Tag: farming

Farming is hard

:::update: I removed most of the photos from the Edible article to reduce the file size and make it easier to read:::

I’ve been hearing a lot of that recently. The war cry of the weary in late July. In fact, if I had a dollar for every conversation I hear about how hard farming is, I could quit my…

oh, wait.. never mind!!

But it is. I live with a farmer, some of my closest friends are farmers, and I occasionally volunteer on farms while managing my own budding homestead. It’s a lot of really, really hard work.

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sleep is overrated

So many fun things going on at the farm. I often think to myself, “I should go inside, get my phone, take pics and blog about this.” But instead, I stay outside and continue doing/observing it.

I’m really, really happy here. The kind of happy that is difficult to peel myself from and run to some kind of techno-device. And since things have picked up a lot around here, I’m pretty wiped out by the end of the day. But for some reason, I can not freaking fall asleep tonight. And so, my friends here is a quick update:

I live and work on a small organic farm called Cloudview, located in the middle of Washington state’s big-ag dominated desert. The closest town is about 45 minutes away, and they love cowboys

I often drive some number of hours to some town on the weekend to buy things we can’t grow and explain to people what the hell a girl from Jersey is doing all the way out here. It’s definitely the most sparsely populated area I’ve ever spent a substantial amount of time in. I really dig it.

I get awful cell reception, so carrying my phone on me is kinds of pointless. I temporarily canceled my netflix subscription until the new Arrested Development comes out, so I’m more inclined to spend my free time on more constructive cognitivities.

A run “around the block” is a nice, flat 5 mile loop, and I can see home the entire time. The sunsets are gorgeous and the stars are freaking brilliant. I’m told that the aurora borealis is visible at certain times, but I haven’t seen it yet.

I’m thousands of miles from anyone I’m close to and completely free from social and family obligations. You better believe I’m reveling in this rare opportunity to the max. Everyone who lives and works here is friendly and intriguing. Sometimes I really enjoy sitting around a campfire at night, drinking beers (or tea) and eating asparagus straight from the ground. But, if I need some *me* time, no one seems to mind if I pass on socializing to lock myself in my bedroom like a reclusive, eccentric artist for several hours.

I’m sharing a very comfortable living space with a wonderful guitar playin, mountain climbin, beer lovin, spicy food eatin carpenter who owns the dog of my dreams, sweet cast iron cookware and shelves of books I want to read. Can you imagine a more perfectly compatible roommate for me?

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Sometimes I grab this lady and run with her on irrigation roads through fields of clover. I could probably do it naked, too. Sometimes I can be found on the hilltop at the truck farm with my sax, blowin notes into the sunset.

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There are TONS of spiders here. One just dropped in front of my computer screen.

Lots of cats, too.

Photo on 3-23-13 at 7.59 AM

This is Frank. I accidentally stepped on him in front of a huge group of people who were touring the farm. Frank forgivz.

I’m getting ripped. Sometimes the first thing I do iwhen the sun comes up is hurl a 100lb bale of damp alfalfa into a wheelbarrow or wrestle a runaway goat back into its pen.

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Notice how Buckwheat is NOT inside the fence with the other goats? That’s because he’s a punk and tests the electric fence for weaknesses in order to lead a large-scale goat breakout. Madness. Jerk.

With the exception of tonight, I generally sleep soundly and am on a nice regular routine that my body has been missing. My diet is dang near 100% unprocessed, organic wholesomeness and I have all the fresh air and exercise I could shake a stick at. Well, I do have this gigantic container of animal cookies my parents sent me in the mail.

Speaking of mail, one of my favorite things to do is put together care packages for my friends and family all over the US, then wake up ballz early to drive 15 miles to Beverly, WA and visit mah grrrl Dolores at the post office before work. I drive fast on completely empty roads, through the cliffs of insanity and mountains in the background while bumping Crystal Method (rrrrrrrrreal effing loud) in my subaru. Trippaaayy.

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Keep it classy, Beverly!

Happy news, we just got some BABY GOATS!

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Seven, in fact.

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I can’t believe I cut off some of his nose. Cell phone camera fail.20130409_181320

BFFS

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Here is some bloody part of a goat baby coming out of Penny’s vagina. I decided not to post pics of the placenta trails, but I do have some if anyone is interested. Penny squeezed FOUR kids out today. Good job, Penny! Sadly, I wasn’t around to see any of them born because I was packing orders all day.

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Ya got sumthin on yr face, kid.20130410_172316

Okay, so here are some videos.

Kid pile!

oreo cookie b00mz

that’s all. I think I’ll nap for three hours before getting up do do it again tomorrow. Oh yeah, I’m going to see Sandor Katz (the fermentation dude) talk in Olympia. Yeahhhh.

Is that a carrot in yr pocket?

Photo on 3-19-13 at 6.30 PM

I still haven’t finished blogging about my western WA road trip extravaganza! I’ve been meaning to, but then actually do something else, and as more time passes, I feel less and less inclined to focus on the past. Sooooo: Farm update for anyone interested in what I’ve been bizzy with!

It’s still really early in the season, so that means lots of cleanup and seeding in the greenhouse.

I have some fermentation projects going on, including hard cider from old, un-sellable apples we pressed a couple weeks ago!

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First we cut off the rotten parts and then bathed the apples in vinegar to kill the mold. If you look closely at the apples, you can see Whitney’s shadow giving me a thumbs-up.

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Then one person tossed the apples into the press while another got a serious upper body workout. I get to look at that sweet butt every day!

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idk what I did here, but I like it!

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The raw, delicious cider.

I’m also very excited to be brewing my very own kombucha! Maybe I’ll write more about that later since some people are unfamiliar with this magical potion. My first batch is already finished and it’s delicious.

We have potluck meals at least once per week, which gives me a chance to experiment with new foods like celeriac.

We also have enough pork from last season’s pigs to feed everyone working on the farm for like a year. I tried making pork chops, but completely ruined them. Before coming to the farm, I had been primarily (flexible) vegetarian for a very long time. Since this farm has LOTS of meat from animals that were raised on healthy food in excellent conditions and treated with respect, I decided to try to incorporate more meat into my diet.

I was eating pork several times per week when I first arrived. However, between my terrible meat-cooking skills, persistent squeamishness at touching the raw stuff, and an unfamiliar, unpleasant awareness of the rising percentage of bacon fat coursing through my veins, I decided to cut back on that. I do love beans.

I’m also becoming emotionally attached to the goats (that WILL be slaughtered) in a way that does not benefit a farmer. I’m not sure how I feel about all this yet.

I need to stop typing now. I gripped my shovel in a really awkward way today, which resulted in a horrible carpal tunnel-type pain. I had my hand massaged with Arnica oil, am heavily medicated on holy basil, and think I’m about due for another frozen apricot ice pack.

waaaah

what a bleating heart

One of the farm jobs I’m most excited about is caring for the goats.

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haha jk! I know (now) that those are sheep!

Here are some of the goats

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That little black dude up front is my special buddy. Ever since I was little, I’ve always wanted a small black goat named Gregory. This was inspired by one of my favorite children’s books, “Gregory The Terrible Eater,” about a rebellious little goat who prefers salad to garbage.

When I was first introduced to the goats, I inquired about the little black one’s name. The farmer told me she couldn’t remember the names of the little ones because they were just going to end up in a burger and she was trying not to get attached.

Mixed emotions at that news, but joyous enthusiasm came out on top.

“Perfect! His name is Gregory. And he’s mine.”

Dreams really do come true.

Today, I had the pleasure of helping trim the goats’ overgrown hooves. The two females are very pregnant and therefore VERY fussy, so we decided to hold of on their mani/pedis until after they give birth. I am SO stoked for baby goats!

Aside from dog sitting/walking, I’ve never worked with animals before. Today I jumped right into it, gettin down and dirty with some GOAT WRASSLIN.

I learned that goats do not appreciate having someone else trim their nails the way that humans do. They kick and head butt and run. And they are FAST. Gregory was particularly difficult since he’s so young and not used to getting trimmed. He was the first goat I had to pin down to the ground while someone else trimmed the hooves.

Most of the other goats were happily distracted by a smorgasbord of grain to munch on during the process, but Greggie-poo was so anxious, he didn’t even look at the grain! He kept squirming and trying to head butt me with his tiny horn stumps.

“Maybe you should straddle him.”

Dear god.

“Okay.”

Gaby (one of the farmers) and I wrestled Gregory to the ground again and I sat on him like he was a tiny pony. Trying to keep him from spazzing out and head butting me, I struggled awkwardly to hold his head down without poking his eyes out or choking him. Every time his rumen gurgled beneath my arms, I feared he would blow chunks all over my face. And he SCREAMED!

“I’m sorry!” I would exclaim and pull back, only to have Gaby ensure me that he was totally fine.

Gregory just would not submit. He struggled against me the entire time, despite my attempts to coach him through some deep breathing techniques for relaxation.

The other little goat (brown dude next to Gregory in the picture) was a little bit easier.. kind of. This one was a runner. He bolted and made three of us chase him.

However, this time Gaby showed me a good method for “flipping a goat over” that made it a lot easier for me to get on top of it and pin it to the ground in a much more comfortable way. It was exactly the kind of thing I would have never been able to do if I hadn’t just taken a deep breath and gone for it without thinking. After flipping him down, I basically just layed across him for what seemed like forever. It was a nice shoulder workout.

Little brown dude still bleated a bunch, but he was chill enough to nibble on some grain while other people were trimming his hooves. He even rested his head on the ground and kinda tickled my side a few times.

I still like Gregory better because he’s black and his name is Gregory.

So, yeah. That’s my goat wrasslin story.

FACT: Doc Martens are the best shoes ever

And this is coming from a girl who hates, I mean absolutely detests, wearing shoes.

I hike and run barefoot, or in minimalist footwear that basically just protects my feet from broken glass. Since I started doing this, my feet and whole approach to bipedal locomotion have changed. And now I can’t freaking tolerate shoes.

But I have this one pair that I loooooooooooove!

Docs

About ten years ago, a friend gave me this wonderful pair of blue Doc Martens because they didn’t fit her anymore. TEN YEARS! They already had about the same amount of wear you see now.

Until recently, I didn’t wear them often because I worked for people who weren’t too fond of them. But I did wear them whenever I could, and always to punk shows. They protect my toesies from getting squished and the bouncing rubber soles keep me from slipping on spilt beer. And they’re just plain hot, duh.

Now that I can wear whatever the hell I want, I sport these babies every day. Let me tell you- I can’t think of any reason to wear anything else. They’re more comfortable than any other boots I have, and clearly indestructible!

When the weather got cold, I started tramping through the woods in waterproof hiking boots or shoes. Know what happened? I fell all over the place! Stupid cushioning and clunky soles messin with my balance! I need to feel the rocks under my feet! How else can I know how to move over them?!?!?!

A few weeks ago, I tried hiking in my docs for the first time and I was amazed at how easy it was to balance in them! The soles are so nice and flat, and much more flexible than hiking boots. The only downside is that they aren’t really waterproof at the seam, but I guess I could wear plastic bags on my feet?

I can also run in them pretty easily. Now, I’m not talking about *running* in my Dr. Martens. I think they’d heat up and give me a blister-fest, plus they’re way too heavy. But, I did race my friend’s little sister across a parking lot and was quite pleased with how well they handled. Basically, if I need to bolt from an attacker or catch a train.. I can :)

So I decided that my Docs are going to be my farming boots. Why not? They’re incredible. And if the farm ends up trashing them beyond socially-acceptable casual wear, maybe I’ll ask for a brand new pair for my 30th birthday. Aside from running shoes and flip flops, I don’t think I need anything else.

LOVE

Slightly-related fashion update:

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I AM BRINGING BACK THE SIDE PONYTAIL! Unfortunately, I have no scrunchies :( Where mah 80s babiez at?!

There she goes again

This is not an end of the year review. In fact, I wouldn’t have remembered that today is New Years Eve without all the whining that appeared on my facebook news feed recently <3 This is NEWS!

I’ve drawn a rough outline of the next chapter in my life, and it’s going to happen on an organic farm in central Washington. After finally breaking the news to my family, I figured it’s safe to share with the internet. Acccctually… after delivering a compelling presentation on WHY I decided to do this, I ran from the room, frantically waving my arms over my head and squealing, “OMGZZ I HAVE TO BLOG ABOUT THIS!”

And I pronounce OMGZZ exactly how it’s written.

So.. why? Let me tell you.

0. I’ve been trying to get an internship on a small organic farm for the past few years. Until now, something has always prevented me from doing so: school, job, relationship, waiting too long to apply, travel plans, etc. I moved back into my parents’ house a little over a month ago right as a giant hurricane ate my home state. This made it impossible for me to get to my job in Brooklyn for a while, which I ended up leaving anyway. I knew I was ready to leave the east coast. With no work to do or electricity to numb my brain, I focused on obsessed over what my next adventure would be.

1. I had just finished reading Wild, by Cheryl Strayed and was seriously contemplating whether this was a good time in my life to walk the Pacific Crest Trail. It’s been a while since I’ve traveled. I’ve never touched the northwest United States, but I keep hearing amazing things and have been feeling pulled in that direction recently.

2. In fact, when I returned from Perú in 2011 I almost took a farm internship in Oregon. I didn’t go because of my boyfriend. Don’t ever let a relationship interfere with your dreams, it causes many things to break.

3. When said relationship collapsed in a fiery Armageddon last year, I moved back into my parents’ house (I guess you can say this is a regular thing for me) and started going back to school to study nutrition. After one semester of memorizing information solely to regurgitate onto tests and pass VERY EXPENSIVE prerequisite classes that I could have taught myself, I concluded that the money I had saved up for Fall tuition would be better spent on renting an apartment in Brooklyn. I still believe this was a wise choice.

d. Living in NYC was an east coast overdose. I started using the term “ASAP.” wtf? I wanted to smack myself.

5. The idea of having another office job has gone from “unappealing” to “revolting” to “twitch-inducing.” During one interview, I was asked if the helper monkey-type job responsibilities sounded like something I would be interested in. In response, I very coolly stated, “Interesting is definitely not the word I would use, but I could do that.” Furthermore, I need fresh air and physical activity.

6. Believing that sticking my hands in the dirt was just as significant in studying nutrition as having my face in the books, I volunteered on an organic CSA farm in Stillwater, NJ over the summer.

For those who don’t know, community supported agriculture (CSA) is an even better way of supporting local farms than shopping at farmer’s markets. It involves purchasing a share of a farm for a particular season. The members pay up front, providing small farmers with some financial security, and then receive a portion of the farm’s harvest on a regular basis (usually weekly) throughout the season. This is wonderful because it encourages members to eat more fresh, seasonal produce that came from a local source and is probably organic. You’ll know because you can ask the farmer, face to face. In addition to supporting sustainable agriculture, CSAs reduce the need to shop at those awful, awful supermarkets where you will be tempted to buy processed junk and cheaper bio-messedwith produce that has been sprayed with who knows what and shipped in from countries where the farmers can’t afford to eat their own crops.

Volunteering on this farm was hard work, but it felt good and gave me a peace of mind I haven’t otherwise experienced since returning from my travels. It was the farm’s first season, so every day was.. a lesson. Without an irrigation system, we would fill huge jugs of water in the Paulinskill River that ran along the edge of the farm property and then water the plants by hand using empty beer cans and yogurt containers. All the other volunteers were magically fascinating and bright. It was absolutely more intellectually stimulating than most jobs I’ve had (with the exception of neuroscience research). My strength and ability was never doubted even though I was a skinny girl with no farming experience, which is always empowering and rare to encounter. The farmer, James, is a wonderful person and I would highly recommend paying him a visit at Goodness Grows!

When I explained my plans to my parents, my mother very politely implied that she thought I might be making a big mistake ::cough::totallyfreakedout::cough:: My parents, like most members of their generation, measure success by their salaries. My mom doubted that farming could be a sustainable career choice. However, I think that it’s one of the only sustainable career choices. Everyone needs food. The economy is fake and prone to collapse at the push of a button. Current industrial farming practices are destroying the earth and poor nutrition is making Americans sick with fatness. Things really need to change, and they’re already shifting in my direction. Just think of all the people who won’t know how to feed themselves when the terrorists take down the power grid? Think of all the people who don’t know what food is, or where it comes from? We must correct this!!!!!!!

Sustainable agriculture is clearly something that I care deeply about, as is nutrition. The two go hand in hand, and as of right now, I think that I can make a more significant impact in this field (ha! pun!) by studying on a farm. Will farming be my career? I can’t answer that right now. Maybe not? Maybe I’ll integrate what I learn into a more holistic nutritional healing practice? Maybe I will travel all over the world, working on farms with my cloth-diapered baby and dirty hippie life partner? Maybe I will write a book about it and move back to Brooklyn. Maybe I’ll start an urban farm/music venue/book club/yoga studio in Bushwick and keep bees on my roof? Ohhh yeah, I left a little piece of my heart in Bushwick. <3

Ooo! Ooo! That reminds me of the best part! The farm I will be interning on has BEES! Remember when I said I wanted to be a beekeeper?!?! Hey! I’m gonna do it!

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Right on!

I will miss Jersey a whole big lot, I’m sure. It’s funny- at no point while I was living in Brooklyn did I feel like I wasn’t still in New Jersey. I guess this is what happens when you grow up so close to NYC. I consider Manhatten, Brooklyn and Long Island to be extensions of NJ rather than NY. I KNOW MY NEW YORKER FRIENDS ARE GONNA HATE THAT!

I’m spending my last month doing the things I love the most as much as I possibly can (i.e. going to shows, hiking/trail running, and spending time with my fwiends). Just in this past year (alright, here’s your review!) I’ve met so many beautiful, interesting, and talented people. I’m so grateful to have had the pleasure of connecting with and learning from these brilliant new friends. I’m going to leave in about one month and drive to WA with one of my most favorite new friends. I’m über excited about this road trip! I’m sure it will be an excellent adventure on its own and satisfy my itch to roam before planting myself in central WA for the growing season. Let’s hang out! Even better, let’s hike and go to a show! Rawk!

EEEEEEEEEEEEE new things!