Friday, April 30, 2010

News from the farm

So much is going on at the farm right now it’s hard for me to steal a minute to write a post without feeling tremendously guilty. A couple of important things have happened; the first is the pullets went into the bus the night before last. After dinner Linda, Kasey, Nate and I, armed with a pad of paper (head count) two head lights and a stealth attitude snuck up on each pullet and laid them down in their new home, the Egg bus. We seriously have to think of a good name for this! Inside the bus on one side are the roosting poles, on the other are (or will be) the laying/nesting boxes, on the floor is lots of pine shavings, a hanging feeder and a few waterers. Everything they need.

So the idea behind this is basically creating a movable hen house. In a perfect world were fences are in place and grazing rotations are second nature the hens would follow the rotation of sheep, this is all fine in theory but I can see before I start that it’s going to take some serious training on my part. It will take me a while to find the perfect timing, for both flocks. I’m going to be studying grass now. Grass and me, me and my grass. Grass, now takes on a whole new meaning in my life. Nancy Osborn a friend and mentor from Cordero farms talks about grass in her farm blog. She sees the grass as a direct link to the health and well being to her animals along with creating a superior nutritious cut of meat for her lamb business. When she talks about it she gets a sparkle in her eye. That and soldier flies, let her explain.
I’ve met grass farmers before. The first time was in Seattle, A vender at the market who sold pasture raised beef, which, I might mention at that time I had never heard of, would always talk about how they were grass farmers. When I visited their farm they were like, “oh yea there are the cows, but come over here and let us show you our grass!” I understood the nutrition and the idea behind it but I didn’t understand what was clearly an obsession. I like obsessions and I’m due for a new one so grass is it. First I’ll just start trying to understand it. There are lots of good books out there on the subject, but how exciting! I ordered my electronet fencing yesterday morning so I’m off on my journey.

There is a new Llama in the mix, Lisa Branborg, Country Garden Farm, brought Cusco by on Wednesday. Cusco is a two year old gilded male, a perfect guard for the sheep that I’ll be moving into new pasture soon. I’ll keep him and Pascal (the other guard Llama) in separate locations. It seems we have a coyote problem so we are on ultra high alert and are building up our defenses. We’ve lost I believe four small lambs in the last three weeks. So my hairs are standing on end right now. I’ve been bringing all the sheep back to the barn at night so I can sleep, haven’t had any more losses. Life is a miricle, a hen who had been setting on a clutch of eggs came out with 12 chicks the other morning. They are doing great!

The vegetables are doing well. We are addressing some serious fertility issues mostly to do with nitrogen but we are hanging in there. We have pretty much gotten most of our crops in and now will just be working on weeding, harvesting and building our soil for the winter crops. Oh, good news is we were approved for the hoop house grant so winter growing will be a dream!
That’s the news from the farm

Sunday, April 25, 2010

walking in shadows

Yours truly was featured with Matt Burch (Urban Agrarian) in an article for this month’s issue of Oklahoma Today magazine. What an honor! and how exciting to be featured in this magazine with so many of Oklahoma’s movers and shakers of sustainability. Actually……. it felt really weird. I loved the article don’t get me wrong, it was fantastic and the magazine this month is awesome! But….I mean lil’ ol’ me? I especially felt strange after reading an article in Tulsa World this morning written by Natalie Mikles; ‘Out on the farm’ where she features Rae and Lyle Blakley fifth generation farmers! This article reminded me of the footsteps I follow in. The foot prints in the sand that I try to keep in stride with.

I have no farming history at all. Before I moved to Oklahoma I knew nothing about farming, so I try to watch, listen and learn from people like Rae Blakley (Creek side plants and produce) and Debbie Shanks both long time farmer’s market vendors. There are many more I draw from too who have spent their entire lives farming who were taught by their parents. The article Natalie wrote was beautiful and I think a lot of times these real pioneers of farming get overlooked by the flashy new faces that aren’t yet warn by the sun of generations. The new faces of farming like me are acclimated to the media, marketing and technologies like face book, blogs and tweets we put ourselves right in your face. But from a hard core perspective here, we stand in the shadows of the ones who have come before us. They have paved the path for people like me. So here I sit looking at the photograph of my windblown face and sun cinched eyes. I’m simply a small piece in a very big puzzle trying to fit in to the best space that will fit me.

I realize that we all have a role to play. I just never want to overlook or under rate the farmers that I am trying to emanate. Seven years ago I decided after years of being a chef that the real stars in food are the farmers. In Seattle I was smitten with several farmers at my farmers market, to say I had a crush was not too far fetched, maybe enamored? Well, basically in love. But I didn’t want to marry them (good thing for the 78 year old egg lady) I wanted to BE them. I wanted to get as close as I could to food which has always been my most ravenous passion. They had it. They were closer to food than I was and I wanted to get as close to it as they were. I wanted to touch it feel it smell it cook it eat it. To grow it, that was the crème the raison d’être. I wanted not just the cake but the soil in which the wheat was grown in. Clearly perverse.
So thanks Natalie for your amazing reminder of the generations before me and keeping my crush alive.

Friday, April 23, 2010

A Walk

She‘s putting her boots on…. Not going to the animals?..! UPUPUP! We’re off! Under the fence, quicker than lightning. Runrunrun. Gravel underfoot, push back the cows from the path, run, round the calves, back. Green grass, wet. Leaves under paw, brambles, ouch! Runrun, sniff, possum, raccoon, SQUIRLLE! Where, where, where?! This tree, that tree, this branch that branch. Coyote poop. Old. Splash! Deep water in the creek, up on the sandy ridge faster than lightning, run, deer trail, sniff, goes long way, curvy, spotty, no deer go back. Runrunrun. Splash! Pond. Thirsty, lap, lap, lap. Up on the bank sniff sniff, beaver no good. Runrunrun through the thick green branches out to the grassy field up on the hill. Wet leaves under foot. Down on the hill, push the cows from the path, gravel underfoot, under the fence swoosh, up on the porch, She’s taken her boots off. "Good Girl". Door closed. shutthud. Ah, laydown. Yes. the bed. Sleep.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Spring showers.....

When the clouds come in and the rains start, it’s so familiar to me. I know the smell, the feel against my face and the droplets on my hair as I try to walk through the day unaffected, un-noticed. That’s how it was for me in Seattle. The rain comes but rarely hard, mostly light and misty. You don’t carry an umbrella, it’s a hassle, and it gets left places, because it does stop raining sometimes and when it does, the umbrella gets left behind.

I really don’t like the rain or the cold so I don’t know what possessed me to live in Seattle for most of my life. I guess I really didn’t know the difference so I just lived with it. It wasn’t until I started taking vacations to warm sunny places until I realized how much I loved the sun and hot humid weather. Florida, Sicily, Alabama, Oklahoma, these were places I didn’t want to leave. Oklahoma seemed the best idea at the time as a place to live, and still does but I could have easily ended up somewhere else. But I’m glad it was here.

That’s something the rain does to me. It gets me thinking about the past and curious about the future. In a melancholy kind of way I go to this place in my head where everything and everyone has deep profound meaning. The colors are bright but silent. The earth is soft and full. I can tell the goats don’t really appreciate it, but the sheep seem pretty happy out grazing. What a beautiful sight that is. Sometimes I can’t believe the beauty my eyes are able to take in.

Spring for a farmer can be a blessing and a curse. I mean we usually get a lot of rain in April which is good in so many ways. The flip side is, it makes the place muddy and not so pretty. It’s hard to get into the fields and plant or harvest or weed but you do it anyway, its warm but you still need to put on your rain pants and rubber boots, so it’s sticky, your sticky. But the grass and leaves on the trees sparkle and dance. The birds sing loud and you’re out in it, a part of it just as much as the frogs, birds, grass blades, leaves, wet hay, bark, the warn paths through the pasture. Here we all are together as one living breathing earth. These are the moments I try to keep fresh in my mind, melting away the sadness and frustration of the morning news stories on NPR. Spring rains and the unfolding life in front of me smoothes out the ragged painful memories of the past and spring rains always promise a future.

Friday, April 16, 2010

The hunt is on

This ain't my find. Its just a photo of the prize I hope to find after the rains. Morel mushrooms.
My mouth is watering just thinking about them sauteed with a little olive oil, garlic and Reggiano tossed with home made green garlic fettuccine, topped with a little fresh goat cheese. Oh gads, why do I torture myself?

I got a wild hair up in a particular place yesterday morning and headed out on the hunt. Found nothing. Too dry I suspect. They have to be here somewhere though. Right?
I followed cow trails which led to deer trails witch led to coyote trails witch led to brambles and thickets of wild blackberries. The ground was like walking on a mattress. The sun coming through the just opened hands of leaves and the new growth in the forest was amazing. And when my neck became to sore from looking down, I would look up and have some of those 'Oh My God This Is Beautiful' moments.

I am hoping after the rain I'll see some pop up. Its kind of like fishing you know they are there but just not biting. Or maybe the conditions are not just perfect yet.
Strangely, on my hunt I saw tons of Poke. I could have harvested, but I just left them. I did see Oxalice, (sp?) a lemony clover and tender green brier tendrils, i munched on during the hunt. I miss the fiddle head ferns in Washington.

Anyone have some tips for me on morel hunting here?

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


Poke salad, poke weed, poke, is a wild vegetable found in the southern states mostly. Native to North America, South America and New Zealand and according to my google search this morning, Poke is a widely eaten vegetable and is extremely poisonous. I knew the mature leaves and berries were but I thought the tender green leaves had not developed their great poison yet. I was wrong. On one web site named "don't eat poke". written by the Alabama extension office described poke and explained how American Natives introduced and taught the settlers how to harvest and prepare poke with out illness.

Poke starts out with these beautiful green leaves and thick tender stems, as the plant matures it sends up a large shoot that is loaded with a necklace of red berries. The berries at one time were used as a die. These berries if eaten by non birds will surly send you into the hospital, but birds do just fine.

So, I had heard of poke, but had never eaten or prepared it. I have searched for it but have never found any. Thank God.

Debbie Shanks a long time vender at the Cherry Street Farmers Market just happened to have a few bunches last Saturday so under her instruction I bought three bunches. That night for dinner we had grilled pork and green pork chops, poke and roasted potatoes. The meal was fantastic and the poke was delicious. The most important part of the preparation of poke is to boil it first. I thought this was to tenderize it. I found out this morning, Its not, its to try to get the poison out. 30 minutes is recommended and changing the water is also recommended. I boiled it for 10 minutes.

In a large cast iron pan I had sauteed onion and lots of garlic waiting in a pan. Once I figured the poke was adequately tenderized I strained it and cooked it with my garlicky mixture for another 10 minutes. It basically looked like cooked spinach. I wasn't leery at all Kasey took a very small portion and said he wanted to see our reaction before having a second helping. I had a extra large portion (I love greens) It was absolutely delicious!

Luckily we all fared fine in spite of my ignorance, but I've learned a valuable lesson.
Google before you eat something wild that is said to be poisonous.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Its such an incredibly busy time right now. But sometimes you just have to give your self time to laugh. This is our puppy Jai and our "barn" cat Rubin. They love to play together. Who needs a TV?

one more

Monday, April 12, 2010

Market Opens

The Cherry Street Farmers Market started last Saturday. The market has moved from the Lincoln center parking lot to smack dab on 15th street, between Quaker and Rockford. We badly needed more space. More space for vendors but also customers. The effort that went into this move was amazing but there was also a lot of fear. The Cherry Street Market has been in the same place for 12 years and a move like this was kind of a big deal. Most of the farmers are completely dependent on the Farmers Market for the majority of their income for the year (we'd be one of them) So change didn't come easy. A lot of surveys were filled out by vendors and customers, a lot of communicating between city officials, paper work, maps and map re-do's and more map re-do's. The purchasing of road blocks and trailers and hiring a assistant market manager. What I am saying is a spectacular amount of work went into this move and the fear remained.
Until Saturday at 8:15 am when we were sold out.

The sea of people who filled the streets to come out to the first market was amazing! I was just overtaken by gratitude and awe. I just couldn't believe all the faces. All the shoppers and yet so early still and all the amazing produce, meats, cheeses, eggs, soap, crafts and more. There was a moment where in my mind everything came together. All of us on the farm here have been working since August of last year getting ready for that one day. Opening day of market, a new season, a new opportunity a new profound breath of life that started with a gasp and a sputter.

Meeting our new CSA members was really beautiful, some came up, hand out stretched with a name and a profound statement that went like this "I'm your farm partner!" that reached into our hearts. I mean if it were not for our CSA members we could not have had the start up investment it takes to start a new farm and a new season.

We've arrived folks.
fully charged, fully capable and ready to face the season ahead. I've never felt so alive!

Happy new year!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

it's the little things

The latest addition to the kid pen is this little buckling, he has just a tiny bit of boer goat in him so I wont keep him for breeding but he is the cutest little thing in the world. The hardest thing about having milk goats and making cheese is you need the does to have kids in order to have milk. I know this might sound obvious but people do ask..... ? ..... they do.

So every year we have a load of kids, mostly boys. Last year out of 16 we got four girls. This year out of 8 we got 2 girls. So the question is what to do with the boys? Were keeping one. A beautiful salt and pepper buckling who was part of triplets, and from one of my very best milkers. Otherwise we don't have much need for them. Its sad really. Cuz they are really cute and sweet and so loving. Here's the deal. I wont eat goat, so I cant raise them for meat. I don't have anything against goat eaters, I just cant do it. I sell the buckling's knowing that it is possible they will at some time be eaten. I can barely stand the thought, but that's just my deranged thinking, cuz on a farm you really have keep a realistic edge to the fate good or bad of the animals that are born on your farm. I try my best to make sure they go to good homes but the sad truth is sometimes they have to go to the sale barn. Its still very possible they will go to good homes and be a great pet for a kid, they might be lawn mowers or they might go on the dinner table.
I've always wanted to start a "lawn mowing" or brush clearing business but really when would I have time for that. I think it would be a great business for someone to start here. I mean, they do it in Washington and Oregon, why not here? I mean Oklahoma is so similar....?......

Wednesday, April 7, 2010


There are times I'm in the middle of doing something, like yesterday when I was moving large round bales of hay with the tractor. I was on my last one, the sun was starting to go down, I was tired from a full day of weeding beds and planting, dirty and sweaty and very hungry (pizza night) and it was like a light went on, and I said too myself with great awe."I just moved all these bales of hay". Its like I catch myself being farmy.

There is some land close by that was owned by a friend who still had some round bales that needed to be picked up. He said I could have all of them, I just needed to find a way to get them. So I went over with another guy I know who has a long hay trailer (fits eight bales). As the guy with the trailer drove around the eighty acres while the son of the new owner loaded them on, I hung out with the dad (new owner) he had just taken some hogs to the butcher and was talking to me about hay and fields and animals and banding etc. The crazy thing was, he was talking to me like I knew and understood what he was talking about, and the truth is I did!

A couple of weeks ago I borrowed a trailer from a friend of a friend. Drove over to his place to pick it up. We had to drag it out of the bushes to get it to a place I could put it on the back of my truck. We haled it out with great ease. The fellow looked at me and said " well you handled that real good" "Oh yea yur a farm girl". My heart skipped a beat, I flushed and i could hear the inside of my head dancing around doing the chicken dance singin' "oh yea baby I am a farm girl!" "that's right f.a.r.m girl!" kind of like when Tom Hanks in the movie cast away, beat his naked chest and yelled, "ME, I MADE FIRE!", I was doing some inner chest beating for sure. But really I just shrugged and drove off.

I don't know what all this means. Maybe I feel validated, a confirmation that this is all very real and I like it. I don't know. But there is nothing more pleasing to me than milking my goats and making cheese. There is no chest beating in that. Instead there is a slow steady humble feeling I get, and am filled with this great sense of gratitude and love.

Speaking of cheese, I made my first batch of chevre of the season and it taste wonderful. The girls are really producing so I've got a daily production routine to work on.

On another note the Cherry Street Farmers Market opens this Saturday. I don't know how much we'll have, probably not much but we're showing up regardless. If you don't know, the market has moved to the street. We are in front of the White Owl. Come by and say hi if you can!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Spring time slumber

So far Spring has been perfect. Nice warm sunny days, a couple of warm overcast days (perfect for transplanting into the field) and one thunderstorm that seemed perfectly timed to water in the new seedlings. Cant ask for anything better. The Animals like it too. I caught this lamb totally crashed out. He awoke with my camera in his face. He wasn't exactly pleased.

And then there was Paschal. Spot is behind him.

It's no wonder I don't get any work done, I'm so busy spying on the animals trying to get a good shot!

The animals are in heaven right now. So much to eat, the temperature is perfect and we've made it through the long cold snowy winter. I've managed to get some work done brush hogging and stuff, farm stuff you know. I started my first batch of cheese last night so that's exciting. The colostrum is out of the milk and it is tasting gooood!

On Sunday, Linda and I found a nice spot to have dinner. Do we know how to live or what!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Wanderlust interupted

After further thought on the last post I've decided that fence work and ticks go hand in hand and I even think I may have called a chigger or two. Been itching wild all day and night.
So after a day a full day of fence mending and tick bites, I got to finally spend the day weeding and planting. It was a great day until I looked over and noticed seven Woollies high tailing it down the road. Calmly (freaky calm like) I grabbed a bucket of corn an got them to come back. (still freakishly calm like) and I put them in jail. In hopefully several days they will (as nanc says from Cordero Farms grow wheels, is that right? anyway I'll be taking them to 4 states to be processed.
The decision was not a difficult one it just took a while.
Meat in the freezer or meat on route 66 and a possible car crash. Its simple really.
So much for my fiber project.
So much for their wanderlust.
I better not get the Rocky mountain spotted tick fever.