Monday, November 28, 2011

winter prep

“I’m not ready for winter” I say and lay my head down on the table with an exaggerated sigh! “Honey, winter doesn’t care” was Linda’s response. I lift my head and give her the look.

Yesterday, most of it was spent preparing for freezing overnight temps that will be starting and continuing through the week. I still have tons of beautiful fall/winter greens out in the field and they are all cold hearty but I still must save them from frost and wind damage by covering the rows with a fabric called Agribon. Beets, turnips, carrots, spinach, chard, kale etc will all be protected and this should buy me some time until the high tunnels have enough density to start harvesting. This is the plan at least but if I’ve learned anything it’s not to have attachments to “the plan”.

I’m excited for winter, exited for cold days, warm yurt heated by a beautiful fire in the stove. After three winters on this farm we’ve got a winterizing plan and routine. It takes a couple of days of work but four months of less stress. The first year there was no winterizing the farm plan and we suffered, the second year we were set, over prepared and thus no suffering. This year will be even better. We’re over wintering in the yurt. It’s pretty easy and economical to heat a 400 square foot room than it is a 1200SF house.   The yurt is cozy and peaceful and a perfect place for contemplating the New Year to come. That’s what comes after the work of winterizing, contemplation. Not like I don’t do enough of that already but this I could call a focused contemplation of the evolution of the farm. Long title to write on the to-do list.

It’s an exciting time, it always is. Feeling like I have some say and control over my future is an exciting prospect. It may not turn out the way I planned i.e.drought, 112 degree days in the field, etc…but I learned so much and I have finally made peace with what I do and don’t have control over, that has made life so much more pleasant, although I still can be caught foot stomping in frustration at the wind, so enlightenment still evades me.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Living within my harvest

Saffron, turmeric, cocoa, dried chili, burgundy, balsamic, nutmeg, salmon, key lime. Those are the colors of fall on the farm right now. I think this may be simply the most beautiful fall that I have ever experienced since moving to Oklahoma. The landscape that fills my eyes each day is staggering especially when I watched the orange harvest moon rise as the sun sets behind the fields and trees of such loud brilliant color.

There was talk that because of the drought all the leaves on the trees would just turn brown and drop off offering us no fall colors this year at all. Boy, they couldn’t have been more wrong. On my small front porch where I sit to take on and off my work boots, I face a tree that I’ve watched turn from green to the deepest burgundy I’ve ever seen, and right beside it is another thee with saffron  leaves. It’s a surprise that I get any work done at all. I get to drink as much of it in as I can. I waste no moments. I watch with awe and wonder and feel like I have been awarded the most wonderful prize ever given.

Rarely do I ever see a church reader board that I think is worthy of ready let alone thinking about, but the other day I saw one that said  "Live within your harvest" Wow. This was a baptist church. Who knows what they meant by that, but to me it almost had a Pagan tone to it rather than biblical one. I had a sense that it meant living within ones means, but for me it really does apply in the literal form. Live within my harvest. Yes. That is the sacred place. The place of peace and rest. 

These beautiful trees are my cohorts, they are my companions. My work day is spent working amongst them within their boundaries and protection.  Even though I spend many days here at the farm alone I never feel lonely. I look up and around in between bunching radishes or turnips and I see the world around me and the beauty of it gives me a sense of belonging and comfort, like that big ol’oak just patted me on the back, and that hickory encourages me to go just a little further. That sumac is just as impressed with herself as I am, and it goes like that. I feel like I am surrounded by good friends and family and I am happy, deeply happy. So happy I wonder if I might be going mad. But I don’t let a thing like that bother me if madness is what this is then let it be.

I love being on my knees in between rows of green crops. Pant legs scuffed and damp with mud, pulling up one fat turnip after the next, brushing of the damp moist luscious soil from the root end. Leave the soil in the garden is a mantra that plays over in my head as I harvest.  It’s hard not to notice how the soil has changed from that first year of growing. It was sandy and white, hardly could sustain growth. Now rich and chocolaty, smells so musky and earthy, full of flavor and body and strength. I spend so much time with it, touching it, moving it, feels like we’re old friends, comfortable talking about anything or just being silent together.

I’ve found this sacred place within my harvest. I’ve been searching for it my whole life. Has it been here the whole time? Or did I help to create it? I ask my friends the trees the soil; Are our hands working together to build it? or is your hand guiding my hand? It doesn’t matter really does it? no not really. There is no deception here. No lies no mistrust, mis-communication. No confusion, no illusion.  

Friday, November 4, 2011

wind, frost, sun and rain

It was Wednesday that we were all pretty certain we would wake up to a freeze or a heavy frost Friday morning. So preparations were made. Numerous rows of cold and frost hearty crops were hoe'd and lined with wire hoops all ready for the crop cover, (this is a fabric that is placed over the rows and protects the leaves from frost damage and in some cases freezing all together). A pretty simple task, one I've done many times. But this time there was a problem. The wind. We were getting gusts up to 35mph. This made the task impossible. So Wednesday passed and then Thursday came and it was still extremely windy. I would have to suck it up and struggle through it.

I finished what I could by around 6pm, sick and tired of the wind. Something no matter how long I've lived here I don't think I will ever come to embrace. I secured the fabric down with loose soil and bricks and said goodnight. This morning sure enough a white sea of frost blanketed the field and pasture. But I felt fine, no panic, no worry. That's a great feeling. As I look out into the field I am so proud of how much I have learned over the years. Mostly by mistakes I might add but I have really learned a lot. My turnips and beats are beautiful my spinach has never been bigger and the greens just keep getting bigger and greener. This is my best growing season ever. and its only because I just keep at it. I'm only able to keep at it because I have the faith and support of my CSA members. They have basically paid for my education. Its days like this when I know I have a huge harvest in front of me that I get teary eyed filled with such gratitude for having had such fortune and grace in my life.

This season I feel like I've passed a milestone. Looking out seeing my best harvest ever I'm given a sense of confidence that I've never had before. This time I'm aware of mistakes that I've made before and I acknowledge the things I'm getting right. Somethings I do know I have no control over and that's just fine, but as a farmer I have begun to finally define what I have control over and what I don't and that has taken me a long hard slow seven years to finally figure out. In my case I do have control over my crops when it comes to a frost of freeze, I don't have control over the effects of hail. I do have control over soil nutrients, I don't have control over floods. There are legitimate things to fret about and some times I just have to wait out the storm. Even if its standing at the window for an hour watching my future. But clearly defining my roll has been a great help to me.

As a new year quickly approaches I have for the first time felt a sense of confidence and security. I know I cant do everything I want to, that I'm going to have to choose and capitalize on my strengths and let go of things that stretch me too far. I'm not sure what that means quite yet. I know I'm going to make mistakes and I know I have so much more learning to do, But I have a sense that something great is just around the corner because something great is happening right now.  Wind, frost, sun and rain, it keeps coming and I get to be right in the middle of it.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Happy Anniversary Sweet heart!

Three years ago you came into my life. You were a light, a beacon for a better life, a better way of looking at things. When I first met you I had a great desire to know you better. And when I started to get to know you I wanted to know you in deeper way. 

Three years ago today you helped me muck barns. Not a pretty job but one that needed to be done in preparation for winter. It was a beautiful warm day. Later that evening you and I met at the Day of the Dead festival. You were un- chaperoned, which helped me to think you trusted our friendship. With the glow of the fire dancers lighting up your face, I looked at you and knew at that very moment you were the one. I didn’t want to do anything to compromise our budding deep friendship but as we parted that evening to go our separate ways I knew something great was just around the corner.

Three years later I’m still astounded that our relationship is one where personal growth and integrity is the center pillar. Respect and dignity are the stable structures in our lives.  These remain the walls and foundation of our relationship, walls that don’t keep us locked up but hold us up and free us to be our best selves, together and as individuals, Knowing were safe to express our true selves.  A safe port in the storm of life’s experiences.

You have enriched my life in countless ways. You have treated me with a deep love and respect that I have never experience. You celebrate my strengths and shortcomings, you embrace me unconditionally. You let me fall, make mistakes and laugh at myself. You celebrate my successes and are always encouraging and supportive of even some of my wildest thoughts and dreams. 

I am so grateful that my life included meeting you. I am so grateful to be in a loving nurturing relationship full of excitement and hope. I am so grateful to be able to celebrate this day with no question this will be the third of many more to come. I’m committed to living in this house we’ve built together of love, respect, courtesy, dignity, humor, passion, self awareness, and above all our deep kindness towards each other. I love you. Happy Anniversary!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Catching up to Fall

I don't want to be so busy I miss it.
Miss the bright yellow and red leaves and the smell of smoking chimneys.
I don't want to fall behind or skip ahead
and miss the smell of dried wet grasses and earthy soil as I pull up turnips.
I don't want to get caught thinking about winter snow and fretting about freezes
busting icy ponds and water troughs.
I don't want to be stuck in the heat of August
The twenty hour work days.
I don't want to look or think about the pile of  broken drip tape that couldn't carry the demand of a drought.
I don't want to remember all the projects I didn't get to, or all of the projects ahead.
The chickens that lost the battle from the relentless heat
The what ifs, the should haves, the I got to's, i did, I didn't, the I need to's
Today I have something better to do than all of that!
I have air to breath and knees to get dirty as I pull turnips from the ground.
I have trees to watch and the sun's heat to warm my face
persimmon trees to visit.
In one second flat I catch up to fall.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Random as rain

The sheep are out eating hay. Two withers are playing king of the mountain on the turned over round bale just made short enough to jump on. The goats stand in the barn huddled close together like Armageddon has been bestowed upon them. The sheep eat and chew and play, free from the goat’s constant control and policing. The goats look on with disgust as the sheep with their weather proofing fleece allows them freedom in the rain.
The barn chickens and chicks have re roosted, they came down for a little while hoping for some spilt grain from the mornings milking. Since then there are small streams and rivers making the yard difficult for small and even smaller feet to navigate. The pullets have come out of their coop and now huddle together just outside the door sopping wet. Why don’t they have sense enough to go inside? I think to myself. A question I know better than to ask.

Most of the laying hens are still in the coop with an exception of a couple of brave old hens with priorities of eating. I don’t see the cows or the llamas I suspect they are in that group of trees next to the creek. It must be beautiful. I’ll have to join them.

This is a kind rain, steady and sweet. Tipping her hat as she passes.”Top of the morning to you” she says as she passes through. “how long will you be staying?” another question I know better than to ask.
It’s complicated. This rain isn’t the rain that uproots trees, I’ve seen it, well… after the fact that is.
I still don’t know why my sister didn’t add another window to the rec-room from the insurance money?
That was a big tree. We had a tire swing on that tree. It was a pine taller than a building and as wide as a house. That’s an exaggeration. But it was a grand old pine tree. A childhood friend.

Yes, this is the rain everybody likes. No dramatic lightning and thunder, no angry hail. This rain is kind of like glue that holds everything together, keeps roots alive and strong, and softens brittle branches.  This is the spa CD rain, You know that music that is supposed to relax you.
Did I mention the guardian dogs are curled up on the porch and the useless pet dogs are under thick blankets in the yurt lazily sleeping until either the rain passes or the cant hold their bladder any longer.
You know that mocking bird outside the window is singing her head off.  Who could blame her?

Monday, October 24, 2011

time on my hands

If I think about it long enough, if I start looking at old lists and filling empty pages with to-dos, then I'll have more work than I know what to do with, and more frustration of knowing I'll never get to everything. Today I'm kind of sitting still. This is very rare and in all honesty very uncomfortable (My butt is starting to hurt).

Several things have changed for me in the last two weeks; The last farm table dinner of the year, the last farmers market of the year (no more 3:45 wake ups) Kathleen (our farm intern extraordinaire) has left for the winter, and..thanks to the drought, I just sold 25 ewes and 47 lambs ( I held back 12 of my best ewes 20 butcher lambs and a hand full of replacement ewes to start over next year if I like). So in a way I'm grieving. I'm not asking to have it any other way I'm just trying to find a way to adjust from the absence of so many things that have taken up so much time in my life. There is plenty of work to do, so no need to worry about me sinking into the couch for three months. The winter CSA will keep me plenty busy but.... no more moving sheep, no more 20 hour work days, no more working in 100 degree weather, no more worrying over recipes and menus.

Now its taking care of the small flock of 30'ish sheep, a  herd of 20 sweet milk goats, 4 cows, 100 laying hens and 80'ish chicks, and winter gardening; basically raising food for 40 CSA families through the winter,.What will I do with all of the extra time I'll have on my hands?  Looks like I'll have plenty to keep me busy, who am I kidding. But I might be a little giddy. Hee hee, yes giddy. I am giddy!
I just might have time for reading, writing, visiting with friends, blogging and most importantly breathing.(insert crazy laughter)

I'm even thinking about not writing any lists for a couple of weeks and see how it goes.  maybe that's too much. I don't want to have a total melt down. No, I'm going to try it. No, maybe not. I cant help it, one started working in my head the minute I wrote the word no lists. my brain: "feed store, Camembert, Gouda, minerals to cows, hay in barn....." crap!.... Still, I wont write it down. hows that?!  does the blog count? I'm hopeless!

Friday, October 21, 2011

The cleansing

A freeze is very much like a fire, agriculturally speaking, it cleanses the soil of shallow burrowing pests and microbes. A freeze tells the plants still left in the ground from spring and summer that it’s time to step aside a new season is coming. For someone who grows in the typical seasons of spring and summer a freeze means rest, it means an end to things. Hopefully the previous seasons have been good. For the crazy folk like me who grow in what might be considered the “off season” a freeze creates a certain anxiety and fear. Cold weather crops, what most know as early or spring crops are very hardy and don’t mind a frost, but the question remains on the front of the brain, what about a freeze?  In spite of being very familiar with the cold hardiness of such vegetables as beets, turnips, spinach, boc choi, rappini, chard, baby lettuce, kale and carrots I’m never really sure if this might be the killing kind, even though I know better.

Yesterday morning at 5am the weather reported 36 degrees at 7am it was 28, still amazing to me that temperatures can fall at sunrise. I stood in the field inspecting the frozen tall once luscious arugula that now resembled thin green shrivel sticks sticking up from the ground, and thought, is it possible this could turn bad and I could lose all of this?. One and a half rows of beets and two rows of turnips and one row of lettuce had a frost blanket, I wasn’t worried about them at all and I scolded myself for not covering the whole lot. I wasn’t worried that everything would die (well there was a little of that) I was more worried that the leaves of all the beautiful greens I’ve been babying for the last two months would have too much leaf damage from freezing and they would be unfit for the 65 CSA members I would be delivering to on Saturday.
Nothing left to do but wait for the thaw. I had to work in Stillwater so I headed out leaving my frozen vegetables in the field all by themselves without me looming over them wringing my hands together waiting to see my future.

The hour drive to Stillwater always proves to be a nice time for reflection. It took me half way between until I calmed down. I thought of the freeze being cleansing and that the chances of me loosing anything were at best slim but worst case scenario I could cook my way out of this. If I couldn’t provide my CSA members with vegetables I could provide them with prepared food, rustic breads, soups and casseroles. I have a feeling they would be just fine with that, and even though I know a CSA member is aware of the risks involved I’m they’re best bet of redeeming most if not every cent of their investment, no matter what the weather brings us. 

I arrived home at 3:30, walked out to the field to inspect only to find a garden untouched by the mornings drama. “What?” They seemed to say to me, “you thought we would leave you just like that?” ”where is your farmers’ optimism?” guys, it’s been a long hard summer I got used to expecting the worst.

Soon I was on my knees in the soft damp soil pulling up fat Tokyo turnips, soft delicious soul nurturing soil under my fingernails. Linda came home from work and we washed, bunched and packed them carefully in bins until dark. Our tired hands stiff with cold. It’s good to be back.

So to update you on the last post, the two greenhouses are up and planted thanks to the help of new friends who spent the entire day here seeing through to the end. It turned out to be such an amazing difficult endeavor caused by the slant, and overestimating my own ability. So grateful to have such people in my life. My only regret is that I didn’t ask for help sooner.  Farmers optimism often comes with farmers pride and fierce independence. Can be a character flaw left unchecked.  

Friday, October 7, 2011

This time

The race is on and we are loosing. Moving the greenhouses to the new location was one thing. It took us a lot longer that I could have ever imagined to take them down then once moved to the new location, squaring proved to be even more difficult... and then the next challenge that has almost beaten us is leveling the posts with the string line (turns out our location has a major slant this is bad in a major way). If this all seems like gibberish I'm sorry. Let me put it to you like this; the green houses thus far have kicked our asses and have nearly defeated us. Oh they will get up, and they will be planted but not with out temper tantrums, tears, pain and sorrow. We are on the wire and I mean wire with planting. If we make it, it will be by the skin of our teeth. and we will make it, just not in the peaceful pastoral sense we will make it because we've pushed ourselves just beyond the brink of insanity fighting and scratching our way through it.

In spite of the intense stress I feel right now, I have to keep in mind that all else looks good the field is bursting with color and lots of food that will take us through the end of November and possibly into December. But a farmers life is looking far into the future. Being in the moment is absolutely necessary but becomes difficult when winter crops means rent and car payments. My head is in in January right now, I'm obsessed with January and February and March and the work I do today and tomorrow and Sunday will determine what my life and the lives of those around me looks like in those months and whether I'll be harvesting or applying for public assistance.

My nerves are outside of my skin, my anxiety has never been higher and I've finally gotten to the point when help is necessary. Soon (in the next hour) I'll send out a little cry for help to friends and csa members for a green house raising party here on Sunday. I'm sure we'll get a few willing folks who can help dig us out of this little problem, literally.

Hopefully my next post will be cheerfull and I'll be telling you that the greenhouses are planted.
stay tuned.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

a day of rest

It’s Sunday and the list of things to do is long and daunting but rest takes a front seat today. Not a choice but a stammering demand my body made as I tried to remember if I turned the water on for the sheep or if I merely just looked at the facet and walked away in a daze of exhaustion and body pain. I’m 30 feet from the faucet, I try to remember 60 seconds ago when I was standing in front of said faucet. Did I turn it on? I have to go back and check. It’s on. Rest today. Nap. Bed. Book. Eat. Drink water. The fields beckon me but I can’t fight my body's request for rest. I made sure the fields were watered well, animals had lots of hay and all on the farm could manage without me.

It’s an exciting time here on the farm, the same feeling as spring. Fall greens are filling the field with color, bright shades of greens, purples and reds. It’s a pleasure to walk down the rows of lettuce and each time I do my faith is renewed in the earth’s great abundance and its determination to sustain life. Life is renewed in the fall, just like in spring especially after a grueling hot dry summer. The sheep and goats are getting their bodies ready for breeding; it is a time for renewal. Just as it is in spring this farm is at its busiest. It’s the work I love and the work that gives me great results. I’m so satisfied at the end of the day with how things are turning out.

Sometimes the days are so long. Yesterday was, believe it or not a 20 hour workday. Up at 3:45 for farmers market and then a private dinner party at the farm in the evening. I don’t even remember going to bed. I just remember waking up probably an hour after turning in, hearing the barking of one of our dogs we accidental left outside. We slept in and the goats allowed us to come late to work this morning. Goats do have grace, I don t care what anyone says.

The famous to- do list is not so much long as it is conflicting. Everything needs to be completed at the same time. All fairly big jobs, all crucial to the overall success and operation of the farm. Beds planted, greenhouses taken down, moved and then reconstructed to be quickly planted for winters harvest. It’s a race against time. Literally, it’s a race against length of day light hours, soil temperature and first frost. It’s a race that must be won if the farm is to survive another season. So I choose. Each morning a look at the list and choose. Which one makes it to the top of the list today, which one waits, in a shroud of the farmers anxiety wrapped tightly around it, waiting to be freed, to be crossed off.

I feel confident that I’ll win the race but it takes its toll and I look toward winter as my time to rest in front of the wood burning stove in the yurt with a good book. I look forward to healing my aching back and legs. But that’s for later. I push through the days and the items on the list with great effort knowing that the work I do now will ensure the rest I get later. This, I know to be true, have tested it over and over. I ate my first fall salad last night seven different tender greens, from spicy red mustard to sweet green oak leaf. My mouth and spirit sang. Today I rest tomorrow I work.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Monday, September 19, 2011

Not an easy life

So here is what happened; This summer things got so hot and dry here that it was impossible to move the electronet fence that we use to rotational graze our sheep. Not only that but we were having breakouts quite regularly and once out the 78 lambs and 48 ewes would make a B-Line to the then semi-productive garden. I called Premier the fencing company I buy from to ask advice. The gentleman on the phone told me it being so dry the sheep wont get the charge. so there is nothing I can do, but he said if I'm having trouble getting the posts in I can take my drill out and drill pilot holes for the spikes.

Okay that is and would be impossible, I have 7 fences each with 14 posts double spiked. and I'm gonna drill holes in the ground??? Then I found out the company is based in Iowa. Lush green, soft earth and a even soggy. No one, who hasn't witnessed a drought of this severity could imagine what life has been like it Oklahoma. But anyway....

I moved all of the lambs and ewes into the 10acres I use for the goat pasture.Its completly fenced in and very secure. I figured its better just to feed hay etc and not have to worry about chasing sheep for a little while. A little while ended up to be longer than I ever imagined. The beautiful goat pasture is no pasture at all now. Its pretty bad and I'll need to make sure I can let the pasture rest for about 6 months or longer before I put anymore animals on it. It is well fertilized.

The rain we had off and on was like a long lost friend you worried about constantly. When were they coming back? were they alright??? why haven't they called or written? Then they just show up. No questions, no answers just their presence is enough and you hope they stay long enough to catch up. But just as swiftly as they came, they leave. No promises of a return.

The rain allowed me to put the lambs back out on pasture. They needed it. We weened two weeks ago and have been in a very small area. The ewes are still socializing with the goats and non are too happy about it, but that's how it must be right now. I'm able to let the goats and the ewes out onto another area that is not fenced and so far its an arrangement that is helping. The ewes are coming back with fat bellies and the goats milk has been wonderful. But I'm back to moving fences at least for the lambs and I pray the rain or at least heavy morning dews will make my job just a little easier. Its really staggering to me how long and how much effort it is to move these fences. Then add in getting water, shelter and power to the fences and you seriously have racked up some hours.

But its not forever, in November 12 lambs will go to the processor and in one more month 12 more and then 12 more the month after that. so I have to keep in mind what I am doing is necessary, good for the animal, good for the end result, which is meat. When I look at it those terms I think it shouldn't have to be easy all the time. I should be putting as much thought into this as I am. I've never once expected or demanded an easy life. But never asked for a hard one either. So I teeter. some days are better than others and some days I want to bury my head in the sand and cry. Today I'm up and grateful and ready to take on some big projects. We're moving our hoop houses so were disassembling and getting the new location ready. Next week we'll plant them for our winters' harvest.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Mud Puddles

Its raining! there are mud puddles! I've never been so happy to stomp through a nice big ol' mud puddle. I can breath! The ground is soaking it up fast. I missed the rain so much. Rain, I love you, feel free to stick around for a little while.

Friday, September 16, 2011

I want the bun baker wood stove

Heats 700-1000 square feet. Perfect for the yurt. Not this year but someday this beauty will be mine. at $2800.00 I'll have to save. but mark my words. SHE WILL BE MINE! SHE WILL BE MINE.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Promises, promises

They say its coming, possibly an inch or two. I watched the forecast start at 20 percent and this morning slide into 70 percent for tomorrow that means "rain likely". This is big news. The biggest news this week maybe this month. Rain. This morning we got a little teaser of some soft sprinkles on the yurt roof. Quiet and soft, just enough to perk my ear up waiting for more. I laid in bed listening until it stopped, hopeful, expectant.

Today we finish planting our fall crops, 29 rows 160 feet long of, Arugula, pea shoots, lettuce mix, spinach, Asian braising mix, European braising mix, broccoli rabbe, red beets, chioggia beets, carrots, turnips. Of course just in time for the sweet rain to come and water everything in. I hope. The timing would be a welcomed thing, but best not to get my hopes up. Oh hell why not. There my hopes are up. Heck yea rain! come on! I'm gonna dance and sing and toss up and flail my arms and smile so big my ears hurt. and if it doesn't rain I'll turn the irrigation line on. There!

Happy rain day.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Life Persists

This morning was one of those tap your heals together kind, when you walk out to the garden to find the seeds you planted last week have germinated perfectly. Strait green lines all the way down the beds. Birth, hope, excitement and then fear. The fear is the voice in my head that says “now all I have to do is keep this stuff alive three more weeks, or eight more months until it becomes food……in Oklahoma” Ha! No easy task. It’s a miracle I can get anything to grow. But life persists, seeds sprout defiantly, popping out of the soil tall and bright and motivated to live. I try to be there for them, give them what they need and try to have some kind of a mutually beneficial relationship.

Quiet early morning walks through the garden are times for reflection. What I’m doing right what I’m doing wrong, what comes next and am I even qualified to answer those questions? Seeing all the seeds that have germinated give me some inkling I’m on the right track, but I’ve had plenty of disappointments too. But it’s time to look at things in a different light.

What would happen if I could overcome my attachments to things, results, outcomes? What if I could be completely present in the awe of such things as germinating seeds, in spite of any sad news or the possibility of disappointing outcomes. What if I could accept the possibilities? Would I always be happy and full of blissful joy? Never sad, never disappointed? Is that too Buddhist monk like to consider? I hear even the monks have their little spats and controversies.

But I crave the silence of the dialog in my head that separates me from the germinating seeds.
I have a little prayer I guess you could call it, that I say to myself when I become distracted by things I really don’t need to be. When I feel I’m letting myself go down the rabbit hole of angst and insecurity and start worrying about things that I have absolutely no control over.

“Let me not be separated from you, the sky, the sun, the soil

Let me not be separated from your immense protection and grandeur” ect..

And I go on and on until I’m not separated anymore. Sometimes it takes longer and sometimes just the words” let me not be separated” will do the trick.

What separates me from the present are always things that I have no control over, obviously the weather, what other people say or think and my own unrealistic expectations of myself. This may sound ridiculous and hopefully funny but I worry about growing and raising food so much that I hardly leave time to actually do it. Okay that might be an exaggeration. But do you know what I mean? When all along I could be present in the experience of doing it. Instead I’m worried sick about the outcome. It’s funny to me even and at least I am aware and awake to what it is I’m doing, which I suppose is my saving grace for growing and making little adjustments in my thinking as need be.

But today I have germinating seeds, lots of them. I have soil that is ready to be planted. Beds that need to be hoe’d and a day that deserves my attention and appreciation. In spite of myself I, like the seed continue to persist.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Turning point

Our new additions to the farm! Yup we now have cows. Angus to be precise. One pet named Merry and two yearling calf's and one yearling steer. Just so you know, I know only what I have just read in the last three days in Storey's guide to raising beef cattle. I'm not even half way through the book yet. So I've asked the cows not to have any major issues come up until I'm a little more well versed. But I've got a good support team waiting on the other end of the phone if I need them.

So far the cows don't seem too much different then grazing the sheep. They are much bigger and it is a little hard just getting used to their size. They are pretty amazing creatures and I'm really excited about this journey I'm about to take! I've wanted cows for a long time but the time just never seemed right. Its not that the timing is exactly right now but the opportunity was right. We think long and hard about additions or changes we make on the farm. This was a no brainer. Now we raise beef cows. This seems so natural to us. So "of course" we have cows. A starter herd of four so not a huge endeavour.

Last weekend I had the rare opportunity to get off the farm for the weekend I stowed away on a business trip Linda was taking to Des Moines, Iowa. It was nice to take a little break and gain some perspective. The heat has been taking its toll on me and that age old question came up: "What the hell am I doing trying to farm in Oklahoma?" I started missing home (Seattle) and began reminiscing about my old life, the one before farming.

I’ve been struggling lately with the duality of my life, the old one, a city girl, a chef, polished and clean with a taste for froi gras and expensive wine. The food I have eaten, the wine I have drunk, and the money I have spent on such things is staggering and I never batted an eye. I had a wardrobe of beautiful clothes, now I have a tiny corner in bottom of a drawer that contains two or three items that I pull out on the rare occasion that we eat out at a nice restaurant in Tulsa.

Back then my massage therapist I visited once a week told me I had a great body that I just needed to tone up a bit visit a gym a few time a week. Boy what would she say now? My muscles have muscles I have to constantly make sure I‘m eating enough protein and fat to keep up with my metabolism. The trips to Sicily in the summer and Florida in the winter are long gone. Sometimes I cry I miss that life so much. I was so clean and put together.

As the hair on my legs grows longer so does the distance between that polished city girl chef and the farm girl I am metamorphosing into. My indulgent meal now is the cold dew kissed first harvestable radish I pull from the early spring soil and eat with great relish, this is one of my favorite meals. The green onion that is finally ready to be plucked after a long cold winter that I eat enjoying the spicy freshness as I walk through the field to evaluate other crops. It’s an indulgence that is so visceral, so pure and one that I have the most gratitude towards and every spring tears well up at each bite.

I feel like I'm coming of age in my new life. I'm less concerned that people know that I didnt always have this dirt caked under my nails. That I'm no less of a person beacause my bank account is in a constant teater between positive and negative. Because in my new life that doest matter as much as smile lines do and kindness. There is no doubt this is the life I have chosen, I see myself doing nothing else, but I have to give up that inner struggle clinging to a past that somehow makes me feel like I was important. Legitimate. And that somehow now because I don’t have the nice clothes, spend a wad on dinner a few times a week and feel generally superior to others I am less than, illegitimate, inferior. But this is the inner struggle I have. If I can somehow rise above my old ideas, if that dialog doesn’t exist within me any longer ultimatly i'll be a better farmer. I can let go. That sounds so good, like swimming, like freedom. Like peace. Unshackled by the tug of the past. Just simply growing and raising food well.

I'm getting there. Slowly. But with shreds of grace weaved into the struggle that make the journey softer and sweeter.

Friday, September 2, 2011

106 ways to cook okra

1. Tempura okra

2. southern fried okra

3. okra off the bush while weeding hungry but not yet time or lunch

4. Grilled okra

5. Indian style okra

6. Raw okra salad in cumin yogurt dressing

7. raw okra and cucumbers with apple cider garlicky vinaigrette

8. Raw okra and papaya salad

9. um .......

10... help me out here people


12. Okra added just at the last second to a buffalo stew

13. Grilled okra is good

14. grilled carrots are really good too

15. of course the old stand by jambalaya or whatever that is?

16. Yours...GO!

17. hmmmm?

18. I give up

Thursday, September 1, 2011

In spite of conditions

I'm sure everyone is tired of hearing about the heat and the drought. Right now its a cool 77 just the right temperature for thinking about better times, cooler ones. No matter what the weather does the farm keeps going. It has a life all of its own and sometimes I have to run to keep up with it. There could be four feet of snow on the ground or soaring triple digit temps and the farm doesn't stop. Its really amazing and very comforting to know. The truth of the matter is I stop or at least I want to some days. But the farm and its humans have to work together, there is a synergy between us and when that synergy is working its marvelous. All I have to do is show up. Make sure food and water gets to the right places and that I pay acute attention to my surroundings.

You cant sleep walk through farming. You can be creative and artistic, a thinker and a dreamer but you can not be a sleeper. And auto pilot isn't an option, that's when things can go desperately wrong. You see something strange with an animal you have to investigate and deal immediately or the next time you see that animal it might be dead. Things happen fast. There is no "I'll get to it later". You see a blister beetle in the chard seedlings, do nothing and tomorrow there are no chard seedlings. There is no start and no finish. Surrendering to this is where the joy lives. and when I can learn how to do this I think I'll be a much better farmer.

What I struggle with the most and I have improved tremendously in this area, is surrendering too the fact that having routine doesn't work on this farm. I'm like the goats I love routine I love to know that everything is the same everyday. Okay that is just impossible, period. We milk at the same time, feed at the same time show up to the farmers market at the same day and time but that's it that's the most I can get for routine. Every day presents different needs and experience. Planning is futile. I tried to schedule my day my week and never does it roll out the way I have planned. Either the weather doesn't cooperate, or an animal needs attention or what have you.

The funny thing is I do have a plan. Goals, a clear idea of what I do, what I want to do and what I've done, and sometimes I'm surprised that I'm actually right on track. My dream is to have a diversified farm that can feed 100 +families 75% of their diet. I'm not even close to being there but I'm moving swiftly in that direction. I've put the dream into motion. and I've stayed steadily on track. Sometimes I have to work really hard at it and other times things just all into place.

The other day we were offered the opportunity to buy a small herd of cows from a friend. I wouldn't have got out looking for cows right now but beef is part of the equation and what a great opportunity to get some hands on experience with a small gentile herd. I also order 100 Barred Rock chicks to be delivered next week so we have more eggs for our CSA members in December, when our current flock will slow down substantially in egg production. things just keep moving forward with ease in spite if conditions.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

dry times

More and more I'm seeing the effects of the drought on the pasture. The effects of rain we had a while back is long gone and panic is starting to set in again. There are nice lush grassy places but difficult areas to get the sheep too. I keep waiting. Waiting for rain to wash this whole problem away. Rain to satisfy the dry crusty hard earth. The ponds are holding out so that is a good sign at least, but I'm getting weary and there is just the slightest amount of dread clouding up around us. With the temperatures still in the 100's planting has been put off one more week. According to the forecast we should be looking at cooler temperatures. Beds are ready to be planted.

Yesterday I talked to a man I call my "hay guy". He is an optimist and tells me not to panic. He'll have hay. He's got several fields that just arnt high enough and one or two more rains and we'll be in business, so I'm procrastinating buying hay at $80.00 a bale opposed to $45.00. Its the kind of chance I'm really not confident in taking. If I wait too long I might find myself in worse shape.

Reclaiming our pasture from the decades of abuse and neglect is a slow process. The bare patches of pail dirt and erosion tell a story of a child who has not been loved. I don't own this place I just lease it but I've grown to love it in a motherly way. But its like an abused child and I realize its just going to take time. If given the opportunity to grow a seed I've planted, it retreats, void of the life sustaining nutrients needed. By grazing the sheep they help clean up the dry grasses and weeds, till in their manure from one place to the next. They spread grass seed and nitrogen, then the chickens come and scratch a little go through the manure, till up the thin layer of seed bed and move on to the next spot, then presumably the rains come, making life available. This is a hard slow deliberate way to love someone. Machinery and chemicals are another way but the effects cause greater harm and are short lived. But I can see the temptation. This is an enduring love.

I have plans to buy a manure spreader I can use over the winter to spread horse manure from a nearby stable over the pastures. Again more work for a love I may never reap the rewards from. I know this will pass, at least that's what seems more probable than another dust bowl, but really I don't know. But being positive is my only defence from despair, so I go on and look to next week, next month and hope for a wet cold winter.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

no break

Well it looks like summer is rearing it's ugly head again with temperatures topping 105 degrees. Last week we planted our first round of fall vegetables. We had alright germination but I was really pushing it. It was our plan to plant the second succession of vegetables today but I think I better just wait, soil temps are back up and I don't want to waste the seed. One more week I hope.

I'm telling you fall cannot get here fast enough. Yesterday I'm not sure what I was thinking but Kathleen and I worked in the field from 8am-3pm somehow I thought it was only 97 and found out later temps had gotten to 105 no wonder I could barley move this morning. I kept thinking It was really hot but then would tell myself it was only 97 push through it. I was hoeing and I love to hoe.

Today were working out in the field until 1pm and then spending the rest of the day reading Elliot Coleman. We're gearing up for winter. I think this may be my best winter ever.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Catching up

I'm taking a little break from fall planting this morning and thought I would catch ya up a little on the farm happenings and such. Well, we are surviving and that thanks to the rain we had last week. Cooled things off just enough to enable us to plant this week and untwist our tighty whities. I'll tell you we were all women on the verge here. On the verge of what I couldn't tell you we were just on the verge.

I'm still having troubles with sheep, The electro net just doesn't hold em any longer even with moving the fence everyday. The ground is so hard its nearly impossible to get the steaks in even with a sledge, the steaks just bend and just pop out. So the last straw was last week when they... all 145 of them were in the garden. No damage really but slightly frustrating. So they are in the 10 acre goat pasture until I can figure something out. I'm kinda stuck with them for the time being. So I will work this out. Got some ideas up my sleeve.

The goats on the other hand are perfect angels in every way. I know, go figure. The sheep I must say do like being in with the goats. Strangely I think the sheep want more attention from us, they are more content when they are close to the goat barn and house. So I really do need to figure this out.

It feels good to start planting fresh clean beds. Kathleen and I have planted arugula, chard, beets, spinach, broccoli rabe, and carrots. Next up is lettuce mix, turnips, kale, collards, more beets and carrots more arugula and spinach. So far so good and this morning the arugula had begun to germinate. Good sign. real good sign.

I'm in the process of applying for a grant to help get the dairy up to grade A and have been talking to potential investors. **If your interested in being one now you just let me know**. But its kind of scary. Not the Grade A dairy and cheese processing facility, that feels like all good. The prospect that I may not raise the money, I may not get the grant. Then what? I don't know and I suppose I haven't really spent too much time thinking about it, but there is a little pang in my heart when I think of the possibility that this might not happen. But I'll know soon enough. But right now I'm positive and motivated.

The cool weather mostly the evening lows of 78 have helped the tomato plants start setting fruit. We may end up with a fall crop after all. The pepper plants too have lots of blossoms. It would be really nice to see things make a come back. Melons and Okra are thriving.

We sent out a call for winter CSA and are nearly sold out, that is pretty inspiring.
So, all in all things are going okay. Days are long and the work seems to never end but I've gotten accustom to it and rather think that's a good sign. I don't mind that its 11:20am and I am caked with dirt and sweat. nothing sweet cool water wont wash right off.

Well, I guess I better get back out there

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Time to start getting ready for winter folks!

Last night it rained! We woke up and both giggled a little. Oh how we didn’t want it to stop. It cooled things down beautifully!
We might just be the middle of the hottest driest summer I’ve ever experienced in Oklahoma since I’ve moved here, but there is one thing for certain, winter is a coming. This means in spite of the heat it’s time to go out into the woods and mark dead trees and trees that need to be thinned for the health of the forest. We won’t cut them down till September, but one day soon I’ll go out with florescent red/orange ribbon and mark what will become our sole heat source come this winter.

A group of us, my closest friends who I call my family will fell, cut and split hickory, black jack oaks and some others whom I haven’t yet learned the names of. It will probably take us a week or more to gather all we need, I alone will go through five or six ricks this winter, and the rest of the family probably the same, maybe a little more but that’s the average. It will be a little difficult getting to some of these trees but the woods will benefit greatly. There is too much competition for sun and moisture. Forest management, good for the land and good for us. It takes a lot of work but its important work that needs to be done.

Being prepared is the key to this life. So we have to think far ahead. Creature comforts are a warm yurt, plenty of dry kindling, you can’t fall short on these things or you suffer. We’ve chosen to live as close to nature as we can, our philosophy our life style, our choices mean a lot to us but it also means we work for these things. We don’t pay for our heat we earn it. We don’t pay for our food we earn it. We pay for motor fuel and the extras that go into the pantry like olive oil and flour and salt and some normal things. I trade what I can, for some vet services, beef when we want it, some produce that we don’t grow. There’s a beauty I’ve discovered in all this it makes the fire seem warmer and the food more delicious. I can’t explain it as well as I would like to but it’s a feeling that comes inside the wave of gratitude.

It’ll be a nice break from field work to wander through the woods marking trees. I’m sure we’ll get our share of ticks and chiggers but it will be nice to be in the shaded coolness just for a spell.

Friday, August 5, 2011

It's 10:05pm do you know where yout farmer is?

I've chased the sheep out of the field (garden) three times today. No damage ... uh but...we wont be having corn this year....again...long story expect pt 2.

I have consumed approximately two gallons of cold water, 1/2 gal of goat milk, 5 eggs, 1/2 pound cheese, some lettuce ( i bought at wall mart) few strips of bacon, 3 ounces of fried paneer, 2 cucumbers in the field, 1 at dinner, 7 Juliette tomatoes, 1/4 onion, 1 tablespoon of olive oil, oh and a little feta, two slim glasses of wine and one shot of birthday vodka...that I sipped.....sweetly....

Its 10:13 I'm finished with my birthday vodka and now I will go check the charges on the fence and at 3:30 I will drink coffee, at at 5 I will be loaded, goats milked water filled and headed to the farmers market and that will get me through another week, in high spirits with birthday vodka to thank.

Thanks T-Hawk

Monday, August 1, 2011

Have it be for this

It truly isnt my intention to complain. More just to document. Something I can look back on for a better understanding of some situation somewhere far off into the future. A place I can’t see now, but a place where and when I might feel it necessary to look back on the past. Maybe I’ll need reassurance, maybe I’ll learn things do get better or pray not, things get worse. Documenting a day or a time might not mean much now, writing about the ups and downs, the triumphs and struggles, the tears, the joy, the rich times and poor ones. I got to know they happened. Got to have some proof. Some words, some understanding.

I have memories and hundreds of photographs of a time before this one, the time before I called myself a farmer with some seriousness in the tone and meaning. I have one photograph I took on the beach of Saint Vito Lo Capo in Sicily. It was of my sun tanned feet and the bright clear blue Tyrrhenian Sea behind them. It’s my favorite photograph of myself. My feet looked so relaxed so comfortable and so unaware that these many trips to Sicily would ever come to an end. I’m sure it has something to do with being young and having limited knowledge in the inevitability of change. Bless my little heart.

But just like then and just like now my life continues to change, evolve and transform, and I feel like I’ve come a long way with settling into that. And the older I get the more pleased I am to put some distance between the person I was and the person I am now, not having one iota of a clue of what lay ahead for the person I will become. I have some blind non affiliated faith that I’ll be okay. But I do have to admit when I wake up at times between the hours of two and four A.M. it all comes up for me to question.

Truth be told, I’m struggling a little right now. I’m trying to keep my chin up and I’m quite pleased with the job I’ve been doing but I’m losing a chicken a day to the relentless blistering heat. The animals are suffering the most discomfort and I try what I can to help. No casualties with sheep or goats thankfully but I have to say this heat is taking its toll on every creature four and two legged, round and oval heads alike on this farm. We find ways to cope and to keep a good attitude and look to the future, that’s the best remedy. There are little things that give me great pleasure like my solar shower and waking up each morning to the sounds of my heart beating in perfect sync with the natural world.

These nonstop days of 100+ degrees is reaching desperate levels. I’ve been told it’s been over 30 days of this. I try to hide my discomfort, mostly for myself, denial I guess. But getting things accomplished after 10 am takes everything I got. Kathleen my intern seems to really be taking it in stride but I wonder sometimes if she doesn’t have her dark moments too, when she just wants to give up and throw in the hoe. We don’t talk about these things. Cant. You’d understand. It’s just fuel to the flames. Stay quite about it, head down make some jokes, spray your face and head off with the hose. Let it run a while till it’s cold and go back to work. Come back in a few minutes and do it again.

The other day I sat on the floor of my office escaping the heat, thumbing through seven years of journals. With some comfort I learned that after August 15th temps start dropping dramatically, something to look forward to. But work needs to be done now. Important work. Fall planting, so I have produce in October and November. Broccoli, carrots, beets, fall tomato plants all need to be cared for now, not then, now.

Last Sunday night we got a ½ inch we think of rain, I lay in bed listening to it with a huge grin on my face, not giving a rats ass that the windows in my truck were wine open. When I first heard the patter on the roof of the yurt I was worried, worried it would stop, but after sometime my worry turned to exhilaration and excitement and Monday morning Kathleen and I spent the day on the tractor preparing the fall/winter beds. It was just what we needed. It was wonderfully cool in the morning and by late afternoon it was back to sweltering but we were fine ‘cause we were living in the future. We were plowing that field for October and we saw ourselves in it picking and cultivating in October until first hard freeze.

I have been offered some relief at times, when the wind hits me just right I get Goosebumps on my arms, breasts and stomach. I feel a deep chill. For a spit second I have to check in make sure it’s not a heat related illness, but mostly it’s just a split second of relief, when a breeze be it hot hits my damp sweat drenched body I’m cooled. But it aint enough, I want more. I want take a swim in the Mediterranean and eat gelato and go to a nice restaurant at ten O’clock at night. I want to sip limoncello under the starts with hot salty sea air in my nose. Sometimes I want this. Sometimes. Not all the time, not most the time not hardly ever, jus’ sometimes.

The sun goes down and I come back to life. We busy ourselves with preparing dinner, the night sounds blend in with the guitar strums. A cool shower under the stars before we crawl under the sheet. A fan gently blows on us and the temperature is warm but bearable and sleep is thick and deep, things don’t seem so bad.

Friday, July 29, 2011

yurt life, it suits me

I could go on and on about how miserably hot its been, how the grass under my feet sounds like I'm walking on potato chips, I could tell you that by 2pm I'm walking no faster than a turtle and even my talking slows down like someone has put their finger on the turn table. I can tell you more....but I wont. What I will say is I am in love with my outdoor shower. There is just nothing better! I have it situated between two trees and have established a fine routine so the water temp is just right, not too hot.

After a day of first cheese making, then tractor work getting fall beds ready, then moving sheep, and brush hogging, then cultivating and watering, then milking goats, then moving the chicken bus, you can imagine this girl could really use a shower, and I cant tell you how wonderful it is to take one under the canopy of trees with a breeze hitting you just right. Splendid! that's what it is!

These days are tiring, I've quit complaining because there comes a time you just don't have the energy to, so We just get through the day and at about 6:30pm I hang up my hat and retire to the yurt where I take a shower in the trees, then fix a simple dinner, drink a glass or two of wine, play my guitar, read and fall into a coma. Yurt life truly agrees with me. Yurt life makes all this bearable because I feel like I'm camping and usually when you camp your on vacation or something so I'm basically psyching myself out. Hey it works. I'm all smiles when I get yurt. I don't know what it is but its wonderful. The hard part is leaving it in the morning to go to work.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Counting Sheep

There is nothing that makes me lose more sleep then the sheep. I know its sounds crazy but probably out of all the things I do here at the farm (milk Nubian goats, make cheese, grow a market garden, host farm table dinners, raise hens for eggs and meat) the sheep have got me over a barrel. Maybe they are just the scape goat (hardy har har) for the inadequacy I feel sometimes in regards to my own ability to farm.

So here's the deal I have now 43 ewes, I have 40 female lambs, and 37 male lambs, these are what we call the butcher lambs. I have a lot of pasture for them but the pasture is not that great and with this drought not growing either. So in order to keep them happy, with the help of my two interns we move the sheep nearly everyday. This is quite an undertaking. it takes a lot of time and effort and at the end of it all i'm not completely sure its worth it. Hay prices are going to be high and my cost are going to go up. So far I've just been able to break even and cover my costs.... but lordy I have bills to pay and I need to see some kind of profit here.

So I'm considering giving up on the sheep business and just cutting my losses.

but here's the deal again,
Sheep are beautiful. I love watching them graze I know they are helping the pasture instead of harming it, I like the fact that I produce pastured lamb which is healthy and nutritious that was raised sustainably and with care and I like having that say over the meat I eat and raise for others. There is nothing more beautiful than holding a newborn lamb or listen to the chewing sounds that sing out like a brilliant choir when the sheep are let into a new pasture.

I'm on the fence about this. I'm weighing out the pros and cons the problem is the cons are logical and based on numbers and time and energy the pros are emotionally driven and based on things that are difficult to quantify.

Could I cut down on the flock. Yes, and If I do decide to keep sheep I will do just that, but I still need to go beyond hobby shepherding and actually get to a point where they are contributing some green back to this here venture. Is it possible? in all honesty I haven't figured it out. I've spent what probably seems like hours on the phone with my friend Nanc crying on her shoulder. She also raises sheep. I'm crunching numbers and counting losses and try to predict gains and hope that some light is shed and I can do this and do this well.

But I'm a busy girl trying to do a lot of things and I need some down time, some time to kick back. In one week I'll be 45! I cant run around like I'm 44 any longer. But serously I want sheep in my life, I want goats in my life and chickens. I want a beautiful garden I want to produce food for myself and make a life of producing food for others.

So who knows

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


The beautiful thing about farming or homesteading or gardening or whatever you want to call it, is your life is set up to provide you with food. In one form or another. I have a chefs farm, I raise and attempt to raise all of my favorite foods; Lamb, pastured chickens, eggs, vegetables, milk and cheese.... its like crazy! its thrilling, exhilarating, humbling and exhausting. In all honesty I don't really know how long I can manage to keep this up, is kind of addicting.

Yesterday was chicken processing day. Myself and my two interns, Josey and Kathleen created our supper, we've raised these chickens, we've pastured them we've loved and cared for them and now its full circle to their final destination our bodies. and to our CSA members, we'll be processing 40 all together. Josey and Kathleen have already participated in this experience at Heifer ranch where they both worked previously so it was pretty sweet having these confident and able women take on this task with me.

And tonight I make fried chicken. What a treat! I'm even mashing some Yukon golds and boilin'up some corn. Its a farm raised feast! and one I couldn't be more humbled by. Its been a long road traveled for this meal. I'm going to savor every bite.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Pile of feathers

Nights in the yurt are truly spectacular, the cool night breeze, the sound of the frogs, cicada’s, crickets, hoot owl, whip- poor- wills combined make the most beautiful orchestra. However there are the other sounds that don’t quite chime in right and that is the sound of a chicken in distress followed by all four guard dogs frenzied barks and the whoop and song of a coyote that sounds no more than 50 feet from where I am laying… up until that point trying to get some sleep. I bolt out of bed and do what any girl in a yurt would and grab the gun.

So it’s me and my shot gun now trolling the night. Its 2:30 in the morning. I can hardly see a thing, my “powerful” flashlight is a piece of shit and I know better than just to shoot out into the darkness, So I make the rounds with what I can only describe as candle light, through all the animal pens. The goats all stood by the fence like statues all 20 heads pointed toward the barn. I investigate see nothing. I make my way to the hen-a- bego (hen house) nothing, all is calm. The dogs have quieted down. Ginger see’s the gun and goes into hiding. (She hates the sound of the blast) I see no need to shoot it other than just that I’m up, its now 3:30 and I’m pissed. But I don’t. I wander back to the yurt and hope for a quiet morning of rest.

I sleep and dream of cucumbers that are too ripe, and peppers too small and tomato plants with no fruit. 5:15 the alarm goes off. That’s when I get real sleep I sleep peacefully for another hour and a half and finally pull myself to put the kettle on for coffee. It’s going to be strong. After a stout brew and some words written in my journal, I splash water on my face throw my old farm clothes on and head out for the day. I pass a pile of feathers. Right in front of the harvest shed, lots of feathers. Too close. Too close.

I’m almost certain it was a coyote but what would possess it to come so darn close to the main area of the farm? there is so much traffic that goes in and out of this area. I just don’t understand it. So tonight, the dogs get put up and I hide and wait. Coyotes at least around here are like clockwork same time same place. So I wait.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Yurt days of summer

It all started with a septic tank back up. Four weeks ago today our septic backed up only 8 weeks after we had it pumped, we were told it looked like there may problems with our lateral lines and they may need to be replaced or repaired. Because I rent I notified my landlord, he responded by telling me he may raise the rent to cover the cost. I was a little dismayed, but what choice do I have? When you rent your at the mercy of your landlord and his/her timelines. I really love this place and it fits with my farm business model like beans and corn bread. So I have to admit because I love this place so much I tend feel certain indebtedness and it causes me not to make demands or hold my land lord accountable for fear of losing this great space. So there is fair amount I put up with in exchange.

I’m in no position to move onto my own land at this point but things like this motivate me into action that’s for sure. It’s the septic now, last winter it was no heat for three weeks during the coldest time of the winter, I finally called and got the heater fixed and paid for it out of my own pocket just because I didn’t want to be a bother, and now raw sewage is backing up out of the pipe coming out of the ground right outside our back door. Well not really… ‘cause you know I wouldn’t let that happen.

When yuz git lemons make you some lemonade! After the first week of no word from the landlord I decided to take things into my own hands so I build a sawdust toilet and a three compartment compost bin. ( ) I used to use one at my old house and loved it! Dump out the dish water and laundry mat to clean clothes. Shower and sink water drains out onto the front yard as grey water and it’s not really that bad. It made me think about all the things I take for granted. And it made me think about how dependant I have become since I moved here on a un- self-sufficient lifestyle.

So first came the composting toilet then came the yurt. Let me back up….in 2003 when I moved from Seattle to Tulsa Oklahoma I brought with me a yurt ( ) I lived in this yurt for one year. Then I moved into a house. I hung onto said yurt and put it up for intern housing here at the farm. It’s such a long story how I came to decide to move into the yurt myself, but I suppose I needed to find a way to feel empowered to feel like I had some sort of control over the way I live. I needed something that was mine. I crave the bliss of self sufficiency. And truly it is bliss, I’ve felt it and lived it for many years I just got separated from it for a little while. And I must say I am so fortunate to have a partner who feels exactly the same.

I love living in the yurt. The space is clean and simple and it has a real calming energy to it. The yurt helps us be more self sufficient. We have water pumped in from a well, we have a nice sink, and grey water pond, we have a compost toilet, an extension cord to run some lights and a fan, a wood stove to cook and heat with in the winter. It’s sort of like really uptown camping. We are trying to be as sustainable and self sufficient as possible. We’re not off grid just half off our grid.
What about the house. The house hasn’t changed a bit I spend my days making cheese in the kitchen and now I have more space to age and the farm feels like it’s a real business with a real future. There is less traffic going in and out and I feel like I’m making steps forward to getting the Kitchen certified for cheese production. Maybe its all just a pipe dream. I have many steps but I’m a walking.

So I’m not sure what will happen with the lateral lines and I’ll just take it all in stride, hope for some grace and continue to eek out a peaceful living off this beautiful land for as long as I can.

Here are some pictures Composting toilet

Monday, June 20, 2011

Summer work

Tonight after my work was finished I sat in the garden studying a squash plant, hoping for some answers. Earlier it was the beans and yesterday it was broken limbs of several tomato plants that took quite a beating several nights ago in a storm that blew through. Summer is here no matter what the calendar says. Summer for me is marked by scorching days in the field battling crab grass and Bermuda on behalf of struggling vegetable crops.

It’s like this every year, the only difference is this year the work I’m doing now is a month early. My spring work of lumbering through soggy fields admiring heads of lettuces and greens standing out against the dark soil, with only little cultivation needed passed quickly, I feel like I missed it all together. I do get little comfort in knowing come fall I’ll get another chance. The carrots, beets, turnips, radishes and all things spring will get their chance to flourish again come the cool days of fall. But right now it’s down to the summer business of daily harvesting, hacking away at the grass that threatens the peppers, tying up tomato plants, and of course watering.

Something is getting my squash plants. It very well could be the vine borer but when I dissect a wilting plant I find no trace. Whatever it is, it strikes at the base of the plant just barely below soil level like a cut worm, although, again I have found no evidence. So there I am sitting, watching, expecting the answer to appear before my very eyes. It’s always something, squash bugs, vine borers. So I just take out the dead and dying, cultivate the soil a bit and re- plant usually no questions asked. No use fighting with squash bugs although I do try and I will go to the effort of careful surgery on the vine borer.

I miss the cool mornings of spring, walking into the field in a sweat shirt, shorts and muck boots wet with dew, coffee in hand and small pad of paper in my pocket. No time for that now, no time for morning walks. Mornings are windows of opportunities to get hard jobs done before the heat becomes unbearable. Walks now are in the evening just before the sun goes down, glass of wine in hand and a small pad of paper in my pocket so I can write down something I see that needs to be done. I can’t trust myself to remember.

Summer is a crucial time of year, it’s when all the winter planning comes to bear fruit, failure and success delicately balanced, anything could happen and usually does. So much rides on summer, recouping all the investment that came from purchasing seed, compost, tools and labor and insuring a smooth financial transition into winter when income is extremely small. Back in February when I first broke the winter sod with the chisel plow, cutting through the earth loosening the ground to make way for an edible landscape I was full of hope of what summer would bring. Sometimes things don’t work out and I have to cut my losses, I’ve come to accept that now and come to understand what is worth saving.

It only takes a few things going wrong to make summer a living hell and it only takes a few things going right to make that living hell half bearable. One must be an optimist to survive an Oklahoma summer. One must always look to cooler days and second chances and lessons learned. That’s part of summer work, mopping your face with your filthy shirt and going on to the next thing on the list.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Being honest

I left a new out going message on my phone today. I had procrastinated long enough. People must know why! why I never return calls, why I never have my phone with me and why I never answer my phone even when its in my pocket.

"Hello, you've reached Lisa at living kitchen farm and dairy, if you are calling about reservations for farm table dinners please e-mail us at Living Kitchen at G mail dot com. Your call is very important to us and please know this is the busiest time of year so we may not get back to you right away...bla bla bla....."

Lets get real:

"Hello you've reached Lisa" (who cant carry her phone with her around the farm because inevitably it falls out of my pocket and gets lost or eaten. or I set it down on the back of the truck, 4 Wheeler or a 2X4 in the barn and it takes me about 4 days to find it) "e-mail us with reservations" (so a responsible person actually gets it) "Your call is very important to us (it is !with out you the goats and I are no one). "Please know this is the busiest time of year. (I am up to my ears in sheep fencing, manure, crab grass, soil and sweat, my patience has been "disappeared" and luckily I am self aware to know not to call you back when I do have time which is when I am peeing and really because I'm so dehydrated its only a couple of seconds and who knows where I am, or when I'm finally done with the day because my speech becomes incredibly impaired ). "So we may not get back to you right away" (until I hand the phone to Linda and she calls you back)

(If I do happen to answer the phone.....e-mail our conversation anyway because 10 seconds after we hang up I have forgotten everything we've talked about. and if you've told me a number or an e-mail, well I've written it on whatever I could which might be a with a stick in the sand or on the back of a feed bag with dirt or blood depending on how the day has gone).

I should not own a phone.

but ya know what ? today I gave a farm tour to a gardening group, I battled crab grass, harvested nearly 200 pounds of new potatoes, bunched red onions, milked the goats, and made 8 gallons worth of chevre. Add you don't even want to know what I did yesterday.

Everything I do results in food in one form or the other. I figure most folks I know prefer it this way.

We choose our battles.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The twins

Boris and Igor on tick patrol

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Days like these

I was at the feed store when the sheep made a run for it. Scattered about in the front yard and dirt road. No telling why when they do break out they make a Bee line to the house. Lambs mowing the front yard isn't that bad but its when they start wondering down the road toward the highway when it becomes a problem.

"Should I take them all up to the barn?" Says a voice on the other end of the phone. This is my intern for the summer Josey.

"Yea, that would be good and then we'll just deal with the fence when I get back" I say

I hung up the phone and sat in the truck for a minute thinking; wow, Josey can just bring the sheep back, just like that! When I got back the sheep were back in the barn area waiting for what I don't know. So the day was again struggling with electronet fences trying to get a charge. This is my life!

The garden needed to be hoed and watered, the cheese needed to be strained, the list of farm chores was huge but I spent the day arranging fences, and checking the charge.
Covered in ticks, a cloud of mosquitoes hovered around my filthy sweaty body waiting for me to quit moving so they could feast! Finally I finished. Hopefully this will hold them for a while.

Yesterday was the first day of a string of many that I will make my peace with the Oklahoma heat and in spite of it being nearly unbearable I will endure. I will want to lay under a shade tree and die but instead I will keep working. I will drink gallons of water and have on long sleeve cotton shirts and a big hat. and at the end of the day I will peal off my filthy clothes and stand silent in a cold shower until I shiver. I like days like these, not the whole sheep thing but
the hard work. I like it. It makes me feel some how alive. I feel like I earn what I have including a cold shower. Nothing is free and I pay for it with muscle and sweat. That's what most of my pleasures costs.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Watching things grow

The pups as we refer to them are now reaching 80 pounds, They are still bouncing pups but they are simply getting huge. At 6 months I can hardly pick them up and thankfully I don't have too! Its hard to get a good picture of them because their always moving so I get one blurred shot after another. Unlike the goats who will pose for me the pups see the camera and run directly nose first into it.

By all accounts in spite of them just being pups they are doing their job, protecting the livestock. They are in with the goats while I have the llamas in with the sheep, just easier for me and them I think. Its amazing how well they fit in with the goats. Whats wonderful is they stay in the fence, they actually stay in with the goats, So I've done something right.

Patents is definitely a virtue I'm learning to make peace with. Its still such a struggle for me. I plant a seed and I have to wait some times 6 months before I see results, or like garlic, plant in October harvest in June cure till July or August that's nearly one year. Need a guard dog? get a puppy from a breed of proven guards and wait. I am just so accustomed to faster outcomes and results. My cooking background has me in the mind set of a prep list gets finished in a days work and results are immediate. A few things like bread or a slow cooked roast but were talking hours not months. Slow food? Slow life. I learn to wait. My struggle is I don't feel like I have time to wait?

I watch things grow all the while with my fingers crossed. The vegetables, the lambs, the goats, The chickens, the farm, I watch it grow ever so slowly and I try not to get discouraged or entangled in my expectations of how fast things should grow. This is my greatest challenge. I feel in a rush to succeed, to reach my goals, to cross things off the list. To get to that place I feel like I need to be in order to rest, and rest seems to never come. But its the old cliche about the journey isn't it, and its letting go of my attachments to results.

For weeks I've watched a wimpy little transplant of chard turn into a beautiful huge plant. The flavor is delicious far exceeding my expectations. But what I have realized is I missed the middle. I go from transplant to full grown. A to B and I seem to have little memory of the in between. I'm so focused on results. I'm attached to the out come because I feel like I have a lot ridding on the outcome. This is the year I stand on solid ground, this is the year I create some stability in the future of this farm. But I have said this every year since I started nearly eight years ago.

The journey. The act of just being here watching things grow, being a part in how it all goes down. Being present. Much easier said than done. I crave that slow life of being present to the miracle of day to day life on the farm. I'm the only one that stands in my way. There is no one saying I cant do this. But its changing the way I look at things and that is difficult, not because of desire but because of experience and exposure. I'm learning to live way outside of my comfort zone. I think the most fascinating thing about this has been watching myself grow in this seasonal life.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Walks with goats

What do you do for fun? folks will sometimes ask. I walk the goats, I answer.

You know things must be going really well If I have time to do this. With chores finished and plenty of light still left and a simple dinner of hot and sour soup in our bellies Linda and I decided to take the goats for a walk.

Behind the goat pasture is another maybe 5 acre strip, its bordered by forest and it leads into a narrow strip of pasture and then to another larger strip. Its very beautiful and there are lots of really great things to eat. I don't let the goats forage on their own back there mostly because its wild kingdom for sure, but a an hour or so of some amazing grazing does us all of us a world of good.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Sheep and Goats

You know the sheep have gotten a front seat in my life since January. A while back I discovered they were getting more attention than anything on this farm including myself! Goat barns remained un mucked so fences could get moved. The goats have been unbelievably understanding, while the sheep have been demanding and seem to never be satisfied. I love the sheep in their glorious proud beauty, but the goats are my pals, I can tell them just about anything. I feel a camaraderie with the goats like we're in this together. Maybe this is why I don't eat goats.

But I figure the sheep serve an important purpose in my life and because they are getting raised for food they deserve as much care and attention as I can muster. So they come first. Their pasture is my top priority, their health is given scrutinizing attention. They are also less able to fend for them self and require more attention especially from the blasted barberpole worm. The goats on the other hand have been my rocks. Little to no problems at all. But I'm really starting to understand how this is all supposed to work. I think I kept expecting things to somehow take care of itself, I think I had the impression that I could just sit back and watch the farm evolve naturally and I wouldn't really have such a big role. The fact remains that the animals on this farm doubled this year and while that may have been a little true with half of the amount of animals on the farm it certainly isn't the case now.

So mentally I'm finally catching up with my own farm evolution. I'm starting to find my place here. Its not that the work is less but somehow with finally surrendering things have gotten remarkably easier. Now it does make a huge difference that I have an amazing support team. My partner is a huge positive force in the success of this farm and now, the intern Josey has just blown me away with her work ethic and knowledge. I can breathe now. I can read, I can write and I even picked up my guitar last night for the first time in months. This is how things are supposed to be.

One thing I have come to accept and also possibly surrender to is change. But I'm not going to focus on the what ifs I'm going with this positive tide I'm caught up in and see where it takes me.