28 June 2010

Goat Song by Brad Kessler

I have been reading a lot since I've gotten out of school and I just finished Brad Kessler's book entitled, Goat Song. In short, it is one of the most beautiful books I have ever read. It is a memoir about Kessler's journey to becoming a goatherder and cheesemaker. He isn't willfully ignorant like that of the author of the $64 Tomato which I would not recommend. Goat Song, however, is poetic and thoughtful, a meditation on the importance of the goat in Western Judeo-Christian life and culture. It was both historically educational and a recollection of Kessler's own experience in learning about goatherding and the impact of the goat in all aspects of life (language, religion, myth). I would encourage anyone to read this, even if you're not interested in farming. It lends a beautiful pastoral look on what is perceived as paradise, how the idea of a pastoral paradise (the land of milk and honey, the garden of Eden) has played a part in Judeo-Christian belief. My words cannot do the book justice but if any of you are looking for something gentle and thoughtful to read during the summer months I would highly recommend this book.

27 June 2010

Cherries at New Era Farms

Carli and I went to the farm co-op again to put in our day of work for the month. I didn't think I would be getting any vegetables, fruit -- or for that matter, bread. We went to the farm and got there at 7a (I got up at 5.30a, wow!) and weeded the potatoes, tomatoes and lettuce. It was a nice, non-stressful work day. Last time we did a lot of shoveling and wheel barrowing, which takes a lot more arm strength (which I have very little of) than weeding. I got to use the stirrup hoe which is my friend in the garden and makes everything go quickly.

Then we picked loganberries. I had never had them before but let me say -- holy Moses they are tart! So they're great for pies (which I literally just took out of the oven) that are not too sweet, not too tart, just right. I prefer pies that are not very sweet so they sound like a good filling to me.

So after the loganberries it was about time to wrap up the work day and C (the lady farmer) said we should go and pick some cherries because the trees were bursting. And she really wasn't kidding.

So we set out to pick cherries and they were delicious.

The cherry trees were right next to the cow pasture. They are a Mexican breed of bull but I'm not sure what specifically.

We are hoping to be part of the butchering of one of these cows in the fall. It will be my first time butchering an animal and I'm very interested to find out what my reaction will be. I am very happy to be able to see the cows as they grow up and that they are able to roam free in a large pasture. They are fed well both with grass and an additional grain feed. I will be sad if we aren't able to be part of the meat co-op because I would love to have the experience (whether I feel faint or not).

This is Chap in the lettuce patch. We will not be eating him because he serves other purposes around the farm. And also because Americans don't eat dog.

We picked some more lettuce and it has been a delight enjoying the lettuce. Its very good and not too bitter as is very easy to do to greens. Apparently the trick is to water the greens after you pick them.


Then later that we went on an Unimproved Road Bike Ride which was part of Pedalpalooza (earlier this week we went on the Epic Pizza Ride and previous to that was the WNBR). It was much shorter and tamer than we all would have liked but who's to know? We all thought it sounded great but it turned out slightly disappointing. Joel and I were aware of 75% of the roads we went on (and regularly traverse them) and were hoping to find new trails/roads, but alas, to no avail.

After that we went with three other riders, who were equally disappointed, up to St. John's after a very abrupt ride end. We found a bar called Plews which carried all local brews and was decidedly very pro-marijuana. Reggae posters lined the walls and a newsletter pile at the front of the store called Rolling Stoned sat by the door. Posters for Hempstalk lined the back wall and the whole bar had a feeling of a stoner kid's basement with used couches in unflattering floral patterns and thrift store lamps. The whole bar was dark except for two shaded windows at the front and the dim lamps. It was an altogether fine experience but a very stylized bar that seemed to want to draw a particular kind of crowd.

After we went to the Marley-infused bar we rode our bikes in the vicinity of our friends' new house. They were having a housewarming party but had left our directions at home (along with our water) so we rode around until I got the address from another friend attending the party and we finally found the right street, the right house and our friends. On the way there we rode along Willamette Boulevard/the Willamette Bluffs which has an amazing view of both the City and Mt. Hood.

I pulled over on the opposite side of the street from Joel and traffic was bad, so I took a photo of Joel while I waited.

It has been a really lovely weekend thus far with Joel having both saturday *and* sunday off which is a rarity at our house. We have also made the move of asking one of our roommates to leave. We will hopefully be having a good friend of ours move in with us which is very exciting indeed. Things are on the up and up.

23 June 2010

Summer Has Come!

I hesitate to make such a bold statement as a title (after all, its only three days officially into summer), however the last four days have been beautiful, hot and summery. Today my friend Carli and I went out to the co-op farm that we both belong to (New Era Farms in Canby, OR) and picked lettuce, peas, strawberries and raspberries -- yum!

We didn't pick any of the currants for ourselves but I tried them and they were delicious. They tasted reminiscent of pomegranates and were just as beautiful.

Then I came home and made this.

I was going to go to Carli's house to watch a Woody Allen movie and share my pie but decided to stay home and enjoy it with Kevin and Joel instead. We all sat out in the backyard together and enjoyed the evening and the delicious berry pie (strawberry, raspberry and blackberry [frozen from last summer]).

So, some of you may have heard but for those who haven't, last saturday was Portland's World Naked Bike Ride (or WNBR for short). Clara, Kevin, Joel and I all participated in riding with an approximated 13,000 others. Yup, that's right, 13,000 naked people riding their bikes through the streets of Portland. Luckily it was a police sanctioned event so they were actually nice, they blocked traffic from interfering and looked out the vulnerable (unclothed) folks, way to go PPD!

It was hard to get any good photos since it was dark but I guess that is better since it adds more anonymity. It was a really cool event because it wasn't as much pressure as I was anticipating. It wasn't a big deal to be naked with so many other people (or almost naked in my case, I'm still a bit of a prude) it was just the same as having clothes on -- except you didn't. That was the biggest difference. People weren't checking each other out, there was no groping or orgy, it was just exhilarating. One of the spectators tried to spank a girl as she rode by but she and a guy next to her turned around and went back to yell at the guy. It was that kind of vibe, people watching out for each other and drunken grabbiness was not tolerated.

In other news, my garden is growing well. Or at least the potatoes are. Everything else is a bit stunted by our late start into Summer. Our apples are also doing really well. I've done two thinnings cause I didn't take enough apples the first time around. This time they're more substantial and have kept them in a bag for our chickens to eat, they love the green apples!

Chickens! In the near future we will be getting two more chickens from Carli's house. Joel and I put up a short-term run for the new chickens so that ours can see them before we introduce them. There will probably be pecking just to organize the order but I'll be prepared for it when it happens.

And here is Joel's handiwork. He's been working hard to get a good workspace figured out in the garage. He's done a really nice job organizing everything and made two work benches.

I've been working on my thesis very slowly this summer. This is the only piece I've made so far. Clara tested it out and it is a perfect fit! I'm ever so slightly too big to fit into it.

And that is about all for right now. Some changes will be happening in our house in the near future and I will let you all know how those go when they are secured. It's looking like things are on the up and up.

15 June 2010

Life and Times in Ohio

Last week we headed to Ohio to visit Joel's family and friends. It was a really wonderful trip and lasted only too short. We went down to Cincinnati to visit Joel's alma mater (UC) and we did a driving tour of Cincinnati (and drove across the river so I could say I've been to Kentucky officially...) and then walked around the campus and Joel showed me where he spent all his time inside DAAP (Design Architecture Art & Planning). There were lots of student critiques/presentations (presumably all seniors) going on throughout the building which were interesting to see. Then we met up with Will and Megan (who we would later staying with that night) and ate at Krishna's, a delicious Indian restaurant across from campus. Then Will showed us his two current apartment rehabbing projects that he's doing with his three other business partners. He also showed us a huge warehouse that he's working on redesigning with a firm. It was an old building that use to make the machines that made cans -- and was aptly called the American Can Company. It was really amazing to walk around the old rooms with their shattered out windows and discarded blueprints. There were old wooden molds for pouring the pieces to make the machinery that were covered in some kind of creosote-like black powder.

Then we went to Putz's Creamy Whip (can you beat that name?) ice cream stand and got delicious cold ice cream which was a nice combatant to the meltingly hot humid city air. We then went back to Megan and Will's and sat on the porch and talked for a while. It was really lovely to sit on a front porch at night with the door open to the house and being able to watch the street. There's something really wonderful about porch life that I love and doesn't happen a whole lot in Portland despite the amount of porches in the city.

I managed to keep my camera in my bag for the majority of the trip which is a real shame because I hardly got any people pictures, not of family and very little of friends.

But somehow I managed to take a photo of myself.

And Joel sleeping.

Those were both taken in Will and Megan's apartment. The color and lighting were both beautiful. Humidity also makes things so soft an gentle. I'm one of the few people who genuinely don't mind humidity -- granted it's a gradual shift from cold to humidity, which didn't really happen when you travel from rainy, cold Portland to hot, humid Ohio in one day.

At any rate we then went out to breakfast at a place called Take the Cake which Will's partnership redesigned. The food was pretty good and fairly priced.

This is Joel and Megan.


After breakfast we went up to Mt. Storm which is a hill with a park on it that overlooks the city.

Then we went back to my in-laws for a day and made dinner for Joel's mom, sister and her fiancé (another, but different, Will) we cooked blackened Cajun pork chops, made a salad and Joel baked brownies.

The following day we went to Wooster to visit Joel's grandma and grandpa and the whole family went to The Barn, an Amish-inspired restaurant.

On the way we saw this place with this guy.

Joel's dad gave us a tour of the back country roads between Bucyrus and Wooster and we got to see a lot of family landmarks which was totally cool because when got a similar tour back in 2008 I was asleep the whole time (it was right after we got married and were driving out to Portland).

So while at the Barn I got the seat closest to the window which overlooked a man-built stream that housed a whole brace of ducks. I watched the ducks and their antics and as I looked out again two eggs had rolled away from underneath the bushes. I was fascinated, my prize had been sighted. I watched over the eggs the entire dinner then as we were about to leave the restaurant Joel and I went down to the stream and found two huge nests of duck eggs under two bushes. We felt that while we were stealing the two eggs that they had probably been kicked out of the nest because the mother ducks knew that these eggs weren't going to make it.

At grandma and grandpa's we "candled" the eggs by shining a flashlight behind the eggs. They had very clearly defined edges that were ever so slightly crescent shaped. So I assumed that somehow the yolk had been broken and had settled in heavy sulphurous masses along one side of the egg -- giving it that defined clean edge.

Two days later we cracked open one of the eggs.

I just hope we didn't wrongfully take a completely viable duck egg. I wouldn't have taken them if I knew that was what we'd find. I'm still very sorry.

Anyway, back to grandma and grandpa's house we go! Grandma Becky's garden is beautiful and green and vivacious. I was a bit jealous of all the growth in the garden (I will later tell of our own garden but let's not get sidetracked).

Oh and yes, that is The One Ring to Rule Them All on Joel's pinky finger.

And grandpa Claude!

After Grandma and Grandpa gave us a tour of the garden and wood shop we took our own excursion through the woods that separates their house from their neighbor's corn fields.

We saw these big beautiful mushrooms pretty soon after we walked in. I have no clue what they might be, they were on average about four inches across -- big shrooms!

On the other side! Joel's back is facing the woods and his front is facing the north neighbor's corn fields.

It was really rainy and a lot of the fields had a lot of standing water, we drove by one field that had literally turned into a lake, completely covered over and had a couple of geese enjoying the water. Luckily the neighbor's hadn't gotten it too bad.

On our walk back to the house we saw a couple of decaying rodents. This one is definitely a ground hog, the others are a little less clear.

And then we rounded the back and walked up to the back of the house.

And this was in one of the trees as we passed it up to the house. Gypsy moth cocoon that's been used? I have no clue, but I don't think I'm right about the aforementioned suggestion.

This is the view from the back porch. It's so picturesque! Some people don't understand why we'd want to move to Ohio but it's views like this -- okay, and the amazing farm land but most people don't understand that as much as a beautiful environment. Not to mention we'd be close to family again which would just be so wonderful!

Then we went back inside and played Oh, Shit (a Grindstaff family favorite) and Phase 10, using the term "shit" as much as humanly possible. More or less...

The following day was spent largely clearing out and organizing things we had stored at my in-laws. Joel did a major organization of his CDs which he is now in the process of getting rid of/selling.

We were planning of get together with one of Joel's old high school friends later on in the day so we decided to go for a walk before Nick came over. There are some pathways that the city of Bucyrus just put in through the woods behind Joel's parents' house. It was a nice walk since Joel had never been through here before. This was drawn on the place where a map of the trails will be placed once the city is finished with the trails.

We also saw some paw prints, the top ones are probably raccoons and the bottom are most likely deer.

The Sandusky River runs right along this area.

Later we met up with Joel's high school friend Nick whom we had met up with a couple days prior. He took us to the Original Margaritaville (not related to Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville, hence the addition of "the Original") in Sandusky which is a town up at Lake Erie. Then we headed over to Toft's ice cream shop which would have been really lovely if we weren't all stuffed. Vacation sometimes seems to be synonymous with "gluttony."

All in all we had a really great trip and it was nice to get away from the Portland gloom for a week.

Now back to that Portland gloom. I've decided that since Portland is withholding summer from us I'll just plant some more greens. Today I transplanted an old garlic patch (or at least some of it) so that I could use it to plant more peas, spinach and lettuce. Yes, it's cold weather crop weather. So I've decided I'll just plant my peas and eat them too! I haven't posted many garden pictures this season because, well, there's not a whole lot to photograph. The potatoes are doing well as are the garlic and onions but everything else refuses to grow when the ground is still so cold. So by and large my garden is pretty bare. Today I also put make-shift clochés out of clear plastic half-gallon jugs. I just cut off the bottoms and they've been doing great. I put out a couple a few days ago and the plants seemed to really like that. They were able to get warm and fairly bug free for a couple days and that was the extra jump they needed.

Hopefully I'll have some more encouraging garden pictures later. However, if summer never gets here we may be starving mice at the end of the season.