Remember Me?

A few weeks ago the first of the Canada Geese returned to our valley, heralding summer’s end. If that wasn’t enough to convince me of how short our seasons are here, a lone (and possibly lost) trumpeter swan flew overhead yesterday, and the reality of the approaching winter began to sink in.

This summer has been an absolute whirlwind, which I am sure comes as no surprise to my readers since I have been radio silent for quite a while. I’m sorry! At the end of the day I can barely keep my eyelids open long enough to shovel forkfuls of dinner into my mouth before collapsing into bed, and I haven’t had the time or energy to spend on my writing. I will do my best to catch you all up to speed!

Last week was our third chicken harvest of the season. While the work is hard and time-consuming, we have dialed in our procedures and have plenty of interested volunteers who help make things go smoothly. Selling birds has never been a problem, and we are always so encouraged by our amazing customers who are committed to supporting us and the way we raise our meat. Where we live there aren’t very many options for pastured, ethically raised meat, and so we have really tapped into a niche. We consider ourselves very fortunate that this is a niche we are extremely passionate about!

In that regard we have started to expand our menagerie, and have added a couple of sheep to our farm. They are Katahdin hair sheep, which means we don’t have to worry about shearing them because they shed their hair like dogs. We have two ewes (Rosemary and Blossom), and a ram (Rambo, aka Beau, aka Cephus…we’re still working on that one!). We hope to buy a few more before the season is over so we can have lambs in time for Easter. The goats continue to alternately entertain and frustrate us with their hilarious antics. The hilarity rapidly turns to irritation when they escape and won’t go back in their pen, or when they completely destroy the nice tarp they had for a roof on their house. With the amount of time Andrew spends wrangling goats, they have yet to be proven as an economically sound investment. They definitely keep us on our toes, and that’s got to be worth something!

The pigs have grown immense in a short amount a time, a function of having free access to high-quality feed. They are such wonderful creatures, and delight in the small pleasures: a fresh bucket of bendy cucumbers, a wheelbarrow of ginormous zucchinis. They come running when I call them while snorting in excitement, much to the delight of visiting customers and friends. Our turkeys are also growing quickly, and while rearing them to this stage has been a difficult and often painful process, I am so incredibly enamored with them. We had many losses when they were just little babies, since they have a habit of smothering each other at night. Now they are out in pens on sawdust, and are eager to get onto pasture where they can eat their fill of greens and grubs. This week we plan on building them a safe brooding house for nighttime, and will set up a netted fence for them to roam within during the day. In the meantime I can often be found clipping clover and dandelion greens for my chirpy little “goobers.”

This season we have added a farmer’s market to the mix, and it’s definitely a unique experience. I had prior “booth” type experience at my last job, but it’s a very different thing to sell produce I grew with my own two hands. Farmer’s markets also attract a wide array of people, and I find myself having really interesting conversations. One thing I’ve noticed is that some people really just love to unload, vent, or otherwise air their dirty laundry onto poor unsuspecting farmers, and I’m starting to feel like a bartender! I know all about certain people’s ailments, car accidents, divorce battles, and the like…it makes me feel grateful for my own joyful life and good health. The best part of the market is getting to know my “regulars,” including a sweet gentleman who calls himself “Orca Man,” pushes his mother’s wheelchair everywhere, and always pays in $100 bills. There’s a guy who always wears a kilt, countless old ladies in elaborate hats and scarves, curious children, and health-conscious gym rats. There’s bicyclists, motorcyclists, home-gardeners, and housewives. In other words, the market is full of diversity and I always come home richer for the experience, even if the cash box doesn’t feel much heavier!

As the season marches on, Andrew and I continue to plot our next move. It’s hard to make plans when so much of what we are doing is tenuous. We’d like to expand our meat operation, but without reliable running water or electricity we are in a tough place. (Side note: Our shallow well ran dry this summer…again! Eric, the landowner, recently had a real well put in, but the water coming out of it is pretty unpleasant). Also since we’re in a flood plain, having breeding stock of certain animals (like pigs) becomes a big challenge. We can’t imagine ever having the funds to buy our own place with adequate acreage, and we have fallen in love with the valley we now call home. Fortunately for us we are adaptable and creative, so I’m confident things will fall into place.

Change is definitely afoot down here at the farm, and you may have noticed some blog changes too. In addition to some layout updates, at the bottom of the page (keep scrolling!) you’ll find links to both our farm website and Agrilicious!, a free service that connects you with local farmers. I anticipate some small financial benefit to adding this link (perhaps an upgraded membership on their website), but I am truly passionate about helping each and every one of you find amazing, local produce. If everyone endeavors to support local agriculture in some small way, we may be able to heal our broken food economy and nurture the land back to health while we’re at it.

Back on the farm the turning seasons are bringing afternoon winds that carry a weight larger than that of Old Man Winter. There’s a stirring in my bones, and a sense that big things are on the horizon for us. I am not sure what these big things are (no Mom, I’m NOT pregnant!!!), but I’ll be sure to keep you appraised as our story unfolds before us.

** Click the link below for a random video of Andrew being interviewed for the news!**

No cock-a-doodle-doo here? County weighs expanding animal nuisance zone

 

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A Year to Remember

In October 2010 while living in San Diego, on a whim, I decided to raise some money to attend a fundraising camping trip out in Joshua Tree National Park. I was newly single, working full time, attending school, and looking for a fun new way to meet people and get outside of my routine. That fateful weekend was when I first met Andrew, who was a guide on the trip. He seemed pretty cute under his greasy, dirty bandana and scruffy facial hair, but I wasn’t sure this hippie kid was for me. He tried to impress me with his knowledge of the constellations, and over the next several months would take me on late-night excursions to nearby hilltops to observe the cosmos free from the glare of city lights.

That was the first indication I had that maybe there was more to Andrew than dirty feet and a freewheeling lifestyle, but it didn’t stop there. I often found myself listening to his philosophical rants, not quite understanding his logic but fascinated with his interest and curiosity about matters of the mind and soul. His hugs were (and are) incredibly warm and comforting. He has wonderful, crinkly laugh lines that light up his face and soften my heart. He is incredibly stubborn, and loves a good argument, but is quick to apologize when he gets overzealous and accidentally hurts my feelings.

Andrew has changed me in ways I never expected when I first met him. Or rather he has allowed me to change and grow by encouraging me, nurturing me, and exposing me to new and exciting things. In the past two years I have gone from a dissatisfied, rather bored, uncertain consumer to a confident, energized, adventurous producer. Starting with our first Christmas together, we decided no store-bought presents were allowed. We rarely stray from this rule. That first year I gave him a painting of his dog Zephyr. For his birthday last week I commissioned a cool guy I found on Craigslist to make a BBQ out of a burn barrel. It sure beats wandering around the mall, trying to make a mass-produced item “fit” my unique, one-of-a-kind, wonderfully picky husband!

One year ago Andrew and I took our vows of foreverhood, among friends and family in the beautiful desert where we first met. Since that moment, my life has been nothing but a whirlwind of awesomesauce. Yeah, that good. Obviously there are moments where we argue, or where things are difficult. We are human, and we are both stubborn. But when I take a quiet moment to think back on how much fun, adventure, love, joy, and warmth I have experienced this past year I am blown away. This has certainly been the best year of my life, and I know that from this point forward it is only going to get better. With Andrew as my partner, I am confident I can navigate this crazy world blissfully and with a passion that only he can inspire.

Happy one year anniversary my Love! Here’s to many, many more!

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!