Greenthumb Greenhorns

There is an inevitable moment that occurs when the people we are talking to figure out how inexperienced we are. For the first five minutes we are usually able to pass ourselves off as seasoned farmers; “Oh yes, we have lots of starts already in our green house, and the seedlings in the hoop houses are coming along nicely!” “We trimmed our goats’ hooves yesterday…it was a piece of cake!” And then, “We’re going to have a few pigs on the farm soon!” It was this piece of news that made our new acquaintance (a truck driver for the mill who seems to have ample agriculture experience) stop short.

“Oh, so you’re hog people?!”

“Well, we will be soon!”

“Oh.” <pause> “You’ve never raised ‘em before?”

“Nope! But we’re doing a lot of research!”

“Hahaha. Hah. Haha. Good luck to you!”

In the end he recommended a book for us to check out, and talked a lot about how smart pigs are and how likely they are to escape. (Which is no problem, we are quite used to our animals escaping. This past weekend while we were away the goats seemed to learn that the electric fence really isn’t all that bad, and now wander in and out of the enclosure at will. Some part of me thinks Zephyr sneaks off at night to show them how it’s done).

The nice thing is, when people realize we are coming at this from ground zero they generally think it’s great, and are willing to share some bit of wisdom or tell stories about when they first started out. There is certainly a big difference between “book knowledge” and “practical knowledge.” We have a lot of books, and have been researching as much as possible, but the solutions in the books don’t always apply. More often than not when I mention I read how to do something to Eric, he will politely point out that whatever I read is in fact completely impractical and it should be done this way instead. I am hopeful that after a full season on the farm I will have my own memory bank of knowledge to draw from, so I can consult the books when I am stumped, rather than scanning through them every day!

Things have been progressing at the farm very rapidly, and I am anxious, excited, and nervous for the real “season” to begin. Our cute little chicks are now huge, awkward, fairly unattractive “teenagers,” and will be heading down to the farm this week. Eric also dropped off our egg layers down at the farm, so we now have around 150 little peepers to keep happy and healthy. This week our pigs will arrive, and pretty soon we will be getting ready to welcome some turkey chicks to the mix! On top of that we are still working on irrigation, mowing and tilling the fields, planting seeds and starts, weeding ad infinitum, and waiting for the weather to finally decide it’s springtime!

The tiny house project is coming along, and with a roof, windows, and a door it actually feels cozy and home-like! We (ie: mostly Andrew) have a few more major things to accomplish before we can move in, but we are hopeful that within a few weeks will be down there, falling asleep and waking up to the cacophony of animal sounds that abound on the farm. In addition to our livestock, we are frequently treated to calls and flyovers by the resident geese, ducks, bald eagles, hawks, herons, sparrows, robins, woodpeckers, (and more!) that call the farm home.

On a side note, in case any of you are wondering, my grandmother is doing exceedingly well down in Tucson. It was really hard leaving her, not knowing exactly how she was going to get along since her health wasn’t as good as it could be, but when I speak to her on the phone I am so relieved to hear how much better she is. She is walking (although often with a walker), is trying to make new friends, enjoys the pool in the retirement home (that I never knew existed while I was there!), and sounds genuinely happy and healthy. I am looking forward to celebrating her 90th birthday next January with the entire family… and what a year to celebrate!

Speaking of years to celebrate, April 28th will mark our first wedding anniversary. This has been the most unexpected, adventurous, momentous, stupendous, love-filled year of my life! From living happily with my sweetheart in sunny San Diego, getting married in Joshua Tree National Park, traveling 15,000 miles with a teardrop trailer, spending some difficult months apart, and moving to Washington to work on an organic farm, we really have done it all! And you know what? We’re just getting started!

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I Left My <3 In Sunny Seattle

A think it’s a kind of curse that every time I go for a visit in Puyallup (near Seattle) the weather cooperates and I’m presented with gorgeous scenery, beautiful blue skies, and happy smiling people working in their gardens or taking their children to the park. I am usually prepared for grey, cold, rainy, misty, and that pervasive damp that chills you to the bone. And usually I do experience some of those days, but they have been mixed in with sunny days which makes them much more bearable. The problem with this is that I always expect to want to leave Seattle and get back to whatever warm weather locale I currently call home. This year my Christmas trip to Seattle included several amazing days spent outdoors in the sun and snow, and it was incredibly difficult to get on the plane back to Tucson. Of course this time it was even more difficult than usual, since I was once again bidding adieu to the love of my life with no definite plans for when we will next be reunited.

This trip to Puyallup was a whirlwind of food, people, noise, fun, love, and exhaustion. Andrew and I made a little nest on the floor of his mom Nancy’s office, and at first I found it a little difficult to make the transition from “me and my cat” to “me and five other adults, a toddler, three dogs, and the large swath of extended family” that was in town to visit. Our delicious Christmas diner, which was held at another relative’s house, included over 20 family members! Ultimately it was well worth it to feel the love and warm familial energy that engulfed the family households during this special time of year.

When Andrew and I decided we needed some time to ourselves, we spent a day in Seattle proper exploring the Pike Place Market where I spent $10 on a tiny (yet delicious!) cup of crab cocktail. Next we checked out the underground tour of the old city after having a few fancy drinks. Apparently the original Seattle was so close to sea level that the streets would flood and raw sewage would pour backwards out of the newfangled toilets and sewer systems, so they eventually raised the city up to avoid this problem. Fortunately the underground streets were pretty well preserved and it was a really interesting tour seeing the old sidewalks and building facades.

We were also lucky enough to spend a dry, sunny day up in the mountains snowshoeing with our friend Vindy and the snow-loving Zephyr. After a few fun, strenuous hours, Andrew and I continued up the mountain to ring in the New Year with his brother Bryan who works at the ski lift on Crystal Mountain. We had a grand time around a bonfire, meeting the various “mountain folk” and tourists who came for the big annual NYE party the mountain throws. Just before the fireworks started we walked back to the truck to check on Zephyr, and… wouldn’t you know it…he was gone. We hopped in and drove up and down the mountain roads calling his name, until we finally had the sense to check Andrew’s cell phone. Lo and behold, we had received a text from someone who had picked Zephyr up along the road halfway down the mountain. The $10 we spent on having our phone numbers engraved on his dog tag has paid for itself a thousand times over! We met up with his rescuer and did our dog exchange (we are pros at this by now), and made it just in time to watch the fireworks explode overhead.

After a cold, fun, slightly intoxicated night spent in the back of the pickup truck, Andrew and I returned back to the house. The clear skies afforded gorgeous views of the Olympic Mountains, and along the waterfront I spotted my second bald eagle of the trip! A few days later we headed back up to Crystal Mountain to get in some snowboarding, and the views from the top of Mt. Rainier were spectacular. I am still only okay at snowboarding, but I have fun trying and took a much-needed break in the lodge while the more advanced Ides hit the steep slopes without me

Unfortunately not everything during the trip was so rosy. My mother-in-law and my grandmother have each had a roller-coaster ride in regards to their health, and this winter is no exception. When I first arrived in Seattle Andrew took me straight to the emergency room where Nancy was being seen for some complications related to her cancer. She went to the hospital several different times while I was there, for various scans, treatments, and a blood transfusion. While I was away my grandmother was checked into the hospital for a blood infection that just won’t quit. She was only in the hospital for a few days, but on my second day back in Tucson she was readmitted for a high fever and other infection-related symptoms. I am getting quite used to visiting people in the hospital. It’s not a fun way to spend your day, but I am ever grateful to be the visitor and not the patient.

I still do not know what the future has in store for my little family. Andrew is working on getting rehired at REI in a store near his parents’ house, and I am still looking for opportunities to work outdoors on a farm. There is a farm a few hours drive from his parents’ house that I am interested in, and will submit an application to this week. Wish me luck! Of course the hard part is knowing that taking a job in Washington means leaving my grandmother alone in Tucson. It’s a really hard thing, feeling like you have to choose between your husband and your grandmother. I also don’t want my husband to feel like he has to choose between his wife and his mother! As you can see, I am sort of stuck between a rock and a hard place. But if there’s anything I know about myself, it’s that I have acquired the ability to accept things as they come and know that life will fall into place. After all, I’m only 28 and from what I hear, (and feel!), that is the new 18!