plus a secluded campground ready for guest tents. The off-grid ranch houses goats, chickens, pigs, and ducks. willowwittranch.com, southernoregon.org

    >> Hoehn Bend Farm (Skagit County, Washington): This small 30-acre farm is home to a developing herd of Irish Dexter cattle, with nearby bird watching, canoeing, and apple cider pressing in season. The single farm house sleeps six guests. farmstayskagit.com, visitskagitvalley.com

    >> Monteillet Fromagerie (Dayton, Washington): This gite (French for holiday home) offers a farmstay in a charming private guest house. The owners offer cheese tasting, cheese-making workshops and farm-to-table dining events year-round. monteilletcheese.com

    To find other farms that welcome guests, visit farmstayus.com.