Sunday, September 11, 2011

The end. Of sorts.

Farm life for this summer at the beloved Nitty Gritty Dirt Farm has come to a close.  Buzz, one of the 2 horses  residing on the farm, decided he was having a bad day this past Monday September 5th and decided to kick, shake, swish me off.  I, in return, ended up having a bad day as well after I landed on my bum with negative shock pads offered from mother earth below.  Not that that was enough, Buzz, for good measure, decided he'd really show me who was who and leave his stamp on my right calf (I am referring to the soccer ball size bruise I'm peering at in hues of deep burgundy, midnight blue, algae green, and mucus yellow).  I can barely sit on a cushioned seat without letting out a slight yelp let alone do the duties of the farm.  Tuesday the 6th was my final morning on the farm.

It feels odd to not awake to the crow of the two combating roosters and to lean my head against the warmth of Stormy's billowing stomach as I milk her in my sleepy state.  I miss the mist that rises on eastern horizon.  The sun that peaks over the mighty Oaks to illuminate the sea of dew gently nestling on the Sandburrs and Quack Grass.  I miss the simplicity of living where I work.  I miss Marl and Otter and Emma the most.

Marl.  Marl is the indoor kitty that Robin and Gigi have.  The cuddliest, sweetest little kitty.  Just saying her name filled me with a bout of joy.

Otter.  Otter was the youngest, and my personal bias, the cutest goat on the farm.  I would make it a point to hold her at least twice a week.  I would have never thought I would love goats so dearly, but my heart now aches to have my own.

Emma.  My relationship with Emma really began the last half of my time on the farm.  She was one of the two barn cats, Nala being the other.  Emma decided to see what it was going to take to wear me down til I was willing to let her come in and have some cuddle time in my pop-up.  It didnt' take long.  She is about 80% purr, white with orange blots, and rarely sits still.  She also has a drooling issue that I came to kind of endear.

This is an end to this particular chapter, but I will continue to be around sheep and oak trees and lush gardens.  It won't be Marl or Emma or Otter, but it will be good.

My next adventure will continue out east in VERMONT!  I was just offered a job at Spring Lake Ranch in southern Vermont!!!!  I will be relocating out east sometime in November/December!

Life is just getting better.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

I have standards

  First of all, it's really hard to type with a bum pointer finger.  Just wanted to air that.

  Second...not at Gould Farm this morning as was planned.  I got there last night around 8:30 and somehow managed to find the right building to go to.  All that was told me was that I was suppose to go to the Main House where someone would show me my room on the second floor.  Well, no one was waiting for me, in fact it seemed like no one even knew I was coming.  I ended up just asking any person who passed me if they were staff and finally found a girl who seemed slightly put off that I was asking her about where I should stay.  

  Well, she took me up to the 2nd floor and opened the Visitors Room...the bed wasn't made up.  Went over to the next room, the Overnight Room, and, again, the bed wasn't made up, but there were sheets laid on the bed and the top blankets bunched up on the velvety, blue recliner.  Honestly, the room was reminiscent of a hostel I stayed at in Romania back in 2000 where over half the people I traveled with got bed bugs after a nights rest, or perhaps I should say a restless night.  The room I stayed in, the Overnight Room, was a small square, maybe 10 by 10 feet with a rickety desk, a recliner my grandpa would sit in, and a single bed.  In the shallow, single closet there were 2 half empty laundry detergent containers and another wadded up blanket.  The walls were white, okay, whitish and the pull down vinyl curtain had a hole ripped in it and no longer rolled up and down.  

  Then there were the bathrooms.  Out of the two bathrooms I used on the 2nd floor, neither had toilet paper, the sink in one was covered, and I do mean covered with hair from several times shaving.  To be honest, I didn't even wash my hands because I didn't want to touch the handles of the sink, it was just that nasty.  There was mold growing on both of the shower curtains and in general they looked as if they hadn't been cleaned for at least a month with heavy usage.  Oh, and they reeked like piss.  Bonus.  

  So after taking in my living situations and wanting to curl up in a corner and cry, I decided to muster up some energy to go downstairs and use the computer and interact with the people.  Well, out of the 6 people in the computer/tv room, 5 were playing some sort of in-depth computer game and were really into it and on top of that were using all the computers.  So I was left to my room.  No phone reception, no wi-fi, just me in the whitish cell with only a florescent light overhead to keep me company.

  Well, I decided last night that I was not going to stay.  I considered just leaving right then at 9pm, but then considered the sleeping options at that car.  So, I decided to sleep in the 3rd world hostel, wake up this morning at 5:30 and be on my way.  So that's what I did.  Now I'm sitting in this hip coffee shop in Pittsfield, Massachusetts eating a warm muffin and sipping coffee at Dottie's Coffee Lounge.  So good and I dare say better than the alternative morning I could have had.

  I'm sure that Gould Farm is a vibrant place in it's own right, but as far as first impressions go...there was not much to call home about.  Actually, I did call home and to let out some stream.  I think first experiences/impressions have a lasting voice and strong words to say about a place.  I was not impressed.  I had a few hours on my drive from Spring Lake Ranch in Vermont to refocus my energy and prepare myself to soak in another experience.  I know that by the time I pulled in the parking lot at Gould Farm, that I was really ready to be there, honestly and truly.  There is always the reality of comparison...we do that as humans. My first footsteps on the Farm were fresh and present, but I cannot help, in this moment, comparing my two experiences to each other.  

  I doubt I need to spell out which farm had a lasting, positive imprint.

Monday, August 15, 2011

A break from the farm life...sort of.

Overlooking a small pond nestled next to a giant, cascading willow tree and a row of apple trees proudly showing their orbs of red and green.  I arrived at Spring Lake Ranch prior to dinner where I was greeted by Alex, the guy who I've been in contact with for the last few months regarding a position here at the farm.  It feels good to be in Vermont.

I've been driving for the past four days and my body is ready to be done.  I'll have a few days here to feel out the farm and community and hopefully leave with a sense of peace about a decision.  

The last few days have been amazing! And when I say amazing...I'm really talking about the people I've met in the places I've been.  It's so great to be able to go anywhere, literally and be able to connect with individuals.  I couch surfed in Painesville, Ohio and Oneida, New York the last two nights and if I could choose to change them, I absolutely would not.  

Here a few photos of the places I've been. 

Downtown Painesville, Ohio

A beautiful Catholic church in Painesville.

A boardwalk out to Lake Erie.  Actually quite dirty...but then again I'm used to Lake Superior.

The house that I couch surfed (or should I say spare bedroom surfed) in Oneida, NY.  So beautiful!
The backyard...did I say the Julie is a floral designer, go figure.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011


  These are the turkeys when I first got to the farm in mid-June.  They have grown substantially since and as a result have gotten a larger, more plush pad.  
  We have chores both morning and evening at the farm.  Chores are a singular term for feeding & watering the animals.  If I'm not milking Stormy, the last of the lady goats that hasn't been dried off, then I usually choose to  do what we have cleverly chosen to call "long waters."  
  So tonight, I started on long waters since we only milk Stormy in the morning.  Baby chicks, teenagers (youngish hens), and then turkeys.  The turkeys have been pretty jumpy lately and tonight was not an exception.  I let myself into the turkey pen, which looks like a miniature rain forest inside, and noticed that a the center support for the tarps was looking a little lopsided. So naturally, I went to straighten it.  Well the jumpiest of the jumpiest decided to b-line it for the door which happened to be slightly ajar...and out she went, flapping her wings in applause of her small accomplishment and short taste of freedom. 
  So, in all honesty and humility, this is not a one time occurance.  For the turkeys, this is the second time that I   allowed a few the wander freely amongst the adjacent pigs and sweet corn.  Last week I had the duty of manipulating three of the wandering sheep back into the sheep pen.  The key:  broccoli.  They love broccoli...who knew?  We've now given up on all the laying hens being in the coop.  Half of them are and the other have made their beds under large balsam firs and tall patches of weeds. 
  I am so thankful for the animal life on the farm.  Animals bring a sanity and calmness that is so effortless and typically consistent.  Otter.  I am in love this animal.  Otter is our smallest, cutest, most easy to love goat.  He is a shade of caramel brown with black socks and a black spot on his forehead.  I honestly try to make to a point to hold him at least once a day, usually during morning chores.  Such a good way to start off the day!
  Well, for those of you in suspense, the turkey did make her way back in.  Took a little creative thinking, but the duty was done. 
  A few random photos.  Here's the bulk of the crew (L to R) Gigi, Emily, Robin, Liz, and myself. 
 It was our first potato harvest...yep...a little excited about that!

Just a look at one of the corners of the farm.  Uhmm....this is my reality on a daily basis!

Veggies!!!  How rewarding and ultimately empowering to be able to pick ripe, healthy, delicious produce that we have toiled over for weeks upon weeks.  This is exactly what I signed up for.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Shares from July 7th

 Lots and lots of lettuce:  freckles, mizuna, kale, arugula, bulls blood beet greens, swiss chard, & mustard greens.  Bok Choy, pea pods, kohlrobi, turnips, was a plentiful harvest.  The last picture was our lunch: one gigantic, succulent salad of fresh, organic veggies picked that morning!  Oh, my my.  The life I'm living!


and, it's July...

 Farm life has been a busy one of lately and I have found myself more exhausted in the evenings, henceforth, no entries of lately for my three followers!  I have now been on the farm for a month and it seems like three (in a good way).  In all honesty, life on the farm is getting better and better.  The community of interns are becoming more tight, the veggies are ample and bursting forth with vibrant colors, and we have now started Tuesday jam sessions which include banjos, a fiddle (ME!!), a couple guitars, a mandolin, and the potential for more.  The work days are often long, dirty, and filled with sun and sweat which exponentially make harvest days that much more rewarding reaping the fruits, or should I say veggies of our labor.

So, every week we spend an afternoon working for Stark Winery in Stark Mn, a young organic winery.  Two weeks ago, our job was to pick 200 pounds of strawberries from Robin's sons organic strawberry patch.  This so-thought 4 hour long project turned into a 9 hour afternoon of work.  We picked 47 buckets of strawberries and probably ingested at least 3 more between the six of us during the 4 hours of picking. didn't end there, then we came home and had to clean ALL of the strawberries.  It was a definite team & patience building project.  The theme of the evening was the classic "Desert Island" where we decide what 3 people, 3 books, 3 items, etc we would bring with us while we were stranded on a desert island.  Kinda felt like summer camp for a while.  Well, the good news was that we had no melt downs, the Lord of the Flies was referenced several times, and Gigi will have a full band on the island for our listening pleasure.  :)
Chick, chick, chicks!

 We got baby chicks Tuesday, July 5th!  They are so damn cute!!!  Another example of the fact that small things bring me a lot of joy.  These are only a fraction of the photos I took...I couldn't even handle the cuteness.  Well, we have 50, now down to 49, bless that little one's soul.  It's hard to see, but in the photo above, you can see one brownish/calico colored chix...he's a cutie.

Liz, myself, and Emily taking a dip in the Sunrise River...our new favorite swimming hole.

Monday, June 27, 2011

I crocheted a hat!

I'm exhausted typing today.  It's 5:10 and evening chores start in 20 minutes...just enough time to catch up over the last few days.

Today we took over the weeds that prevailed last week in the wet and rain and cool of the entire week.  Honestly, they were out of control enough that we were able to take push mowers and mow down the middle of the rows.  Then, God sent a gift in the form of mulch to us!  [Weeding has been a personal pain in the ass lately and there is lots of it to do all the time, so, mulching = less weeding.]  Liz, Em, Holly, myself and Gigi (for part of the time) took to the hay bales and spread the hay in between the mowed rows.  It was a dirty job and I have plenty of crap in my eyes to prove it, but we will all be the happier for it, especially our backs.

After hours of mulching and a falalfal lunch in between, we came to a stopping point with the mulch and were redirected to create an addition for the pig pen.  If I do say so, those pigs are loving the extra 75 square feet!

To catch up with my lack of blogging lately, I went back to Eau Claire this weekend.  I honestly was craving a real bed, a hot bath and hugs from Aly and Briana.  I got all those and plenty of naps.  It was a fairly low key weekend.  I did manage to spent a good 5 hours at the Joint in between Friday and Saturday, so, you'll have that.

Before I trekked south to Eau Claire, we had harvest day on Thursday.  This week we had a boastful amount of salad greens: Asian greens, sweet pea tips, arugula, beet greens, baby kale and chard, and more that I cannot recall in the moment.  We again had Bok Choy and scallions.  For an added flare and zest we added garlic scapes to the box.  I have tons of pictures from harvest day...ENJOY!
Red and Green Onions!

150 heads of Bok Choy.
Interns!  Holly cleaning the onions and Liz loving the Bok.

Birgit receiving the hand off from Karla.  Yes, this one was posed.

Suz filling up the tubs of lettuces with water to keep them chilled.

Gigi organizing and arranging the share boxes.

After the onions are picked, they are immersed in water to chill, cleaned, bunched, THEN put on these fancy tables to drip the access water off.  They next step is to put them in the share boxes for our share holders!

Karla and I.  She's a good one!

Sorting lettuce.  I'm sure most of you have used a salad spinner to wick off the access water after rinsing your greens, well we do the same.  Believe it or not, our take on a "salad spinner" is putting the greens in mesh bags and placing them on spin cycle in the washer that we have hooked up in one of the hoop houses.  Hilarious and yet works like a gem.

Self explanatory.

We layer the different varieties of greens on the table, kinda like lasagna...

Then grid off the table of greens and bag.  (Example: 1/4 of the table needs for make 6 bags)

This is me at my drop site.  Looks like winter with my attire, and it kinda felt like it.  Exactly why I decided to crochet a hat.  

Thursday, June 23, 2011


I'm sitting over a hot cup of Raspberry Emergency and almond butter/maple syrup oatmeal as I type this morning.  It's been raining for the last 4 days fairly consistently and last night was no exception.  We have a full day of harvesting in front of us and it's wet and cold.  It doesn't help that I'm exponentially feeling worse every morning, this morning being the worst thus far.

I'm headed back to Eau Claire today after I drop the veggies at my designated drop site.  I'm looking forward to familiar faces, needed embraces, a real bed, or at least a futon, and taking a hot, hot bath.

My apologies about the lack of writing and pictures.  Me being sick and working long days means going to bed before the suns down.  I'll have time this weekend to post some new photos.

Off to brush my teeth.

Monday, June 20, 2011

One word: weeding.

Today's task was weeding the 22 rows of onions by hand.  We still have 4 to go.

I created a feast for lunch today centered around the one veggie that we have an abundance of at the moment: Radishes.  I made homemade corn tortillas, topped them with beans, taco meat, corn, scallions, salsa, and radishes with a splash of lime juice.  There was a radish salad with honey, soy sauce, and sunflower seeds, sauteed radish greens, and radish chips (those didn't really turn out).  I even cut up radishes and froze them in ice cube trays for our waters.  It was pretty epic.

Rick and Joan, the parents, came for a brief farm tour and hang out yesterday afternoon.  I gave them the full tour of the gardens and animals along with a few samples of cheese that I made earlier this week.

I'm feeling a bit under the weather as I write this and am going to call it a night.

PS:  Oh, got my camera battery charger in the mail today!!  (Thanks mom!) Picture time tomorrow.

Friday, June 17, 2011

The Nitty Gritty Dirt Farm.

The Nitty Gritty Dirt Farm.  Ahh.  Oh how this partnership was meant to be!  A bit about the Nitty: the farm is located near Harris, Mn, north of Taylor Falls, Mn and a short walk to the St. Croix River.  The farm is a 15 acre Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), certified organic, and home to a variety of animals.  Goats, as you have read, sheep, chickens, pigs, a single cow (Reba), two horses (Tess and Buzz), turkeys, and honey bees all share in the 15 acres that we produce and exist on.  The farm is own and run by Robin and her partner, Gigi.  This summer there are five interns: myself, Karla, Emily, Holly, and Liz.  A completely female run organic CSA!                  

  The picture of the colorful veggies are the radishes that we harvested yesterday and the photo below is the crew planting Celeriac.  I'm sporting the yellow tee and representing SnoPac, my frozen veggie supplier at the Co-op with my new, not so clean now, cap.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

First Drop Day of the Season!

  Today was our first harvest day here at the Nitty Gritty!!!  Three varieties of radishes:  D'Vavignon, Crunchy Royale, & Rover, Bok Choy and a small bundle of scallions were the veggies that comprised the boxes for each share holder.  Picking the veggies felt empowering.  Knowing we are providing good, nutritious, sustainably grown, organic produce for individuals, families, and ourselves felt so right.

  I drove to the heart of the city to "woman" a drop site at the Homestead Pickin' Parlor off of Penn Ave and 66th Street.  I had seven shares with me to be picked up, only six came.

  Finished my third book of the summer, "It's a Long Road to a Tomato," over Mutter Paneer Masala and Naan, as I treated myself to some local cuisine.  It was a small family run restaurant-oh how I love to support local, small family owned businesses!  Just feels right.

  Had a really lovely evening chat with Karla, one of the other interns.  She is a good one and already someone that I know who will keep me laughing and sane over the summer.  Off to slumber and dream land.  Napta buna.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Harris, Mn.

  Biked into town tonight.  A little over a six mile picturesque ride.  Post office, Big Daddy's Bar & Grill (Biker's Welcome!), a tattoo parlor, gas station, one cafe, two churches, and Heartbreakers, the local strip club.  While taking a little biking tour of the town (population 843), I came upon a sign hanging off a residential house that said, "Therapeutic Massage".  Obviously, I quickly turned around after noting the worship time for the First Covenant Church (9am) and circled back to write down a phone number of the masseuse for future reference.  Oddly enough, no phone number, so, as many of you would guess, I went straight to the front door.  Upon turning down the blaring tv, the woman engrossed in the newspaper arose, ajared  the door and kindly asked to come in.  I told her I was inquiring about the sign out front that stated "Therapeutic Massage."  She told me to take a seat.  

  There was a lot to take in.  Beige shag carpet, a couple of easy chairs and recliners, sea shell wind chimes, everything roughly in hues of pastel, two poster size family photos that I was personally directed to, and a pair of Jesus face portraits hanging adjacent to each other, oddly one not resembling the other all.  This is all that I can remember from my brief five minute visit, but certainly not even a percentage of the memorabilia accumulated.

  Philis was the name of the woman who greeted me at the door.  If I had to put a number to it, I'd say she looked to be in her early to mid 70's.  Her hair was short and curly and most definitely dyed to resemble an auburn/reddish color.  She stood about 5'5" in height and appeared somewhat fragile.  The most noticeable of Philis's features, though, was her eye shadow.  It was somewhere between the shades of aqua and teal with a bit of a shimmer/sparkle to it.  It was challenging, actually, to consistently look at her eyes and not not just her lids.  Most shockingly, though, was that Philis was the massage therapist and after talking about the large size of her family and how she knows money can be tight, she dropped the real bomb:  an hour long massages for $16.  Thinking she meant to say sixty but it came out as sixteen, I asked her to repeat the jaw-dropping news.    "Sixteen dollars," she repeated.  

  How can anyone say no to a sixteen dollar massage?  Well, maybe a few would, but I most definitely will not let this opportunity slip by.  Even if for the pure experience of saying that I had a Swedish/Hawaiian massage by a 70 something year old, it will be worth it.

  Look for future updates as I relay my Therapeutic Massage experience by Philis.

Making Mozzarella

It's rainy today.  Good thing.  I've been banned to the kitchen today!!  Goat Cheese Mozzarella (yes this is a proper noun!) and Formage Blanc are on the menu for making, and more than likely making Ricotta from the Mozarella whey.  Robin is my teacher for this new venture. 

I milked Mezzo again this morning.  Getting better, more fluid in my finger movements.  It's kinda like playing a trumpet trill andante on repeat.  I'm using the milk from Mezzo, Stormy & Nimbis (Mamba's milk tastes a little funky, so her's is set aside for Oliver, one of our kid goats) to create the soon to be cheesy goodness. 

I am about 2 hours into the cheese making. I just stirred the Mozzarella by hand to brake up the curd.  Stir every 15 minutes and I will spare you the rest of the recipe considering it's about 3 pages in length.  The Formage Blanc is now in it's second hour of twelve calmly sitting, wrapped in Robin's fleece in a 4 gallon soup pot.  It will be a full day of cheese intensive labor!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Basil, oh basil.

  Milked goats this morning.  Squeeze with pointer finger and thumb and roll fingers down.  Repeat.
Gigi said I did okay.  More challenging than I thought.  I think it will become something that I religiously love to do, seeing that we milk in the mornings and afternoons.  Resting my right ear against the lower back of the goats stomach.  An intimate connection.  There are four lady or doe goats.  Stormy, definitely true to her name, Stormy's daughter, Nimbis, Mamba, and Mezzo.  I had my trial run on Mezzo.  She was a good sport.

  Obviously I thought a lot about my cat today.  We planted row upon row upon row of Genovese, Thai, Amethyst, and another purplish basil that I can't remember it's name at the moment.  The scent put a smile on my face, pondering and salivating over the pesto to be had later in the season.

  There are a couple cats here on the farm, three that I know of.  Two are barn cats, one nice, one not so nice and one inside cat.  Marl is the domestic kitty (to the right).  She is a "poof" of white, blonde, and black hair.  She also weighs approximately two ounces, okay, maybe not two, but she's little.

  [I'm going to have a moment, excuse me]  I miss Basil!  She has been for me what no one else has known I needed.  Her consistency, excessive purring, and adventurous attitude are attributes I'm missing today.  There are also the dependable sleepovers that I deeply miss.  She is with Aly for now and is loving it.  Uuhmfh.  Kinda wish she was here.  For now, I have Marl to cuddle with and coo at.

  Farm photos to come.  My battery charger is in Middleton Wisconsin and will soon find it's way to the farm.