Thursday, October 16, 2014

Fall Days Arrive and Farm Life Comes to a Close

You'd never know it, but Mt. Ranier is in the distance behind me in this photograph. I tried multiple times with all sorts of Instagram filters to get both my face and the mountain in play in this photo, and ultimately decided my face was more important. Perhaps a vain call on my part, but I know the mountain is there, and now you do too. This was taken on yet another tent night.
And this was taken a morning after sleeping at the beach. Sunrise from the ewes' main pasture. Just too much really. Years ago, when I first moved to Philly and started my job there, I went out to lunch with one of my bosses. The nature of our business was helping folks figure out what their short- and long-term goals were, so it wasn't much of a surprise when the boss turned the tables and asked me what I hoped to be doing in five to ten years' time. I was a bit flippant, but generally earnest, when I said I hoped I was living in the country, had some dogs and maybe some babies. The dogs and babies have yet to materialize, but the truth of my long desire to live in the country revealed itself in the last six months. It's not as if I never lived in rural settings before. My high school and college years were generally bucolic, and the many childhood (and adult) summers in Sewanee probably influenced my choice of educational institutions and locations. Philadelphia is a great city in many ways, but a city it is, and so it's not much of a surprise that many of my most cherished moments took place well outside its limits. Getting to live and work here on the farm really hammered home what was always pretty clear: I like it better in the pretty. I like myself better. I like my life better. Being confronted with numerous vistas or views, even when doing heavy labor or running errands, just makes me feel better about things. Some get off on the frenetic pace of a city and its countless distractions. I prefer the light streaming through the trees, or a shimmer of water beckoning as you turn a corner on a country road. I may never really figure out what my goals are, but I will prioritize - and be true to - my predilection for fewer restaurants and better views.
This is perhaps a little more of me than you might want to see, but I was so impressed by the bruise I got when I slipped down the beach stairs one afternoon that I couldn't help but want to share. It only got more dark and purple. I thought it looked a bit like the milky way, or some other space-related thing. It had a matching friend on my other thigh.
Space on my bum.
Rodo likes going on rides and came with me one day when I was driving hay to the lambs. He actually took the wheel so I could take this photograph.
The lambs under the Oak. I'll need to track down a copy of the photo we took of most all of us on the farm in the tree. It's pretty sweet.
The lambs finding my shoes incredibly fascinating.
I suggested that we all go to a local dive to do some karaoke. Hong Kong Gardens has Friday night karaoke, as I knew from seeing its sign countless times while driving to and from the ferry, but I had never gone there. It has a reputation for being a little seedy, and for knife fights in the parking lot. But we got ourselves together and went and not a blade was seen. It wasn't quite as scary as it could have been, but it was definitely an odd vibe. I don't get out all that much, staying at the farm more often than going to town, but I was still surprised that there were so many people who seemingly lived or worked nearby whom I had never seen. I sang Yellow Submarine, which generally went well.
Benjamin Franklin (Benji for short) is our Americauna chicken. She lays blue eggs and they are beautiful. This was the first of her eggs and a triumphant moment for me and W.
A view of my tent set-up during low tide. During high tide the water comes all the way past that large fallen tree. This was taken on one of my last mornings before finally breaking down the whole thing and acquiescing to the changing weather.
When I asked L. what her likes and dislikes were, she said a photograph I had posted on Instagram was her main like, and that not being there was her dislike. I struggled with this and ultimately failed to do a rendering that I would want her to have/got frustrated and gave up. I have since made her a new one that I feel much better about.
The original photo.
For the other L. her likes were darts and batman and her dislike was long distance. I made this around the time of her birthday.
While I'm still low on the totem pole when it comes to Rodo's true people preferences, he has been spending more time in my abode in the last month or so. This is great when he's clean, as he is an excellent alternative to an electric blanket. And less great when he's dirty, as he smells and gets dirt on my quilt. On this particular afternoon he was clean and got himself comfortable in my equally clean laundry.
Another view of the tent.
One of the lambs enjoying her breakfast. We've bid adieu to all the remaining wethers (castrated males) and ewe lambs we aren't going to add to the milking flock.
Aretha demands respect.
I went on a date a few weeks back. It seemed promising in the sense that the guy came up to talk to me first at the karaoke night, and I actually found him attractive and funny. I went for 'tough rock farm girl' as my look.
Beau the ram has been in with the ewes for the last month or so, which is a nice way of saying that he's doing a lot of humping. At this stage a lot of them most certainly are pregnant and we'll be seeing their progeny in January/February.
The view from where the lambs hang out.
One night W. asked me to close up the chickens' coop, which I was happy to do. By the time I got there, all the chickens had voluntarily come into the coop and begun to roost for the evening. They make these lovely cooing and clucking sounds, and because we've been so hands-on with them, they sleepily didn't get rattled when I stroked each and every one of their backs, even Penny the rooster. This was also the evening that I twice ran into a man standing outside with his pants down. The mystery and shock of that situation was resolved, but boy howdy it was weird at the time.
H. came with me to the U-District farmer's market a few weeks back, and afterwards we dilly dallied just long enough to enjoy some sushi.
My beach times gave me plenty of opportunities to gather up shells. This is only one part of my collection.
Chickens made a tomato tulip.
A misty morning after my last milking of the season. Once they started drying off we milked less frequently. First only in the mornings, then every other day, and then once a week.
On this day we loaded up all the lambs we weren't going to keep, which was especially challenging because a few days of rain had made their enclosure especially slick. Let me just tell you, maneuvering a 100+ lb sheep up a muddy incline and into a trailer is ripe for wipe outs and mud in your face. Neither W. nor I fully fell into the muck, but there were some close calls. Of course, I was pleased with the level of dirtiness I did develop.
Once the last of the lambs were loaded into the trailer, we spent more time vaccinating the remaining ewe lambs and giving them ear tags that identify them by name. I felt quite strong about the whole thing. The names of the new sheep include: Ruby, Sapphire, Madrona, Cholula, Tallulah, Ginger, Sage, Skye, Zatar, Thelma, Louise, Paisley, Fancy, Maeby, Ariel, Aurora, Lucille, Elvira, Clementine and three others that I can't quite remember at the moment.
Dirty work, dirty hands.
Another photo op of all the interns in one place at the same time.
This was our "stoic" shot.
This is Louise.
Me looking down at the lambs.
Two weeks ago another nearby farm had an art/music shindig. W., B., and I walked the approximate mile and a half to get there. It was a nice evening. Not too chilly. Art was hung in a converted school bus and music was played by a number of folks. Another example of realizing that there are more people than I realize living and working around these parts.
H. and E. having a goodbye beverage. H. left last week I think. It was a sad day for us all.
D. played a set and was good, though I really wanted him to play Freebird.
Sad about H.'s departure, wearing my new pink sheep sweater.
H. and W. schmiling.
I joined in and lost my teeth.
The seasons are certainly changing. The mornings are darker, and often wetter, than they had been. This does lead to some nice walks through misty fog to feed the lambs. Here the fog is thick enough that you couldn't actually see the sound stretching out below. 
An owl hung out in a tree by my porch the other night. They're so stealth. I've seen a few from time to time, but have no doubt that there have been far more examples of their seeing me and my being totally unaware. Every once and a while I'll wake up to the sound of a hoot or a screech and smile.
My replacement painting for L., which is upside down because of course it is. Her likes were fall weather (I took this as foliage) and Vespas, and her dislike was wasps.
I've begun to try to write and reflect on this whole life/coast/work change that I began seven months ago. While I think I've certainly captured the beauty of the place and perhaps conveyed the general uptick in my level of general contentedness, I'm not sure I've really tried to document the whole of the experience, which necessarily includes the people I've worked with and their respective personalities and histories. A rag tag bunch we most certainly were, but together we got through the season. I hope that my time away (I'm soon leaving the farm for a few months) will give me more time to put together some better account of the experience. One that is true and illustrative of all I've most enjoyed as well as the bumps in the road that one inevitably experiences whenever they try something new. W., H., B., and I sat around a fire a few weeks back, and we discussed the season a bit, touching on some of our 'highlights' and 'lowlights' and it was interesting to remind one another of moments of glory or defeat. It's amazing how fast time can go by, so that something that only happened two or four or six months ago can feel simultaneously like yesterday and like five million years ago, but that was clearly the case in our collective memory. Time, how fickle and strange you are. A year ago I was pretty miserable, now I am not. I still have things to figure out. And just what I'm doing with my life is still a mystery, but some things have been sorted out for the better. And it was through this place and time that things have improved. Perhaps all I can really say right now, but perhaps it's not all I will ever say.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Bidding Adieu to Summer

Where August and September went are yet another mystery in this whole thing of life. But, as usual, I have proof that something happened via the photos I snapped with my phone. M&A and I had talked about going to the Vashon Island Sheep Dog Trials back in July, but I had forgotten about it until M. called me to ask if I was still interested...I was and what was even better was that the day we could all go was also my day off. So no conflict. I got on the ferry and drove to Seattle, where I then met up with M&A and we were off!
We went on the final day, which was actually not the main event, which was held the previous day. On this day the competition was for novice/beginning dogs. They were still learning the tricks of the trade, but since none of us were terribly well versed in the sport to begin with, it was still quite interesting.
M. and I facing the wrong way and thus shrouded in shadows.
My phone does not take photographs from great distances very well. It was a pretty big course and the dogs had to run all the way to one end to get the sheep before maneuvering them through a number of gates and then back to the shepherd.

Slightly better?
Things really started to wind down a bit in mid to late August. We said goodbye to a number of ewes whose days as milkers had come to an end, as well as many a lamb that would not be making it into the milking flock. This involved much wrangling and shuttling from one field to another. And on the day the lambs (and pigs) were to depart the farm (and this world) everyone had to get up quite early to load them. Headlamps were key in this regard.
Oh how the chickens have grown. We took another photo to demonstrate the progress they've made and on this day we found our first eggs! Since then the chickens have really started producing. We usually find four to six eggs each day. Some are blue! All the chickens have also been named. They are: Penny the rooster, Benji (short for Benjamin Franklin), Persephone, Jane, Red, Beatrice, Gonzala, Volcon and Houdini. In this photograph I'm holding Houdini (on my right) and Persephone. W. is holding either Red or Beatrice (they're hard to tell apart).
D. who lives on the farm had a musical show at a local bar and we all came out to see him perform. A nice night.
E. and H. after the show.
And H. holding a drum that others beat.
This was a lamb that H. named Cowgirl. She is no longer with us, but H. will have her fleece forever.
On another visit to Seattle M&A made cheese-stuffed squash blossoms that were quite delightful fried up.
I also finally gave them their paintings. A. liked calm flowing waters and coffee, while disliking noise. M. liked "nice light" and foxes while disliking ketchup.
H. had an unfortunate run-in with a sharp knife when she attempted to whittle a stick.
W. set up a nice outdoor area for the chickens to enjoy and they surely have taken full advantage of their larger environment. Penny the rooster is just so handsome.
Often enough one of the chickens will lay an egg with TWO YOLKS inside of it. I never cease to be excited about this, though I now can tell quite quickly when it will happen (the eggs are definitely larger than the single yolk eggs).
A day when it was both sunny and raining simultaneously.
I continued to spend many of my nights sleeping at the beach, this was on one such evening.
And on one morning when I looked out of my tent I saw a coyote trotting by. My phone's lens was fogged, so I actually saw it much more clearly than this photograph would suggest.
On another night at the beach I was a bit annoyed by the cover band music I could hear at a festival clear across the sound in Mukilteo. It was not particularly good music, but boy did it carry. My annoyance lessened when a fairly substantial fireworks display started. Again, my camera didn't like the distance so I couldn't get a really good shot...but in person it was quite beautiful.

Me gussied up a bit to sell cheese at one of our weekly farmers markets.
Another tent night still life.
I went to Prima Bistro one early evening to partake in their happy hour and ended up ordering their charcouterie plate, which I enjoyed thoroughly.
Another tent view. The moon through the clouds. I was generally quite comfortable down there, as I had an air mattress, sleeping bag and plenty of layers (including Smartwool long underwear) and the weather held out for quite some time. I finally broke down my tent last week when the temperatures started dipping...but it was less the temperature and more the more frequent rains that caused me to give up the ghost.
I'd been thinking about cutting my hair for a while and finally decided to do so on my day off...but was then frustrated to find that none of the salons on the island were open on Mondays. Luckily W. had two visiting friends, one of whom is a professional haircutter. She offered to do it and I happily accepted. Getting one's hair cut outside is much nicer than a salon, is my new opinion on such things. I like the cut. It's a little shorter in the back than I had initially expected, but I think it looks nice on the whole. That said, I kind of miss my long hair and think that I'm basically just going to grow it out all over again.
On the same day as the hair cut, W. and her friends and her father and I went to a nearby beach to go salmon fishing.
I didn't catch any salmon but I did catch a little bottom feeder trash fish that I then threw back.
W. on the other hand actually caught a salmon. I think this was around 8 pounds. Very cool.
Another beach view.
I made a particularly delightful breakfast sandwich with our chickens' eggs one morning.
The sheep going in for the evening milking.
A harvest party bonfire.
C. and her college friends investigating a dead crab.