And Now Back To Our Regularly Scheduled Program

Life. That’s what has happened for the past 4 months.  Busy-ness. That’s how we roll in Port Townsend.  Fundraisers, dance parties, fundraiser dance parties, volunteer projects, short-term house-sitting jobs, restaurant work, complaining about the weather and trying to sneak a or two into the mix are all some of the excuses I’ve used to neglect this portion of my life.  Those, and the fact that there isn’t really a portion of my life that is farming right now (which was the original purpose of this blog.)  But I’ve been doing plenty of gardening, personal and community, and finally feel rested and ready to reinstate relating to you my reflections on different representations of farming.

This is my community garden.

This is what two straight weeks of sunshine will do for any garden in the Pacific Northwest

Known as Wayward Farm Community Garden, it is one of more than 25 community gardens that have emerged in Port Townsend’s community at large of 8,000.  In the past few years the initiative to create community food security (mainly influenced by this grassroots collective) has simultaneously raised people’s awareness about what a secure food economy and community looks like (thus, all the community gardens and the surge of support the Jefferson County Farmer’s Market has seen the past few years) and raised the bar on relationships between the growers and the eaters (our market was voted the Best Farmers’ Market in Washington state!)

Statistics show that Jefferson County is the county with the highest percentage of its food dollars going to local food.  Folks, that number is a resounding 4%.  Of all the counties in Washington state, none are spending more than 4% of their food-buying power to support local growers and cottage-industry entrepreneurs.

Scarlet runner beans; food and beauty

Now one caveat to take into consideration (especially in Port Townsend)

Blackberries and Scarlet Runners grow towards one another's trellises to create a tunnel

is the amount of community gardens, where money isn’t being used to buy food to eat, but rather to purchase seed, fertilizer and tools to grow our own food.  Those are dollars not accounted for that contribute just as much – if not more – to local food security.  Having an abundance of small farmers and local food producers is a great thing to support, but taking the growing power into your own hands, working your own plot of soil and harvesting a bounty you helped to create, that’s the definition of securing your own food.

And even with the year we’ve had here in the northwest corner of the country (until about two weeks ago our temperatures were topping out in the low 60’s and it has been recognized that this has been the chilliest, wettest year on record since weather records have been kept starting in the 1950’s!) the production capabilities of the earth here are bountiful.

Did you know that lettuce is a cut-and-come-again crop? The heads on the left were harvested last week and are re-growing their leaves.

Eating locally means kale, broccoli, peas, carrots, beets, turnips, radishes, arugula, cilantro, lettuce, Asian greens, Swiss chard, potatoes, blueberries, blackberries, string beans, onions, garlic, strawberries, huckleberries, thimbleberries, salmonberries, spinach, zucchini, raspberries, orach, cabbage, plums, apples, pears, celery, salad burnet, thyme, rosemary, sage, parsley, chives, artichokes, and even grains like spelt, triticale, rye, wheat and quinoa.  It also means raw Jersey milk (legal for sale in Washington), artisan cow and goat cheese, pastured lamb and beef, free-range chicken and ducks (and their eggs), beet, carrot and cucumber pickles, jam, hard cider and wine.  (If you have a greenhouse, or a cold frame for starts, it can also mean tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and basil.)

I got lucky and found myself in a community garden that has been taken care of by its members. They have amended the soil, compost religiously, established some wonderful

Triple-bin compost system, some mulch and 'finished' manure

rows of perennial fruits (raspberries, strawberries, currants, blueberries and thornless blackberries) and play well together.  We consist of a landscaper, a dental assistant, a home-designing consultant, a computer whiz, a fiber artist, a full-time mom and her insect- and dump truck-loving 6 year old, a couple of retirees, a rowing club member and me.  Since we began turning under the winter cover crops back in April, we have seen at least 2 sowings come to bear in each of the 7 beds dedicated to annual veggies, with a third promising time to harvest before winter cover crops will again be sown.

We work together on Sunday afternoons and often bump into each other during the week as we stop by to harvest our suppers.  We have potlucked together a few times and some of us have found common interests bringing us together outside the parameters of the garden.  But mostly we all know that our reasons for joining a community garden, whether for human interaction, to learn about growing food, to celebrate good food or just to have a chance to work outside for a while, unite us when we probably wouldn’t have the opportunity otherwise.

Calendula; a hardy annual, reseeds itself and proliferates when dead-headed

Oh No!

http://campaign.r20.constantcontact.com/render?llr=cpezf8aab&v=001-jHgZ8K8LRLqu2mAHQNGAvET0UiAxIDiLme0JIlqplbUk4TkFk9iknlLfVer1xM67TwA6KZGXHHlV7FQrUvsH4uMw877-IrXj7SUi-srmv3PXXbHWpYaEw9GU-3fjfjc

Check out the link above.

All you farmers out there (and concerned consumers) beware! The USDA has officially de-regulated the use of genetically engineered alfalfa – meaning that it will now be allowed to rampantly taint any other source of true and organic alfalfa crops nationwide!

With alfalfa being such a staple crop for any farmer with livestock, this means it is imperative to consider when buying hay for animals, meat from producers and manure for composting.

Please be conscious of this new loss in the organic world, and if you can, find some way to vocalize your outrage, discontent, fear, non-support, etc. for this move on the part of the USDA.

Of Milking and Hibernating

Great view of the morning, eh?

One of the reasons I love having animals on the farm setting is the routine they bring to the daily chores.  Most anyone with farm animals will tell you that the first thing you do when you wake up – before coffee or breakfast or reading the newspaper (ok, what farmer has time to read a newspaper?) – is to check on the animals; especially when there are calves or lambs that need more attentive care with feeding and milking, or when animals have to be moved out on pasture every day and brought into a paddock or barn at night.  And in the case of a dairy operation, milking is usually done at 12-hour intervals, somewhere in the neighborhood of 6-7am, and again at 6-7pm.  Besides, I like to rev up my body a little bit and get the blood pumping before devouring a hearty breakfast.

There’s something refreshing and peaceful about starting your day before the sun, even on chilly New England fall days, the cold, crisp air hitting your face wakes you up like nothing else.  This morning as we treaded past hilltop orchards on our way to the barn, we were admiring Venus in her celestial spot before the first rays of sunlight blinded her out.

Waiting for their scoops of grain

We arrived at the barn around 6:30 this morning and roused the 6 milking cows up from their slumbering in the barnyard; trying to give them adequate chance to use the little-calves’ room outside before being brought into the milking parlor.  Once all the ladies were up, we cleared the way for them to rush straight into the barn to their own, numbered and recognized stanchion (animals are routine like that and like to walk in the same order in line and stand in the same spot to be milked.)  To keep the cows from getting rowdy while we’re marauding their udders, they’re given grain to nibble on.

Into the strip cup

This particular dairy milks by machine, so all we did was wash the udders and teats with warm, soapy water (this helps the cow to let down her milk and wipes away anything she might have been laying in,) strip each teat into the sieved strip-cup, iodine dip and wipe each teat before hooking up the 4-prong, suction-power milk vacuum.

On the average, it takes about 8 minutes for the machine to milk out a cow, and we got around 2 1/2 gallons from each lady.  After each milking, we hauled off the 2-3 gallons in a pail to the holding tank where the fresh milk is cooled to about 35 degrees and slowly and constantly mixed to keep the cream from separating.  This farm sells both raw milk (on premises, per NY legalities,) and pasteurized milk and yogurt.

Once the deed is done, we unhooked all the cows from their positions and herded them into their pasture for the day across the road.  They walk in a single-file line, and like to have someone in front to guide them, though they need to have someone in back to poke and prod them on.

We told her we wanted to get a silly one

Yes, milking and animal chores first, then breakfast.

Some lately planted overwintering greens and herbs in cold frames

General garden cleanup is happening too; now that lots of things have died back with the first frosts (and with more time in a farmer’s busy schedule) we’re doing some maintenance landscaping – pulling up and cutting back deadness and old-growth to give the garden a bit more air and breathing space.  But overall, the feeling in the garden this time of year is one of unhurried-ness, a breathing out, more talking and conversation and less regimented daily orders of tasks.  There are no wilting deadlines to beat, no market deadlines to harvest before, no plant-by deadlines to ensure a profitable and successful season.  More of just relaxing and taking in all that the garden did this year, all that you ate and put by, more opportunities to check out that yoga class you didn’t have time for earlier, or getting to play around with baking some new ideas and recipes (both to come close to a warm oven and because you actually have the time now.)  The cycle of the year is coming to a close with winter coming on, hibernation and rest are the keywords for this time of year.  Planning next year’s endeavors will come in no time.

Inside the farm stand at the Pfeiffer Center

And so go the natural cycles; fall closes into winter and the garden goes to sleep for a bit, and though you may get to whip up some breathtaking baked goods and work on perfecting those poses, the animals are still there to regulate your daily cycles of attention – just to keep you on your hibernating toes.