Monday, April 28, 2014

NYC Wedding Fun Times

Before my big move and new surroundings, I was still in Philly, plotting how to get it all done. One thing that I also needed to be kept in mind was the March wedding of SP and CG. There was pretty much no way I wasn't going to go to their wedding. I had been lucky enough to see them mere hours after their engagement last year, and having known SP since I was but a wee 13-year old girl, not going would just be silly. I decided the best way to insure my attendance was to buy the plane ticket I'd need to get from the west coast to the east coast when I was still receiving regular paychecks, and that's just what I did. Then late last month, I did my morning milking responsibilities, pulled myself together and drove to Seattle. Where I briefly met up with a long-ago wine night comrade for a drink. I slept at M&A's for the evening and then woke up at the crack of dawn to get to off-site airport parking and then to the terminal itself. And about seven hours later I was in L. and Fat T.'s apartment shooting the breeze with them and S. After much debate, we ended up having dinner at Bar Tabac. I had a steak with mushroom risotto, which at least S. and I agreed 'won' as far as everyone's entrees. Though all was quite tasty. L. is one of my most favorite people in the whole world and while it wasn't like we were seeing each other every week when I lived in Philly and she in Brooklyn, the time zone difference and the fact that I'm not constantly on Google Chat made having some quality face time with her even better.

The next day L. had to work for a while. I think I just sort of hung out before getting on the subway and meeting up with her at her office and then heading to Manhattan for ramen from Ippudo. We had a longer wait than the last time, but it was pleasant enough. I regaled L. with a story about a weird dude I hooked up with when I was in Ohio (highlights include his belief in scientology and ghosts). I ordered the shrimp or seafood broth ramen, which was new to the menu and was a mix of the traditional pork broth with something most certainly shrimpy. I didn't love the broth, but I did love the more springy noodles that came with it.
I had left a few different dresses with L. before I headed west for the express purpose of having options for what to wear at the wedding. But I've lost a tiny bit of weight (or at least I feel like I have) and wasn't 100% loving any of the choices. So after Ippudo L. was a marvelous sport about going to H&M and seeking out another option. I tried on a variety of dresses that I liked in different ways, but it was the dress L. insisted I try that really won the day.
Seriously though. This guy is married! The wedding itself was held in a beautiful venue, chock full of ambiance and loveliness. And the wedding itself, along with the food, dancing and speeches was just an all around wonderful time. I should have had about two less cocktails than I did, but there's nothing I can do about that now.

SP and I went to high school together and there was a fairly strong contingent of high school folks at the wedding, including LS, BM, WB and TN. Here is TN and his lovely lady friend, with whom I also shared anecdotes about weird guys I have dated, because of course I did.
On Instagram I entitled this 'all grown up!' It really just is crazy. I remember SP consistently getting detention for sleeping through all sorts of classes and being a part of a host of experiences and events that still are meaningful to me, even all these years later. And now he's a grown up, married to a wonderful woman. TN, too, is someone with whom I have a number of shared experiences, and here he is all cleaned up.
I uploaded these photographs using the Blogger app, and for some reason they're not centering properly. I am not going to worry too much about it, but I am aware.
The morning after the wedding I trekked out to Sunset Heights? Sunrise? Brooklyn to meet up with R. for some dim sum. R. and I grew up right across the street from one another, though I have about 4 years on him. We didn't really keep in touch once I left for high school or after my parents moved to Tennessee, but in the last few years I'd say we've created a new neighborly friendship and it was quite nice to see him and then share some dumplings. I told him weird dating stories too. My goodness, broken record much?
And then the fun was over and I flew back to Washington.
This trip was quite nice in so many different ways. Farm life is incredibly satisfying to me, but the fact is that I've only been on the farm for three months and I don't know anyone all that well - and no one knows me all that well either. It's fun to get to know people and to figure out how you'll interact and engage with one another, but it can be exhausting and lonely at times. So seeing so many different people with whom I have extensive histories, and enjoying their company and observing them enjoy mine, was really valuable to me. It reminded me of what I'm capable of conversationally and in terms of interpersonal relationships, and just generally buoyed my spirit. I feel like I came back to the farm with a clearer ability to be myself than might have been in effect the week before I left. But boy howdy, was I glad to get back to the island. NYC is just never going to be a place I think of as 'wonderful' or 'relaxing.' Which is not to say that I didn't have an entirely wonderful time, because I did.

Sunday, April 06, 2014

Another Round Up of Pacific Northwest Experiences

It has been a bit of time since I did the heavy lifting of exporting photos I took on my phone to my computer, which then allows me to upload them onto the blog. There may be a better way to accomplish this task than the way I'm doing it, but, alas, I don't know about that other way. So here we are. Things on the farm have been good. Last week I got on an airplane and flew to NYC for a wedding of a dear old friend but will save those particular photos for another day. All the photos below come from the last few weeks and are not chronological.

We'll start with the basketball. W., who worked on the farm last year and came back, at some point asked me if I wanted to go to the beach and play basketball. Anyone who has known me in the last 15 years could be quite confident in thinking that I wouldn't want to play basketball...but that I might like going to the beach. And that thinking would be generally sound. But here I'm really trying to get out of some of my more rutted comfort zones. Initially I didn't actually plan on playing because, well, I'm not any good and I get easily embarrassed when others see me fail. But somehow sitting on the side while a bunch of other folks - none Michael Jordan caliber players - just wasn't going to work. So while I don't think anyone on my team said at the end 'that cc, she sure plays a  mean b-ball,' I do think my participating was the better option. And! Miracle of miracles, even though I sucked and got out of breath and was still wearing muck boots and had to keep pulling my pants up, I actually enjoyed the experience. Comfort zone, you be busted.
On an earlier day between lamb and milking responsibilities I walked down to the beach. The farm is a mix of mostly woods, but with a few fields for the sheep and then a fair amount of cliff/beach. This was actually the first time I walked down to the beach during the daytime hours, my previous trip having been at night for a bonfire. The way down is steep and not without a degree of treacherousness. But the payoff is something else. The family's various sons and friends have, over the years, kind of made a fort on the shore. So I basically just walked around the water for a while and then sat on the fort reading a John Irving novel.
And now onto a completely different thing. Milking. So we milk twice a day, once in the morning and once in the evening. With about 50 sheep to milk it takes about three or four hours from start to finish - this includes gathering the sheep, pre-sanitizing the equipment before milking, the actual milking, and a bunch of additional clean up post-milking. The milking itself has a definite rhythm and flow to it. The older sheep know the drill and are generally well behaved. The newer, younger sheep, on the other hand, are still getting into the swing of things. We can fit about 11 or 12 sheep on the platform at a time, so that generally means about 5 groups to get through. The first group is almost always the same set of veterans. These ladies know that the sooner they get up there, the sooner they'll get the tasty treat of grain...and the sooner they can get on with their sheep lives and go back to the barn or lie out in the grass. The second group is also generally 'in-the-know' as far as how and where to stand and what to expect from the whole thing. But the latter groups, the younger groups, they're still working some things out. They are so motivated by grain that they try to burrow under the bellies and between the legs of their fellow sheep for just one lost grain. At times, they just decide that they'd rather be facing an entirely different direction altogether. These are not the best choices when it comes to milking, but it does make for some decent photo opportunities. In this shot you can't totally make it out, but Coriander - the black blur in the lower left corner - has definitely had enough of facing the right way. You can also see E. adjusting a set of claws on a more well behaved sheep and the silver cans or urns into which all the milk gets pumped.
And on yet another totally different day, chickens were killed. I didn't do the killing myself but I was a definite witness and found the process fascinating. Not in a psycho killer kind of way, mind you, but in, well, a more mindful way. It's all fine and good to talk a big game about liking to see where one's food comes from, but you never can be sure that you can live up to your own hype until the opportunity presents itself. For better or worse, I was fine. The method used for dispatching the chickens was humane and quick and rife with photogenic opportunity, but somehow it didn't quite seem like the thing to do. So here is just an after shot.
One person or another from the farm goes to Seattle for farmers markets during the weekend. I've been about three times. It's funny to go from being a consumer at a market to a seller. The weather has also been rather miserable on market days, which impacts our sales, which is its own problem. But it is fascinating when people come up to our tent, try our products, ask us all sorts of questions then kind of smile (sheep-ishly) and walk away. It feels like their curiosity about the products and farm are really all part of their feeling of a social compact: cannot take free sample without engaging in conversation. But, in a way, that's kind of the worst. We're not pushers at our stand; we let the products (a variety of cheeses, amazingly rich yogurt, and a kind of creme fraiche/cream cheese hybrid...not to mention soap, roving and fleece) speak for themselves. We're all happy to be a part of the farm, so talking about the sheep and various products is not a burden...but if you really just want to try a sample and not buy anything, all the questions seem a bit insincere. It's also funny to be on the other side of the table in terms of being in a customer service role. I did a number of catering gigs at high falutin' parties and events in my last year of college, and I recall quite well the basic tenets of the service industry: always smile, always be helpful, but never remind the people you're serving that you might actually know something they don't. These basic rules apply to the markets as well. At one market a lady came up and began to tell us about how her employer (a medieval recreated community or something) cleaned their three sheeps' fleeces. Having spent two years washing fleece, I knew that the logic behind the method she described made no sense, and that there was a better way to do it...but instead of saying that, I simply nodded and smiled. In any case, we live on an island, so to get to Seattle or back to the island you have to take a ferry. It's a pretty quick trip, about 20-30 minutes, which really go by so quickly that, to me, it hardly seems like it has happened. Enough time to go up to the higher level canteen and grab a cup of coffee (or beer if it's after the market)...or to remain in the car and read a book for a bit. This is the view of Whidbey from the mainland ferry terminal on a decidedly not-sunny day.
Now that we're getting into spring, the morning milkings don't start in quite the same amount of darkness they did when I first arrived. We milk around 7, but that may soon be bumped up to coincide even more with the sun. The main buildings and central part of the land, where we do most of our living, is on a kind of peak of a series of hills. I'm not sure if that's exactly right. It's like a tiered hill maybe? The family's house, the lamb barn, the cheesemaking facilities, the farm store, lodging for apprentice/interns is all on the uppermost part of the hill. The milking parlor and two barns are down aways and are hemmed in on one side by the cliffs that we must traverse to get to the beach. There's a golf cart we use to get from place a to place b a fair amount in order to save a bit of time (or transport hay, grain or any other number of things). You have to go down a fairly long drive (well, not really that long...maybe three minutes) through soaring pines to get to the barn, and the view you meet each time - the main meadow, milking parlor and barn, all framed by a huge sky and the Puget Sound, never gets old to me. I took this photo on one early morning milking day after having gathered all the sheep in preparation for starting.
This was taken the same day I went down to the beach for the first time during the day. I was relatively pleased with myself. It was also a properly sunny, if slightly brisk, day, which made it all the better. You could really see some of the Cascades looming to the east.
One of the markets we go to is in the U-District of Seattle. There is a great little biscuit/coffee shop there that pretty much all the vendors go to before the start of the market. They have ridiculously tasty biscuit sandwiches. This, for example, was a cheddar chive biscuit with fried egg, arugula, manchego and prosciutto. Good stuff.
A view of the sheep making their way from the barn to the parlor area.
On yet another day altogether S. (Chairman of Fun/Farm Owner), E. (other apprentice) and I went over to another area of the farm to start setting up the feeders for our oldest group of lambs. This part of the property is also home to S. and L.'s (Cheesemaker/Farm Owner) son E. In any case, E.-the-intern and I were shoveling huge quantities of old poop and debris from last year away from the feeder set up. To say it was a potent smell, unearthing multiple layers of lamb shit, would be an understatement. Then S. used the tractor bucket to scoop the copious amounts of said poop up and away. This allowed us to then put down fresh straw and whatnot for the 30+ lambs who would soon call this particular spot home. After much of the work was accomplished, E.'s husband I. and W. stopped by for an impromptu flute and oboe concert on E.-the-son's porch. I don't know if this kind of thing really happens at all farms, but I'm glad that I ended up at one where your work day is punctuated by the occasional afternoon beer or musical event. Especially since there are almost no bad places here. By that I mean, almost anywhere you might stop and stand for a minute is going to give you a view of something beautiful. For example, we were on E.-the-son's back porch, which is at the edge of a cliff and, through a number of Madrona and pine trees, gives you a fairly lovely view of the water. Also note Rodo the Jack Russell at W.'s feet looking on with rapt attention.
Another view of Coriander, the rebel sheep.
I think on the same market day as the above sandwich I also remembered to bring cash so I could buy flowers to put in my room. Tulips and daffodils were the most represented and I chose to go with bright orange/red, even though the color scheme of the room doesn't really fit.
To get to the path/stairs to the beach you have to walk through a main sheep meadow. After successfully making it all the way to the top without falling over or having a heart attack, I spent a bit of time saying hi to the sheep. These are pretty domesticated/friendly sheep. They definitely equate all of us with food and are not against the occasional nose scratch or ear rub, which is different from the sheep that I worked with back in New York. Rosemary was particularly sociable on this day. She's actually the same sheep as in the photo I took of the lamb emerging into the world. Perhaps she remembers my being there for the event...probably not. In any case, we took a selfie.
More beautiful morning light in the milking parlor.
I get one full day off per week and generally try to make the most out of them, whether that means sleeping in past 8 (!) or going to Seattle just depends on my planning and level of energy. On one such day off I went to Seattle to hang with M. and A. We went to Nishino for sushi, which was just marvelous. I spent way too much money and ate far too many things, but the fancy splurge was worth it. Here you can see the sake flight and chirashi bowl I thoroughly enjoyed. The salmon was stupendous.
W. running with some of the weaned lambs. Basically we feed the lambs formula for the first 30 days of their life, introducing hay and grain as the days go by. At 30 days the lambs should no longer need the milk/formula, and if they have hit the magic weight of 30 pounds in addition to their age, we turn them out into the world where they can enjoy grass, grain and hay but no more formula. Our final lamb count was 103, which means that we've been doing a whole heck of a lot of feeding over the last two months. Now, it's not so labor intensive, but for a while we were mixing up 3-4 6-8 gallon buckets of formula three to four times a day. Let me tell you a thing or two about lamb milk formula: the smell of its powder on your clothes is not entirely pleasant and whisking such large quantities many times a day is not altogether awesome. On the flip side I'm pretty sure that you can see more muscle definition in my arms due to all the lifting and carrying involved with the formula as well as the hay. It was quite something to see the newly freed lambs get a first taste of freedom. They run in a kind of whooshing group and will follow you en masse if they think you're likely to feed them (which we all are, so we are often followed). W. enjoyed running with the lambs on this particular day.
And finally, we moved the trampoline onto flat ground near the lambs' enclosure. I, of course, was extremely hesitant about actually jumping on the thing, but was happy to help with the reward of taking a photo of W. mid-air. Since that time I've laid on the trampoline to read and have been cajoled by a very insistent 9/10 year old to actually jump, which I kind of did. I felt that progress had been made, he seemed a little less sure.
And that's the long and short of it for now. My NYC trip was wonderful in a number of ways, though mainly in ways that have to deal with seeing people I know and love, and I look forward to getting some of the photos from that trip up.