Sunday, February 28, 2010


Around here we don’t buy bacon unless we can afford it. Bacon is a pleasure and a treat when we can afford to buy things we don’t raise or grow ourselves. It’s up there with orange juice. It’s not essential. Coffee, Rice, beans, flour, yeast, pasta come first, then wine, what I consider to be the basics, the guts of a meal. We’ve gone through most of the meat in our freezer. Beef that came from my neighbor, the steaks are long gone and only hamburger remains. We still have some lamb shanks left and bones for stock, and some dinner guests just brought us a pork roast last night that they produced! We’ve got a green house full of greens and fresh baked bread now nearly every day. So were not lacking or feeling turned out. Were wealthy in good eats, just not bacon.

I’m sitting here thinking about what I will make for breakfast this morning and I am craving bacon like the goats crave alfalfa. But there is no bacon in the larder this morning. Nor, will there be tomorrow or the next, probably not until mid April when the farmers' market starts up and we have a little extra money for a treat. But my stomach is growlin’ and a mak’n noise saying “I want some bacon!” What to do?

This craving I have makes me want to raise pigs. However I think I’ll leave that to the experts; Pork and greens, the Downing Family and Blakely family farm. That’s the last thing I need around here. I’d have every little piglet in the house spoiled rotten. There are just some animals I cannot raise but I still like to eat. I’m sure any vegetarians out there are appalled by that statement. But in regards to bacon I’ll have to wait until April.

How does a spinach Benedict sound on biscuits?

Saturday, February 27, 2010

In a name

My farm Living Kitchen became Living Kitchen in name nearly seven years ago before I ever actually had a farm. The name seemed a way to express my deepest feeling that kitchens are a living, breathing entity and are like mothers keeping their children (the cooks) safe and protected. But I should tell you, I’ve spent practically my whole life in kitchens in one form or another, rarely, however, the one in my home. As I learned more about growing food I came to feel that a vibrant farm represented nothing short of life itself embodied within a network of fields, barns and fences and the work that was done in and on these places was sacred.

Back in Seattle the restaurant was my life. I found time for very little else, maybe a walk every morning, a couple of yoga classes a week and the rest was time dedicated to a selfish passion of cooking. This became even more intense as I began to discover and embrace the farmers market. Across the street from my Sicilian restaurant, an old parking lot every Wednesday between 3pm and 7pm turned into a European vibrant market place. I had never experienced such excitement stateside as I had from my travels to Italy and Sicily.

Back then my Co-worker Julie (now current owner) would run over to the farmer’s market at 3pm. We would load up on things for the restaurant, but we would also just grab things that spoke to us, like a few bags of miners lettuce, garlic scapes, lemon cucumber, an assortment of heirloom tomatoes, lettuces of all different shapes, sizes and colors, purple cauliflower. After we had our run of the place like kids in a candy store we would go back to the restaurant, and create what we called a farmers market menu. $20 bucks got you a 3 course dinner from just things we picked up and created from the farmers market. Up until the farmers market became our neighbor Wednesday was one of our slowest nights of the week. That soon ended and Wednesdays became one of the busy nights of the week. It was the best time ever!

So when I came to Oklahoma surfing on the wave of lust, Living Kitchen was more of an idea, a hope, a dream. I had a lot of challenges, a lot of heart ache, a lot of false starts, but the vision never changed. Living Kitchen was a place where I could share my passion for food. The idea that my now ex-partner and I talked years ago about was having a farm close enough to Tulsa and Oklahoma City that people could drive to quite easily. I wanted to create that same vibrant experience that I had at the restaurant on Wednesdays and bring that incredible flavor explosion that you just could not get in a restaurant those days. I was starting to get the feeling that most people were searching for the same thing I was, a purposeful meal, a meal that meant more than taking a break from cooking or just filling the void. Now we have many names for it, ethical eating I’ve heard, locavore, and of course eating and enjoying foods fresh from the farmers market is “green,” go figure.

Living Kitchen is still a dream but now it’s a dream come true. Selling produce at the farmers market gives me so much joy, and cooking for our farm table dinners is absolutely the best. I feel as safe and comfortable as I always have in the kitchen only this time my kitchen includes 5 acres in vegetable fields, 50 laying hens, 200 chicks on the way, 12 Nubian milk goats, 30 or so sheep, 17 or so lambs, a Llama, two great Pyrenees, three lap dogs, 6 spoiled barn cats. The name couldn’t be more fitting.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010


It has by all accounts been the wettest, muddiest February that I have experienced since I moved here in 03'. I've moaned and I've groaned, stomped my feet, thrown fits and thrown my arms up to the sky, looking for answers, looking for warmth looking for..... who the heck knows. What does a four year old's temper tantrum really achieve any way?

I laugh at myself because I know that it will all work out. I know the timing will be perfect. and onions will be planted when its time to plant which is when its time to plant. What I'm saying is its time when its time. Lettuce will grow, tomato seeds will germinate and the sun will shine. Dang it ! I know this. And I crack myself up.

I watched the lambs play together yesterday, it was hilarious. Sideways running, clumsy legs. It was so entertaining. I think I sat there for a good 25 minutes. You can imagine by the end of that I was all smiles. Lambing has started being fun and not so traumatic. The last several lambs have been born during the day with no complications. Healthy babies and mothers make me very happy! Its hard to believe I'll be kidding in three weeks. I cant wait, that is my very favorite time on the farm. I'll be happy for the milk and goat cheese again and to get back into my milking routine.

Usually when the goats are dried up waiting to kid, I get somewhat of a break. But not this year its just been work work work. I'm going to try to take a few days in a couple of weeks and visit my niece in Phoenix. She's 40 minutes from Sedona, a place I love to go and hike and get re-energized. That might be just what I need.

Looks like the sun will be joining us today. The sunrise has just begun to paint purple pink brush strokes across the sky. Time to get out and see some critters.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Beauty in the mud?

Yesterday the two hours that it wasn’t raining Linda and I went out to do chores. We needed to treat some of our ewes that were showing signs of foot rot. This is a problem that is difficult to remedy in wet sloppy conditions. Foot rot is cause by two bacteria that come together and affect the hooves of the animals, making their poor little feet sore, let it go untreated and they start to walk on their front knees. And from there it just gets worse. So right now I’m in triage mode. Just trying to heal the infected by manicure, coppertox and antibiotics and preventive care for the ones who don’t have it yet by treating their hooves with the coppertox and a prayer. When the barn can finally dry out a little I’ll scrape it down to the dirt. Sweeten the ground with lime and let it sit undisturbed for several weeks. This should help a great deal. But for now it’s dealing with one case at a time.

At one point after an hour of manicures and inspection, I just put my head down. I felt like crying. The grayness, the muddiness, the damp, cold, the smell of my own sweat and coppertox just finally took its toll on me and I just broke down. I looked at Linda and asked if I could have a few minutes to rant. To bitch heartily about things I had no control over, to just let it rip. She stood by and gave me her undivided attention while I wigged out about the rain, the sheep that run from me when I need to treat them, the mud, the shit, not being able to plant. Linda nodded her head in compassionate agreement. Her hand on my shoulder, nodding, supporting. I felt silly, but incredibly grateful for the patient soul next to me. It end quickly but I felt a lot better. We went on to finish chores and then we took ourselves out for a burger and a beer at McNellies, which soothed the pain a little.

Today’s forecast is clouds, highs in the 40’s. I’ve got a long list of chores today. And I’m going to try my best to keep moving. I’ve got an interview with Oklahoma Today for their sustainability issue coming out in the may/june issue and I’m wondering how I’m going to pull it off. Sustainability is so much easier to pull off with cooperative weather. At least if feels easier. I really need to spend some time meditating and finding the beauty in the mud. Seriously.
I hear a bunch of birds chirping outside. It sounds like they’re happy. I think I’ll listen to them for a little while before I face the ankle deep mud I’ll be working in most of the day. If I'm lucky we'll get to see a peek of the sun.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Growing it

I love cloudless mornings on the farm. Its not like that now however, its lightly raining and cloudy. There is even a chance of snow tomorrow. That's why I love the green house. The one we have by definition is actually a high tunnel. Ribs of galvanized pipe anchored into the ground covered with a thick layer of plastic defies the winter. Any light is transferred into heat and the illusion of sun. On a freezing day if the sun is out it will be over 60 degrees in the tunnel. On a cloudy day maybe cooler but protected from the wind so its very conducive to growing cool weather items like spinach, lettuce and other greens. I love going in there to harvest on cold windy days I try to stay as long as I can. Its quiet and peaceful. Just me and the greens, and sometimes the cats lounge next to me in the isle soaking up the heat on a cold day.

Yesterday as Kasey plowed up the five acres that we'll be turning into vegetable fields I started seeds of peppers, and tomatoes, placing each seed carefully in a cell of organic potting soil. It's a meditation of sorts but one that is filled with intention. There is something so satisfying to me about growing my own food. Its something I used to dream about back in the ol' restaurant days.
Back then I had no idea what would be in store for me. For me its the first act of a great meal. Placing seeds in the soil. The recipe starts with soil, and finishes with a pinch of salt on the plate. The full experience of eating starts and ends with dirt. Maybe I'm just a control freak? I don't really believe that. I think I'm just like everyone else searching for the sacred. Trying to find deep spiritual meaning in the mundane. Cooking has always been a sacred act of spiritual expression to me and eating has always been an act of receiving the divine gifts of mother nature. Planting and growing has been an act of witnessing the profoundly beautiful perfect process of life on this planet. Not sure where I am going with this but probably out to the greenhouse.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Its a dog day

I haven’t written about my dogs Ginger and Cosmo. They sink back into the fabric of this place and I sometimes need to remind myself how incredibly important they are and what a huge job they have.
They are both Great Pyrenees/Anatolian mixes. They are extremely territorial and they have it out for the coyotes. These two do not stay with the goats and sheep like many Pyrenees are trained and expected to do. In my early farming ignorance I allowed them to bond with me rather than the live stock. They do protect the live stock but by creating a border around our farm that they guard with such dedication and commitment. We’ve not had an “incident” with coyotes, or any other predator and just the other day I saw Ginger running looking up in the air and barking a hawk out of a tree near the chickens. So even though they are bonded to me they share greatly in the responsibility of watching over the animals.

Ginger is the oldest I believe, five years old and Cosmo four. They were both gifts from my neighbor at the old farm, gifts that have kept giving. Ginger is the serious one and I mean serious. When she’s working nothing else exists. You can see the look on her face when she means business. Cosmo is more playful and enjoys his union breaks. Ginger is like his boss and keeps him working. But he is good for her because he talks her into setting some time aside to play. They love the cold weather, the colder the better. They roll and play and frolic in the snow like they were sweet little puppies. Then back to work.

They are wonderful with all of the animals including the cats. On cold nights ginger is found on the deck curled up on her bed with three or four cats snuggled up with her. She mothers everyone including me. They love people but have a real problem with strange dogs, big trucks and the brown UPS van. They like the drivers however so it’s the truck that needs to watch out. When Ginger has finally said all she can to a rouge truck, she pees on the tire. She pees like a male lifting her leg. I told you they are territorial you do what you have to, to get your point across I guess.

Anyway, I had a dream the other night and it was like I was seeing life through Gingers eyes. It was a powerful dream and it has stayed with me. As I recount the dream I realize I really need to thank Ginger and Cosmo more often for all the work they does around here, let them know that as they are looking out for everyone else I’m looking out for them. I see a treat in their very near futures.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

hoo hoo.... magic bus

Nothing fell apart at the farm while I was gone for the day. Yesterday was just like another I was told. The goats played and napped and the sheep mostly grazed and napped. The sun was out so it was a real treat. I came home between meetings and fed. I spent a few minutes sitting out in the yard with the animals and watched the lambs play. Four of the most recent lambs were pal’n around together, investigating pieces of hay and bouncing back if it moved in the wind. It was more cute than I could handle and it was time to head out again.

One really good thing came out of my trek off the farm. On my way home from Stillwater I stopped at an auto salvage place. I’ve had this bright idea of having a big ol’ school bus as my hen house for my chicken tractor. So the bus would be gutted and I would put in nesting boxes and a roost. I could pull it from place to place with the tractor. It has no engine. I’d have to clean it out once a week but I could open all the windows in the summer and in the winter it would be cozy and warm, and safe from night predators. I dunno. I had a long discussion with Ed Whitehead the salvage guy and when I told him about the idea he got a sparkle in his eye. After hashing out all that could go wrong we both decided it will work perfectly and he’s bringing the bus over this weekend.

I’m thinking it might be a good opportunity to have a CSA hen bus painting party. We’ll need to name it of course so there may be prizes for the best name. I’m pretty excited! I guess that means I better order my chicks !

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Today I'll be spending most of the next two days off the farm. Work at the Wellness center and then a board meeting. It accumulates into a whole day. A whole day of not germinating pepper seeds, of not going through the garden plan, of not finishing the green house of not working with the animals. Its the hardest thing in the world to leave when there is so much work that has to be done. I try to find the balance but right now the balance is tilted. Farm work is the most important thing right now requiring the most thought and work, but that doesn't mean everything else stops. I wish it did.
But the work will be here when I get back and the world probably wont end, it just feels like it might.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The woman in the mirror

I got a glimpse of myself in the mirror as I was washing up after assisting Martha one of our Southdowns birth the hugest baby girl. My tired face, dried lips, slightly sun and wind burned face and my once neat cropped hair, now shoulder length and wavy held back with force by a dark blue bandana. I looked hard at myself. It’s hard to believe I’m looking at the same person that moved here six and a half years ago. The eyes that look back at me seem full of fear when I take deep notice of the wrinkles around the corners of my eyes. The eyes that say, “what happened?” I look closer making out the details, then my eyes softened and I see myself, the shepherd, the farmer, the cook, happy, joyful and full of gratitude.

It takes a while to wash the ‘J-lube’ off my arm past where the latex gloves were. A friend recommended it for assisting with birthing and I must say she was spot on. A huge difference it made. It’s funny how things like the right kind of lube can just make your night. It’s been a busy couple of weeks, the days tend to blend together during this time, it’s all about lambing and taking care of the animals, getting ready for planting and pulling the farm together at a time when it seems more natural to be cuddled up next to a roaring fire with a good book. But instead I negotiate the elements, make my way through the mud and try to keep my chin up.

As of this morning we have twelve lambs. More on the way. Most are female. The wooly sheep generally are easy but their lambs are so large. They turn out to be good mothers but they are not interested in cleaning the lamb off after it plops down behind them. It’s the strangest thing. The lambs are large and strong and hungry so they are loud, loud enough to wake the dead or wake Kasey who lives right next to the barn. This time I had my alarm set for 1 am. So at 12:30am when I found myself wide awake, I went ahead out to the barn to give a check on Martha, she had told me earlier it would be soon. Sure enough she was in labor and having quite a time of it.

First it’s the inventory. Nose, hoof, hoof. Check. This is a correct birth, so what’s the problem? It’s stuck. I pulled gently, Martha was happy for the help, I pulled harder. I made sure there was nothing in the way like an elbow, more lube, pulled again this time she grunted and pushed, a leg came through this is all I would need to make more room and the rest came out with one slow even pull. At first I thought I had a dead lamb, tongue out to the side lifeless. I cleared its mouth and nose and it sprang to life with such force I almost fell over. Up on her feet looking for milk covered in a thick slim. Martha was not impressed. She licked a little on the top of the head, and walked away, came back licked a little more and then just looked at me. They made cooing noises at each other so I took the little one and we headed into the house for the wooly spa treatment.

I’ve only had to do this to the Southdown lambs, and I only do it because I honestly feel I have to. The moms will not clean them off and when its 20 degrees out, it’s too much to ask this lamb to clean and dry itself, so I choose to help rather than find a frozen lamb in the morning. So, off for a hot shower and a blow dry. When baby is all dry I take it back out to mom and the eating begins, mom seems content and ready to nurse the thing now and I can get cleaned up and go back to bed. I dream of goats breaking into the milk parlor and chasing them out. What a life.

Monday, February 8, 2010

OK, is this a joke. I turn my back for a minute and it starts snowing. Huge sloppy flakes. I had plans today that did not include this. I know, I know. I was warned. I refused to believe it. My bad. Today mother can be by herself. I'll stay in and watch her. Oh, that is until the ewe I have in a quiet corner, decides to lamb finally. Yesterday would have been more preferable. Now I'll be in and out of the barn all day. I'm not complaining mind you. I just sound like I am.
I'm so going back to bed.
No not really.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Friday, February 5, 2010

making peace with mother

Excuse me if I ignore the forecast for rain today, and forgive me if I refuse to acknowledge the snowflakes that might be headed our way, and beg my pardon if I seem not to notice that I’m covered knee high in mud. But I just don’t have time to pay attention to you, Mother Nature. Not now. Not when the green house needs to go up and seedlings started for spring planting. Not when lambs are born early and fields need plowed. I won’t be sitting at the kitchen table looking longingly for a ray of sunlight through the rain streaked window, elbows folded palms holding up my chin waiting for you to tell me it’s time to go outside. I won’t be holding a cup of hot chocolate between my cold palms watching you from a distance, even though it seems that’s what you’re asking me to do.
It’s me and you today Mother, I hope you don’t mind the company.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Meet Jr

This is Jr, Yesterday morning when I was blogging he was asleep on my lap. Right before I left for work in Stillwater I put him back out with mom hoping something would 'click'. Kasey called to tell me he had the wanderlust and was out wandering by himself again and I was sure I'd be sticking a bottle in his hungry mouth when I got home.
Much to my surprise when I did get home he was attached to moms teat! Yea! I checked on him several times and he and mom have been very very close. Thanks goodness a full night sleep.
All is quiet, another morning of peace. I wont get used to it.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Breathing is not optional

I went out to the barn this morning and everything was fine…..Whew! I can enjoy my coffee in peace.
Things feel so crazy to me right now, I’m really feeling the stress of, one; having a new puppy who is absolutely into everything and seems to be all teeth, and a lamb who is in the kitchen right now at my feet bumping my hip for milk, while the little puppy is jumping and bouncing and knocking the poor little chap over. Every time I turn my back there’s a mess, lamb/dog , pee/ poop. Ugh! Not to mention about 25 ewes are showing signs of lambing.

The lamb is in the house with us not because his mother rejected him but because he has rejected his mother. I have never seen this happen before. But before starvation could set in I decided to bottle feed him. That’s not entirely uncommon but definitely undesired. Most of the time if I have to resort to this I can generally leave the bottle baby with his mom and they can experience all the other things that come with the lamb/Ewe relationship. But noooo… JR here is off exploring on his own and winding up in some very peculiar places, He’s just about driven his poor mom to a nervous breakdown trying to keep up with him and calling him away from danger. So he’s here with me where I can keep an eye on him. I’ll have to make a special area for him tomorrow obviously he can’t stay in the house forever. Right? I might have to bring him to work with me. I wonder how that is going to go over? He’s very adorable.

The snow and Ice is melting rapidly and has left a muddy sloppy mess in its wake. Between the slop, the lambing ewes, lamb clean up and fostering I feel like I am just crawling with bacteria. Ewh! God I love summer. I am very grateful though that this last winter storm didn’t knock out the power here as predicted. I must say I’m having trouble getting rid of the many buckets of water which still sit in corners of the house. Just in case. I feel like I’m still in emergency mode. I really need to relax. Really.

Things change very rapidly around here. Now the puppy is asleep in my shirt and the lamb totally crashed in my lap. All is quiet. For now. Just for now. I drink my coffee with the vigor of a busy day. I saw my Chiropractor a couple of days ago and he reminded me that stress, even more than sheep wrangling can throw a body out of alignment. He reminded me breathing is not optional.