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Family experiments with sustainable farming on Douglas

Posted: July 23, 2011 - 6:03pm

Among the expected appliances for sale, libidinous missives, and rants about bad drivers in Juneau, an unusual post showed up on Southeast Alaska’s Craigslist earlier this month.

“FREE: Icelandic Sheep (Douglas),” it read. “Can arrange a ferry ride if out of town.”

The capital city is not exactly known for being heavy on livestock, certainly not free ones, so this post lent itself to some immediate questions.

The sheep in question are part of an “experimental farm” on Douglas, created by Lisa Daugherty on a small plot of land where she lives with her husband and son. Up the short driveway, it’s a bit different than the average Juneauite’s backyard. Rabbits hop around enclosures, while chickens take dust baths nearby. Further up the hill, the sound of bleating sheep rings out. Behind them, raised beds covered in tarps or homemade greenhouses are filled with an array of healthy growths.

“Everything here is an experiment,” Daugherty said.

Daugherty has been working on her farm for three years. Before that she lived on a float house, so she didn’t have as much opportunity for growing or turning her dwelling into an ark.

The first year was a disaster. She ordered a load of topsoil, which just got dumped in the driveway, carried buckets of it up to her raised beds, planted seeds and waited. Nothing happened. A few shoots appeared and died.

“Weeds didn’t even grow,” she said.

This season is different, and several of her experiments, along with learning new techniques, have paid off. The lettuce is vibrant. The garlic next to the house is coming along nicely.

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