Sunday, July 13, 2014

Summer in Full Swing

Well hello again. More photos of the last month or so. As usual, not necessarily in chronological order and weirdly formatted due to my uploading directly from my phone (I really am annoyed by this Blogger). In June I took a ferry from Anacortes to Orcas island in order to spend two nights with M&A and M.'s mother, S. It was lovely to see them all. I hadn't seen S. since my departure from Pennsylvania back in January. M&A, the dogs and I took a little tour of Moran State Park, which was quite pretty. We went up a mountain and then down it again. So the following photos are of me and M. enjoying a pretty view and kind of wetland area. Then the delicious scones and bacon that S. made one morning, as well as the puzzle we all worked on at one point or another during my brief time there. The view from their rented cottage at different times of day and, finally, a photograph I took before I got on the ferry to go to Orcas in the first place.





More rabbits met their ends as of late. This time I got my hands dirty, learning how to quickly and humanely break their necks before E. got down to the butchering. I didn't really do any butchering, though I did cut the head/feet off the last rabbit with a very sharp knife. Next time around I hope to try my hand at some of the more delicate work of truly butchering, which includes pulling out various organs (carefully as to not puncture the gallbladder) and taking the skins off. One thing at a time.

While he-E. was doing  the detail work, she-E. was working on cleaning up the pelts.

Rodo couldn't help but get blood drops on his coat due to his desire to be where the action was.
Another day entirely we played croquet. I think I ended up coming in third or fourth.
And then yet another day E. and I milked together and this happened.
After my return from Orcas Island I decided I wanted to try my hand at watercoloring. I struggled at first to think of anything I actually wanted to paint until I came up with a way to give myself some focus. I asked E. to tell me two things she liked and one thing she didn't and then I painted it...and then I asked everyone else on the farm to do the same and have been working on a series ever since. Here is D.'s...his reply was that he liked unicorns and everything...and that he disliked nothing. So there you have it. To me there is a narrative to this painting...the unicorn is in some sort of doctor's office but has a choice to make. This actually is a photo of the painting before I painted the doors.
S. said he liked mountain views and golden larches, and did not like I-5 (main interstate round these parts)...this, too, is a photo before it was finished.
W. said she liked Bella's (a visiting Boxer/Mastiff mix) cheeks and raspberries, and she did not like nettle stings on her calves. In my mind Bella's cheeks are soothing W.'s nettle torn legs. Others that I have made include ten-year old A.'s liking falling trees and golden flappy bird and disliking little murder clouds; L.'s liking of a spotless/shiny kitchen and everyone getting along and disliking being surprised by snakes, H.'s liking of dogs and ice cream and disliking mushrooms; C.'s liking of peeing when you really have to pee and sandwiches while disliking heartburn; M.'s liking of nice light and foxes and disliking ketchup; and E.'s liking of Rodo and Fluffy and disliking of George W. Bush. I'll probably attempt to upload all of them at some later time. S. was so taken with this basic idea he asked me what my likes/dislikes were and then painted me a picture, which made me incredibly pleased. My likes were floating in calm water and peonies while my dislike, which probably won't come as much of a surprise, was caterpillars. I will definitely have to share S.'s lovely rendering.
H. with her longtime companion Douglas the ram and me.
The final part of the stairs leading to the farm's beach. They get too steep for Rodo or Jett to deal with and both need to be hoisted. This was when Rodo stopped walking on his own.
And this is me wearing muck boots and a bathing suit at the beach, because obviously.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Summer Chicken Etc. Times

I generally try to say hello to the chickens at least once a day, more when they were smaller and needed re-ups of food and water more frequently (now they can handle the big girl feeder and water systems, both of which don't need quite as much attention). Over the past few weeks I've taken quite a number of photos with the chickens, as you will soon see.

On another day I went down to the beach and Rodo accompanied me. This was in peak caterpillar season and the first time that the beach was not at all relaxing. I had set myself up a sitting spot on a few well placed logs and planned on whiling away a few hours reading, sipping a beer, taking in the scenery...but it became quite evident, quite quickly, that caterpillars were coming at me from all sides. It was like the Antietam of the PNW. Okay, that's terribly hyperbolic and I'm not sure it even makes sense, given that the caterpillars kept scaling the ramparts of my log fortress, but I killed not a one...instead it was vigilant reconnaissance followed by a flurry of flicking. Flicking them off the logs, off my ankles, off my bag, off my cast aside boots. I would look down the length of the log and see no more trundling their ways towards me, read a paragraph, look up again and see ten in all directions. It was horrific. Rodo cared not a damn.
A morning milking with Judy in the foreground. There are five of us who milk the sheep and I've found that I'm lagging behind in terms of being able to identify a sheep readily by their udder. I generally recognize the ones who kick, or have some very noticeable difference from the average...I'm also just bad with memorization and while today I could tell you for sure that Sven the sheep doesn't like her second let down and has triangular nipples, I worry that in three weeks' time I'd be back to not knowing. More vigilance is needed in most all things, I suppose.
A beautiful day this was.
I've been going to the same market for the last four or five weeks, and at this market there is a shrimp man, and it has been my goal in life to buy his shrimp. The first week I didn't even realize he was there until he was sold out. The second week I was able to get a pound and a half of shrimp, some of which I shared with S. upon my return to the farm - we stood with the plastic bag held between us, just peeling away with no accoutrements. These shrimp are dainty in size, once their heads and tails are removed and a very interesting mix of sweet and salty. Definitely different from your Gulf or Atlantic shrimp. The remainder I then peeled and mixed with a freshly cut avocado, lemon juice and a bit of mayo and capers.
I was getting tulips to freshen/brighten up my room (and to distract from the clutter that I inevitably find myself surrounded by) for quite a while, but now most of the flower vendors at the market have more peonies...and so now I've gotten into peonies.
At some point in the last few weeks W. and I met up with C. and her out-of-town friends, then returned to the farm where ziplining was done. Well, done by everyone but me. I'm still a little wary of the drop that I could experience if I had any trouble holding on to the rope. I have confidence that I will overcome this fear by the conclusion of my time here.
One month and a few days after our first chicken photo. It was much harder for all of us to stay still. They've grown so big!
We continue to have bunny rabbits (less so after Thursday's "harvest") and this was a particularly cute newbie.
Chicken chicken chicken.
I haven't been cleared for tractor driving. It's potentially dangerous if you don't know what you're doing, and it takes a bit of time to master it (as with all dangerous things, you would think). This means that I can't do some of the daily maintenance the farm needs to properly run - like bringing bales of hay and grain to various locations around the farm. While I can't operate the machine itself, I do from time to time help out W. or S. when they do their run. You can fit about 5 bales (well, of the old 60 pound bales...now we have monstrous 130 pounders) on the bucket/fork of the tractor at one time. I usually help load it up and then hop on the back. And this is what my view facing forward is like.
Little abstract caterpillar water photo for good measure.
I think I mentioned that we did a fair amount of sorting the other week. This is a photo of E., L., E., H. and S. (from left to right) looking at the chart of lambs born this year. They are considering the qualities they want in the lambs they keep for milking versus the lambs they keep for meat versus the lambs they sell to others.
And this is a fritatta I made the day of the sorting.
And this is an 'everything but the kitchen sink' salad I made at some other time.
Peonies, irises and tulips. And clutter.
My porch peonies and burgeoning beach shell collection.
On the occasional Friday I've gone down to another beach off the farm and met up with a bunch of other intern/farm types for an hour or so of "sports." This has generally been a very informal version of ultimate frisbee. I can say that I really never thought I'd find myself enjoying this activity, but it's kind of nice to run around and try to catch something...which I do manage to do from time to time. This is a view of the sky/west after a good round of frisbee times.
We recently pulled out some properly aged feta for the markets, and wanted to make signs to let our customers know. E. asked me if I wanted to help and I demurred, feeling that my drawing/writing abilities weren't terribly good. But I ended up lingering around while she and H. made signs and eventually sat down and gave it a shot. This was mine.
Me and Gonzala the chicken.
The shrimp man and I had a missed week when I asked him to reserve shrimp for me that I would pick up at the end of the market, and he forgot to do so. I nearly cried. The next week things worked out much better and the next day I peeled two pounds of shrimp and made a creamy capery lemony shrimp fettucine dish.
After milking the sheep expect to be fed, but a certain gate needs to be opened to allow them access to the feeders. W. was about to open said gate, but first she took to her pulpit and blessed them all.
Two or three weeks ago none of these chickens could jump up and perch like this. So grown up.
We had visitors on the farm a while back and one of the things to do to prep beforehand was muck out the lamb barn so it was no longer half full of dirty hay bedding. I did the majority of that mucking and so much forking led to some blisters. Farm hand farm hand basically.
Earlier this week a number of us went to our local gas station/beer/burger joint for lunch/to celebrate D.'s 26th birthday. Bella the visiting Boxer/Mastiff pup came too. L. would like me to crop her out of this photo, but I think every part counts.
Later that same day there was a beach excursion. I stayed in the water far longer than most, finding it cold but not unbearably so. In the background you can see the result of a landslide that happened last year.

Friday, June 06, 2014

Island and Farm Life

As usual, the uploading of photos from my phone results in images that are not chronological, nor centered as I would like. Life is tough, but I'll persevere regardless. Yesterday was my day off. There was a farm activity in which I was interested in taking part, but I was assure that more hooves will need trimming so I took the advice of S. and drove north to the Coupeville ferry. There I walked on, leaving my car behind, and made my way to Port Townsend, which is a cute town indeed. I saw many neat Victorian houses, a wooden fire tower, plenty of water and this truck. 
This was my view on the way to Port Townsend. It was a rockier voyage than the many trips I've taken to Mukilteo, and I was left feeling a little queasy for the first hour or so of walking around town. This probably contributed, also, to my entire lack of interest in browsing in most all of the shops and galleries that make up the location. I did get a freshly brewed iced Earl Grey tea that helped matters somewhat. And eventually I felt good enough to try some udon soup at the Asian noodle restaurant that all folks on the farm had been telling me about forever.
On another day I walked over to feed the lambs and fill up their water troughs. Unsurprisingly, this happened. I really have basically finally and totally gotten immune to most of these caterpillar incursions. Though were I to find one in my hair, I'm not sure how calm I'd continue to be.
We all take turns making dinner on the farm. I love getting to cook for folks, as I felt like I didn't do nearly enough home cooking for other people during my time in Philly. On this particular evening I made a Coca Cola barbeque sauce and spatchcocked/grilled a chicken, which turned out quite good according to me and all who consumed it (we actively had to tell the nine year old not to keep going back for more before the milkers came back for dinner). I also thinly sliced turnips and radishes, added a bit of olive oil, salt, pepper and lemon juice and just folded them up in tin foil and put them on the grill as well. Once they were cooked through I quickly added arugula into the mix and voila: side dish.
Last Monday. This Monday? The farm hosted a bunch of current or future farmers for a tour of our operations. The preparation for this event was considerable, and I'd say it went quite well. It was interesting to see so many others with interests in starting their own creamery or farm, and it reconfirmed just how much work and planning it takes to really make a 'go' of it.
After the walking tour of the farm, which included stops to see the lamb barn (now free of all lambs and mucked out), pigs, actual lambs, the milking parlor and the flock, everyone reconvened and tried our various products to much ooohs and aaaahs.
L. talking about some of the paperwork and planning she has done to keep the farm legit.
Folks walking down the hill to the parlor.
This chicken has been named (by me) Gonzaga. She is the littlest, but she is also the fastest. So she is Speedy Gonzala.
I've been doing the same market for the last couple of weeks, taking the ferry across the way each Sunday. The last two weeks I drove the farm's monstrous truck. Like, seriously, it's huge. And this was the view as we made our way across the waters.
On a different day, last week, we had a very busy morning and afternoon of sorting lambs. This was done with a number of purposes - to determine which lambs we'd be selling to another organization, to determine which lambs we'd be keeping and raising for meat, and which lambs we'd be keeping and raising as replacement/additional milkers. The lambs are in two different fields so this required multiple rounds of sorting as well as plenty of heavy lifting into the trailer to get lambs from one field or another, or to have them all in one place for the buyers to come and get them. It was technically my day off, but hoisting and lifting and carrying sheep (as well as learning about the the thought and decision process for keeping or culling) was too good an opportunity to pass up, so I stayed on the farm and in my dirty farm clothes. And let me tell you what, there sure was plenty of chances for lifting these ever-growing lambs. Note the piece of twine that is being used as a belt because I couldn't find the only belt I have/my pants will fall down otherwise.
It was only after all the photos were taken that I realized that my phone's lens was totally smudged. Alas.
We've added a new market to the mix, which is the one I've been doing the last few weeks. On our first visit it was a beautiful day and one of the food vendors was dim sum oriented and there was no way I couldn't give it a try. I wouldn't say it was all that great, but it looked pretty.