Saturday



Let's sit in my car and drink coffee together. We just pulled up and put it into park, and were about to open our doors… until a bee flew into my open window, and landed on my finger. We realized how perfect it is outside right now, the ideal autumn day- cool and sunny with a crisp breeze, and the view from our seats is beautiful. It's cozy in the car. Why should we sit in the house, surrounded by the same dumb objects that we're always looking at? Sure we could sit on the porch, but when I'm sitting outside, everything expands for me; I'm taken away from the person and towards the horizon. I fill any space that I'm in, and the larger it is the more thinly I'm spread. In my car, we can take the time to admire a pretty little piece of the property that is always bypassed, that's never appreciated in the rush of coming and going. We can soak in each other's vibes. Sip, look around, and talk. When the doors open, we'll be thrown back into our usual world; but in the car, we'll be in our own little bubble. 

Too bad it's just me and the bee, and she's already flown back out the window. 



Another perk of farming: take care of your chefs, and they'll take care of you. I've already mentioned how we all got $50 gift cards to a gastropub that stocks our produce in their kitchen, courtesy of the owner. Today, we traded garlic scapes in exchange for top-quality house-made charcuterie from a local delicatessen. The video posted below is one that I took of Pinot, a Tuscan transplant in the fresh pasta business. He'd been selling his pasta at the farmer's market and through other outlets, but has just recently opened a small restaurant just down the street from one of our farm properties. We had been doing CSA prep when Brian came in and said that we were going to take lunch down the road; we had no idea what was going on, but the prospect of free food and the mention of wine was enough to have us on board. Turns out it was Pinot's opening day, and as a token of his appreciation (Brian is growing a few things with him specifically in mind) he served us wine, fresh caprese salad, roasted peppers with olives, and the best lasagna I've had in my entire life (made with his homemade lasagna noodles, of course). So dangerously delicious.


video

Wednesday

My time at the farm is at least a quarter of the way over and yet I've never written about what I've actually been DOING here. Without daily (sometimes even weekly) internet use, it's been hard to keep up. When I do get to it, there always seems to be a time crunch; right now, I'm squeezing it in before heading to work in twenty minutes. Ah, well. 

Now that it's getting towards summertime (which supposedly doesn't really start until July!), things have been picking up on both farms- plants need to get into the ground, there's more to harvest, and the weeds are growing more quickly. Last week when I worked with Betsey, we planted a few more rows of brassicas- broccoli, cabbage, and romanesco. We laid down irrigation in the potatoes that we planted a few weeks ago (not by seed or transplants, but by 'seed potatoes'... basically just old potatoes that are starting to sprout). Shoot thinning in the vineyard has been another priority, which is pretty fun to do once you feel confident that you (mostly) know what you're doing. Usually we work Tuesday-Saturday because we have the farmer's market on Saturday, but I put in an extra half day of work on Sunday for Betsey: hoed in the onions and brassicas, shoveled manure, and pulled grass and shoot pruned in the vineyard. I ended up working on Monday for Brian, too, in exchange to take Tuesday off to drive to Sequim for some one-on-one time with John Erskine (draft horse/people trainer extraordinaire). 

On Tuesdays and Thursdays, work with Brian always entails at least half a day of harvesting and prepping produce for his CSA, usually followed by planting or fiddling with irrigation, plastic, or greenhouses. Prep is my least favorite task, so I enjoy working Mondays instead- one Monday, we mostly just cleaned eggs and weeded. This one past, we planted zucchini for almost the entire day, followed by peas. 

Ah, shit- time to go to work. So let me take this last second to say that I got to drive a team of horses for the first time yesterday and it was totally rad!! (Up to now, had only driven singles)

Thursday

on the cutting board
brassicas lay in limbo
a quick breakfast shoot 



(and yes, they're from our farm)

Monday

And after the sun had set, we stayed and star-gazed
And at 1 am, we all awoke and away'd 





Finishing off the potatoes from last year, and clinking our glasses to those yet to come 



Sunday

Some crappy, quickly-taken webcam photos of my wifi haunt for the last couple of weeks: Pegasus Coffee. Incredible breakfast/lunch menu, full bar, and super delicious coffee (my favorite breve in town, so far).



Monday


After days of foliar-feeding with seabird guano and cleaning out the horse paddock, I wonder how odorous I am to others (non-farmers, at least). It's almost like the dirtier we get, the less frequently we all take showers. I've always leaned more towards savagery than civility, and living here I'm surrounded by enablers… we all eat with our dirty hands, eat stuff off the floor, only shower a couple of times a week even though we spend every day in the dirt (or worse) and sweating, etc. Britney and I were joking around the other day about how we must have at least triple the population of internal parasites than the average American, with our hands always in the soil and our habit of eating vegetables straight out of the ground, still covered with dirt. 

Lately I've had this creeping feeling that I'm going to want to stick around longer than the length of this apprenticeship. There seems to be a lot of opportunity here, mostly because there is such a great network of support; I've seriously never experienced anything like this. There's this guy Jeff who owns this great gastropub on the water- all local brews on tap, and an incredible menu which is also made with mostly locally-sourced ingredients (including from the farms that I work on). He gave each of us a $50 gift card to his bar, and also took our picture to put on his menu with a short blurb about what we're doing out here… he's even letting us use his small sailboat whenever we want to!  The farmers out here all help each other out, even though they're all technically competing- they all really believe in small-scale local agriculture, and want to see its success. 

We've also been saving tons of money on groceries by being involved in the farming community here. Mike Paulson is another local farmer who is friends with Brian and Betsey, and we'll see him around the farm every once in awhile… anyway, he gave me 2 dozen eggs and 3 bars of handmade soap yesterday at the farmers' market, just to be nice. Betsey gave us 4 bags of braising mix and 2 bags of spinach that were leftover from the market (with still more in the barn that we can take), and just a few days earlier had given us 3 chickens and a huge box of potatoes. In the last week, Brian has given us pork chops, bok choy, carrots, beets, radishes, salad greens, and a chicken. He'll also give us eggs and beef sometimes. (Note: everything is organic and pasture-raised) We'll be starting to milk the cow soon, which means we'll have access to fresh milk for making yogurt and butter. Huzzah! We'll be getting even more produce as it gets warmer and the season comes into full-swing.
At the auction, I met this young guy named Andrew who works for Farmstead Meatsmith and he posted a really awesome set of photos from the event. It totally captures the feel of it:

http://farmrun.com/perhaps-one-day

Sunday

Auction

I feel so incredibly lucky to be here.  

At 3 am on Wednesday morning, Britney, Hamilton, and I piled into Betsey's car to make the trek to Madras, Oregon for the Small Farmer's Journal annual draft horse auction and swap meet. Holy crap, what an amazing time.  At any given moment you could be spectating/buying at the auction, participating in workshops, watching competitions (plowing and herding), perusing the vendors, or meeting new people.  A lot of young people pitched tents and camped out there (the auction was held on the fairgrounds), so it was fun to just lay in the sun, chat and eat food out of your cooler.

Although I did meet a few cool people while I was there, I think my favorite part of the trip was getting to spend a little bit more time with the people I already knew. Once we arrived, we met up with Aaron and Dana and Aaron's brother Ben; Dana did this apprenticeship a few years ago, and is married to Aaron.  After completing the apprenticeship, the two of them moved to Arkansas (Aaron's home state) to start a farm, but they hated it and ended up moving back to the Bainbridge area and now have their own small farm here. Aaron works for Brian three days a week, so I get to work with him fairly often. They're such good people! They're welcoming, smart, good for conversation, and fun to have a beer with. I really like Ben, too; he's not as outgoing as Aaron but he's really funny and great to talk to if you make the effort (he's just a quiet guy), and has really expressive eyes. As brothers, the two of them are pretty endearing. Sadly, Ben's only here to build cabinets (he's a carpenter) for Dana and Aaron's new house, and will be returning to Arkansas in a couple of weeks. Erin is another past apprentice who is still connected with everyone and came down to the auction; she's super outgoing and so genuinely sweet; you feel like you could tell her anything and she wouldn't think you were a crazy weirdo (and yes, I know I just used two semi-colons in one sentence but I don't care!). She's 31 but you'd never guess it. Robin is another past intern of theirs, and she still works for Betsey... she reminds me a lot of Natalie Portman for some reason, and is equally as great as the others. I probably sound annoyingly cheesy going on about how wonderful everyone is, but I'm just floored by how much I like them all. I tend to be hard on people and apprehensive when I first meet someone, so I wasn't expecting to feel such a strong appreciation for everyone already.


I was able to learn a few things from a lady who processes her own farm-grown fleece into yarn and then garments; I'd really like to own sheep for shearing one day, and she was kind enough to demonstrate skirting (getting the fleece ready for processing, i.e. removing pieces of poor/inconsistent quality) and carding ('combing' pieces of fleece to straighten out and line up the fibers) for me. 

Joel bought chaps! (Joel was an intern at a different farm on Bainbridge, but became friends with Betsey and her interns; he's working at a farm in Walla Walla, but came down for the auction) 


Two car-loads of us drove down to the Deschutes Brewery for dinner and beers one night. Pictured above (from left to right) is Renee, Dana, and Robin 

Aaron and Ben 



Tuesday

John Erskine




Betsey took us all out to spend a day with John Erskine, a retired draft horse trainer and her personal mentor and longtime friend. Boy, does this man know horses (he's been working with horses for 45 years!). Not only did we get a personal tour and introduction to each of his horses, but insightful musings on equipment, horse care, and horse temperament.
The keystone of the trip was learning the basics of driving a workhorse; we each got to try our hand at it, taking turns as the driver for a solid two or three hours.


This horse is only 9 months old! He's huge!

Me drivin'! 
So I wrote this huge entry detailing every day of my entire road trip (not that anyone would actually want to read it), and then I accidentally reloaded the page and lost it all. Funny thing is, I had the feeling that would happen. Anyway, here are some bullets instead:

- Air conditioning faltered within the first hour of the drive, anxiety ensued; started working again later, flood of relief

- The second day was spent singing along to old, angsty music from high school and then getting stuck in tornadoes outside of Dallas, which ultimately resulted in an almost 4 hour delay and 2 hours of squatting in a Family Dollar in rural Texas.

- Dallas is the worst city to drive through ever.

- Texas loves donuts, Whataburger, and Sonic. Seriously.

- I've fallen in love with the desert after driving through New Mexico and southern Utah. It's so true that there's a certain energy radiated by the landscape out there; it's like the absorption of all of that solar energy brings it alive. Even though it's so expansive, it doesn't feel empty at all; it almost feels like the rocks are aware of your presence, like the wind doesn't blow past you but TO you. It's definitely enchanting. The colors are incredible, too.

- Albuquerque is a strange place, though not unpleasant. It's really pretty and clean, and has a retro feel to it... but it's super quiet and almost feels like a ghost town, even though there are functioning shops/restaurants/bars/businesses lining the streets. The people there look at you, but not in a negative way; it's almost as if they can feel that you're an outsider and it piques their interest. Native American bums were also a new thing for me, and added to the surreal feel of it all. White man's guilt.

- Mancos, Colorado is a gem that we were lucky to stumble upon

- Traveling through Utah is like driving across Mars, and then the Moon. The first part of the state is red and rocky and has that energizing and sometimes quirky desert feel to it; the latter half is more cool-toned and feels emptier and almost like a wasteland, but still breathtaking- it's like listening to Beck and then switching to Bjork.

- Stopped in Moab for gas, really want to go back to explore it

- Stopped in Salt Lake City to visit with Megan... not bad at all, a decent city

- Southern Idaho is shitty and I feel bad for the people who live there; at least the dust storms are awesome to behold (and exhilarating/nerve-wracking to drive through)

- Souvenirs from the trip: pickled quail eggs from Texas, two locally-made mustards and two hand-made kaleidoscopes from Colorado