Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Big Guns

Onions and winter squash that it. Last week we saw the farm transform in an abrupt period of about 72 hours.

That’s what the frost does apparently.

We had been talking about it, wondering when Old Jack Frost himself would arrive, until one morning, he came.

We woke up, like any other morning, put our beanies on and headed for pipe change. When we got down to the beloved, wonky, picnic bench for our morning meeting we were greeted with little glistening crystals of frost on the ground. On the crops too. And on the pipes we were ‘bout to move. That makes for cold hands.

I didn’t know those little crystals were going to flip our garden in the days to come. The bountiful fields that I have known all summer were about to be liberated. We unleashed the big guns.

Here are a few pics from the week. We harvested hundreds of pounds of winter squash and onions. Not to forget, we pulled all the basil, summer squash, cherry tomatoes and bush beans. And as always, lots of cucumbers, chard, kale, carrots and beets.

Me, Rattle Snake Kate, & Alisha showing off the big guns... the corn that is.

Alisha, clearly incapable of taking a bad photo





What a beautiful bunch of folks... and onions

Finally, here are a series of short videos of the trials and tribulations of farming

Take one: Failure

Take two: Failure

Take three: Success! We pulled the sword out of the stone, next mission, take over the world!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

10 Pictures For Ketchup

Since my blogging hasn't been up to par, especially as far as what's happening on the farm, I decided to post 10 pictures to catch you all up.

Ketchup. Ready Go!

This is a photo of a little decapitated fish that found its way from the irrigation ditch to our 4 inch irrigation pipes. We water our 200 and some acres of pasture twice a day for 12 hour periods. We had our first frost on Tuesday, successfully wiping out our basil, tomatoes, summer and winter squashes. We can only irrigate for a couple more weeks before we're cut off for the season.

The Farm at Sunrise Ranch is dedicated to raising 100% grass fed, grass finished beef. We rotationally graze our cows and give them the love and care they need. We started the season with 40 beauties and are now down to our last 20. I have a new appreciation for eating meat, being fortunate to see the full cycle.

Similar to the amount of pride Alisha has for going a season with out washing her hair, I'm pretty ecstatic about going 3 months with out washing my overalls. They're like a well season cast iron skillet. It would be blaspheme to even think about using soap on them.

Onward is Kate's new side kick, having him on the farm has made my heart ache for Ally. Pops has been doing a great job of being Grand Pappy but I'll be headed back to Southern California on Sunday to pick her up. Bligh and Alyster (fingers crossed) will be joining me in the Avalon, AKA The Magic Carpet. We will be returning in The Camry with The Alamander. Can't wait.

The infamous pasture pipe change to the willows. Sara has the line of the season, "I found my fulcrum!" I have said more times then I can count, "I'm gunna put that on a t-shirt" this season. But this one, my dearies, is GUNNA be put on a t-shirt! "I found my fulcrum at Sunrise Ranch!"

For those of you who don't know, Sunrise Ranch has a conference business. In addition to their grass fed beef, it's a way for them to make money. Their guests are usually interesting folks, The Bio Pulsar Group, Mondo Buddhists, The Tappers... all kinds. I wasn't there to actually meet this one memorable lady, but I heard the story. She changed her name to Starlight Compost. This picture is of us sitting on a large pile of mature compost. Chuck worked hard to move the piles from one pasture to where they are located now, the new, new permaculture garden. I can't remember the names that Starlight gave the interns, since I wasn't actually present, but Dave's was something along the lines of Lantern Bunny Running in Forest.

Alisha's cousin Matt was a true pleasure to have on the farm. We all missed him when he left. Especially me. I dubbed Matt my personal intern, although he didn't know it. That's when you know your a real farmer, forget about the big pivot sprinklers.

Another day with Micha. You know what that means? Lots of coffee breaks and riding in the back of the truck. Kate and I got to spend some time working with Chuck on the wheel line. Chuck has to be one of my favorite people of the farm. A man of few words and a big smile. He also drives the dump truck like a bat outta hell.

So we have carrots that look like beets and beets that look like carrots. It's awesome, so many varieties and flavors. These ones were beautiful. There are about 3 more beds coming. We are also looking forward to onions, more parsley, peppers, potatoes and winter squash.

This photo is from over a month ago, but its one of the only ones of the whole farm team. Shannon left first, then Avana, Sandy and next Dave and Alisha. Dave and Alisha think their leaving, but Kate and I aren't going to allow it. The season is rapidly changing, but I truly think its only going to get better from here. Dave will be starting his own farm, Alisha moving to Chicago for an internship, I'll be moving into the Hillcrest trailer with Ally and will continue to apply for more jobs.

Thanks for following. 3 blogs in a day, a little obsessive, but I had to get my fix.

And You're Going To Do A Triathlon?

The month of May feels like it was eons ago. Graduating and all, road tripping with Fumie, climbing with friends in Joe's Valley and moving up to Sunrise.

The month of May also brought out the best of my adventurous impulsive nature. I have wanted to do a triathlon for over a year now. Nelly and I tried. Unsuccessfully, however. We never even registered. So this time, with or without support I was going to do it. Apparently with or without training or preparation as well.

The month of June found me working on the farm 40+ hours a week. Cross training is what I was calling it.

The month of June is one of the busiest on the farm, but I some how managed to find time to train. With the help of Avana and Kate, we managed to run a couple times a week in preparation.

The first time I ran with Kate, I hadn't run in months, shoot, maybe a year. And after clearly being fatigued by our 1 mile run, she says, "And you're going to do a triathlon?!" Haaaaa... Yeahh. I thought. What have I gotten myself into?

This wasn't the first rude awakening. The next came when Patrick and I decided to ride the mountain bike section in Lory State Park. I was wiped out! The idea of swimming 1/2 mile before and running a 8k after seemed not just ungodly, but purely demonic. What type of psychos do these things to their bodies?! After a couple breathes, I thought, it's gunna be ok, I have THREE months to train.

My journal tells the story well of how the next three months passed. There ISN'T a single entry for the month of June. The month of July. Or the month of August. Granted most of my free time has gone to other things.. cough cough.. blogging... I think the lack of journal entries is largely do to the nature of summer on a farm.

Before I knew it, Sunrise was preparing for Victor and Helana's wedding, August 28th. The triathlon was the 29th. Where did August go? I still hadn't gone on a single run comparable to 5 miles and I have NEVER swam 1/2 mile in my life.

I was a bit of a Debbie Downer all day at work on Friday. Filled with nerves and anxiety. I just want to finish, I thought to myself. Just to see if I can do it.

Saturday was the wedding. I was pumping my tires and lubing my chain moments before slipping into my dress, pinning my hair and trying to remember how to put mascara on.

Here is my favorite pic from the wedding. These stunning folks were the best cheer leaders I could ask for. It really meant the world to have them there.

After a beautiful wedding and an evening of dancing, Patrick and I left Sunrise early Sunday morning. To our delight, on the way to Lory State Park we were blessed with a good omen. A beautiful elk stood powerful and mighty. He peacefully grazed in our meadows, wishing us luck and endurance.

Patrick and I swam, biked and ran our hearts out with overflowing excitement and zeal. I was shooting to finish within the time frame of the event, 4:30 hours. Not going for the gold as Micha was telling me, just shooting to finish. I said, sure, I don't care about setting my standards low on this one, I just want to cross the finish line.

It was to my great excitement and surprise, that I actually won, 1st place in my age group. 20-24 year old women. Ok, Ok. I will confess, there were only 2 in my category, BUT, to me greater surprise, out of ALL the women first timers, I placed 2nd! Two hours and thirty six minutes. 1/2 mile swim, 10 mile mountain bike ride, 5 mile trail run.

All that farming cross training finally paid off.

Thanks again to Kate, Alisha, Avana and Dave for coming out. It meant a lot to have my farm family out there.

Uhh Avana? Moose.

My doppelganger Kate and I share strikingly similar good looks, but there are quite a few things that we don’t have in common. For example, Kate has an almost obnoxious ability to over plan.

“Julie, do you want to go into town?”

"Yeah that sounds like a good plan."

“Ok, before or after dinner?” Kate says.

“I don’t know, why don’t we just see what’s for dinner tonight, then decide?”

Kate hesitantly remarks, “Um, okay… so if you want to eat at the pavilion, do you want to stay and eat it here? Or take it along and eat at the park? And when we get into town do you want to go to A or B first? Then, am I going to drive or are you?”

Kate helping me with the dirty deed of washing my overalls

Kate may call this quality that I possess an obnoxious inability to commit to plans, but I call it being flexible and able to accommodate the unexpected. NOLS would call it tolerance for adversity.

This quality of flexibility had an opportunity to shine in all its glory this weekend. Avana and I have been tentatively planning a back packing trip for a couple weeks. By tentatively, I mean we talked about it a month ago, but there was no plan as far as destination, food, or gear.

We were planning on leaving Sunday morning. Saturday night found me surfing the internet with Bligh looking at online forums for different hikes in RMNP and Pingree. I gave Avana a call and said I had a couple ideas of where we should go.

Now Avana isn’t the same caliber of over-planner as Kate is, but she, like Kate, feels more settled with having a plan, not one written in stone, but one that is at least written.

With this in mind, I headed to Avana's and laid the maps out on the table. This is what I’m thinking. I explained in detail all our options. We could start here, or there. We could take Stormy Pass or go back through Lost Lake… The advantage of camping here is this… the disadvantage of going this way is that… we could end up here and shuttle cars or make a loop. Blah Blah Blah. Lots of room for change of plans, but none the less, we had a plan, a loose one.

Avana and I set out early Sunday morning and met at the Signal Mountain trail head. After a cup of mate and a few pre-trip self timer pics, we set off with springs in our feet and excitement in our hearts.

The beautiful view coming out of tree line

I caught Avana mid-sneeze

At the summit!

This video accurately captures how windy it was 80% of the trip

Tasty baguette made by Alisha with salami and cheese for lunch

We hiked all day, stopping for lunch and only changing our initial plans once. We decided to camp at Lost Lake since it would set us up for a nice hike to Hagues in the morning. After preparing a delicious dinner of mini penne fried in butter with sautéed mushrooms, fresh rosemary and tomatoes, we settled in for the night with a cup of hot tea.

US Boundary. Ok Ok, Bligh, the boundary ISN'T a line like on the quad map, but it is pretty close. These boundary markers were about every 20 feet.

We were both awoken in the night by a sound that was both comforting and unsettling. The sound of rain. I love the way the rain sounds on the tent, the feeling of being warm and dry in your sleeping bag, the smell of wet ground. I love it all. But the idea of packing a wet tent and hiking in the rain left the Lord’s Prayer resounding in my head. I can’t change the rain, and we’re hiking back tomorrow no matter what. Another moment of finding comfort in the uncomfortable.

We awoke in the early a.m. to beautiful blue skies with isolated patches of gray clouds. We begun to pack up camp, make tea and talk about where the day was going to take us.

I was looking at Avana one minute carrying on about how I thought we should change our travel plans, then turned 180 degrees to find myself staring directly at a large female moose. All of about ten feet away.

It was like this moose just teleported herself there, it didn’t make a peep, out of no where she found herself right in the middle of our camp.

Avana kept carrying on, and all I could muster was, “Uhh, Avana? Moose. Moose. Moose. Moose. Moose.”

“Lets get in the tent.” I said. The two of us lurked in to the tent, quickly zipping up the vestibule and peeked out the window. Suppressing our childish giggles of excitement and fear, we watched as the female moose strolled past our camp, shortly followed by the larger male moose.

Avana and I didn't summit Hagues, but when we do the victory will be that much sweeter. We had an amazing hike back, going right up and over the back side of Sugarloaf, avoiding about 4 miles of back tracking. I impressed Avana with my map reading skills and have successfully convinced her that I'm a badass. At least I have her fooled ;)

I want to thank Avana for a beautiful weekend together. The first of many. We dubbed this the Moosketeer's First Annual Backpacking Trip. Maybe the ones to come will be more well planned, maybe Kate will even come along and we can find the balance between over planning and flying by the seats of our pants.


Regardless if the direction we are actually headed is the direction we are intending to travel, we are going to right way.