Sunday, January 30, 2011

Waiting for the storm

I feel more prepared now than any other winter that I can remember. And I suppose complaining that our work hasn't been put to the test is probably not a good idea. But a storm is a brewin' Looks like after the 70+ degree days we've had Winter will finally rear its head. I've been waiting. Silently. Waiting to come face to face with the force that last year marked my very soul.

We have been blessed by the most amazing winter and in spite of the dryness its been relatively easy. Last year I was lugging five gal buckets of water out in a wheelbarrow to the sheep, mind you through mud and muck! My carhartts were a part of my daily wardrobe. We had purchased a flock of sheep earlier in the season and had no idea when any of them were bred so at anytime we would be hearing little high pitched lamb baahs and thawing out nearly frozen lambs at 3 am. It was a ride. Both of us had permarings around our eyes.

Yea, this year is a very different story. I'll take it. The situation couldn't be more different but one doesn't forget so easily. I don't so much have the survivalist attitude that I had in November but I'm definitely gun shy. I know better than to say bring it on. So I'll just wait. I'll spend today making sure all is storm worthy and wait. I sure wish I had that wood burning stove. someday.

Saturday, January 29, 2011


I was in a funk all day yesterday between a feeling of sadness and confusion. I think the last three days and the dairy possibility were just a lot to take in. For the first time I saw real possibilities. But then I also saw real challenges too. Its hard to explain. I have no reason to feel bad and I wouldn't say I felt bad exactly. But if this dairy ends up working out my life is really going to change. Yea change. Change for the better? no one knows, I suppose that depends on how good the cheese is. There is uncertainty. That scares me.

So I rest in this; I am going forward on all of the research, but its secondary to whats currently going on at the farm. I'm finally in a place where things are working out. I'm excited for the possibilities of the upcoming season and feel more confident than ever this will be the best year yet. So I gotta take it slow. I got to be smart about it. There are so many opportunities being offered to me right now and its been hard not to want to grab everyone of them. But I promised myself to grow down. To strengthen my roots so I have something to stand and grow on. That's got to be my focus this year and the dairy is part of that, so I'll do the things I need to in order to make good sound decisions.

I have to say so far I feel much better today. After our CSA drop off Linda and I are working on the birthing jugs for the does that will start kidding soon. It will be a beautiful day, perfect for preparing for the cold front to come in next week.

Friday, January 28, 2011

So here we are

First I talked to Frank Brucelle from Dept of ag. dairy div. He is not the Frank I needed to talk to, but it was nice to meet him. This Frank does the testing of milk and dairy products. I really enjoyed talking to him and he was very encouraging. He gave me the other Franks phone number and I also had a good 30 minute conversation with him too. Lots of information. Then Frank gave me the number to the inspector who would be the one most likely in my county, so I called him. At this point my phone was really hot against my face. I thought I should give it a rest, but I couldn't I needed to finally talk to the person who would actually come to the dairy and if my hopes and wishes came true give me the encouraging guidance I would need to get this thing going.

I learned there are only 4 inspectors in the whole state. They are spread very thin. But because so many dairy's have closed up and not too many seem to be opening, so far probably not a stretch. So I told him everything. We got a little stuck on the word micro dairy and there was a concern that micro equipment may not be on the acceptable list of equipment. And he also apologized for his ignorance but he just didn't have a lot of hands on with this micro dairy stuff but he would do his best to help me.

So, He's going to come out and look at the place in a couple of weeks.
By then I should have a preliminary list of equipment I'll be using and be able to at least get some idea of what I am dealing with. I already know I'll need to put a bathroom in, and a small septic.

I'm excited but I feel calmer than I did yesterday. I've decided this is nothing to rush into. Its going to be business as usual around here and the research will be detailed and methodical. This is not going to happen tomorrow. My best bet would be next year. I don't know. But I am going forward and again this is the closest I've come. It does seem like it will be a difficult road. One I'm not entirly sure I'll be able to get to the end of.

All is well on the farm front. Starting to get everything ready for kidding in a few weeks and really hoping for rain. The list of to-dos is long and overwhelming to me right now. I remind myself, one thing at a time. Prioritize.

I have a hen in the house who was mauled by the pups. Her back is raw, so I've been keeping her inside tending to her wounds. She's doing great and by all appearances she's going to make it. She probably wont ever grow feathers on her back again, but she has a good attitude and even laid an egg. She should be ready to go back out in a couple of days. It was a training moment. Ugh!
feeling a little bla today. hope my spirits lift a bit.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The closest I've gotten

My fingers are shaking as I write this post. My stomach is in a twist and my heart doesn't know weather the sink into my stomach or jump out of my chest. My mind is racing my knees are weak. This is the closest I've come yet to the dream of making cheese legally for sale off the farm.

Yesterday I visited what years ago was a grade A cow dairy. Its 20 minutes from the house. All the tanks etc are long gone. the make room is empty except for floor drains all the plumbing, electricity. Cement walls, floors, lots of windows. The actual parlor has three stalls for cows. This place in its day must have been absolutely a dream. The family who will remain anonymous right now, stopped because kids were gone and milk prices tanked so they sold everything and now have been using it as a storage room.

They know my product well and are really supportive of this going forward. Now there will obviously be some up grades I will need to make. There is no bathroom, and its a lagoon septic system. But... the room, the drains, the plumbing, the electricity for this size of equipment.

where do I start?!:

Calling the dept of ag dairy div
pricing out equipment
pricing out the upgrades
making a plan
looking for money
starting the work on the plant
getting the licencing
designated vehicle
making cheese
selling cheese

So at first I would start small. grow steady and smart.

Is this really happening?

Do you know what this means?

could this really happen?

Could you buy my cheese instead of fish bait at the farmers market?

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Back to the farmy life

My quick little weekend getaway to Seattle was wonderful. It was just the perfect amount of time off the farm. It felt like longer than a weekend but I think that’s because we were able to fit so much in; The water front, the pike place market, a nice long ferry ride, the locks and some time at the local beach and also plenty of time for family. During and in between all of this noshes of crab cocktail, oysters, salmon, more crab, more salmon. On Saturday the family came over and we ate pizza drank wine and looked through old photos of our family. It was really fun. Seeing my mom when she was a baby and a teenager was so cool. I’ve seen them before but for some reason sitting there with my nieces and my sister seemed to bring out more enjoyment for me. I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity to visit.

No catastrophic incidents at the farm. All was fine and dandy. The farm sitter Haley did a fantastic job. We got in after midnight so we checked in with all of the animals first thing in the morning. It was nice to see everyone. I missed the farm. As I went on with morning chores yesterday I was again reminded of what a wonderful life I have. Being in the city was nice but I was ready to get back to my farmy life.

I have to say for being such a short trip I feel remarkably rested and rejuvenated. I did become a little overwhelmed yesterday when I was looking at all the work that needs to be done in the next 3 weeks but I just wrote my list and will just work on crossing stuff off every day.
The biggest priority for me right now is planting the hoop house, which I will be doing today and tomorrow. Next is preparing for kidding. Putting up the jugs (birthing stalls). Our first doe kids on Feb 19th then it’s one right after the other then a full week break in between groups of 4. We have 13 bred does all together. This will help us ease into things. We kid first and then lamb in March. It’s very exciting. Mostly I just can’t wait to make cheese. It’s time to get out into the field but it’s so dry. I’m praying for rain so I can run the chisel plow through and prepare the first beds for onions and potatoes. A good soaking is all I need to get started. I’m on pins and needles. The dry winter has the makings of a pretty bad hay season ahead. I’m crossing my fingers that we start getting some moisture soon.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

I hold my warm coffee cup wrapped in my chilled hands like the face of an old dear friend whose arrival has been anticipated for weeks. Bringing my face close I breathe in. Ahh, such a beautiful scent and the taste like a healing nectar. Just what I need this very moment. I feel the warmth and smoothness of the cup. I notice its shape, color and weight. I love this cup. Coffee tastes better in this cup than any other. I take my first sip sucking air through my mouth to cool the coffee just enough not to burn my mouth. The first sip is the best.

I repeat this ceremony daily and never tire of it.

My life is filled with routines like this, I’m like the goats in this way where I have a deep appreciation, desire and demand for regularity. Farming however often doesn’t allow such things like expectations so I pick and choose my routines carefully. The Journal, the cup of coffee and the morning and afternoon chores. That’s as regular as it gets. In between these things contains a plethora of inevitable surprises. No rain means no chisel plow. Too much rain, no planting. The list of possible changes to the plan is long. Anything can happen and usually does.

I’m leaving for a few days. Visiting my family in Seattle. Linda and I actually get to go away together the second time in two years! We have a more than capable farm sitter and other than the snow forecast the day we leave the weekend weather seems to be nothing to raise my cackles over. I’m looking forward to the break and stepping briefly out of my farmy ways for a weekend of northwest flavor. I’m looking forward to seeing my family, the smell of salt air and stuffing my face with as much salmon, crab and oysters I can. I plan on catching up on some eating. Okay. I am excited!

I’m excited to show Linda Seattle through my eyes, which is really my stomach. I have a list of all the places we’ll eat, some just little fish and chip places, hole in the walls. These tend to be the best places. Friday night Sea Garden, crab with black bean sauce and longevity noodles, geoduck. Can’t wait! Pho for breakfast at Pho hoa in the Intl. district, then lunch at the pike place market grill. Then second lunch somewhere, then back to Intl. district for dinner. Yum! I am getting hungry just thinking about it!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

find your bliss

Woke up this morning two hours after the alarm went off. Haggard and spent from a broken night between sleeplessness and out of body experiences and just plain wacked out dreams, I sucked down a cup of coffee. I threw on my jeans that lay on the floor and could stand on their own and went outside to save a poor hen that was being chased and licked by the pups. Our first “bad dog, leave the chicken alone” lesson. Hell, I’m out here I thought so I finished up the rest of the chores, dogs fed, chicks water and starter feed refilled, Hens fed, Alfalfa to the goats, waters filled, eight eggs found under the hay, stuffed in coat pocket. Reminder to self; I have eight eggs in my pocket don’t do anything stupid.

An hour later I’m in the house snuggling my new hot cup of coffee and my journal, wondering what the hell just happened. I’m out of sorts, I feel awoken from the deepest sleep and have a fog of confusion around me. Nothing another cup of coffee won’t cure I’m sure. See last night I dreamt that I woke up, got out of bed took a drink out of the bathroom faucet and tried to talk to Linda. So it was rather startling when I woke up again and was lying in bed. I really could have sworn I was awake the first time. And I wasn’t completely sure I was awake this time. I did fall deeply back to sleep only to have strange dreams.

Something happens to me in the wee morning hours, on the rare occasion that I can’t sleep. It’s when all of the self questioning, self doubt, and self judgment come out. It’s happened ever since I can remember so I know not to pay it too much mind. I know not to entertain such thoughts but they are persistent. Ghosts of the past. “I should have done this”, “I shouldn’t have done that”. Every insecurity I have comes up to the surface for scrutiny, until I finally say to myself, “Ya’ know it might be true, but we’ll talk about it in the morning”.

Morning comes and those feelings are gentle now, they are buried in the awake state, buried by my bliss. And as I feed the animals and work in the field I smooth over. My flaws and mistakes of the past are accepted and I let sheep kisses wash them clean. The sun hitting my face on a cold day I recognize my imperfections and my desire to do better. I recognize my humanness. In the soil I’ve just turned I see the potential. I find my bliss.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Potato and apple latkes

(potato pancakes)
First shred the potatoes and onions together in a bowl, then shred one small apple. I use Liberty apples that I bought from Don Chiartarno at the farmers market last summer. Latkes are one of my favorite Seattle past times. There are several Jewish restaurants and delis in Seattle that I used to love. My favorite which unfortunately has been long closed was called Matzo Mamas, run by a large curly headed bearded gay man. Although I never had proof of this, these were my suspicions. “Oy", he used to say "you must try the blintzes tonight Betty they are to die for” the die word, long and drawn out with a curl at the end. Betty was my mother, she loved blintzes and she loved this Jewish gay man. And for whatever reason gay men loved my mother, she was a good listener and they knew all the same show tunes. Oy! my child hood! Don’t get me started!

I loved the latkes at Matzo Mamas and the matzo ball soup was to die for. I loved that place. But the Latkes, Oh my god! A basic Latke recipe is potatoes and onions but the secret to mamas were you added apples to the mix. Traditionally latkes are served with apple sauce and sour cream. Shredded apples added to the potato and onion adds a remarkable sweet/tartness. Any way I’ve never forgotten them and I was 8 years old. I got started young. I’ve never forgotten Matzo Mamas either.

So blend the apple, onion, potato together. Add 2 eggs, ¼ cup milk and 2 tablespoons flour, a pinch of salt and mix just till incorporated. God forbid you then fry them in bacon grease but…… (oh, I can feel the hell fire nipping at my toes) sooo good! So, basically just cook them like a pancake. Be sure to put a dollop of sour cream or Yogurt in top it makes all the difference.
This morning thinking about Matzo Mamas I was craving blintzes too. I didn’t have the ricotta so I just made apple crepes instead. Pretty good I used the yogurt crepe recipe from a few weeks ago and if I don’t say so myself they were fantastic!

Life is good on the farm. The writing surprisingly is still going strong. We are planning a trip to Seattle, so that’s something to look forward to before the season gets going. I started working in the field last week. The sheep have eaten it down pretty well and are leaving beautiful fertilizer as they go. I’m hoping for some moisture so I can plow up old beds, and start getting the soil ready for the first planting of onions and potatoes. I can’t believe it’s almost time to plant. I’m pretty excited! Looking through seed catalogues rekindles the giant crush I have on the garden.
Tomorrow I am welcoming the snow so I can finalize my seed order. I’m not going outside. I’ll freeze. You want I should freeze and not plant a single seed? Oy!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Happy Sunday and Happy New Year!

All is well on the farm. Christmas and New Years was wonderful. We’ve gotten lots of rest and have had lots of quiet, peaceful walks and much contemplation and thought about going into the year ahead. Linda has had the week off and we both have had time to spend with the sheep and goats and that’s always nice. The writing has been going well, and I think it might take this time. But I miss blogging.
The chicks are doing remarkably well. They are starting to get their feathers and looking as cute as ever. The real test was the low of 8 degrees we woke up to this morning. Two brood lights in each pen worked great. When I went out to check on them they were fine and the water wasn’t frozen in their pen so I take that for a very good sign indeed. I am really starting to love them. I can just watch them forever. They play.

Coming into 2011 I’ve been having this reoccurring thought about confidence, self confidence, and it’s really been troubling me. See I feel really good right now. I feel like I made it through not just a hard but fulfilling last year but I’ve made it through the last four. I don’t know, I guess I feel well…confident. I feel good about the future. I feel good about myself. I feel like whatever life throws at me I can handle. Here is the problem most of my life especially my childhood confidence was seen as bad thing like arrogance. My parents bless their hearts had very little self confidence. Both recovered alcoholics by time I popped out of the womb they had some real issues to deal with. It’s not that they belittled me or made me feel bad or anything like that but what they had experienced in their life gave no reason for them to feel confident life was full of doubt, self doubt.

So I’ve been trained that when I feel confident I should doubt it, especially if I had anything to do with it. This was not so much spoken as it just was an attitude or rather family culture. Learning the difference between confidence and arrogance might have been a challenge for me. Even now I’m slowly learning the difference and how to identify this within myself. I don’t believe I’ve ever been either. Possibly self righteous at times I’m afraid. Any hoo I try to keep this all in check.

So I struggle with wondering if it’s okay to feel self confident. Or should I have doubt? Is doubt safer? After a lot of thought I think I’m going to go with self confidence. I know a lot of stuff but I also know there are tons more out there for me to learn. I know I am going to make mistakes and I know I’m not always going to be right. But I don’t have a fear of any of those things, being wrong is okay. I don’t have to always be right, I don’t have to be perfect. I trust my abilities. I feel this knowledge with-in me that if I shine with love all around me, laugh at myself, if I open myself to the true nature of peace, then when I do fall it will be much easier to get up. I feel confident in this.

So I’m pretty darn excited about the year ahead. I have fewer obstacles in my way that’s for sure. I’ve got two legs to stand on, a sharp knife and hoe, and I have really really good people in my life. I’m on my way!

So let’s have some breakfast!

Whole wheat yogurt blueberry waffles with blackberry syrup.
The blackberry syrup was actually supposed to be preserves I had canned from wild blackberries off the farm but… the pectin didn’t thicken (too sweet I think) and I have syrup instead. I have to say it’s incredible and works great for pancakes, ice cream and yogurt! The blueberries are from Debby Shanks farm, I don’t grow blueberries but until I do I’ll continue to buy and freeze for the winter. This makes about 6-8 waffles depending on the size of your iron.
1 ½ cup whole wheat flour
¾ teaspoon salt
2 T honey
4 T melted butter
2 eggs
1 ½ cup yogurt
1 cup blueberries
Plug that waffle iron in. If the blueberries are frozen thaw them a bit before adding to the batter. Mix all the dry ingredients, mix in the wet ingredients just until incorporated.