Monday, April 25, 2011

Those are some great expectations...

This Saturday did not go as I expected. And  it wasn't until I got back to Sac Sunday night and took a few minutes to reflect, that I really looked into the disappointment of my unmet expectations.

Working with the sheep on Saturdays has quickly become a highlight of my overly urban life; Saturdays are the days I look back at and forward to to get through a week at the office. This Saturday promised to be especially novel and exciting (to me at least) as Dan planned to do a sheep shearing demonstration at the farmers market.  Saturday morning came however and Dan was sick, too sick to shear or have me come out.  This threw me off; I make so many careful plans (and back up plans) and build up expectations based on these plans. When things don't work out as I expect, I feel like I've fallen from my tower of expectations into the muck of sadness and self pity. It can be a problem, not being able to control everything.

Despite feeling a bit mopey, the day was filled with interesting and novel experiences.  My Mom and I went out to the farmers market anyway, to get some produce and visit with some of the people I am getting to know there. We picked flowers on the way home, then worked in the yard (the radishes are ready!) My older brother (soon to be a new dad!), my Mom and I went for a hike to Hidden Falls in Auburn and saw green spring hills dotted with wildflowers.

Wild iris

Hidden Falls - uh, is the nature viewing deck really necessary?
On the way back we stopped a local winery, Dono dal Cielo and got a bottle of their '06 Zinfandel to share for Easter. Apparently Zinfandel grapes are the best variety to grow in the foothills. I like their Chardonnay also, but those grapes come from Sonoma County. My absolute favorite part of this visit was the stuttered protest and shocked look on our pourer's face when I reached for a tasting glass; he thought I was somewhere between the ages of 12 and 16 (I attempt to see this as a compliment :)

In reflection, I realize how many fun unplanned and unexpected activities we squeezed in on this suddenly free Saturday and how those activities left little time to dwell on the disappointment I felt in the morning. I had a wonderful day, I genuinely enjoyed the company and everything we did. This is difficult for me to absorb, but apparently spontaneous activities can go just as well as the meticulously thought out ones and they perhaps involve less stress, if I can just get out of my own way.

Easter was a special time with lovely people and though I often experience a let-down when holidays are over (again that mountain of expectation) I have found as close a cure for that as I am going to get right now - lots of excellent leftovers!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Happy Easter

I want to wish everyone a happy Holy Friday and Easter weekend. I hope you can spend it with the ones you love and have some yummy treats!

Last evening I had a chance run-in with one of the co-founders of Soil Born Urban Agriculture Project
whom I had previously met.  We had a nice chat and it opened up some ideas and possibilities about my imminent future.  Soil Born is a special non-profit that has two urban area farms. They are very active in the community and passionate about bringing local food and education to people in the area; they have a great mission and vision.

I don't really think this meeting happened by chance, more like it was part of a grander design and it felt like a bright ray of sunshine split through an otherwise frustrating week.  I'll keep you posted!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

One of those days

Ever have one of those days? For me today is definitely one of those days...that I daydream about a life much different from this one, away from some of these people.  Today, September can't come soon enough.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Living spaciously (for a moment)

Soaking up some rays

This weekend felt different, more spacious, less rushed.  Dan was at a livestock auction in Oregon, so he left a small group of us in charge of the sheep.  This meant that I was responsible for checking up on the ewes, lambs and goats and feeding the guard dogs on Saturday; straight forward and not very time consuming. I opened up a new paddock for the ewes and lambs to move into (thanks for setting it all up, other intern Paul!) It took the sheep about 10 minutes of watching me and milling around until they decided collectively to charge me and the newly opened made me laugh.  I got a video of the end of the charge:

I went down to check on a smaller group of ewes, lambs and goats and sadly found one lamb that had died.  After talking with Dan on the phone, we realized this was a lamb that had fractured its leg a couple of weeks ago. Dan said it was likely the lamb got an infection and that was the reason it died.

This wasn't my first or my saddest experience of livestock death since starting with Dan, but it was the first time I had to face it totally on my own. Honestly, I have felt anxiety just thinking about something like this happening. The anxiety comes from not being sure how I will react in the moment, whether I will fall apart, get sick and run away or hold it together and take care of what needs to be done. I also knew that this experience was inescapable, especially with my intention to have livestock in the future. Occasional death will be inevitable, natural and even healthy.  Taking care of this lamb was sad but with a quiet prayer I found hidden strength to call on and to count on in the future.

Lupin picked from the side of the road with my Mom
This day was also full of sun and life to come. My whole afternoon was open after the morning chores, so I decided to spend it in the garden with my parents. We went to the nursery, then planted three kinds of tomatoes,  lots of flowers, and thinned the lettuce plants (the culls went into our salads that evening). We also made plans for a couple more vegetables we want to plant in the coming weeks, as it starts to get really warm around here.  I will take some pictures of the garden to post soon (I keep forgetting).

I have to mention the warm Sunday afternoon bike ride along the river with Matt, a happy conclusion to a spacious weekend.

So, how does your garden grow? What are you planting this year? Did you take advantage of any sunny weather this weekend? Do you have any new creative endeavors taking shape this spring?

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Market time

Strawberry heaven

Every week is different at the farmers market.  I have been there in the cold, snow and rain this winter.  This past Saturday it was still chilly, but also sunny with the promise of warmth to come. The sun brings many more customers out to the market as well as more vendors. This past week there were vendors selling citrus, vegetables, mushrooms, cheese, fish, strawberries and emu chapstick!  Dan and I were selling lamb stew meat and "polar bear fur" (according to the local 8 years olds) aka sheepskins.  It is surprising to see what can be grown and created locally. It is also surprising to me to see so many of the same patrons at the market each week, regardless of the weather.  These folks are making the local food movement possible, by voting for local economies with their own hard-earned $$.

Where else but a farmers market can you meet and ask questions of the actual people who are getting dirty to bring food to their communities? It is direct access to those who are involved in one of the most fundamental aspects of human survival - food.  

If you are in the area Saturday April 23rd, Dan will be doing a sheep shearing demonstration at the market. Come by and check it out!

Here are some fun and inspiring pictures of grocery shopping at the farmers market last Saturday.

Lisa with Hillcrest Orchards in Penryn

Local entertainment
Cut flowers!

Local fungi

Monday, April 11, 2011

Tasty blond(ie)

I don't remember having blondies growing up and it seems like a weird name for a cookie, but after hearing Matt say several times how much he likes them and seeing a recipe in the SacBee, I thought I would make some for his birthday. They turned out great!

Great dessert, thanks for the help Sophie!
The recipe was from a section for small batch baking, so you don't have to make a huge pan full, just enough for a couple people in a loaf pan (or dessert for one for 4 nights!)

Chocolate chip blondies
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 25 minutes
Makes 4 large bars or 8 squares

A great cookie that's rich and chewy, conventiently baked in a loaf pan. Debby Maugans' original recipe adds peanuts with the chocolate chips. The Bee's Kathy Morrison tested it with Heath toffee bits instead, but you could use chopped walnuts or a second variety of chocolate chips. (I used smashed almond roca bars that my uncle gave me).
Note: Beat the egg very well with a fork before measuring.

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup firmly packed light-brown sugar
3 tablespoons well-beaten egg (not a whole egg)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter or margarine, melted
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/3 cup cocktail peanuts (or Heath toffee bits or another favorite mix-in)

Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line the bottom of an 8-by-4-inch loaf pan with a strip of aluminum foil to fit down the length and up the short sides, with enough extra length to extend over the edges by about 1 1/2 inches. Lightly butter the foil and set the pan aside.

Place the flour, baking powder and salt in a medium mixing bowl and whisk to blend the dry ingredients.

Place the brown sugar, egg, butter and vanilla in a small bowl and whisk to blend. Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and whisk until blended. Stir in the chocolate chips and peanuts (or other mix-in).

Spoon the batter into the prepared pan and bake until the top is golden and dry, 22 to 25 minutes.
Remove the loaf pan from the oven and transfer it to a wire rack. Let the cookie layer cool completely in the pan. Use the foil to lift the cookie layer from the pan; carefully peel back the foil from the sides and cut into bars.


Friday, April 8, 2011

Sheep camp and veggie plants…Part 2

While sheep camp was fun and I’m glad we camped out, it wasn’t particularly clean or relaxing, so it was shower and nap time when I got back to my folks house.  After a short rest Matt and I were anxious to get out in the sunshine. It’s been so cold, rainy and windy lately that the sunshine felt like a big, warm hug from an old friend. We walked to my grammar school where the 6th graders recently built a 9-hole disc golf course.  I love playing disc golf as it gives me a chance to play around outside and there's no need to keep very good score.

We walked back home and found my Dad out prepping the garden area.  I was never much interested in helping outdoors when I was younger but I have come around a full 180 on this and much prefer being outdoors to working in an office all day.  I asked my Dad if I could help, donned my gardening hat to keep my neck from getting more sunburned and things took off from there.

We weeded the whole area and put down mulch (dead leaves) to keep the weeds from taking over again.  With the onset of spring it is time to get planting and I was anxious to get it going since I only have the occasional Sunday to do those things. So we took a trip to Eilsely’s Nursery to get some vegetable starts – including Brussels sprouts, eggplants, onions and three kinds of potatoes.  We got back and got most of it planted plus some plants to produce cut flowers for future bouquets or possibly selling at the farmers market??

It was a lot of work, but fun as well and an excellent learning experience.  I have never done much of anything like this and being a perfectionist I am real hard on myself if things don’t go perfectly or if I feel like I don’t know what I am doing.  But with patient teachers (my parents), Matt’s help and support and some grace for myself, I am on my way to developing my thumb, with dirt under the nail :)

Monday, April 4, 2011

Sheep camp and veggie plants - Part 1

This weekend was an exciting and exhausting sheep and gardening immersion! Sheep first...

On Saturday I went out to Flying Mule Farms to work with the sheep; they are almost done lambing for the year. The lambs that were born early in the season look huge already, I can see the growth even since I was out last week.  We moved the ewes and lambs to new feed by creating a paddock out of portable electric fencing. I have yet to become truly skilled in moving this fencing around and too often it seems to get tangled with sticks.  Did you know it is possible to loathe sticks-branches-logs-blackberry bushes with a burning passion?  It is, and I have experienced it!

Lambs will be silly

Dang those sticks!
I watched Dan shear a mangy looking ewe that had blown her fleece - this is a difficult and potentially dangerous job that takes a lot of skill.  Dan can do a whole sheep in about 5 minutes; the world record is 38 seconds, with the fleece coming off in one piece!  Also, every fleece from a sheep is touched by human hands...this is simply a job we have not been able to outsource to machines.  It makes me think even more fondly of my wool sweaters and socks, to know they have gone through the hands of a skilled shearer.

Shearing is a sweaty job.
A bit later we got ready for the second annual Sheep Camp, meaning we set up a fire, kitchen and a couple tents on a hill near where the ewes and lambs were.  Dan made amazing mutton sausage campfire stew and about 25 people come out for a potluck.  It was a wonderful time to get to know people and enjoy the lack of rain.  Just a couple of us actually stayed overnight for the 'camp' part of sheep camp, including myself and my boyfriend.  It was a cold night and we heard the coyotes a couple times but we were safe in a tent with guard dogs nearby and woke up to a lovely sunrise.  One more check of the ewes and lambs revealed that the second-to-last holdout ewe had had twins during the night-they were up and eating and looking ready to play in some sunshine!

Sunset over sheep camp

Morning view from our cold tent

Matt entertaining us with banjo music
Our breakfast is worth mentioning...the campfire coffee was strong and breakfast burritos with home raised eggs, bacon and re-heated stew hit the spot.  It was a really fun time and the memories remain along with the scent of campfire in my duffel bag.