Monday, January 23, 2012

Beavers in the

 I'm one that really cherishes wild life, but I've come to ask myself is this right? There are two ponds on the property that look to be over run by Beaver. I noticed their work last year with small trees and bushes gnawed down, I thought it was kind of cool. I got so excited when I saw a beaver's shy nose protruding from the water and I was fascinated by them all together. But after a long time away I decided to include the ponds on my morning walk. I was shocked and very disturbed from what I discovered.

Huge trees were gnawed and those little buggers were able to actually get them down. I could hardly believe my eyes. What to do? this seems rather destructive and how good is this for the ponds to have all these trees and branches drug in.
On the other hand it is nice cutting fire wood when the branches are totally stripped from the whole tree.

So a call to fish and wildlife management is in order.

                                                              beaver warning splash

Thursday, January 19, 2012

eat more cookies

This morning started with an amazing sunrise a reason to just feel good. I’m almost over “the cold” and feeling much better. I’m able to breathe out my nose finally and take a deep breath without coughing for 10 minutes. It’s really interesting the far reaching effects a simple cold can have on daily life. It took all the energy I could muster just to do the basic chores. Things were left undone and I struggled not to chastise myself about my failings. But what could I do. What do you do when the mind is willing but the body is not? And I suppose what’s worse is what do you do when the mind is not willing and neither is the body? Nothing, you lay around and feel miserable, and even feel guilty for feeling miserable at least that tends to be my shtick. 

So I’m feeling pretty good so it’s back to work. So many things need attention. My spiritual practice today consists of not getting bogged down with the to-dos and just concentrate on one thing at a time, which includes breathing as a main priority. Baking cookies comes in second. I’m feeling well enough for cookies.  Actually, I feel like cookies could be the trigger to complete enlightenment. Okay maybe my thinking may not be 100% healed from “the cold”.  I’m certainly on the mend.

After cheese making I'll spend the rest of the day working in the greenhouses. Oh how I love this activity. I'm thinning today which means I'm taking a dense planting of lettuces and plucking out one inch segments leaving one plant every one inch. The thinnings will go into making the baby lettuce mix for the CSA members this weekend. The thinnings are the most delicate yummy things in the world. and thinning, the act of,  is a meditation in its self. It feels so good to me and often I just get lost in it and will find I've been thinning for hours.  Today just an hour. that way I can actually harvest other items for the CSA like kale and mizuna. Plus there is yogurt to be jarred and cheese to be strained so.... one hour only for thinning. 

I'm totally making chocolate chip cookies as soon as I press publish! 

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Seattle I love you

While it’s pouring buckets of snow on my home town Seattle, I’m spending a dry wintery cold afternoon in Oklahoma, in the kitchen. Ella’s in the background singing her sweet swinging heart out. I might as well be in Seattle it has all the makings. Torta rustica in the oven baking and while I’m not drinking coffee I do have a steamy mug of steeped fancy green leaf and barley tea. Here’s the difference. Besides Ella crooning, there are roosters instead of ambulance sirens, lambs bleats instead of traffic sounds. Silence instead of horns honking and sounds of a busy city. Yea my life is sweet. I can’t say sometimes I don’t miss it. The excitement, the stress, the coffee.  I remember it, all the good, all the bad but I like my little life. I like the noises.

I remember the excitement that comes on rare snowy day in Seattle. It may only last 24hrs but that one snow day people in Seattle will actually talk to strangers. They are, no matter how cool, frikin’ excited. It takes Seattleites about four hours to get cabin fever then either by foot, bike (yes bike in the snow, my brother in law actually went for a run today) train or bus they end up at the corner coffee shop or store and proceed to talk to everyone in earshot which the day before they would never have considered doing in a million years. Put a little snow on the ground and that Seattle cool pout turns to childlike innocence and humility. Suddenly they aint concerned about being hot shit anymore. I think it’s because snow is so rare it brings up like a fear response of imminent danger or death.

When I go home to visit it takes me a day or two to fall back into the cultural norm. On the bus; Put your ear plugs in, read a book, have a serious but not angry look on your face and never, never, never have eye contact with anyone and if you do (by accident of course) and they are not cute, bring your attention back to the pout, look at your book….deeply or out the window (but really at your own reflection). Pretend no one can see you and you can’t see anyone else. Smiling at someone is grounds for confrontation. Just don’t do it, they will think you just got released from a mental hospital. If someone sits next to you on the bus that you think might have just been released from a mental hospital because they said “hi can I sit here?” get off at the next stop and walk the rest of the way. If you cant do that press yourself as close as you can against the sidewall even if your face is smashed up against the window. If you can avoid ridding the bus altogether you’ll be better off. But I forget this and the first day I go into town I’m like smiling at everyone and saying hi and thank you. I’m almost giddy, just like we are in Oklahoma. We talk to the cashier at wal-mart, the bank and the feed store. There is only one wal-mart in all of Seattle and you wouldn’t get caught dead in there. I bet that place is packed right now.

A few winters ago it snowed while I was visiting and it was really sweet seeing them so vulnerable and almost friendly. I made a point every time someone talked to me about the weather to look at them as if they had just grown an extremely huge eye out of their chin. Then just turn away and look at the ground. And mutter “fucking creep”…Cracked me up! HAHHAHAHA!!!!!  No I didn’t. I made that up.

But today strangers will come together in Seattle. There will be more thank yous, more your welcomes and more a feeling that in this busy world we’re still in this together, no matter how separate we try to make ourselves the rest of the time. This one day, this snowy day belongs to us. Seattle I love you!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Chew slower

A little dusting of snow the other night and temps at 19 degrees this morning is a gentle reminder winter although mild, can do what she pleases at any time. The winter prep work of making sure animals have good shelter and safe from blowing winds is done, aside from a few little things like a small heater in the well house I think we can withstand almost anything. I'm cautious as I say this, cause I know how quickly things can turn around but we'll do our best. But for now dripping faucets seem to be doing the trick.

Fall/winter produce in the fields is done and now I'm working out of  two greenhouses that are still green and flourishing, Kale, mizuna, boc choy, tatsoi, several variety of lettuces, chard, and there was spinach but I harvested the last of it last week. All this is for my winter CSA which so far I've been able to produce quite a bounty for them. It feels good to have things growing. I used to think I was tricking nature by growing in the winter. But then I started to realize there was no trickery involved. Growing produce no matter what time of year it is only utilizes resources that are there already. Light, warmth, soil temperature, soil nutrients.  It feels like I'm just using the tools that I'm given. The spinach was so sweet. and the lettuce has wonderful color and texture because of the cold. I'm liking this little winter food paradise I have here.The pleasure I receive from eating a salad of red oak leaf, flashy trout romaine, green oak leaf, baby beet greens tossed in a light dressing of crushed garlic, a splash of balsamic, pinch of sea salt and a nice olive oil. Simple, elegant and gratifying on so many levels.

There has been times when I am so overwhelmed by the work of the farm I forget why I'm here in the first place. I loose sight of whats important. I move from one task to the next and the work seems to never end. In the restaurant I had prep lists. There was a sense of completion at the end of the day. Now it takes months and even years to see results. So I'm learning how to slow down. The work I put into the soil for the last several seasons have finally paid off this fall. It took three growing season to see the benefits. This is hard to wrap my head around. I'm used to expecting and requiring of myself and others immediate results. Pro-Active is a word I commonly used. Pro-Active isn't a word to me anymore its a way of life and the results from my Pro-activity are seen in ways I could never have imagined. Death rate of my animals, production of vegetables, my entire livelihood. Serious business, and if I'm not careful a real joy kill.

I've taken a bit of a break after Thanksgiving, Aside from the CSA I've really been doing a lot of resting, reading, writing and exploring. Taking time to remember why I made the choice to leave Seattle, my family, and my cushy life to live and eek out a living farming eight years ago. It was really because I loved food so much that I wanted to have the experience of growing it, knowing it on a level that I hadn't explored before, who knew It would turn out like this, who knew I would have a 40 member CSA in the middle of winter. I really didn't.

This life has caused me to really re-think how I look at economics, time and rest. My life now doesn't  fit into the traditional model I was used to before. I realized after reading the book Contrary Farmer that if I was going to really enjoy this life I was going to have to accept a different way of looking at things, especially economics. In the book he talks about profit and that profit for folks in this line of work is happiness. Rather than money its a sense of peace, or joy or just plain feeling happy, that is profit. It makes sense but I had to sit with it for a while.What financial value is happiness worth?  So my joy doesn't come from my ability to buy what I want it comes from being satisfied with what I have and making changes that I see fit for things that I really need. So I'm chewing on this idea. Chewing on identifying things that mean something to me.

Whats important to me? when I ask myself this question which I frequently do, my honest answer inevitably is "I want to LIVE". I want to be present through each day and each moment. I don't want to sleep through it or be distracted by fictional dialog in my head with someone I've had a disagreement with years ago or the fictional dialog of disagreements I might have in the future. I want to live without fear. I want to live passionately with compassion. That pretty much sums it up.

So I'm trying to throw out my normal expectations of immediate gratification/results I'm trying not to compare experiences or gauge my success based on now and the past. The things that I had and lost. The things I want and don't have. I'm building my life over now slowly, getting rid of old ways of thinking about things. Making time to live. chew slowly, to taste, to savor.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Waking up the farm

The farm wakes up well before I do. Before the sun has even considered peaking its big head up on the horizon. By 5am the chickens are off of their roosts and already hunting and pecking for bugs, The goats have made their way to the milk parlor door and wait for their milk maiden to come trudging out with clanking pails.  At 5 am I am either still asleep or writing in my journal. Most likely I'm asleep.This is a winters schedule and I have to enjoy this time while I have it.  

Morning milking is done by Linda while I tend to other morning chores, letting the sheep out of the barn, feeding chickens, cats and dogs. I go at a leisurely pace. This is winters pace and I have to enjoy this while I have it. I drink my coffee slowly and walk up to the barn rather than drive. I like the way the air smells in the morning and the way the cool air feels comes up from under my feet. This morning is cloudy and rain is in the forecast but just as the sun comes up in the east the moon is full and outrageously bright in the west directly over the green houses. This is the kind of stuff that just rocks my world.

By sun up the farm is loud. Lots of activity going on. Chickens are socializing and laying eggs which make a racket, dogs barking at the mail truck and each other. Lamb rams playing and lightly butting heads and taking breaks to eat hay and drink water. I am eating breakfast at this time, checking e-mails and making lists. I try to get motivated and start on the list. I’ve taken a quite a break over the last several weeks so I feel like work is reuniting with a good friend. I’ve had this cold so is not satisfying as it should be. As a matter of fact yesterday was just plain hard and I did very little. I think today will shape up to be much the same. I’ll work on web site stuff and plan the farm table dinner schedule and load up on fluids and rest. This is allowed, it’s the winter schedule and I have to enjoy being sick.  

I see a soup in my future, its 7 am and I’m craving lime and curry. Last week I made some chicken broth out of an old stewing hen from the freezer that was saved just for this very occasion. The flavor of chicken broth made from one of these pastured hens is remarkable. The stock is like jelly. All one needs is a steaming cup of this stuff to regain ones place in the world. I’ll keep my cup full today. But breakfast is hearty I’m hungry and need the energy so two potatoes browned with onions and pepperoni (left over from pizza night) scrambled with three eggs and homemade gouda melted in at the end. I have to admit it doesn’t sound good but I’m really enjoying it!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Putting the farm to bed

Everyone on the farm is put to bed except the farmers. The wood stove in the yurt has been loaded with the evenings wood and the oil lamps lit. The goats have been milked and now lay piled on a bed of hay just outside the barn. The sheep are shut up safely in the upper barn and the chickens sit quietly on their roost in the hen house. The pullets are in their house down for the night and the cows are in the east pasture eating off the round bale of hay I put out on Friday, or was that Thursday? I can just see their black silhouettes against the low giant orange moon. Back in the distance I see three llama heads rising out of the pasture like serpents out of  black waters. The farm is quiet now. Everyone is fed, everyone is safe. Exhale.

I wouldn't go so far to say it was a bad day. I would say it was a good day but I'm under the weather so I'm not seeing things as I normally would. These things happen occasionally, the seasons cold. It's hard not to feel sorry for myself when I feel this way but then after a minute its just ridiculous and I just accept I have a cold so just shut up I love you, drink some tea and later you can lie in bed and read and indulge in the 80 degrees your able to get the stove a cranking if you so wish. and I do. This is a true luxury that comes with cutting and heating with your own wood. When we used a propane heater we kept it at a chilly 63. Nice when your dead asleep actually preferably, but sometimes I want to feel like I'm in a warm bath. That's just me.

My little brush with self pity happened at chore time when a tired me got her foot stuck in the electronet fence while tending to the chickens. I tripped, I fell, hit my knee on the chicken water can that I was filling landed on my face, there were broken eggs and happy chickens willing to clean up and me tired, frustrated and just not wanting to feel the pain in my knee and shin. So I cried. Cried good too. and for a while. Its funny crying, you get hurt you might cry a little maybe, but usually if you do its cause other stuff is going on. Well once I started crying I found that I had all sorts of things to cry about. Starving children, abandon animals, war, and how could I serve others when I cant even serve myself so on, you get the point. But then the tears stopped I limped to the house, washed the saved eggs and wished for a cold beer.

This is just what happened. Now the farm is quiet the moon is so incredibly bright. I've got a shiner on my knee I'll need to ice but I'm off to the warm yurt where I'll bask in the soft glow and eat a healing soup, a huge glass of ice cold water, three vit C tablets 3 advil, read and fall into a deep restful slumber.