Wednesday, December 29, 2010
The blog has helped me get into a writing routine which is important, but I've decided to hang the blog up for a little while and limit it to Sunday breakfast, so I can concentrate all of my efforts on the book. Or might I say, what might become a book that is. The point is I'm writing in a more deliberate manor.
I'm writing about my life in the restaurant biz and the transition into a full time farmer
So.....I'll tell you..This isn't the Title..but..' four seasons of meals, stories and meanderings from an Oklahoma farm.' what do you think? So lots of recipes from farm table dinners, lots of stories. I dunno I'm just gonna see what happens.
I put in six hours of writing yesterday so I'm off
Wish me luck and I'll see you Sundays for breakfast!
Sunday, December 26, 2010
It’s everything I’ve dreamed it would be. I wouldn’t change it for the world.
I have made quite a hobby out of being self reflective and contemplative. It’s an easy thing to do when you spend most of your time with yourself, by yourself. I learned to get real comfortable with my flaws and my bright moments seem something to celebrate, and when I have them, bright moments. I do, I celebrate, with a whoop or a big knowing smile in the mirror, a sly wink at the goats as I walk by. When I have a bright moment all the animals on the farm know about it. I make a point to go around and give everyone a little extra attention. The dogs get a pat on the head and the chickens might just see a piece of dry cat food flung their way. I have more bright moments than I give myself credit for but the knuckle head moments just seem to stand out more. It’s like they have some kind of fluorescent marker on them so you can find them in the tall grass. They just never go away.
For the past month I’ve had the opportunity to really hone my hobby. I have neatly dissected the past year, thought about all that went wrong and all that went right and now I’ve had a whole two days of Christmas bliss of laying around the house reading and contemplating, and you know what I’m ready to put it to bed. The past that is, the blood, guts and smelly things. Gone, and what I have left are wonderful glorious, beautiful lessons! Little presents of wisdom that will keep me safe I hope. I won’t miss these things I’ve given myself heck about for the last umpteen months. I know there will be plenty of new things that will cross my path, but it’s kind of nice to leave some stuff behind. It doesn’t need me anymore and I don’t need it. The best thing about it and the thing I notice the most right now is how much easier it is to look forward. The future doesn’t seem so ominous and mysterious and fateful.
I’ve started the process of planning the coming year. Just for the record I have to for my organic certification records; estimated crop yields etc. last year when I was doing this I felt as if I was walking on a frozen pond. In Oklahoma. Just as I would take another step I would hear the creaking and cracking of the ice. I could go no further. Today feels so incredibly different and I feel as free as a bird. The funny thing is there are no plans for growth, no big new ideas, as a matter of fact not a whole lot will change from last year, and it will be better. I’m growing down. Focusing on the roots of the farm, the stability, the viability. I want to take what the farm does best and perfect it. I want to take what the farm doesn’t do well (or more aptly what I don’t do well at) and scratch it. Grow down.
I’ll be taking far less CSA members but providing them with a higher percentage of their diet. I’ll be growing in a smaller space but able to build the fertility in the soil so more production is possible. I’ll still have just as many farm table dinners and I’ll still take two interns, but I’ll be able to breathe and this sounds so completely glorious to me. Simply put I’ll just be concentrating my efforts. I’m not saying the work won’t be hard and there won’t be struggles and I won’t stop being poor, but I actually feel like for the first time in many years my clothes are finally fitting. That means something to me.
I have found no greater joy than living this life on a farm, I have never felt more satisfaction from working a twelve hour day filthy dirty and sweaty than I have from a day cleaning out barns and weeding beds of corn. There is no sweeter smell of that which comes from morning soil heating from the sun, or that of wool on the sheep as I push my nose deep into the warming girth. There is no flower more beautiful than an okra blossom. And not a more beautiful a person than the one whom I get to spend this life with and share these wonderful things with. I feel as free as a bird.
Thursday, December 23, 2010
I missed my list.
Neurotic was suggested to me over dinner when I was explaining how much comfort a list gives me. Actually most of the day I was trying to figure out why I should not write a list and have time to rest also. Like eating my cake and pie at the same time, or however that saying goes. That cannot possibly be a bad thing. Cake and Pie and all the eating! That sounds like heaven to me. I'll have another piece!
I mean who am I trying to fool here. This is a farm. There is never a time when a list is not needed. So much goes on here, things must be noted down. A hay feeder that needs a new screw. A shelter that needs to be moved. I mean come on the work never ends. Why should I feel bad about that and try to pressure myself into "relaxing" I mean what is that?
So this morning after my normal journal entries I wrote a list! I even put time lines to the tasks so I could see if I could get most done with in a reasonable eight hour day. Oh the pleasure and satisfaction that brought! like thumb sucking! (i quit that a long time ago, but I remember).
However I'm actually a few minutes late for my first chore. So already I'm running behind. Oh the joy!
Rain is likely tomorrow and the possibility of snow. I want to enjoy Christmas Eve with not a worry in the world.
For those of you who celebrate Christmas I hope you have a wonderful day full of love and the spirit of Jesus. For those of you who don't I'll see you at the movies!
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
Sunday, December 19, 2010
So get your flat iron hot. (dont use any oil) With a chef spoon or small ladle pour the batter into the middle of the pan, then spread it with the spoon in a circular motion moving out to the edges of the pan. Let it cook until the top is not battery, then flip and cook on the other side for just a second or so. If you cant get the crepe to flip you need to let it cook more on the first side. It took me two practice crepes to get it down.
Saturday, December 18, 2010
So I have several cheeses that are aging for my CSA and other than that I'll be buying raw cow milk from Judy @HLA www.oklahomarawmilk.com to have in my coffee, drink and make yogurt. When I cant drink my own I go see Judy.
So this is the time of year things really slow down. I can go to once a day now with feeding hay and grain, the chickens still need me. and don't forget the baby chicks so I'll still have plenty to do. But maybe now is time to start that reading list? maybe now its okay to keep the office a little more organized. Maybe I'll be able to keep up on laundry now. Maybe a couple more walks now and then. Maybe I'll draw or paint. Maybe more bread baking. Maybe a morning waking up after the sun comes up? Maybe a cleaner house. Maybe.....a vacation? A short trip to Seattle for a weekend? Both of us at the same time. Together?
Feb 19th Kids hit the ground! Lambing begins and the farm explodes with life. Maybe I could get some rest before then?
Friday, December 17, 2010
Thursday, December 16, 2010
Oh, one of those projects I had was puppy proofing. So, you may have read before that we are the proud new owners of two livestock guardian dogs, however they are 6 weeks old right now. Let me just say they are the cutest things I’ve ever laid eyes on. They are adorable! But I didn’t have the area they were supposed to be in with the kids and lambs puppy proofed enough so they spent a lot of time on the porch looking for us and we spent a lot of time trudging them back to their pen. But I finally got it nailed yesterday and they haven’t gotten out yet. I’m trying to follow the correct way to raise livestock guardian dogs and will have them in with five lambs. I won’t bore you with the details but it takes a lot of commitment from the owner to let the dogs bond with the sheep and not the round heads (people).
But aren’t they cute!
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
Each time I take a trip to the processer I can’t help but be a little sad. And every time I question whether I should be a vegetarian and every time I say no. I’ve given a lot of deep thought to my diet and what I eat, but now is not the time to go on about this. Now is time to give gratitude and appreciation. Now is to have a sense of pride on a job well done. Now is to live in the real world without illusions or distractions. Right now I am living my truth; I accept that there is pride and sadness.
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
The mornings have been difficult to get out in, regardless of the carharts, I stretch it. I have breakfast, I do paperwork, and I return phone calls and e-mails and basically procrastinate the heck out of it. The sheep are literally screaming at me to bring them alfalfa, to break the ice on their frozen water. They have a schedule, hello. They know just what window to look in angrily as I peer out assuring them I will be right there. Frankly I hate the cold. I love the hot sweaty summers. 105 no problem! 35 oh gosh no! But I have no intention of moving to the tropics so I’ll just have to tough it out.
Now that I’m ready for winter as far as the farm goes I’m kind of looking forward to a little time snowed in. I hope I didn’t just hex myself! But there is a part of me that would really like to be forced to stop, to rest. Each day I busy myself with a list I can’t possible complete, I take a short break for lunch and I’m back at it. Before I know it its evening chore time then dinner then bed. If I haven’t made a significant dent in the list I feel lazy. Slow. I hate to have to transfer yesterday’s items onto today’s list. It’s the ultimate failure. There are two things that stop me and that is snow or ice or being sick. I don’t get out much so this reduces me catching a cold, unless Linda brings one home with her but I would prefer not to go that route. Gosh I totally just hexed myself didn’t I?
Today I just have a few things on my list. They might take a while. I’m the expectant mother of 100 baby chicks that are scheduled to arrive tomorrow morning and I’m getting things ready to load up the lambs I’ll be taking to the processer in the morning. That’s really all I have scheduled for today. I realize that may be enough. It’s funny though I’m sure by the end of the day that list will have tripled.
Sunday, December 12, 2010
Friday, December 10, 2010
Apparently for people like me, yesterday was a bad news day. I don’t read the newspaper. I do listen to NPR if that tells you anything about me, but yesterday I was working all day, and on the way home from my hour drive from Stillwater I was jamming to Ryan Adams’ Cold Roses CD, if that tells you anything about me. I heard about all this bad in the news last night as Linda ticked off each item until I said “STOP”. “That’s enough I don’t want to know”.
But I heard about the hate and intolerance and this never ending squabble about “Christmas” VS “Holiday” and each year this happens I move farther from Christmas because more and more it seems a holiday for complete whack jobs starting at black Friday. I try not to stereo type Christians as social terrorists like most try not to stereo type Muslims, but I tell you there are some bad apples out their taking the joy out of our primal need to feel the spirit of God. To me people like Fred Phelps make God a dirty thing, an unholy thing. Something to stay as far away from as I can.
I wish I didn’t know about all the bad out there. I wish I could stay in my farmy utopia and be untouched by it all. But I have to maintain a certain sense of belonging to a greater community with The United States of America even though by default I was born one of the last groups of people openly denied basic civil rights. As I watch my friends and family live in complete freedom I’m faced daily with the knowledge that if I want that freedom offered to United States citizens I must conform and deny my own truth. And believe me I tried for years to do this. I was miserable and desperate to escape my prison of lies. So now I live as authentically as I can. I try not to talk about politics and I try not to remind most of my friends that they have a privilege I, probably in my life time won’t have. I can play it off like it doesn’t matter but it does. It hurts. I feel bad about it. Quietly.
Today and tomorrow and for as long as I can stand it, will be no news days, no NPR no Tulsa World no nothing. The news I hear will be from the goats, the wind through the last remaining leaves on the big oaks and the soft patter of chicken feet following me to the feed. This is joy, this is spirituality and right now as far as I know, no one can take that away from me. I’m not an activist. I am a farmer and I have one desire bigger than the news and that is to feed people, love completely and be loved. Live a life that is good. That’s my Joy.
Wednesday, December 8, 2010
I thought I might be able to wait on the putting the plastic on and the ends but I was told on Monday afternoon I had to put the ends and a door on. So yesterday that's just what I did. It wasn't on my list of things to do so I had to readjust my OCD leanings. Now the only thing that is missing is the plastic. I don't plan on planting in it until late January so the longer I can go with out putting the plastic on the longer the plastic wont have to be under attack from the Oklahoma weather. But I am anxious to have the whole thing done and ready when I need it so I may just wait until the next somewhat still day and call a few folks to help me pull it over. Its definitely not a one person job unless you want to see that one person loose their mind in a matter of seconds. With three or four hands it goes over in minutes.
Spending as much time out in the garden yesterday got my mind going again. Thinking about what I will plant, remembering and making mental notes of what did well what did not. What varieties of this lettuce do I want and so on. I got excited. I looked back at my planting list from last year and read the notes I had made. I read the desperate cries of failure and the notes of what not to do. What a gift to have a year of mistakes behind me. Fabulous lessons I can now appreciate.
I've got a list of winter projects and I've been able to tick them off with great satisfaction. My goal is to have most everything done in December so January I can relax, take some time off, read, write. Come Fabruary the games begin and I would be a fool not to take as much time as I can in January to re- fuel my body, spirit and my mind.
Tuesday, December 7, 2010
Monday, December 6, 2010
I still wake up in the middle of the night sometimes terrified that one or all of the goats, sheep or any of the animals is sick and dieing. Its a horrible feeling and I'm helpless. It takes several minutes for me to wake up enough to talk myself down. Its okay, everyone is fine. I some how convince myself of this and fall back to sleep. Its the strangest thing and the worst feeling and thankfully its been a while since I've been in that situation in my waking life. But I think once you experience trying to unsucsessfull nurse a sick animal back to health you know the awful helpless feeling and it sticks with you. It changes you. Maybe for the better. But for me I think I might have a touch of PTSD.
I'm preparing for winter like I'm preparing for the worst possible scenarios, My preparations are fear based and very serious. I wish I wasn't so stressed out about it. But I suppose I just have to live through this in order to know that it is possible for winter not to be a terrifying mess. I mean logic tells me, we're doing all the right things. We have back up plans, that's something we didn't have before. So I just need to chill, I know.
See on the other hand, when I'm not drowning in fear I'm really feeling wonderful and am really enjoying some down time on the farm. This will be the first year I haven't traveled to Seattle for Christmas and it feels really good to know I'll be home. I'm actually looking forward to spending a nice quiet Christmas on the farm. And for the most part these cold days and nights have been filled with hot cider, dominos, and books. So I do have to keep things in perspective.
Today is just a normal day, clean the milk parlor, spend a couple of hours on a project, organize some paper work. Tomorrow, 30% chance of snow in the morning and in the afternoon and I'm ready to enjoy it.
Sunday, December 5, 2010
Saturday, December 4, 2010
So this session we had planning what 50 would look like seemed to help give clarity to what 45 and 46 and 47 and so on would look like. So it’s like we’re working our way backward. But everything and all the decisions we make along the path hopefully will align and further our goals of how we see our future selves. We looked at it like a road map, there will be detours and road blocks, planned or unplanned but the destination probably won’t change. Healthy and happy. Broad, I know. But that’s the beauty and the gift we have by growing up, getting older is it doesn’t have to be complicated.
So this coming year and the next I have goals, I have a plan. It feels good. It feels attainable. I still have a little voice in the back of my head that tells me to prepare for the worst and I’m finally starting to shut that voice down more and more. And believe me it’s not happy about it! but, at some point I realize I need to be spending time preparing for all of the good things to come too. Maybe this is my own Advent. Preparing for the coming of my own birth, and the good that could come of it.
Thursday, December 2, 2010
They look like they are benefiting greatly from this type of managed grazing. They are all good size and weight and look pretty darn healthy. There is a lot of weeds and dried grass for them to eat and they clearly love being let out on to new pasture. The fence most people use in this situation is called Electronet. It looks like regular rolled field fence but it’s plastic and all electric. The sheep stay in and predators stay out. The fence I use is 164’ long and its fairy light, so it’s easy to fold and drag place to place.
Now, the problem I have is it takes me all frikin’ day to move sheep. First off, all the grass and weeds can’t be touching the hot parts of the fence because it will ground out and loose its zapping strength. Also they have been known to cause the occasional grass fire. So out comes the measuring tape, brush hog to mow a path for the fence, and then off goes the brush hog and on goes the chain to move the shelter and then there’s moving the waterers, mineral feeders and now the grain feeder. Then there’s moving the sheep, getting the water to reach, and then hooking up the electric. All day. This project takes me all day. The garden is most difficult area because of the raised rows so it’s quite a bumpy ride on the tractor going across the rows! And I only have one extra fence to start with on the new rotation.
Yesterday it was time to move them. I only had an hour before I had to get ready for work in Stillwater. I had previously mowed so that was taken care of, no chance for rain so if I didn’t move the shelters no biggy, as long as they had everything else things would be fine. I started to move fences and then realized I had planned it a little wrong. Frustrated and in a hurry I just dropped the whole fence and began to start over. Out the lamb rams meandered, unsure of what I was going to do. I refused to look at them, wander as they might I still have the grain and that they cannot refuse.
So I went about finishing the fence making myself oblivious that the lambs were now trying to get into the winter garden. Pay them no mind I told myself the gate is shut they cannot get in, carry on. I managed to get the ewes set up, they were happy to see the new area and went right to the job at hand eating. I couldn’t see the rams anymore and because I didn’t care where they were, I wasn’t looking. Several came back and ate some more alfalfa and then left again I ignored them. I almost had their fence set up. They won’t cross over a fence that is just lying down so I have to make sure there is an opening where the don’t have to walk over or touch the fence. So I had the last part of the fence ready to go. Off to get the grain. They were way on the other side now I gave them no mind.
Then the strangest thing happened. As I started walking away from their new pen they started making a B line for it. All 10 of them in a single file line walked back to the area and right into their new pen, they drank water and started munching on the remainder of the mornings alfalfa. I walked back calmly put up the remainder of the fence, looked at my phone. One hour! I did it. I turned the power on checked the charge and all was well! Let’s do it again in three days.
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
The part of the farm that is used the most is a valley. Cool air always travels down which isn't bad in the summer and it isn't really bad at all I suppose if your aware of these things. This knowledge will help to decide what fruit if any to grow. It obviously needs to be somewhat frost tolerant. Blackberries seem to do well. Blueberries would be my choice, so a researching I go.
Growing this winter in the high tunnel has proved to be an absolute joy! now I don't want to speak too soon but it is a jungle in there and during the day when its 40 degrees out, its an ambient 74 inside. These 19 degree mornings do have me a bit on edge. When the temps fall below 32 I cover all of the rows inside of the hoop house with a frost protector. The vegetables still freeze but when they thaw they are fine and have no frost damaged tips. Certain vegetables though wont freeze, it can get really frigid and the cells of the plant are extremely tolerant. This is really amazing to me. However, frost is the enemy of all, it turns the tip of the leaves white and they shrivel and become unsellable. Also I have found watering before a really cold night builds up humidity, and for root crops can really make a difference in the leaves above ground staying beautiful, especially carrots.
Right now I'm growing in a high tunnel that is 14 ' X 60 I am absolutely amazed at the production I'm getting. I'll be planting in the second high tunnel come early February, just to give me a head start for the first farmers market in April. It's safe to say this is a lot of fun to me. The one warning I have for anyone who is considering growing like this is to have patience. The key is to over plant and thin, and as most know, thinning is a tedious process, but the thinnings are delectable morsels and make the best salads, braising mixes etc. I have spent an entire day harvesting on my knees which normally would have only taken me two hours in the field. But you have to make the most of your space and the money that you've put into the cost of the greenhouse, The high tunnel should pay for its self in two growing seasons at most.
I'm busy winterizing the rest of the farm, getting the tank heaters in place, putting up wind blocks and just generally trying to do whatever I can to reduce the drama this winter. Sadly no heat repair guy yesterday, the office says I'm on the schedule for today.