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