Sunday, March 22, 2015

Back on the Farm Gang

I flirted with the idea of getting to Whidbey by driving up to the Olympic Peninsula and then catching a ferry from Port Townsend. But the schedule didn't quite match with my departure time, nor my intended arrival on the farm time. I did take a roundabout way to get to the Olympia/Tacoma area before getting on I-5, and saw a nice little chunk of a different area of Washington State, but didn't do the full lollygag of the peninsula and Port Townsend. I arrived just in time to have missed shearing. Literally. The shearers were gone, but everyone was still at the parlor cleaning up. After about three and half months away, it was funny to see so many familiar faces in such a familiar setting. When you're living where you work, and working where you live, the lines between the two are irrevocably blurred. There is a professionalism to the farm, but there is also a familiarity or personal element that isn't quite as present in more traditional workplaces. So half of me wanted to hug people, and the other half felt like I should shake hands? I don't know, it was kind of funny. I dropped into a tableau that was comfortable and right, but at the same time I hadn't really seen or spoken to the farm folks in a while. I jumped back in, however, and helped haul bagged fleeces and check in on the freshly shorn sheep. I very soon thereafter had to say hello to the chickens, who I wish I could say clearly recognized me and showered me with affection...but they're chickens, so they basically acted the same. But I was glad to see them and that'll have to do.
The first few days/weeks of the farm were spent in preparation for the onslaught of lambs we knew would soon begin. There had been a pretty major storm or two, so the new interns and I did a lot of picking up of copious fallen pine branches that littered pretty much every open space on the farm. We also did a fair amount of hacking at invasive blackberries that lined most of our fenceline. We threw all that debris into a big pile and, with the help of Stan, lit the mother on fire.
This actually happened more than once, the fire building and burning. It didn't get old.
Mist/clouds above the sound with the sun rising. Not a view to shake your fist at with anything other than appreciation and maybe a modicum of joy.
Another morning where fire, clouds and sun aligned into something beautiful. The building is the building that I and the other interns call home.
Freshly shorn ewe lambs. They were racing in my general direction in the mistaken belief that I was going to feed them...or out of curiosity...but probably it was more about food.
Another view that just wouldn't quit.
And another right before milking. Or, at this point, more like a practice milking...before anyone actually gave birth we started running them through the parlor to remind them of the general routine and to give them additional grain.
More fires and prettiness.
On another day of fence line blackberry destruction, a lady came by with a wee little puppy that Lynn was interested in acquiring for her grandson. We couldn't find either person with authority over choosing the puppy, but I still got to hold the heck of the little thing...she is now a member of the farm, and her name is Coco.
She is so much bigger now, and a lot of trouble.
Sun. Trees. Water. Really never gets old. The day I can go from one place to another on this farm and not be appreciative of what I'm seeing is the day that I am dead...or blind...or otherwise totally removed from my feelings.
Our first ewe had her babies in mid-January. A little later than we thought. A full week later, actually. But boy was it neat to remember what the whole thing is like and about.
I also got right back into hay delivery on the tractor. Sometimes with Rodo the ever-increasingly-senior-citizen-y Jack Russell.
While the days did get far more busy and hectic...I still found time to continue painting.
I also returned to the farmers market rotation. On this particular morning I brought one of the new interns with me to show her the ropes, which often starts with a biscuit sandwich.
Market dayzzzzzzzzz. I don't think I've written all that much about our actual products. They are delicious. I should and could say more, but will not at this moment in time.
One morning on the way to milking - which was made more interesting for a couple of weeks due to the fact that it was still entirely dark when we went down and the lights on the golf cart didn't work - we encountered a fallen tree. The golf cart could squeeze underneath it, but a larger vehicle might not have had the same luck.
So Stan, H. and I went down to take care of that. While Stan did much of the chainsaw work, this does count as the first time I ever used one. It was neat. I was afraid of accidentally cutting my leg off, but I didn't...I also saw how you'd really have to try to accidentally cut your leg off with a chainsaw.
Once the first ewe had her babies, our night lamb watches really started. This entails going down to the barn a couple of times throughout the night. At least at 10 and 2, but more frequently if you spot a ewe who is clearly in the early stages of labor. Things can go quickly and so it's best not to wait one million hours to check again. On this particular evening, however, I'm pretty sure I just squatted and leaned against a wall for about thirty minutes making sure that I wasn't missing any signs. The sheep are so comfortable with me/the other humans they see on a regular basis, that they generally pay you no mind, or curiously come up to you to sniff your hair, clothes, nose, ears, all things.
I think this may have been on my first day off. I went to a nearby State Park and walked along the beach, which faced the Olympics.
I forget which sheep this is, but she had some babies and Jett the dog was very keen on watching their every move. #bordercolliesareintense
Yup. Kept painting.
More babies! This was probably in late January. What's weird is that it was both a long time ago and not at all a long time ago. The days go by at a different pace and sensation when your schedule is dictated by nature and other things out of your control.
In the lead up to the Super Bowl, Seattle was properly anticipatory and excited. We did our part with the "12th Ram." Who is now my boyfriend. We brought him to farmers markets for a few weeks and boy was it most entertaining to watch small children come up to him, touch him, and have conversations with him. To be clear: he is not a real person, he is stuffed. So when a little girl began screaming "why won't you talk to me!!!!" I was quite amused.
The sheep make their way from the barn to the parlor for the morning milking. Ranier looms in the distance.
Another night watch, this time with synchronized chewing.
If you have a boot, and a puppy, there is only one thing to be done.
More painting.
A newborn lamb and its mama.
That same mama giving birth to another baby. With another sheep very intent on getting a good sniff/look at that new baby.
Last fall, when we culled a large number of lambs, I did the dirty work of trimming the excess fat off one skin. Then I sent it away to a tannery. Eventually it returned to me in this form. I did an awful job of trimming, as I was too liberal with the scalpel and made small holes in the skin, which became larger holes after being processed...but from this side you can't see that.
Pretty sure this was Superbowl Sunday pre-losing. Man. That game. Crazy.
On another night lamb watch two ewes began giving birth pretty much simultaneously. I think that was this night. It was chaotic.
H. in the lamb barn showing some of the newest additions just how to work the on-demand nipple system.
L. also in the lamb barn, tube feeding the newest of the new.
Me holding five lambs at once...because why not?
Another night lamb watch.
A pile of sleeping lambs may just be one of the sweetest things. Until they wake up.
I've returned to the habit of going to the slightly fancy bar in town about once a week for fancy food, good wine, letter writing, and random conversation with 50+ year olds.
C. told me she wanted to make me something but needed a theme. I told her that I always liked the ideas of ducks walking in cross walks, and that I had recently had a rather amusing conversation with our resident 10-year old about how I'm not "good enough" for most anything...except making macaroni and cheese.
Views that don't quite quit.
The girls in the lamb barn during the most crazy part of the lambing season. So. Many. Babies.
This freckled baby was particularly adorable.
The night lamb watch where I lay myself down in the relatively fresh straw and one million sheep came over to give me a full body sniff.
The moon above the milking parlor in the morning time.
Aerial shot of lambs getting their milk on.
A few weeks back I had an unfortunate run-in with a slippery floor, a 5-ish gallon can of milk, and my foot/ankle. It didn't end terribly well for me. In an effort to keep the can from spilling I contorted myself in such a way that as my foot and body slammed into the floor, the can then slammed into my foot/ankle. This happened in the morning time and at first didn't seem all that bad. Well, it seemed potentially bad for the first few minutes when I was on the floor. I was pretty worried that I had broken something. But after a little while I flexed and stood up and while it hurt, I was pretty sure it wasn't broken. So then I walked around on the injured foot all day doing a wide variety of chores and tasks...and by the end of the day I could barely put any weight on the foot without exclaiming in pain. It's still not 100% clear whether it was just a really bad/serious bruise/chip or not, as I never went to a doctor. But I will say that I was limping something fierce for at least two weeks. I get twinges now, but things are much, much better.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

New Mexico, Arizona, California and Oregon

My next destination was Tucumcari, New Mexico. I wanted to stay somewhere with a little character and landed on the Blue Swallow Motel, which is located on the old/original Route 66. Tucumcari was a little strip of a town. Both larger and smaller than I thought. I got there with a few hours of sunlight left and after settling in a little, I drove around to see what there was to see. Some mesas...I think that's what they were? Some beautiful light. Some run-down homes. Some ice. It was cold there too. Really cold, actually.

I decided to have Mexican for dinner, which was definitely a cut above any of the Mexican joints I've most recently enjoyed.
I did like all the neon of this motel and of the few others on the strip. A definite aesthetic.
The next morning I left early. It was still dark actually. Or was it? I think it was. My goal was to make it to somewhere in Arizona, but I hadn't entirely decided. I did know that I wanted to stop and see the Petrified Forest State (or National?) Park, which I achieved. As with most all things on my drive, it was rushed. I wanted to see everything, but I also only wanted to give myself about two hours to do so before getting back on the road and covering some more ground. It was all very interesting to see. At times you'd think you were on really flat - consistently flat - ground, and then you'd go around a bend in the road and realize there was an epic canyon to your right or left.
This is out of order. This was something I saw when I stopped at a rest stop for a quick bathroom break. The animals you see are fake and there were many more scattered about the cliff.
Me, at the Petrified Forest.
More forest views.
It was not warm.
But it was beautiful.
My next resting place was a Native American-run hotel/casino. The price wasn't terribly bad, and I did feel like the bathroom was the best bathroom I encountered on the trip. The casino itself was kind of depressing. I won $20 on a slot machine I didn't understand...and then lost that $20 continuing to play the slot machine I didn't understand.
The next morning I backtracked a bit to see the Meteor Crater. It was interesting.
A huge piece of space debris landed here a bazillion years ago.

After the Meteor Crater I got on the road and headed north and west with the intended purpose of going to the Grand Canyon. That purpose was accomplished though if I thought I felt rushed with the Petrified Forest, the Grand Canyon was even more of a rushed situation. I half wanted to stop at each and every vista, and half realized that if I did so I would never get anywhere very efficiently. So I did the best I could. There sure were a lot of people there.

Me and the canyon.

Another view of the bathroom break.
I stayed somewhere pretty weird that night. Somewhere in Arizona I think? It was just a place to sleep. I had bad food and a waiter suggested I read Dan Brown books. The next morning I got on the road with a general desire to get to California.
Which I did. I have to say that while the desert is certainly striking in its landscape and open-ness, I don't really like it. Too much brown. Way too much brown. So I really was tickled to start my way in California and find myself driving past orange orchards - with actual oranges on the trees! I was less pleased with the factory farms and obviously cramped and unhappy animals and facilities.
I stayed in a fancy hotel in Sacramento for the night. It had a really great bar/restaurant that I enjoyed, but Sacramento itself seemed pretty weird. Then I kept driving. I forget the order, but I was quite taken with Sonoma County. Beautiful stuff and views everywhere. I saw sheep with lambs already on the ground, which got me excited to return to the farm. And so much green and hilly loveliness. I was super pleased.
I got on 101 heading north and passed many of the same sights as I had in October. I didn't stop to see more redwoods, but I did stop to take pictures of this herd of elk...some of which were humping.
The Pacific coast really is gorgeous. I'd love to spend some time there in the summer. Camping and whatnot.

I think this was New Years Eve. Or maybe day? The risk you run when you take forever to actually get around to posting on a blog is that you no longer really have a linear sense of the experience.
I stayed in Bandon, Oregon for New Years, at a funky little motel that was just fine and quirky, though not perfectly situated. I turned off the main road for a second at some point, and found myself with this view.

My last night was spent in Astoria, Oregon, which I found fitting, as it was the last place I stayed before arriving at the farm last year. Or, no, I stayed with M&A for one night before that...but it was the last place I stayed alone. This was my hotel view.