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.