Tuesday, May 06, 2014

More Farm and PNW Times (Warning: Graphic Images Of Reality Below)

At this very moment in time (Saturday the third of May), I am sitting on a ferry that will soon depart Whidbey Island and bring me to the main land. From there I'll drive into Seattle and set up a tent at one of our weekly farmers markets - today is especially hectic because we are repping and selling cheese at three locations rather than the normal two. Figured while I was sleepily sitting - with an eye to my right to hopefully see the farm's beach from afar and across the water - I could do a little blogging. My return to the farm after my NYC adventure brought more sunny days, and more lambs turned out and introduced to the glory of eating and sleeping outside. This first photograph illustrates both the sun and the lambs. Before they're freed we give them one more set of shots, which does require a bit of wrestling. We did a big batch just the other day. I actually enjoy this part of the work a lot. These lambs are not the wee average eight to ten pounds they often were at birth (though some certainly weighed less, and a few, more). At thirty pounds and thirty days these lads and lasses are usually ready for the larger space and fresh grass and a diet that does not include milk formula. The majority of the lambs I handled had already been thriving and growing for a number of weeks. In other words, I think it's probably fair to say that the smallest of the lambs we dealt with was probably forty pounds with a larger number clocking in at some point north of fifty pounds. What I like about the shots and moving lambs from one place to another may be in large part because of the increased strength you need to do it. For giving them shots you need to have one person with the needle and medicine and another holding the lamb so it doesn't wriggle or run away when pricked. They are like small children in the sense that some of them know what's coming - a shot and a hurt and an ouchie - and are none too eager to be held still for such a purpose, which requires you to really be strong enough to hold them still and to have the understanding of sheep to know what their first attempted moves and escapes will be. I'd say I'm generally pretty good at that sort of thing.
L. And S., the husband wife duo who look over the whole farm operation,  have a friend who knows a little something about welding. His work is everywhere on the property and always pretty to look at.
Part of the gate that officially lets you know you've reached the farm. Heron with frog. Not sure that the aforementioned welder friend was at all responsible for it, but very neat nonetheless.
One evening after milking I went to the barn to feed all the sheep (the routine is that they are milked, and then fed). It had been a cold and generally rainy day, so when I emerged from the barn and saw this, I was surprised and gratified by the perpetual beauty this place is capable of generating. This isn't the first rainbow I've seen extending itself from the sky to the sound, but it was one of the more dramatic and surprising.
I took this photo in the cheese room to remind myself how to set up the press for the next time. The cheesemaking operation is, of course, the entire point of the farm. The process to make cheese is at once very simple and incredibly complex. I'm still an entirely ignorant person in many regards about the intricacies of the whole thing, but I have enjoyed being part of the process. Watching 30 gallons of milk go through the process of being turned into curds and whey, and then pressed cheese that will age for any length of time is quite neat. I should say that the aged cheese we produce is also incredibly tasty, as is the yogurt and other fresh cheeses we make. I'm glad to be even a small part of such a final product.
We still have rabbits. More and more really. They grow up quick and they procreate quicker. As cute as they are, we raise them for meat so it's probably good that they bulk up so quickly in terms of cost. You'll see a bit later on what the fate of these rabbits are. Well, you probably already conceptually understand their fate, but if you so choose, you can really understand.
A view out the back of the golf cart, heading away from the milking parlor. On this particular day I think we went down to the main grazing area for the grown up milking sheep and communed with them for a bit. These sheep, unlike the sheep I worked with ten years ago, are far more friendly. This makes a lot of sense when you think about it. The Icelandic and Shetland sheep I worked with in New York were bred for their fleece and heartiness. They gave birth with few complications and spent the majority of their time independently doing whatever they liked until shearing days came around. The sheep here, however, have to interact with us on a daily basis. So it comes as no surprise that if you walk into their pasture, a good portion of them will come up and be curious and say hello...or at least check your pockets and overall self for any trace of grain that they could potentially enjoy. We are but grain giving mechanisms in many ways. In any case, there were three or four of us in the golf cart, which made it slow going back up the monstrous hill that one must traverse to get from the houses, garden, and cheesemaking facilities and the milking parlor and main barn.
A. is a trampoline enthusiast and quite nimble. He is also very insistent. His insistence has led me to jump a bit on this trampoline in spite of my inherent fear of falling over or accidentally bouncing him off with my considerable weight.
On one of my days off I drove north and east to tulip country, where I went to Tulip Town and saw a lot of tulips. It was a weekday, and an overcast one at that, which cut down on crowds in a way that made the experience far more pleasant to me than it might otherwise have been.
Yup, plenty of tulips...and me with a weird face.
When I originally posted this photo my caption was: "I'm just wondering where all the money and hoes are at."
S. and Rodo in one of the two resident stratoloungers on the property. On the east coast you might refer to them as recliners or la-z-boys, but on the farm they are stratoloungers or nothing at all. They both look rather grumpy in this photo, but really they were both struggling with the sun in their eyes and the fact that I didn't really warn them that I was taking a photograph.
Beauty all around. A view of the milking parlor from a slightly different angle.
Baby pine trees with dew that I encountered one morning while on my way to feed a herd of lambs on one of the farther out pastures. They were probably as tall as my hand at the time, now they reach my knees.
The views the far lambs get on any given day. I often like to sit on the foundation with a cup of tea after feeding and just take it all in.
It's only a five or ten minute walk to get to the property's beach. I often go down an hour or so before milking and read and have a beer while enjoying the view. Yesterday in fact I went down and had a swim after a more strenuous day of lifting 40+ lb lambs and creating new fence lines. Floating in the chilly water while gazing at the mountains was pretty great.
More trampoline.
In addition to my tentative jumping on the trampoline, I find it the ideal location to read or lie down during sunny days.
Water for lambs.
On a different day off I went to a beach off the farm and enjoyed a coffee as well as a new book while looking west-ish. I would like it to be clear that I was not reading 50 Shades of Grey, just Shades of Grey, by Jasper Fforde, which is an entirely different reading experience. I've read quite a few books thus far and should really do a round up at some point.
I also made a new friend on this beach excursion. According to his collar, this dog was named Rylee. He sat right by me, entranced by the shadows my hair and book reading cast on the driftwood/log I was leaning up against. Anyone who passed by us would have assumed that the dog and I knew each other well. I was happy to go along with that impression for as long as Rylee wanted, which was at least thirty minutes.
The bumper sticker on this vehicle was a gem: "the only thing faster than my truck is my zipper." I have many thoughts about this. For instance, well, how fast is your truck? Is it actually all that fast? Also, assuming your truck is so fast, why would you want your zipper to be faster? Are you suggesting that you will unzip and have sex with pretty much anything that crosses your path? If so, how is that a good thing? Are you suggesting that once you are having sex, you climax quite quickly? If so, I do wonder if that's the best possible advertisement for yourself. Basically, to me, this bumper sticker only succeeds at one thing: making it entirely clear that you are an idiot...and most probably bad in bed.
Another day I took the ferry across to the main land, sat at yet another beach and read more of my book before seeing Grand Budapest Hotel.
After the movie I took advantage of a nearby Korean restaurant and had me some banchan and tofu stew.
E. Is another intern on the farm. She and I went to the local thrift store a few weeks and she bought two amazing lamps, which were quite hysterical to transport home due to their impressive height and width. We stopped for drive-thru coffee on the way back, and the barista (baristo if a boy?), at first didn't even realize there was another person in the car, the lamp so obscured E.'s entire self. She also bought two of the most magical crushed velvet, royal blue chairs. The lamps and chairs combined - as well as a myriad of touches- create E.'s quite lovely outdoor seating porch. Some of us refer to it as "Tacky Chic" while she refers to it as the "Shabby Shack." In either case, I really do need to take a photo two of her set-up...there's some magic there.
Sunny mornings are the best mornings.
My view of farm folks all sitting outside on a nice day from the vantage point of my studio's porch.
Lambs like when I sit amongst them and drink tea. Or at least they're quite curious about it.
Those who care less about tea, care more about photobombing.
After our first batch of chickens died rather avoidable deaths, weeks went by without any attempt to try again. That changed when W. and I took the reins. Nearly two weeks later we've done quite well. The wee little chicks you see in our hands are now easily double if not triple their size, and while we did lose one to a bum leg, we're still nine strong. It's very exciting. I go to the coop at least once or twice a day and sing the chickens a song while getting them accustomed to human touch (and giving them food and water, of course...chickens cannot live on song alone unfortunately).
On Easter Cuz K. Sent me this photograph and it made my heart sing. I later spoke to my uncle E., who allowed that he was the creator of this huge sign. Serious lurve to all involved!
E. the son and co-farm owner/runner celebrated a birthday a while ago. The party was pretty fun and involved ping pong. We've all, to different degrees, gotten quite involved with improving our ping pong skills. When the table first came to prominence I held back, remembering my seemingly interminable weeks of middle school ping pong PE, which I hated. But eventually I gave it a try, and while I am nowhere near the master that others are, I do think I've developed a relatively decent game. Well...kind of.
The party included much in the game category, and at some point a cake few of us ate ... and numerous funny father/son photos.

And then at some later point of time, I learned how to kill and skin rabbits. By this I mean I observed the process. Next time around I'll probably get hands-on, but it was good to watch. It's very similar to chickens, really. Except that rabbits' deaths aren't accompanied with the possibility of them running away while already dead. The skinning process is more delicate than you might first imagine, but altogether makes sense. While often the rabbits are sold to restaurants, this batch was personal use. I believe L. used a Julia Child recipe to cook them and, oh my, they were tasty. These photographs are certainly a bit graphic, in the sense that all reality and death is graphic. So if you don't like knowing what's underneath the fuzzy fur or what the animal looked like before it was packaged for the grocery store or presented on your plate, then I'd just stop now. But, as with the chickens and photos of sheep giving birth, I just find it really educational. I keep expecting to get strangely squeamish or to have so strange sense of guilt or nausea, but I don't. This is most certainly and largely due to my knowledge of the treatment of all the animals on this farm, and the fact that treatment has been humane and good. Shrug, if you're going to eat meat or any animal product, might as well really know where it came from. Also, the light and colors were amazing. I'll really need to use my real camera the next time.
In the far bucket is ice and the butchered rabbits while in the tub are the parts we couldn't use.
And yet another day of sun sitting, beer drinking and a little sing-along, which aptly enough was "Keep on the Sunny Side."
That same sun day featured J. coming and visiting the farm from her normal perch near Bellingham. We hadn't seen each other since I visited her on my first day off back in September. Ah how the weather has changed! We went to a local watering hole and met up with C. and ate a lot of fried food and then stood in the parking lot for a while talking about tattoos.
And that's the latest wrap-up. I'm pretty excited about some photographs I took in the last week or so, but we'll just have to wait for me to hit another critical mass before posting them.

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