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.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

August Farm Times

It's hard to believe that it's September, and that summer is going to be over over sooner than seems fair or possible. Also hard to believe that I've been here a bit over six months. And yet, here we are. August disappeared as mysteriously as July before it, and all I have is a slew of photos to show for it. Well, that's not true. I have memories, some interesting bruises, tougher hands and a lot more knowledge, among other things. Here are some photos though.

We make a fresh cheese called 'Brebis Frais,' which translated to English basically would be fresh sheep cheese. One week a while back I took some of our Brebis Frais and added herbs and spices to it and then made a mix of cheese and cheese-beef manicotti. Turned out quite well.
Taking the ferry to the main land is something I do about once a week. Usually this is in order to do a farmer's market. The ferry ride itself is a little under 30 minutes, and depending on how well I've timed it and how many other people are trying to get off or onto the island, the wait for the ferry is 5 minutes to 2 hours. Usually I end up in line for about 15 or 20 minutes because I inevitably get there earlier than necessary. The longer wait times usually happen on weekends or holidays, though I once found myself waiting for two hours on a Wednesday at 3 PM, which was quite the consternation. The ferry views, however, are always quite lovely.
I read Kristin Kimball's Dirty Life a while back. It came into my life because C. and M. thought it'd be a book I would enjoy, and sent it to me. They were right. It's the true story of this woman and how she met a farmer man and together they decided to start their own farm in the Lake Champlain region of New York. It's a good read if you're interested in farming. The second paragraph on this page was especially resonant to me in terms of how I feel about the work I'm doing here and how it makes me feel, both physically and emotionally. I won't say that reading this was without a bit of frustration. In fact I hesitated to start it for a bit due to the fact that this woman never would have chosen a farm life if she hadn't met this particular man. Their relationship and farm story are great and inspiring, but the fact that it does come down to a man makes me a little sensitive. Sensitive may not be exactly the right word. One thing I continue to mull over in my mind as these weeks and months on the farm go on, is just how I could translate all I love about the experience to a more permanent situation for myself. In other words, how I could have my own operation successfully. On the whole I feel like the reality of trying to run a farm as a business/sole mode of financial compensation is very, very difficult. Most folks need second jobs (or have to think of all the hours they put into the farm as second jobs) to meet their own needs as well as the needs of the animals and land they care for. As someone who hasn't found a partner who has similar ideas or desires in terms of farming, or a partner who is a rock star with plenty of cash to throw at a farm regardless of their own interest level, the financial realities of buying land/purchasing a flock/affording feed/all so many things, is daunting. So I read this book and I identified with the observations she shared and envied them the hard work and payoffs they found...but I also envied the fact that she found someone who wanted a) to be with her forever in the first place and b) wanted a farm life. I'm not sure I'm doing a good job of making my point. My point is that the book is good, but if you have any similar intentions, it can be a bit jealous-making or something. Maybe what I'm saying is: 'damn it's hard to be a farmer no matter what....but damn, it's even harder to be a woman no longer 22 who would like to find a man who also wants to farm.' Or something. Men are overrated. Kind of.
I've continued to swim a fair amount in the sound and nearby lakes. In fact, I set up my tent at the farm's beach for a nice long spell, choosing to sleep down there instead of in my apartment.
A view of the farmer's market I've done the most.
W. had a birthday back in July. There was a nice meal, followed by ping pong, a fire and - for some - skateboarding.
I've also started driving the farm's tractor on the regular. My primary chore in this regard is delivering hay and grain to the lamb and ewe barns. It never gets old, as it combines my love of lifting heavy things and feeling generally capable when dealing with heavy equipment.
The countdown to M&A having a baby is nearing its end, but last month it was a bit farther away. We had a nice time playing Catan. I think I won. But maybe not.
Our tomatoes continue to redden up and proliferate. We've got about six plants outside and then another 12 or so in the greenhouse. Tomatoes for days!
Another day, another body of water. Goss Lake with beer and book. I've read so many books in the last few months that they run together. I can't even tell you what that book is about, other than I read it. Not good. I'll have to refresh my memory and do a book report or something. Geez.
The sheep definitely (and fairly) equate the tractor with food, so they'll follow it hopefully. Here you can see them making a generally fair assumption that I'm going to deliver hay to their barn...though they had already been fed so they were probably disappointed to see me stack the hay as opposed to distribute it.
I think this was after a farmer's market, or just a trip to Seattle for one reason or another. Shiny clean hair, lipstick and jewelry definitely make it a day when I wasn't working or getting dirty. It's so rare that I clean myself up this way, but I do kind of like knowing that I can.
W., C. and I all went to the Island County Fair in late July. Our goals were to see animals, ride rides, and eat fair food. Our mission was entirely accomplished, though we were disappointed that some of the rides (there weren't that many for such a small county fair) weren't in working order on the day we went.
On the scrambler, with the sizzler in the background. We rode both.
L. started working on a new cheese a few months back, and after some research and development stages, she's come up with a winning new soft ripened cheese in the style of a Tallegio or Roblochon. It is soooo good. Any time we have it and bring it to market, it's almost impossible not to sell out. I've quite enjoyed seeing actual French people have an 'ooh la la/zut alors' moment after having a sample.
One morning after milking H., W. and I spent quite a bit of time allowing ourselves to be distracted and entertained by the varying personalities and interactions of our resident farm dogs and frequent visitor Bella. Here is Rodo, the Jack Russell, making his millionth attempt at humping Bella. She looks fierce here, but really it was all play, all the time.
The view from the sheep's main pasture.
This is probably a two-day old baby rabbit in my hands. So little. So soft.
I went over to C.'s house the other week for beer and pizza. She lives on a property that has goats, and this goat has learned that if he comes up to her kitchen window, the chances of getting some kind of treat (a zucchini in this instance) are very good.
I went on a date last month. Before I actually went to the date's location, I stopped at Ebey's Landing and took a photo. The date went fine in the sense that it wasn't awful and the conversation was fine, but not so fine that either of us suggested we meet up again. Shrug.
Sheep nuzzles during milking are precious.
I felt like the Pied Piper, except I didn't have to try very hard for the sheep to follow me. They basically equate the tractor and all of us with food and follow us accordingly.
Pretty flowers after a rather frustrating market day.
H. on the back roof having a laugh break.
Super moon! We swam in the sound with the moon so strong it was hard to fathom.
I also very much enjoyed the fire that S. built to keep us warm once we emerged from the definitely chilly night waters.
We're still milking twice a day, but the volume of milk the sheep can produce is beginning to dwindle. Usually we put our cans of milk into a chiller and make cheese or yogurt every few days. The chiller is a fickle beast, reliably keeping the milk cold...but sometimes too cold. On this particular day E. took out big bergs of ice that had formed and placed them outside. Though annoying when dealing with the milk/chiller, they were quite lovely to look at in the abstract.
I made a shrimp/feta/lemon basil omelet and it was sooooo good.
Rodo has a definite hierarchy of affection. His master, E., generally comes first but when he is elsewhere or too busy, Rodo has his second and third (and fourth and fifth) tiers of preferences when it comes to finding warm bodies/places to hang. At some point I was deemed an acceptable warm companion and Rodo spent some time on my ugly comfortable chair. Not pictured is the night I walked over to E's empty cabin to get Rodo during a lightning storm, as he was just barking and barking and barking. Most lovely/terrifying/awe inspiring about that evening was just how close the lightning was and how totally crazy it was to see everything lit up for such a split second before returning to darkness.
W. house/farm sat for some folks nearby and I came over so I could meet the cows. It took them a while to appear, but they were impressive.
I just love that this is a thing that happened. I was the creepster who pulled over on the side of the road to take a photo.
Handsome Penny the rooster...there is an ongoing debate about how long we'll keep him around, but he sure is pretty.
Gathering the sheep for a misty morning milking.
In my social media channels, I captioned this photo "Better for your bed to shit than for you to shit the bed."
A bunny that looks very much like a koala in its early baby days.
The view I had from my tent down at the beach. Going to sleep and waking up to this was pretty wonderful.
One of our garden's tomatoes paired with the farm's feta also near my tent spot.
A morning view from the tent.
Jacki the sheep in the sunlight. She looks regal but boy howdy is she ornery when it comes to milking. I'd say that a good portion of the bruises I get on my wrists and forearms are directly her fault.
And especially early morning at the beach/tent. My general schedule would be to get down there by 6 or 7 to fully appreciate how the light changes as the sun sets. I'd usually try to get in a quick swim before the sun disappeared. I can reliably encounter a seal during those swims. The seal never gets too near, but you can see its eyes pretty clearly and it definitely comes a bit closer or goes to different spots to get a better view. It will also track/follow you even when you leave the water. Other interesting wildlife sightings at the beach, you ask? Well on one evening when I was walking towards the area of the beach where it is most easy to get in the water without dealing with barnacles, I heard the distinct sound of the rocks and pebbles behind me crunching as if someone was running towards me. With very few exceptions, there is no one else on this beach...so this was a bit alarming to me. I turned around and saw a deer barreling almost directly for me...just a foot or two to my right. It breezed by me without even taking me in, and I found that pretty crazy and deduced 'ah, it must be running from something.' And just as that thought was formulated, what did I see? A coyote its eyes trained on the deer's back hooves, also easily running past me at a good clip and completely without any interest in my existence. They ran maybe a quarter of a mile (or a little less) farther along before the deer swerved and jumped into the water, quickly going up to its head and dog paddling (deer paddling?) away. The coyote was flummoxed and when I turned my head to follow the deer's progress, I was saddened to see that the coyote disappeared when I looked back.
I clean out the chickens' coop about once a month. Last month one of the chickens escaped. This was a lesson to me, and I have changed my strategy in order to prevent a repetition of such a situation. The main thing is I now bring different things to put the old wood shavings in, which allows me to keep the doors shut at all times. The chickens do not like the sound of the shovel scraping on the concrete floor and will fly up and around to express their distaste. Penny did such a move and ended up in the trash can I was using.
Another tent morning. Most all of these were taken between 5:30 and 6 AM, and I'm taken with just how different each day started off.
Something I saw at a market a few weeks back. Pretty much the worst.