Tucked into the green forests between Renton, Maple Valley and Covington is Soggy Bottom Farm, a 34-acre piece of property filled with gardens, fruit groves, animals, an old red barn and a hand-built sauna.
It’s a beautiful, serene piece of land and it has been home to the Mirro family for over a decade now, after the family moved to rural, unincorporated King County from the “dream house” they had built in Seattle.
“We wanted to raise our kids in a rural area,” said Jay Mirro, a resource planner for King Conservation District. “The day that [the property] was listed, we drove out and thought ‘wow, this is pretty special.’”
When they first moved to the property, Jay, his wife Ellen, an architect and architectural historian, and their sons Leopold and Ivan — who were nine and six at the time — lived in a tent for a few months while they restored the house. Of the experience, Jay and Ellen recall hearing noises outside and Jay thinking it was an intruder.
“Jay, it’s a bear,” Ellen recalls saying to him. The two laugh about the experience from the deck connected to their house, which has become a real home, and a real farm.
Cows, goats, sheep and pigs are raised on Soggy Bottom alongside the family’s chickens and in the vicinity of the family gardens, though it’s only the livestock that’s sold since the farm is more for leisure and homesteading than for a major profit. “The meat is easy, but we don’t sell the veggies; it’s too much for us,” said Jay. “If it was too much like work it wouldn’t be fun.”
And life on the farm is fun, but it’s not without its challenges or harsh realities. Jay talked about the biggest surprise, to him, after moving to the property was losing their water after a hose was left on for too long, while Ellen said, “moving from the city to a farm, it was the intensity of life and death. There were incredible moments of birth and then the opposite, like poop and blood and death. It was a big transition.”
Along with the livestock and the usual farm equipment, Soggy Bottom Farm is also home to a public trail that runs through a section of the farm. Inspired by Jay and Ellen’s love for walking through the countryside of Great Britain, they made an agreement and an easement with King County that would allow their property to connect existing public trails in the area.
According to the Soggy Bottom Farm website, the Mirros were inspired by “the way British trails connect over private land for the benefit of the public” and they that felt that allowing people to use their trail was “a more equitable form of land ownership.”
The easement trail on the farm took six to seven years to come to fruition and the Mirros have to maintain their portion of the trail, though the county did help them get rid of large abandoned items in the forest. The trail now helps connect the trail system across 196th Avenue. “We’re able to share the trail with everyone and we’ve met a lot of new people,” Jay said.
The farm is south of Spring Lake and Lake Desire Natural Area, which drains through the property, causing it to flood at certain points in the year. “Which is why we named it “Soggy Bottom Farm,” Jay said. “Sometimes it floods with ducks and geese.”