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.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

new passions

We have been very fortunate to have missed some bad storms, we’re received lots of rain and that’s just what we needed. The garden is a swamp right now but our pastures must be singing! So glad to see that rain! and the rich lushness it creates which serves as a food source for over 98% of the inhabitants of this farm.

Things are going pretty good so far, the new intern Josey is an absolute dream, raised among dairy goats she’s a natural with the animals. Such a hard and fast worker we’ve managed to not only get caught up but make up for lost time early in the season. She is no stranger to farm life and just fit right in from the moment she arrived. She has a great positive attitude and let me tell you when you’re working the long hard days that we are, a positive cheerful outlook makes the day go by so much easier! How did I get so lucky!

So I must say the last week has been wonderful. It feels so good to come in from a day’s work and feel like I accomplished something. Now with Josey my work days are down to 11 hours from the 15 7 days a week two weeks ago. We work from 7am until about 5:30/6pm Sundays off. Life feels so great right now I’m actually enjoying farming again! I had some dark moments there for a bit.

So yea! Loving life right now beyond belief! The garden is really shaping up, the sheep are happy in their new beautiful barn and new rotation plan. The goats are healthy and as cantankerous as ever, the pups are good, the new pullets are starting to lay. The wild flowers are blooming and the grass is growing! What more could I ask for it’s a perfect storm for a successful season! This is my year peeps I just feel it. In spite of it starting a little rough it really feels like the wrinkles are starting to shake out (lord knows I don’t know how to operate an iron).

So I’ve got dreams folks, I’ve got goals. And for the first time this season I actually think I can pull it off. This is going to be the best Farm Table Dinner year, the best year in the garden and the year I dig myself out of debt. The hole is not very deep but its time. I’m putting all my eggs in that basket. And I am going to work as hard as I can. This is my year I can feel it. You know what I’m talking about? And I’m not even going to go to that place that tells me I can’t! I’m not going to that place that tells me I don’t deserve it, I’m just not going there! I’m going to stay in the place that says I can and I will!

Now I think I will go strain my chevre and make the best cheese ever!
I’m feeling good!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Driving Sheep and going mad

I drove the sheep to the upper barn two days ago. What drove them was the anticipation of grain. I love grain because they love grain and I can pretty much get them anywhere I want or need with the four wheeler and a bag of ewe and ram pellets. So up from the lower pasture to the upper pasture where I hope the eating will be to their liking.

I have really had to re-think this rotational grazing program. Its a lot more difficult than I had ever anticipated and I see no difference in their overall health. I've had three ewes come down with bottle jaw, (a symptom of barber pole worm). So my thought was to get them on some new pasture that had been grazed by cows the last three years. My second thought was to increase my ability get them in a barn where I can monitor them better and use the shoot to evaluate and treat more frequently if needed. I really am keeping a close eye on the lambs.

Some times I honestly think its more trouble than its worth. The endless hours moving fences, water hoses, shelters, treating sick animals and burying the few that don't make it is such a stressful endeavour. I seriously loose sleep over it and when I finally do sleep I dream about it. But then there are mornings that they all just look so beautiful. Or when I'm witness to the quite afternoon naps curled up next to the hay. Everyone seems so at peace and content.

I have one job and that is to keep everyone alive. To protect them from disease, parasites, coyotes, storms, dogs. Its a tall order. Last count was 132 ewes and lambs. I've lost a few lambs to coyotes and two ewes from barber pole worm. That's not bad I guess but when your trying to make a life from this work it gets to you. I have the ability to criticize my work worse than anyone. Its raw and sensitive I'm terribly hard on myself. I love my work and feel I'm doing everything to my ability but sometimes I just want to bury my head in the sand.

Then there are times like last night my body exhausted and caked with dirt and sweat, earlier in the day I was working in pouring rain wearing head to toe slickers and a black leather outback rain hat. I had been focused and mindful and present and this is where I find myself. This is my work. Its not easy and it drives me to tears at times, but I get to feel everything. Its actually quite a gift to get to do this. and as much stress as this is there are times of profound peace.

I teeter emotionally with the farmer I am and the pieces of city girl that still remain. Both of me fighting the good fight. Its a fight between how things really are and how I want them to be. Sometimes I feel pulled over the edge by one or the other. When I get pulled over by the city girl I feel discontent when I get pulled over by the farmer I feel at home. Why cant this city girl just leave me be?? Why cant she know that things are never going to be perfect that this work is a beautiful struggle and is never finished that real results happen in years not hours or minutes. Why cant she just be satisfied with the truth and listen to the mockingbirds instead of writing lists all the dang time? So its like I'm in a relationship with two different selves trying to make it work. I'm commited, I mean neither one of us is going anywhere so its about giving each other grace.

But tonight the city girl will rule I'll put on nice clothes and lipstick, tie my hair up nice and go into Tulsa to help a friend work her booth at May Fest. The farmer self will get tucked away in my heart temporarily and I'll go all city, probably even have a cocktail. I suppose its really quite schizophrenic.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Balancing act

I should be out working. But I'm taking it a little easier than normal just to give this cold a reason to move out of my body more quickly. I woke up at 6am instead of 5am and I was in bed by 8:30 last night. Colds hate that! I do feel lots better but its hanging on and is giving my lungs a run for their money.

This farm is a balancing act that only works if you just let go. try not to concentrate to hard and just go with it. Don't look down, don't look backward, and don't look too far ahead or it all falls apart. Being in the present is like floating. Its effortless while your there. The hard part is staying there. I tend to get caught up in the net of anxiety, stressed out about the future, still trying to work things out in the past and often I'll just miss the whole day. Today has been a good day for allowing myself to just be in the moment. Mostly I have no choice, my body is exhausted and my brain has just given in. I need rest and whether I like it or not its not up to me I'm getting rest. Which has helped. My hands are tied.

I took my time milking all 12 goats this morning. I took my time bottle feeding, I took my time tending to all of the other animals and I'll take my time setting up new fence for the sheep today. Today I'm taking my time. Now chores did take me around three hours, which normally would drive me bonkers, but who cares. At this point I honestly don't. At around noon the new intern arrives and I will take my time showing her around.

I really need to get sick more often. I feel pretty chill.

Monday, May 16, 2011

The troops came marching in

Early last week I put the word out to a couple of folks asking if they might want to come out and help me get the tomato and pepper plants in. Thursday two CSA members showed up at 8am and we were a team! Thursday became operation put'n out tomato and peppers! We planted a total of around 800 plants. In record time I might add. What would have taken me three days to do took 4 people 5 hours. Yea! Seriously I was nearly in tears I was so grateful. I am so much closer to being caught up, as a matter of fact I really am caught up now. Eggplant goes in next week a second succession of beets, beans , corn and turnips and I'm set. Its all about keeping things healthy and alive. (easier said than done).

The problem now is I have a full blown cold. Yup not good. You see I really need to rest and if I don't I'll just get worse but how do you rest when so many things have to be done? Linda is out of town for the next four days on business. What I have to do is just let it go. I have to rest. So I'll just choose a few really important things that cant wait and that's it. I'm not like totally under the weather but I have very little strength. So whats going to happen is if I don't take care of myself is, I will find myself flat on my back for more days than I care to admit. So my list just got very short.

a few things that cant wait and rest.

The short list includes:

cleaning the house, this gives me some sense of control and order.

administrative stuff like returning e-mails and phone calls (imagine that)

putting up a new rotation for the sheep who are seriously working my ass.

laying in bed with a giant cup of tea falling in and out of sleep and writing lists:)

That sounds like a good day to me.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Hard work and happiness

Part of farming that I have come to understand is that the difference between farming and having a farm is all about selling. If your "farming" than most likely your selling hopefully the crops that you've been raising. If you have a farm, either someone else is farming it or you are simply enjoying it, This is where I believe the term hobby farm comes in. Not having to be stressed about the farm bills. Your income doesnt depend on what the farm produces. Usually the person who has a farm also has money and the person farming does not. Its really strange but to the best of my experience this is how it is. I suppose some folks out there might have both.

I do not have a farm. I farm. simply put I lease land and I try my darnedest to eek out a living from it. Maybe this sounds totally ridiculous. Maybe I'm over thinking this a little and what is my point anyway? But my dirty little secret is I want both. Someday I want to own the land I farm, someday. not today this year or next just someday. I love it here, I mean this is an amazing place I couldn't be any luckier, just saying. But I'm a long way from that right now. Each year gets better and I get a little wiser.

The last month has been pretty difficult. The work load is enormous and unfortunately I've fallen very behind. I am catching up finally and that feels good but its taken three straight weeks of 12-15 hour days 7 days a week. On Saturdays we wake up at 3am so we can milk, feed babies and load up for the farmers market. On farm table dinner nights its a 20 hour day. Tonight there is no farm table dinner. I've already worked an eight hour day and there is still so much to do, but in all honesty I'm too tired to lay irrigation tape, pound in a grounding rod for the electric fence, clean house or any other productive things, so I decided when I woke up with a really bad sore throat it was time to let these things go for today. So here I am writing. trying not to sound overtired and overwhelmed.Check Spelling

For a multitude of reasons the intern that started a month ago is gone this weekend. She had other plans that needed tending to and the demands of this level of farming was truly challenging, big lessons I'm sure for the both of us indeed. Next week an Animal Science student from Purdue University starts and for this I am giddy. Having someone who grew up on a farm and knows her way around goats is going to be a great blessing for us. I've decided not to take a second intern and just hire a friends daughter to help with barn and animal care. This is what I really need. So things are looking up and I'm seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.

The sheep are doing well. I've had some real challenges with the rotational grazing. The dry weather was producing a very skimpy pasture. At one point I was rotating the sheep daily and that just became too much so I finally just broke down and let them run the whole acreage. This worked until they slipped through the barbed wire and wound up in the garden. Back to the rotation. Even though my heart and mind is behind the whole rotational grazing thing, don't let anyone tell you its easy. Its not, its work and its management and to do it right you have to be on top of things. It has been a real challenge for me this year with so many more animals (80ish lambs) and I've been running to keep up with the rate of their eating.

In spite of being totally exhausted I do feel good about things. I have gotten so much accomplished, and I do see that this year is the turning point. Farm table dinners are getting a lot of attention, animals are good, things are growing. I feel like there are some real possibilities here.

Last week I had a ewe get sick (barber pole worm) I treated her and she started making a recovery by was too week to get up on her own. She was eating and chewing her cud but just very week. I was rushing around in the garden trying to get ahead before the rain came, when I felt a couple of drops I went out to get the sick ewe under a large tree for shelter as I lifted her the sky opened up and just poured. I managed to get her under the tree, I sat over her making sure she didn't get stepped on by the other 30 ewes who wanted to share the shelter of the tree with us. There we all were nose to nose, tightly knitted together. The storm raged loud with high pitched thunder and bright lightning and we sat quite as grass. The smell of warm wet wool and grass filled the air, I was getting drenched. The ewe laid with her head in my lap and we waited out the storm. I felt so very happy.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

The asparagus dinner

This is the menu for the Asparagus dinner, I have tons of commentary to add but it Will have to wait, for now but......

Asparagus dinner
Asparagus and chevre pizzettes
Asparagus and green garlic bisque
Asparagus and carrot slaw with sweet and sour spring onions
For the mouth
Blueberry lime ice
Asparagus lasagna with arugula pasta, goat milk mozzarella
Goat milk ice cream with strawberries from Three Springs Farm and and and pecan short bread

Made with much love and gratitude for our good friends Mike and Emily from Three Springs Farm, and those who have graced us with their presence at our farm table dinners, all have been such a inspiring force of inspiration for us here at Living Kitchen Farm and Dairy.

Oh my do I have a story to tell.....
But here are the wines I think my Seattle wine snobs would tell me....
Pinot noir young very fruity. (Oregon, sheeeeooosh)
Or a beefy chard (only because its not like your just picking up a piece of asparagus and eating it in that case a sauve blanc would be in order).

My disclaimer ... wait,,,,
1:i am really tired
2: I've enjoyed a little over the limit box wine (bota)
3: do you have any idea how many tomato plants I have to put out,,,,,
4: I really should go to bed but I've had too much box wine
5: would you believe I used to be a wine snob and moved here from Seattle with several cases of my favorites???????
6: does that even matter any more?????
7: g'night
8: is any body even reading this????

Tuesday, May 3, 2011


Ruby is just about ready to jump off the stanchion. But before she does I grab her head and I hold it close to my chest and I bend my neck down and I give her the biggest kiss on the cheek. She licks me, I hold her there and I pet and rub her cheeks (goats love this)more kisses and more licks and then she jumps down and shes out of the milk parlor looking for alfalfa. She was the second to the last one up tonight although she is prime queen material in my opinion but I'll leave that to the herd to figure out. Sally of course is the herd queen and I would never change that but ruby has some queen qualities.

There are some goats I just have a special relationship with, Ruby is one such goat. This is her first freshening and I must say she got all A's! she's turning out to be a fabulous milker. Not all of my girls I feel this about.....most, but not all. I punch the time clock, squeeze some teats, get lots of milk, strain it, chill it, bottle it or make cheese out of it and go on with the normal day. But there seems to be in every job I've ever had those few individuals you can have a good time with, joke around with or console each other or just have a really engaging relationship. Purely platonic but special. I'm lucky I work with a bunch of really fun, really cantankerous girls. There are some that get on my every last nerve, but for the most part my co workers are a blast and I feel lucky to know them.

I've been given em' an ear full lately. I've been so busy and things just don't seem to be lightening up, I tell them everything. Often they come up with the most profound advice and that is the old foot in the bucket. It means be present to the moment;as Baba Ram Das would say "Be Here Now!" See those girls are deep! There's the foot in the bucket and then there is the famous double back, when they're just about out the door and they double back and get back on the stanchion and start eating grain. This means 'chill bitch, lets just do what feels right, even if its wrong'. I don't listen to this business at all!But all in all their good people.