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.