Wednesday, May 27, 2009

My next passion

Since we’ve decided that it is impractical for us to bury ourselves trying to build a profitable farm so quickly, without real knowledge or skill to do so, I need a new focus. We’re completely committed to growing as much of our own food as possible. Now I want to learn how to cook. I’m not talking about making mac and cheese from a box, I’m talking from scratch. We are still completely into local food and sustainable eco-friendly production methods (how’s that for jargon!). But we don’t have to be the ones producing it. We just need to support those who do.
Last weekend we went up to Eugene’s farmer’s market, and one of the vendors there had a great little resource guide mapping out all the local farms in the area, what they produce and when and where they sell. Also it listed all the farmers markets in the county. There is a market happening every day of the week except for Mondays. This is how I’m going to start shopping, no more Safeway for me! Well, as much as possible at least. Ed and I figure we won’t be purists. For one thing, there is no local coffee, sugar or flour, all of which are essential to us. Hmm, there might be local flour, from eastern Oregon. We’ll buy everything that is available locally, but for that which is not, we are not going to go without. However, I would like to find a banana distributor that is not Dole.
So I want to cook, and I think cooking should be a messy process. I’ll throw it up against the wall, be covered in sugar and flour, and have vegetable shavings at my feet. I’ve always wanted to purchase my flour and rice in fifty pound bags. Part of this comes from my childhood, my mom had cans and cans of whole wheat, which she would grind and make bread with. And there is nothing like the smell of baking bread. There is a family dinner roll receipt that I am pretty good at making, but Ed and I are really looking forward to making all kinds of bread.
I have a problem when it comes to my desire to cook, I don’t really like food. That is, I’m a very picky eater. When we lived in LA, we would listen to NPR on the way to work (Ed and I worked six blocks from each other and had the luxury of commuting and eating lunch together everyday), and one day they had a segment on picky eaters. It’s a documented subject, where the appearance and texture matter almost more than smell and taste, although they matter too. It was describing me perfectly. Ed would always tease me when we would go out to dinner, I would take one bite of my meal, and say it tasted funny. And that was it, my way of saying I didn’t like it. I’m a basic steak and potatoes (medium rare of course), hashbrowns and eggs, bread and cheese, Mexican food (I grew up an hour north of the border) kind of girl. It’s not the most well-balanced diet. I might be slightly exaggerating, but not by much. Ed, on the other hand, is a garbage disposal, so even if I don’t like what I make, I know he’ll eat it.
I’m trying to stretch my limits. I tried mushrooms for the first time in 20 years, they were a little spongy, and I didn’t really like them, but I tried! I had asparagus, which I never liked, and it was okay, the real little ones were, depending on how they were cooked. The fresh ingredients help; I throw everything I can into the salads: cucumbers, strawberries, radishes, bell peppers, onions, carrots, avocado, cilantro, and maybe some lettuce. I’m making myself hungry. I want to start making stews and casseroles. I flip through my Betty Crocker cookbook and dream of all the wonderful things I will cook. It’s such an art: food preparation. I have a little desire to domesticate; it’s strange to admit because I was always the little anti-everything. But if I didn’t allow myself to grow due to prejudices from my past I would be rather stupid. Thus my reason for trying mushrooms. Although I’m still not going to try fish

Saturday, May 23, 2009

What we've done so far

Not the best picture, but this is the field before we started
and the transformation along the way

and we're still working

Friday, May 22, 2009

Energy from the sun

We have now planted eighteen beds and one very long row. We are still at it too, a few more rows, and I’m just throwing seeds all over the place. Our garden might not be picturesque and perfectly manicured, just as long as it is functional. Also, I’ve been thinking about it lately, man has been cultivating crops for at least the past 10,000 years, and up until about 100 years ago most people did. And way back then, they didn’t have near the tools or knowledge that we now have, and they made it work. So I think I can make it work. Although it is arrogant of me to claim we have more knowledge than they did. Who knows, maybe there was some great cosmic knowledge that they had access to, that we have since lost.
As an example, Ed and I watched the movie Rabbit Proof Fence the other night. There’s an aboriginal tracker in the movie, and the signs that he could follow, along with the knowledge of how to survive in the wild, that we as humans just don’t seem to know anymore. I’ve always loved the image of a tracker, being able to follow the signs that even the most careful walker leaves behind them.
But more than that, and about the garden, even before human intervention and cultivation of these plants, they grew naturally. I mean, how else would they have had the option to grow them? And things grow, everywhere. So we are not going to baby our garden, these plants have to be tough.
Okay, so I’ve heard the argument that since humans have been cultivating such plants that their genetic makeup has changed so that they could not survive in the wild without human intervention. I don’t know about this, I mean, are there still wild tomatoes? Maybe not, but still… well, I better get weeding. Have a nice day.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Trouble in paradise

Riding lawnmowers must be the county’s favorite pastime, it’s a way to get to spend time in their yard without having to walk around the place. Yep, lawn-mowing, it’s what we do for fun around here, and the grass grows so very fast.
There is a lot going on behind the scenes, and I haven’t had the desire to write much, but not writing does leave something lacking within myself. So in a way my current funk is like my common phrase, “You do it to yourself”.
So here is the question, knowing as I do that a certain person may read my blog, is it wise to air my grievances against them? When the two options are appeasement or blow out, which is the better option? It’s all in the details I suppose. Ah details, details… and without going into further details, let me just say that we understand how Harry felt, living at the Dursley’s, under the staircase. It’s not good.
We also have come to the conclusion that we have been taking on too much, and just stressing ourselves out in the process. Jumping off the high-dive platform into the deep end without knowing how to swim, while a bunch of people standing around the edge of the pool, who also don’t know how to swim, are yelling instructions at you on how to do it. We are going to slow down and choose the next step on our path carefully. We cancelled our chicken order. It’s not the right time. We are going to be focusing solely on the garden, and getting to know, if we can, the state of Oregon and its people. We have come to realize that there are certain aspects of our living situation here that we don’t think we can handle long-term. We would like a shower of our own one day, a workable kitchen, space and autonomy. And we also don’t think that we are ready to be tied to a specific piece of land, in the way that livestock ties one to the land. Ed and I have just a little too much gypsy in us for that, and when we think about it, our little home is on wheels. There is too much we haven’t seen in our country, let alone the world, to landlock ourselves so. The one thing we must always remember is there are always options. This is both frightening and liberating. So we are back to the drawing board, considering options.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

While the cats are away…

Carol and Grant have left the farm! They are gone for three days down to San Francisco for a granddaughter’s college graduation. It’s been very nice and peaceful with them gone, except we have to take care of their dogs. Their three little Shi-Tzus do not like Jackie at all. They growl and snap at him, and Jackie, who just wants to play, is already jumping circles around them. It’s rather amusing to watch. We are trying to teach Jackie to behave, even though the three other dogs don’t. In fact, none of my in-laws animals are trained. The miniature horses sure aren’t trained, and sometimes Weldon really freaks me out giving me an evil eye look and baring his teeth at me.
We’ve still been breaking our backs trying to pull up sod, put down beds and start planting. The past few days we have started the day off in pain, while attempting hard labor, ending up in more pain, only to try it again tomorrow. It really does not matter what position my body is in, standing, sitting or laying, every one of my joints and muscles ache. We know it will not be such hard labor every year. Once the beds are made, they will stay that way. We’ve planted our tomatoes (finally!) and I’ve thrown some seeds into the ground: corn, bell peppers, pumpkin, cucumbers, and am hoping for the best.
Also there is a crazy root system in the next field we plan to expand our garden into, that I have been pulling up. I think it is a blackberry plant. I’ve had fun trying to pull it up, it criss-crosses all over the field, but every so often I get a root that will peel up for a good long while. It’s very satisfying.
I haven’t felt like writing much, I haven’t felt like anything much. I keep on thinking that this will get easier, but it doesn’t get easier.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Explorations in Self-Identity

I haven’t been feeling like myself lately, I wonder who I’ve been feeling like. I haven’t been recognizing myself either; maybe I haven’t been looking at myself enough. But I’ve been so busy! The farm, my relationship with my husband, and the new dog have been demanding all my attention, so I haven’t had much time to look at myself and what I’m becoming, and to think about that. Adulthood-ness, or as Ed would say ‘You’re not a spring chicken anymore.’ I’m not lamenting my youth, or youth in general. Indeed, I think that our current youth-driven culture gives up a lot of aged wisdom. (I also believe the cultural tide is turning, hopefully to a place where both youth and age are seen for their contribution to society.) It’s more of a ‘what I thought I would be, compared to what I am’ crisis. But the funny thing is I never really had an image of what I wanted to be as an adult. I was rebellious for many of my formative years (not that I’ve completed my formation) and never gave the matter much thought, the big ‘when I grow up’ question. I don’t want to grow up! But want to or not, due to the linear nature of time we experience on this planet, growing up happens. So here I am, sitting in front of the Airstream trailer that I call home, on a farm in Oregon. I think that so far I’ve done just fine navigating my life, but that’s my own humble opinion.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Digging in the dirt

Every night, out our bedroom window, we have been looking over a beautiful grass yard, and have been dreaming of a garden. And now is the time that the transformation begins. For the past four days we’ve been pulling up sod. It’s breaking our backs and covering us with dirt. At the end of the day, when we look over the ground, more brown than green now, we feel a little sore, completely exhausted, and blissfully proud. Our baby steps are adding up, and we keep having to tell ourselves that we are not behind. The ground is just warming up, and we’ll be planting by the weekend, we are exactly where we should be. It’s paradise here, at least I believe it to be so, when I stand up to catch my breath and I look out over the green hills and feel the breeze toss my hair, drying the sweat off my neck. My fingernails are crusted with dirt, and my hands covered in blisters. I look at them and think ‘I need a manicure’ and then I think ‘I’m a long way from Beverly Hills now’. I’m starting to see the age in my face. Hey, I’m not 22 anymore, I’m not even 25 anymore. I’m looking in on 29. Okay, so my birthday is a few months away, but I think about it sometimes, and every year I come to the same conclusion. I feel I have enough life experience to be 29, and I don’t feel as old as I thought 29 would feel. I ran this by my mom one time, and she said ‘I don’t feel as old as I thought 55 would feel’. It’s good to know.
So I commented on how there is no greener grass, but there is browner dirt! And I think we have some good soil. The grass roots are deep, and I fight with them to come up, it’ll be an on-going battle. There are lots of worms in the ground, and lots of mushrooms. We don’t know much about mushrooms, but Ed has become very interested in them. We can’t wait to learn all about them and go hunting for them.

Monday, May 4, 2009

There is no greener grass.

Just different shades of green and they all need dirt to grow in. It’s been a week since I’ve been back home full-time on the farm. And while I was consumed with all the agony that a horrible job can produce, it was easy to forget that there were also anxieties on the farm as well. It’s not all sunshine and lollipops; in fact there is little sunshine and no lollipops.
The farm is not easy, but we haven’t had much time for farming, as most of the last week was dedicated to organizing a garage/barn sale, trying to sell off stuff and make some room in the barn. Carol was a professional doll maker for 20 years, and she collected dolls and stuffed animals during that time, so there were crates and crates of stuffed animals and beanie babies and dolls. Crates and crates! And my mother-in-law is particular in ways that my logic and reasoning fail to comprehend, and this made collaborating with her on such an undertaking at times frustrating and tedious. But as an anthropological study, it is interesting to see who comes to yard sales and what they buy there. Carol kept on commenting on how people buy the weirdest stuff at yard sales, and I said, but you bought it first. Not everything sold, I’d say maybe half of it sold, the rest will go to the Salvation Army and Goodwill. Then there is the other side of the doll making business which involves the molds, and Carol has hundreds of them. Since these are a specialty item, we’re going to try to sell them on e-bay.
Even though farming is not easy, and it’s hard labor, we enjoy it. Right now it’s still raining and cold. I mean, we still can’t plant outside yet anyway! We have been reading up on the subject, and the Pacific Northwest has a peculiar growing season, and this year, according to local folk, winter is dragging its heels a little harder than usual. I mean, we don’t mind the rain, but we don’t want to be out pulling up sod in it. And it’s May, come on, does it still have to be grey and rainy all the time? Maybe I’m spoiled too much from the desert, and Ed’s from SoCal, but really, does it still have to be so cold? I want to wear my flip-flops! I don’t want to have to put on five layers! I understand that the growing season extends late into the fall, but we have been worried about our crops having enough time to mature.
To throw another monkey wrench into the works, we got a puppy. Little Jackie, and we love him! He is time consuming right now, and we have to house train him. Which he’s been doing really good at, but no little puppy is perfect, and he further crowds an already crowded living space. Jackie is very smart, and within a week he is following basic commands, without us really trying to train him. He is also a precious little love muffin, who curls up with us, and he’s a fearless tiger, keeping all the goats in line. What a dynamic dog.