Friday, February 16, 2018

Farm Times in 2017

Facebook has been beating me over the head as of late. Beating me over the head with reminders of what my life had generally been like around this time in years past. It's an interesting feature, reminding you of what you posted a year ago, two years ago, eight years ago. Because I am not 'too good' for social media, there are plenty of posts and pictures that remind me that for the last four years, my life in January and February was awash with lambing and farm work. I am not at the moment doing farm work and have feelings about this. Feelings of lack of productivity, feelings of a loss of fitness and activity I had come to really love and appreciate, etc. But the farm I most recently worked on was not a particularly good fit for me. Or, more bluntly, the people who owned the farm and I weren't necessarily the best fits for one another. So I left on reasonably good terms (though when I asked about the W-2 forms I'll need to do my taxes this year the response was 100% no response at perhaps the good terms I think we left on are not as good). In any case, I didn't leave the farm until early summer, so there are plenty of things to show you from the winter and spring. This is predominantly winter, though Blogger has kindly chosen to upload these not totally in chronological order, so, well, yeah.

Each morning and some evenings (depending where we were in the winter era) I would load up a few bales of hay to bring out to the cattle and/or sheep. There was a stream to cross, and a bridge to help me do so, but the way the snow and ice and mud all interacted, there were many days where the simple act of rolling across the bridge was one that led me to be quite aware of my mortality. This is a photo that doesn't fully demonstrate how much standing water we were going through. Those are calf-high boots, and you'll see that the water is almost to their lips...but that's me standing in a slightly more shallow part of the great puddle. Perhaps the slightly more impressive visual is the watermark on the tractor wheel.
And here is a photo of a river at a motel at which I stayed on my drive back to Washington. This was January 1st 2017. I had been driving through snow for a number of hours and had seen a number of wrecks, one of which had all traffic detour entirely off the highway for a good number of miles. I decided enough was enough, and stayed here for the night.

A quick photo somewhere in Idaho the next day.
I was really excited about making my lodgings homey and warm on a reasonable budget. I'm not sure I'm ever going to get "too old" for Christmas lights, but maybe I will. This was my first small attempt at making things homey, later painting and Goodwill furniture finds helped a lot.
It was wickedly, wickedly cold for months. I had about four different quilts on my bed and flannel sheets, but without the living heat of Birdie, I may not have made it.
I think these are someone else's cows, and I just took a photo because it was pretty. Central Washington is radically different from Western Washington/Whidbey Island. This includes cultural norms, but also landscape and climate. While it was certainly striking and beautiful in many, many ways, I did not really "flourish" in regards to any of them.
I did a number of regular farm chores but a big part of the work I ended up doing for my former employers was related to their moving from a smaller property to a larger one, and preparing their old home for sale or their new home to be lived in. At one point I think I was painting and Birdie was outside at the new property, I went out for a quick break and found that the pup had left me a mouse present.
I think a lot about whether I could have somehow made the situation at this farm work. While it wasn't going to be my forever place, it certainly was beautiful and I did have the luxury of a home of my own and a place where I could walk out the door and let Birdie run and run in fields. Ha. Of course that luxury came with a boss who seemed to be constantly resentful of my ever doing so even when it was clearly outside of my working hours. Shrug. I wanted to make it work, but I couldn't, and I think it's better that way. I couldn't please them even though I rarely actually "fucked up" and no matter how positive I tried to be, at least one of them was always more into being negative, and thus, best to let it go. Nonetheless, I did get to see some beautiful light.

Andy was quite pleased with the X-mas presents he gave me last year, as he should have been. Here is one such tee-shirt he found and sent me. Also, here is my face before I gained 20 pounds.
And here is the other shirt sent to me:)
So cold. All of the time. But and cows and everybody else still needed feeding, and fed they were.

Birdie is not a dog who wants a coat, no matter how cold it may be. Existential hatred.
Such joy in looking for field mice.
Hay for everybod-ay.

I posted this photo on social media with a caption about how I had gone on a date, and then Birdie and I had walked through the darkness to check on the cattle, and only one out of the two things was romantic. It was the walk with Birdie. I saw the guy a few times more. It went nowhere other than some very bad sex that made me question whether it was even worth trying to date any more.

It's not obvious, but Birdie and the ducks she is corralling are all running around on an entirely frozen pond.
More home improvement progress I made. Really and truly, I was so excited to have my own space and to put things together, and build up a pantry of cooking materials etc. etc. That really is the thing I was most sad about in my departure, how committed I had been to trying to make myself a home and how I had to abandon a lot of my efforts.
It was, as already noted, an incredibly cold winter, and the house's only heat source was a gas fireplace in the living room. I closed off doors and tried as best I could to not be a popsicle. Sheepskins helped.
The view out my kitchen window.
The view from the bridge towards the cattle...that slushy/icy stuff may look surface-level but, as already illustrated above, it was deep. Did I and others get the tractor stuck on more than one occasion? Yes.

Rey was a good friend to Birdie. They were roughly the same age and loved to romp and rumble, especially in the spring and summer. I also learned how to plow snow with a rear attachment to the tractor. That was yet another thing I did not well enough for the boss man. Though I would argue that no one got stuck on any of the roads or paths I plowed, so, well, I didn't do the worst? Sigh. Can you tell that I'm really conflicted with how the whole thing went? I'm accustomed to being thought of as a generally capable and competent person, and I'm accustomed to being honest with people and them hearing me and appreciating it. This is not what transpired in Central Washington; I felt consistently like I was considered incompetent...but in ways that I had basically told them I knew nothing about. So, anyways. Rey was a good dog.
Woke up like this sometimes.
I got to work with more pigs than I had out on Whidbey. On Whidbey  I'd been kind of scared of them...but I will say I saw more of the appeal of pigs at this farm.
The guardian dogs on the farm generally put up with Birdie. I was glad for that.
Risking a photo without a hat.
Nipple egg.
The property from which they were moving before the hoop houses were taken down. Actually I left before they were moved. Womp womp.
Yup. The light was stellar.
I did go across the mountains at some point to see M&A and their kids. It was crazy how different it was on the other side. Green and relatively warm instead of white and relatively arctic.

Feeding the sheep at the old property was a tad risky because the tractor was at the new property, so I had to use an atv with a wagon hitched to it. But the snow accumulation was such that there was always a very real chance that I'd get the ATV stuck. Never got it so stuck I couldn't get it out myself, but that was a fear that kept me anxious each time I brought hay out to them.
Bald eagles were fairly standard sights to be seen.
And maybe below it is a hawk or Golden Eagle?

One morning, as I was driving to the other property to feed chickens and sheep, collect eggs, etc, I saw this. It turned out some dude had purposefully driven his car into the truck.
Pig organs post-slaughter.
I repurposed my favorite boots once they had been destroyed by rain and fire (and my ineptitude) so they would be home to paper whites and amaryllis. Had to leave them behind too.
I loved this morning you see how the sun hits the lip of the hay barn so it looks like Christmas lights?
To say that the house I lived in had issues is an understatement. It was not level, that is for certain, and underneath the floors any number of vermin lived, including skunks, copious mice and...maybe this raccoon who seemed to be returning after a night out.
So. Much. Snow.
But then, the good light.
Me trying my hand at making soap by myself for the first was deemed okay...but not great.
There were many ways that the skunks got under the house, and so we did try to plug up as many entryways as possible to then allow us to actually capture them. I really enjoy orally telling people the story of how skunks were dispatched, but don't have it in me to type it out at the moment.
This dog is my heart.
Pigs sheltering during yet another snowfall.
Still no skunk.
One bright side to my Central Washington times would certainly have to be that Whitney ended up working at a ski resort a little over an hour away. We didn't get to see each other all that often, but each time we did, my spirits were lifted a bit. I guess it just comes down to how much better it feels to hang out with a person who likes you and knows you than with people who don't really know you and don't really seem to like you.
We went to a very funny indoor flea market. I was looking for things to make my house a home, but instead we found a bunch of things we did not need, most of which was far more expensive than I would deem reasonable.
Sheep were sheared.
The main entrance to my house.
It did get slightly warm enough to start exploring the area a little on walks and the like. This was one such hike/walk. I think Birdie and I managed about a mile and a half of trail before we got high enough altitude-wise that there was still significant snow on the ground and we turned the whole trail was uphill and I could barely make it without slip sliding...most of the other people I saw still were in cross-country skis.
I need to get my bangs trimmed and lose 15 pounds.
A river.
Just best friends hanging out.
It was gorgeous though.
So many chickens. So many eggs. This chicken volunteered to jump on my shoulder as I was collecting eggs one afternoon.
I went to visit Whitney and tried skiing for the first time since I was 13...while I wanted to be badass and good...the reality was I was scared I was going to fall and break a leg pretty much the entire time. Any time I gained any bit of speed I just pictured the impending crash and doom. Whitney was a lovely sport about it all; very patient with my wide-eyed worry. I did three runs, maybe four? And went to the cafeteria bar to read and have a beer while Whitney got to go and do more serious runs without me. I was glad to have tried it, and I'm just accepting that it's not something I'll be trying again. I just wish I could ride the chairlift all the way up and then all the way back down, but apparently you can only do that if you're an employee. Hmpf.

Whitney was staying outside of Leavenworth. Birdie and I took a quick morning walk and it wasn't a shabby view a'tall.

Pig pile. This seems like it must have been in the spring, as the ground looks not entirely frozen nor snow encrusted.
The amaryllis as well as an orchid I got on the cheap.
And then calves started being born!
And I became dark kermit sith overlord.
I'll try to get around to the last half of my time on the farm, as it was quite beautiful. And maybe I can be a little less sad sacky about how the whole thing turned out.