It has been hot here lately. Well hot for here anyways! Mighty early in the season for this many days of prolonged heat. So dry. It is June not August! Days that heat up quickly, nights that fail to cool, dry. Hard on the plants, hard on the animals, hard on the humans. Then this morning- Gray skies, a breeze, big fat raindrops, thunder in the distance. Time to do a barnyard dance!!! It feels SO good! The plants rejoice, the animals rejoice, the human rejoices. It will not last… the forecast tells us the heat will ramp up another notch in the coming week.
But to celebrate a garden tour was in order. Come join me.
Here the Bumble Bees in the Lavender. Check the egg filled nest hidden in the gooseberries. Listen to the buzz of Honey Bees beginning their workday. Pollinators on flowers, flowers glowing to attract them. Cane berries ripening. An early morning harvest. The first Dahlia bloom. A buck deer bedded down at the edge of the woods. The scent of flowers & rain spattered soil in the air. Beauty surrounds. Beauty abounds.
On this day in 1981 Bob & I were married. 34 years. The beginning of dreams becoming reality. It continues today. 34 years of dreaming & doing. Best Friends. Sharing. Love & laughter, tears & heartache. Working side by side, blisters & backaches. Slowly growing a home, a family, a farm.
Now the kids are grown & gone, pursuing their own lives & dreams. Bob has recently retired from a long career as a firefighter/paramedic and now is a full timer on the farm. Our lives continue to change & evolve. The dreams are the reality. The constant is us.
Here is a snapshot of the last days of Spring 2015 here at FullCircle Farm.
Spring is full upon us. Beautiful warming sun one day, light drenching rain the next. Yesterday was the warming sun day. From sun up to sun down, life giving sun. Tickling the soil to life. Encouraging life to spring forth. The air heavy with the scent of lilac & daphne & freshly mown grass. Mmmm…
Today is the light drenching rain day. A thorough gentle watering for all. Grass & flowers & leaves heavily laden with it’s raindrop weight. In the greenhouse the air heavy with the scent of lemon blossom, rosebud & warm moist soil. Mmmm…
In the kitchen this afternoon, the scent of Rhubarb pie baking. It must be Spring! A pie crust of freshly ground flour & butter, worked lightly with experienced hands, rolled thin, crimped on the edges like Mom showed me so many years ago. The filling of crisp red rhubarb, sugar & flour with a sprinkle of nutmeg, piled high. Into the oven this right of Spring. The house fills with the scent of baking pie, not any pie, Rhubarb pie. It bubbles and browns and wafts its heavenly scent. Mmmm…
Dessert tonight a celebration of Spring. A gift of Love from farm to table. Mmmm…
Every morsel of food you eat, every bite of food you feed to your family was at it’s point of origin, grown, raised, caught or harvested by someone. Most likely this person was a farmer. Farmers are the essential ingredient to our ability to eat. Farms from enormous to micro-sized all play a part in our food system. The vast majority of farmers are extremely hard working, intelligent, dedicated professionals of their trade. Since a vast majority of citizens aren’t able to grow their own food a farmer is pretty essential… well… to life. So it seems farms, farming, farmers are pretty darn important!
When you are purchasing food, say an apple, a head of broccoli, a carton of milk, a steak, or a dozen eggs you are supporting a farmers work. You are not just purchasing something to put into your stomach, you are purchasing nutrients to fuel your body. Preferably not just any nutrients but ones that will fuel your body well. Food filled with quality nutrients has the capacity to bring you good health, well being, greater productivity & a high quality of life. WOW!!!
If this is true, which it is, why is the pervasive reason to choose a certain food item often based on whether it is “cheap” or not. In other products we purchase most of us know that cheap isn’t always, or rarely is, the best value. Value is every bit as much about quality as it is about price.
Often times, not always, a cheap price can be an indicator of quality, or the lack of it. Ask yourself why is the product cheap? Is it old? Does it contain an inferior quality of ingredients; or possibly ingredients from a lab not a farm at all? Are the farms/farmers growing it concerned with the quality of the soil and growing nutrient dense food? How do their farming practices impact the soil, water & air quality? Are the farms that are providing animals or animal products providing a quality habitat/life for those animals? Were the workers on those farms treated well and receive fair wages so they too can take care of their families? There are a lot of important hidden issues involved in price.
Returning to a food system of local farms producing high quality fresh food items for their communities seems essential. Farmers Markets, Food Co-ops, CSA’s and other Direct from Farm programs are growing in popularity. In a system where the farmer can receive a fair price/living wage for their work and the consumer has access to gorgeous, flavorful, high quality nutritious food, everyone wins. Suddenly low price is not the deciding factor, it is quality. Quality of food. Quality of health. Quality of community. Quality of life for all, producer & customer alike.
If you haven’t yet joined the local food movement make this the year you start. Find a market that sources from local farmers, a Farmer’s Market, a CSA or other Farm Program, or buy Direct from a local Farm. Be willing to spend that extra 50 cents on a head of lettuce or extra $1 for a dozen eggs. You will be awakened to the incredible flavor of truly fresh well raised food. If you have already begun to spend your food dollars more locally add something new this year. Try to source some meat or dairy from a local farm, fruit from a local orchard, local flowers too! The extra effort you put into sourcing local food is so worth it!
-Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food-
Unfortunately not everyone has access to good quality food. It is also quite difficult to stretch a thin budget. Both of these are difficult issues with no clear answers. But it does seem to me that access to quality nutritious food should be a priority in our society. What are your thoughts?
On February 3rd 2015 life on our farm took a major turn. The life of my beautiful Morgan mare Mitzi would end this day. Mitzi was 27 years old and had lived here as a member of our family for nearly 20 years. She had a chronic medical condition that for the last 10 years had eroded her health, but never stole her spirit. When I entered the barn at daylight on Tuesday morning something was obviously wrong. Her best buddy Gary, in the adjoining stall, was standing with his nose against the stall divider making little snuffly noises with his nostrils. I could see her blanketed back thru the divider but her head was down out of sight. I went to her stall door, she was on her feet, wobbly and unsteady. Her stall showed signs that she had been down and struggling during the night, with all of the bedding pushed outward against the stall walls. She raised her head slightly and gave me a small nicker of welcome, a nicker I have heard every morning for nearly 20 years. I went inside the stall, stroked her neck, pulled her ears and asked her “Is today your day old girl?” She put her head against my chest and leaned into me, her answer was “yes”, the spirit was gone. After quickly feeding the other barn inhabitants & leaving Gary standing guard over his best friend, I went to the house to call the vet. It was time, the day I knew was coming, the day I had prepared myself for for 2 years, the phone call was made, the vet would be there by noon.
I have had the pleasure to share my life with horses for 45 years, getting my first when I was 12. I was a shy & awkward girl and horses were my best friends, confidantes and listeners to all my young prattle. Many hours were spent on the backs of horses and in the company of them in those years. All of those horses hold a special place in my heart, they did help me grow up after all. Later on, I was a mother with 3 young children, the oldest who was also a horse crazy young girl. We had purchased our daughter an old gray mare named Angel for her to grow up with. A best friend, a confidante, a good listener. But Mitzi was my mid-life crisis horse. I wanted/needed a horse for me. One to take dressage lessons on, to trail ride and horse camp with. In need of the type of friendship you can only find with a fury beast with penetrating brown eyes and a nicker. The first time I saw her I knew she was the one. A beautiful, young, liver chestnut, Morgan mare, well trained, sweet & kind. She was my wedding anniversary present that year. The BEST gift EVER!
Over the years we did many things together. Riding lessons, beach trips, trail rides. And then there were those wonderful family horse camping trips to Central Oregon. Hours and hours spent in the saddle and many more hours spent in the barn. Mitzi learned to curtsy and nod her head to say “Yes”. She was a master with her lips and could open gates and stall doors. Mitzi LOVED being groomed, especially having her mane and tail combed out, she was girlie that way. She also loved trail riding, exploring new places, tackling new challenges. Occasionally silly but mostly steady, she trusted me & I trusted her. As we both aged our life together changed. I was busy with teenagers, then young adult children. She took to her life of semi-retirement reluctantly. I gave beginning lessons to several young girls on her. She loved that job and took care of her young riders. By that time her only gaits were walk and trot. In the last several years she had lost her appetite and with that her weight and body condition declined. She had gone down several times in the past 2 years, but had surprisingly recovered each time. This time there would be no recovery. She told me she was done. It was time to let go.
The tears continue to flow this morning. Why? Not because she is gone, not because there are regrets, not because I feel I made the wrong decision to end her life. But because I loved her. What is it about these animals that gets so much under our skin? I can’t imagine life without them in it. They give so much more than they get from us. For that I owe a huge debt of gratitude.
So in Mitzi’s final hours I took off her blanket, revealing a body thin with age and illness. Stroked her coat, hair still soft but long and faded in color. Gave her a final grooming, her favorite thing, buried my face in her neck & took in that lovely smell one last time. I talked and cried and Gary stood guard in the adjoining stall. The vet came, a kind man with a difficult job. I walked her unsteadily from the barn for the last time. I said goodbye, the injections were given, she dropped to the ground, her breathing stopped. Today the sun is out and Mitzi is being buried on the hill behind the barn. Another very kind man, my husband, digging her grave and carefully placing her in it. Daffodils will be planted on top and the scar on the ground reseeded with pasture grass. You are home my sweet Mitzi. Rest in Peace.
Up before daylight. The house is quiet except for the patter of raindrops on the roof. Start a warming fire in the wood stove, brew a cup of tea, sweeten it with honey, the day begins new. I truly enjoy the first days of a new year. A time of reflecting back merging into planning forward. The coffee table is covered with plans. Notes from last season, lots of notes. Seed catalogs and seed lists, lots of catalogs, lots of lists. Books for planning, books for pleasure, lots of books. An empty 2015 calendar beckoning to be filled. The raindrops fall, the fire crackles, the tea cools, the heart warms. The joy in stepping into a new year, one foot at a time.
July is a voraciously busy month on the farm. It is a month where you are straddling multiple seasons- in the throes of Summer, prepping for Fall and planning for Winter. The days are getting shorter, the angle of the sun is changing, the harvest is reaching its peak and the farmer always seems to be in perpetual motion. One foot in front of the other, one chore after another, moving forward, feeling behind.
Our July has been exceptionally busy here at FullCircle Farm- gardening, weeding, watering, harvesting, cultivating, seeding, transplanting, thinning, trellising, mowing, composting, feeding, haying, watering, rotating, hoop coop moving, slaughtering, processing, breeding, brooding, hive inspecting, supering, canning, freezing, drying, pickling, jam making, equipment repairing, equipment building, tree cutting, limb chipping, wood stacking, sales & marketing, helping, laughing, loving, eating and sleeping well.
Even as overflowing as this July has been it has purpose and reason. It feels right, It feels good. It is where I belong.
Bringing in the hay is a summer ritual. A ritual I have participated in, with family, every year, since I was a small child. Over time the hay fields have changed, the hay crew has changed, and my role has changed. But this ritual of high summer is the same. Fields of beautiful grass- mowed, raked into windrows, re-raked to cure, then baled with the clackity clack of balers, it is timeless. With a parade of machinery, long ribbons of bales are left twining over the fields, and hay is made.
This is the task of the local farmers we purchase hay from. There is much checking of weather reports to find that window that is long enough to safely turn grass into hay. They spend long hours on the back of a tractor, going round and round the field, attaching the next implement to the tractor and circling the field yet again. It is not an easy task in NW Oregon to make good quality hay. The challenges are many. Many thanks to our hay farmers, Phil & Tom, for the long hot hours the put in to bring us good quality hay for our livestock. We truly appreciate you!
At our farm the loft has been cleaned and organized in preparation. The old hay conveyor has been placed at the loft door. All is ready. The phone call comes. “Hay is ready”, and we leap into action. Equipment is gathered; hay hooks, ratchet straps, coolers of water, gloves, hats, a sweat towel, are all essential to the task. The flatbed trailer is hitched to the truck & the crew of available family is assembled. We are off to the fields where hay bales, warmed by the early morning sun, await us. This is a choreographed event with each member playing an important role. The truck and trailer are driven slowly between rows of bales. From both sides a bale is picked-up, bucked onto the trailer or into the truck bed and then stacked in a pattern to make a tight load. The load steadily grows as the truck creeps along. When the bales are stacked high, ratchet straps are placed criss-cross over the load to hold it steady as we travel home. The truck & trailer are backed-up to the barn to be off-loaded. The load is disassembled one-by-one, each bale placed on the conveyor, and with much clackity clack, lifted skyward into the mouth of the loft. The bales are once again stacked in a tight pattern, this for the final time, on pallets on the loft floor. With stacks 5 high, 10 bales to a pallet, the loft is filled with sweet smelling hay assuring that our animals will eat well over the winter. There is such great satisfaction to be found in a barn full of hay!
Bringing in the hay is a summer ritual on the farm. A ceremony, carried out in earnest each year to mark the longest days of the year and in preparation for the shortest ones.