Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Into the City

I finally made it into the city the other day. I hitched a ride with my brother-in-law who insisted on driving to work in spite of the dire warnings on the A.M. news reporting treacherous driving conditions. So off I was for a snowy Seattle adventure. My first stop is a Pioneer Square Starbucks where I checked e-mail and up dated my OSU blog ‘Cowboy bites’.
This particular Starbucks is located on First Ave. right smack in the heart of the square. Across the street is the famous Pergola which photo decorates many a postcard showing off of this historical area of the city. The black decorative iron benches most often taken by the homeless now sat covered in pure white clean snow. Truly this is a sight I have never in my life seen. It looked like the winter wonderland of years past (many, many years past).

It was at this Starbucks that I became acutely aware I was indeed in the city. Upon finally receiving the key to the unisex bathroom (which was earlier called the men’s room but had to change names because the woman’s room was out of order) I realized at a most inconvenient moment that this restroom was not being properly maintained. At all! No not in the slightest. Not a scrap of toilet paper was to be found nor even a shred of paper towel. I had waited an awful long time and had already drank countless cups of coffee so going out and facing the baristas that were deep in customers to announce that I …. Yes I needed toilet paper, just seemed out of the question. Plus by time I realized what I was up against I was already mid stream, so fuck it! It would just have to drip dry this time Joe. I’ve done it plenty of times behind some patch of tall Jonson grass out in the field. Hasn’t everyone?

I sloshed down the sidewalk walking north on first toward my next stop Pike Place Market. Nothing has changed much about this amazing Seattle blessing. It’s still bustling with extraordinary life. It was made even more magical with the snow. I have such a history with this place. When I walk around the corner and see that famous red neon sign it’s like coming home. I first make my rounds to say hello to all the fish mongers I have met throughout what I refer to as “the restaurant years”. Standing at attention is Richard from Pure food Fish which is by far my favorite place to shop for crab. Richard doesn’t quite recognize me at first bundled up like I’m in the depths of the Alaskan outback. But soon enough were on tract and he’s cleaning my crab while we catch up with the last year.

My next stop is World Spice Market this is where I buy my stashes of Himalayan sea salt and Hawaiian sea salt that I like to introduce to people back home on the farm. Somehow this act assures me I still have some sort of sense of the gourmand in me. (Dusting my breakfast of farm fresh eggs and homemade goat cheese with freshly grated Himalayan sea salt, yup, I still got it!) Next is the fish bar for a halibut sandwich and then to the souk the small 12X24 shop that specializes in rare spices and ingredients for middle eastern cooking.
I take pictures just like a tourist even though every square inch of this place is ingrained in my memory and when I am in Oklahoma I can visit it in my mind any time I wish. But imagining doesn’t replace the sounds and the smells and the fantastic talent of the musicians that fill the public areas with joyful sounds. I stopped to listen to a bluegrass duo called The Tallboys.
Fantastic! I purchased both of their CDs.

The bus ride home was full and rich with colorful conversation, beer drinking (not by me) loud cell phone users and the person sitting next to me explaining expressively to a friend seated behind her that the reason she didn’t think she would get the job is because; girl, she had gotten her 14 felony charges……… I did what any one would do turned on my Ipod and pretend to be asleep.

I’ve got six more days here and as much as I miss the farm I am having a great time. Been really appreciating my family and being in my sister’s house even without her here with us, I still feel her very strongly. I am the designated cook for our Christmas Eve dinner. My brother-in-law strangely requested brisket. Apparently I made a convert out of him in Oklahoma.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

2026.33 miles

According to my query this morning I now know that I am approximately 2026.33 miles away from the farm. I’m in Seattle visiting my family for Christmas. My scenery has changed from leafless black jack oaks, gold and red prairie grass to towering pines and cedars. It’s snowing in Seattle now and thick snow covers roof tops and lawns and the streets are littered with stranded cars. My sounds are different too, instead of my goats letting me know it’s time to eat… again, and the clucks and squawks of the socialite chickens. I’m listening to heavy metal music coming from the bathroom where my niece is showering and further in the background the minute by minute weather reports from the TV that never sleeps is singing:
" by 3pm you’ll be seeing the snow move into the city, bringing one inch per hour….expect delays and heavy traffic …...”

It’s different not having my sister here. I’m trying not to think about it too much. There are photos of her on top of the entertainment center in the living room pre and post chemo and somehow her stocking is hanging over the fireplace which I have said nothing about but it disturbs me just a little, well maybe more than a little. I mean how can we leave it there hanging empty on Christmas day? I am so ready to have a break down right now! But....My brother-in-law is a rock and I've actually been having really good time with him.

What keeps me sane besides Lester is thinking of the farm and all the great people back home. I want to use my time wisely here so I’m doing more planning then I intended to. I’m here ten days and it’s a great opportunity to spend quality time with my family I rarely see since moving to Oklahoma, and I can also work on things to do with the farm like planning and bookkeeping that I procrastinate wildly when I’m at home, where there is always things to be done outside.

So while I’m in Seattle with nothing more to do than read, chitchat, and eat my way across the city, I will start the “blueprint” process of drawing scaled plans for the cheese processing room. I’ve taken all the measurements and now plan to use the current models I have of other farm processing rooms and fit them to my operation. I have now visited 14 farms either in person or virtually and have come to realize that there should be no reason I should not be able to transform my current laundry room and pantry (which is actually a room added on to the house and separate from the house itself) into my new on- farm cheese processing facility. I would of course move the washer and dryer to another area of the house and use the existing plumbing and drain but should only need to install a floor drain. I already have a large two door commercial refrigeration unit. And really, based on what I have seen from very productive cheese makers this space would be more than adequate. This would save me tons of money that I could then put into better equipment. So this is the path I am going to journey on and hopefully it will bear fruit.

I also have had some times to visit other farm blogs which has given me a sense of the larger world outside of my own. Most of the blogs I have visited have beautiful prolific writers and share many similar experiences. I’m so new at this blogging thing that I need to learn blog etiquette. Like, can I share their blog on my blog? Do I, should I get permission? I’m terrible shy so thinking about leaving a comment gives me shingles. So what do I do? How do I open this door to this new very intriguing world or rather how do I simply step through?

My dear friend Linda is taking care of the farm so it’s in very good hands but it’s hard not being afraid it will be overwhelming to her. She has farm sat before and finds it suits her so I think I just have to let go of my fear and count my very huge blessing instead. I’ve got nine more days to count this particular blessing so I pan on making the most of it including trying to not let myself be homesick, which I am, very, very homesick. So I’ve come up with a plan; when I’m trying to push off to sleep I’ll just count backwards from 2026.33.

That's all for now. I'm going to try getting down to the market (Pike Place) tomorrow, I still
haven't eaten any salmon or crab and I've been here 28 hours already.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Waiting for snow

The morning is cold and wet. 50% chance of snow today. The sky is deep with the low white grayness of clouds. Time to head outside, my body layered with protection over my bald animal nakedness. Thin white skin pulled tightly over unprotected bones, organs and flesh, like a possum or a baby bird. Boney and pink, open mouth to mother, squawking in expectation and need of nourishment and nurturing.

I milk the goats and I make my customary rounds to each barn and feed my sheep, my young goats and the chickens that belong to me but are owned by no one. The chickens of course in spite of the bitter cold and wind are jovial and seem almost excited to see me. They crowd around feathers blown up dancing as they weave in between my feet as I walk toward the feed barrel. They always make me laugh out loud. The black hens brush against my leg and stand on my feet as I toss out the cans of scratch. I feel their softness against my boot and leg.

The wind is whipping and the powerful sound it makes through the tangled branches of the black jack oaks along with the haunting whistles of fence wire and grass blades begins the familiar tune I have now become accustom to. Within the volume of the song the wind and trees play is a profound quietness. I let the quietness come into me and I am at peace, but at times the voices in my head converse, plan and imagine, bypassing the chance for loneliness and the deep sense of solitude the wind and the cold set forth for me on these days.

After my chores are done and the animals are content with filling their bellies, warm with my skin covered in heavy layers of thick soft fabric, I sit with my sheep and goats. My fingers and nose are stiff and sore with cold numbness. I warm my folded fingers under the ears of a goat who has wandered over and offered her warmth to me and I press my nose deep into the fur of her neck, resting my head against her. We stay together quiet for a long while. Both observing our surroundings and earthly scents and we seem to exist together in this place pure gratitude waiting for the snowflakes to fall.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Operation: Goat Lips Possible

*****Highly un-confidential material******
Operation: Goat Lips possible
Mission: to become a licensed manufacturer grade goat milk dairy with an on farm processing facility.
Status: Living Kitchen Farm and Dairy LLC is in the process of taking the leap from a raw milk goat dairy which allows products to be sold from the farm only, limiting the potential of sales significantly, to a dairy which is licensed to sell pasteurized or aged cheeses beyond the “farm gate” My goal is to sell my chevre and feta at Tulsa area farmers market thus increasing my sales and over time allowing me to make a full time living off the farm.
The mission is simple: develop a plan and design which follows all Dept of Ag, and Tulsa and Creek co. health department regulations. Which I have been told will be nearly IMPOSSIBLE!
The challenge- Very few people at the department of Ag and Tulsa and Creek Co. health department know what those regulations are. My job is to use a model of an operating dairy and on farm processing facility in Oklahoma (Wagon Creek Creamery) and shrink fit it to my small operation while at the same time making the guys in charge not feel like idiots, thus giving them a reason to shun me into back into the underworld of illegal cheese sales! Which I will only go if forced to do so.
The players:
OSU Food and AG Products- Tim Bowser (apparently he’ll help with some designing and product design and marketing, and makes for a good back up when running into problems with the State) Goal: become his best friend.
Dept of Ag- Frank Harris (I think he’s the guy in charge) and Sam Carter (the go-to guy? He’s the one I call first, I hear he’s very helpful and knowledgeable) Goal: make them feel smarter, bigger and better than anyone in the room! And let them know they are... ..saving the world.

The mantra: No more chocolate until the mission is complete! God help me.

Wish me luck Sally, Lingling, Racy, Belize, Dotty, Jewel, Sugar, Teenytiny, Coconut, Mochanut, Olive, Jupiter, Chip, Jack and Lefty. May the force be with us!
I won’t let you down!