Monday, May 21, 2012

Two weeks from today...

This post was originally titled "three weeks from today" but clearly I missed that deadline, and I'm posting it by the skin of my teeth to make it true today. But here goes, my Exciting Announcement at last: two weeks from today I'll be a farmer in California! Well, a farm intern at least.

Despite my well-laid plans to spend the summer in Seattle, my trip through California and visits to two farms in particular - the last two I visited - revealed to me that I was ready to jump into this new part of my life sooner rather than later. I have most of a blog written outlining the rest of my trip through California, including details about the two farms I fell in love with, but here are the particulars:
  • My summer internship is from June 4 to August 24 at a tiny self-sustenance farm in Redwood Valley near Ukiah. It's owned and run by a woman who has lived there for 30+ years and her family/extended community. I'll stay in a one-room guesthouse at her father-in-law's home just down the road (who everyone calls Grampa and is an awesome 97-year-old). My focus will be on organic vegetable growing, and I'll also apparently get to learn to ride horses!
  • My fall internship is from August 27 - Christmas-ish at an also tiny but sells-to-the-public farm in Petaluma, about 30 minutes north of San Francisco. It's the family's first growing year - two parents and three teenagers. I get a private room in their beautiful house with views of the fields. I'll help with their chickens which provide both eggs and poultry (yep, that means I'll learn how to kill and make them food-ready), as well as care for their Angora goats which provide wool and milk. I'll also work the fields and the farm stand on their property, which includes farm tours for the public. I suspect Petaluma is my dream town.
  • Both farms have cell phone reception and internet. I'm not trying to go off the grid here. 
These farms could not be more different (apart from size and relative proximity) and I've found myself jumping for joy at the prospect of getting to experience both of them.

More details pending!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

The Procrastination Blog

I've been really lazy on the blogging front. And, in tribute to Jenna Marbles, instead of finishing one of my half-written entries about the final two farms and my trip to Philadelphia, I'm going to fill you in on some of the things I've been doing in Seattle instead of blogging. Because that sounds like more fun right now. And by more fun I mean less work. Writing a blog takes me forever! So, here goes:
  1. Watch "30 Rock." It's like crack. I'm almost through the 4th season and I've seen most of season 5 already, so I might be forced to do something productive soon.
  2. Stare at my computer with the intention of writing a blog. This often results in me reading other people's blogs, scanning the news, or watching five episodes of "30 Rock." This morning it included reading every Wikipedia and imdb page on all the superhero movies that came before The Avengers, which I saw last night. (Totally awesome, made even more awesome by Mark and Nathan, the perfect superhero movie watching companions.)
  3. Address items on my seemingly endless, minutae-based To Do list. A few of the more exciting examples: "laminate collage," "superglue rain boot seam," "pot baby spider plants," and "burn new CDs for car."
  4. Work on the Miller Community Center Garden, which I manage. (Have I blogged about that?) This is actually one of the few legitimate things I've done with my time lately and I'm happy to report that most of the beds are filled with happy plants, local after-school programs are getting more involved, and there's a small but dedicated team of volunteers I love working with.
  5. Go to weekday lunch with other funemployed people.
  6. Go to dinner or weekend brunch with not-unemployed people.
  7. Lay in bed for at least an hour after waking up. Because I can.
In exchange for your patience with my lazy unemployed behavior, I promise an Exciting Announcement soon. I assume 90% of the people who read my blog already know my news, but thanks to Google Analytics I learned I have some random lurkers in India, Canada, Germany, and North Carolina who will probably be excited about it. Not that I can judge the lurkers; there are several people whom I've never met but found their private blogs through what I like to call the "blogroll wormhole" wherein I click on a friend's blog, then on one of their friend's blogs, and on and on.

So lurk on, those of you who may vaguely know me through a friend of a friend, or found me by Googling such phrases as "plants cure cancer," "vida de cali sunshineys," and "swingers private pictures." (Wait, what?)

Sunday, May 06, 2012

24 hours on Vashon Island

I know I have other important things to share, but I just had a delightful weekend getaway that I wanted to quickly write about while it's fresh in my head. And by "quickly" I mean drop everything and spend an hour recounting minutiae.

My friends Alan and Dustin lived in my building on Capitol Hill - that's how we met, actually - and we all moved out within two weeks of each other. They bought a sweet house on Vashon Island and have been living there for about a month. They invited me to spend the night on Friday, so I hopped the 6:30 p.m. ferry from West Seattle. It's only about a 15 minute crossing, yet somehow in my 30 years of being mostly in Seattle I've never made the trip! Here is the view from my car on the ferry:

Once there it's about 10 miles to drive to their house, and despite the proximity to Seattle it felt just like all  the other islands you have to get to by ferry, crisscrossed by isolated country roads with beautiful trees standing guard over everything. As soon as I pulled up it started pouring rain, much to Dustin's disappointment (he was hell-bent on building a bonfire). Their new friend Kurt, a local cheesemaker, was over, and later Jenny, an old friend of theirs, came over with two friends to surprise Alan. The rain ended after awhile and a beautiful, starry sky emerged. It was an awesome sight after so many cloudy nights. We did get a fire going with a little help from some gasoline, but it was short lived.

The next morning Dustin opened my door at 8:22 and said, "it's time for you to wake up. It's almost 9!" Of course I hadn't come for a leisurely trip; it was time to get to work in the giant blank slate that is their garden. First, we had to run some errands. Dustin took me to the old dump/recycling center to drop off their recyclables, and then we went into town to go to the hardware store. It's just what you want out of an island town - plenty of practical businesses mixed with a lot of art galleries and import stores that you are impressed stay in business. What I particularly liked is that so many shops were in the first floors of homes.

We also went to a nearby estuary and harbor where there was an extreme low tide. We walked out as far as we could, but once we started sinking in the mud I pulled the plug and headed back. There was an astounding variety of colors of starfish, and sand dollars by the thousands. What luck to live so near a tidal coast!

Dustin standing where the estuary starts.
Crazy low tide!

Once back on the "estate" we had a look around. I'll be honest, it's daunting. The property wasn't maintained for three years before they moved in, and it shows. They have made incredible strides in a short month but they have years of work ahead of them. While Alan got busy with the chainsaw, hacking up some trees they had cut down, Dustin showed me into the garden. The previous owners had built a large fenced-in garden area to protect the plants from deer, and they had brought in good soil. That's where the good news ends. The boys had rototilled the entire area a few weeks ago but it hasn't been warm enough to plant anything since and the weeds came back with a vengeance; specifically grass, morning glory, blackberries, and this tiny sprout that was coming up in the thousands. Oh boy, I thought to myself. But out loud I said, "Let's get started!" We ended up hand tilling the entire area. It took about 4 hours but we both decided it was a worthy endeavor in terms of weed control in the future. By doing a deep hard rake and then combing over every square inch with our hands, we removed huge swaths of root systems, pulled up grass, dug out blackberries, and severed the many thousands of sprouts, leaving them to decay as organic matter for whatever Dustin plants (picking them out of the soil was definitely out of the question). We also pulled a huge barrel's worth of rocks from the soil to line the paths. Was it time well spent? For sure. Was it tedious as hell? You bet. Welcome to the farm life, me.

About 75% done; this doesn't even show the whole area.

Before we knew it, Alan was calling us for lunch - homemade barbecued cheeseburgers. Uhhhh, yeah. Delicious.

Back to the hand tilling. We'd been so ambitious about what we could accomplish but the tilling was a seemingly never-ending task. The forecast was sun and we were lucky with several hours of beautiful weather, but then it clouded over and even started to sprinkle a little. Luckily we had FINISHED TILLING (victorious exclamations ensued) and had to go back into town for a few more items before we could actually plant anything, so we took the rain as a sign and got back in the car.

Dustin wanted to plant flowers in the front of the garden, so we separated the many packets of seeds he had into tall, medium, and short and sowed three rows of each combination. Then it was time to dig holes for their fifteen - FIFTEEN! - tomato plants. I'll have you know I dug them all myself while Dustin cleaned up hunks of sod from the walking paths. I might have whined about it, but I'm happy to do all the manual labor I can get. I'd like to be in slightly better shape before I start work on a farm, guaranteed to kick my ass no matter how fit I may be.

Tomatoes in their holes. The wet area in the front = flowers.

Thank heavens - time for dinner. Again, Alan came through on the barbecue, making carne asada tacos in honor of Cinco de Mayo (which is not Mexico's independence day, FYI). This meat was otherworldly. Using my caloric expenditure throughout the day as an excuse, I gorged on it. Alan had also made incredible guacamole for the second time that weekend. I would have eaten more if I hadn't been so busy exclaiming over how good it all was. It doesn't take much to get me to labor for a day - good company and really good food.

By this time we were all knackered so we decided to finish the day off with something really satisfying - gathering up the branches from the chainsaw massacre and having a huge fire. YESS.

Don't worry, all that grass is still wet and showed no interest in burning.
Their house and my Matrix in the background.

The boys had been invited to an islander's house for a 5 de Mayo celebration and I was invited too, but a soak in the beautiful bathtub at KMJ's house was too much to resist for my stiff body. I was on the 7:30 ferry, tired but very satisfied, and in the tub by 8:30.

I can't wait to go back to their house in a month and see how everything is coming up. I told Dustin that if he doesn't plant the rest of the garden before the weeds come back, there will be trouble.

Today is Sunday, luckily a day of rest. I woke up stiff and sore but secretly wishing I were still on the island being put to work on another project.

The happy homeowners.