Sunday, August 26, 2012

Two For One!

 We finally pulled out of Jocelyn's driveway at around 7:30 to begin the tour in earnest; granted, a half hour later than I wanted but this trip is not so much about schedules as it is getting where we are going to let Paul teach and learn.  I mean up to this point, it had been a matter of venturing out from the base camp of her home.  Now we were leaving the planet and going into space in our own self-contained Land Whale.  Eivind served as co-pilot and kept me posted on the GPS directions while Paul and Jocelyn sat at the dining room table and stayed connected to the world via our mobile hot spot.  Connectivity is one of the problems we had to solve before this journey could be undertaken and it seems to work amazingly well.

Speaking of connectivity, nearly everyone agrees that connectivity of tires to the road is a good idea so when we were near Fort Lewis, Washington, a passing motorist waved frantically at us pointing to the left rear tire, I pulled over.  Knowing the Land Whale, I knew this was probably extremely necessary.  When we pulled safely off the road, our inspection of the rig showed that the outer tire of the rear dual set was pretty much shredded. Since the inner tire was keeping us up, Paul suggested we limp along to the next exit which was about half a mile away and pull off and put the Good Sam Road side Service membership to good use.  In spite of taking an inordinate amount of time (a little staff development wouldn't hurt, Good Sam!) to get us located and our needs communicated, we finally got a visit from Bob of S and S Tires.  This is what he was faced with:     

Bob was one of those workman who doesn't sit around a chat--he had a job to do and he did it, quickly and efficiently.  I think the only sentence he uttered while he was working was when he looked at the condition of the inner tire and said, "I'm surprised that one didn't go, too." He put two new tires on the Land Whale faster than I could even figure out how to do it if it was only up to me.  He took a look at the rest of our rubber and pronounced it serviceable.  I hope Bob is appreciated by everyone he helps as much as I appreciated him.  Having cheated Death one more time, off we headed to Friendly Haven Rise Farm

Navigating the Land Whale to the farm took us over roads that reminded me of a roller coaster. The civil engineers who designed these roads never gave much thought to them EVER having ice on them.  I swear the vertical pitch to some of them seemed more than 25%. Like going over an asphalt waterfall.  Wheee.

That stopped mattering when we finally arrived at Friendly Haven Rise Farm and the home of Jacqueline and Joseph.  Their farm simply buzzes with activity--gardening, goats, chickens, cows, permaculture vegetable beds, cheese-making, and dozens of other farm-related activities.  When we got there, we got put right to work butchering recently slaughtered chickens to go in the freezer to be eaten over the winter.

 Starting with Big Paul (who was wielding a knife) and moving clockwise, we see Eivind (our fellow traveler) loading freezer bags with raw chicken leftovers for the energetic farm dog (Rousseau), neighbor Ray (who stopped by and is cutting chickens), Joseph (our host and head butcher) and Julie (a visitor who came by to learn permaculture methods to use in her own agricultural aspirations) all moving in good order to complete one of many necessary farm tasks.  I volunteered my impeccably neat hand-writing to label the freezer bags.

These chickens were all "meat birds" and a couple of older layers that were raised on the farm.  The chickens are farm workers, too.  Nobody lives on the farm without a purpose.  They help with pest control and can eat down a weed patch in short order.  Rousseau is both a companion and a deterrent.  He gets chicken bits in addition to a diet that includes goat milk whey left over from cheese making.  The diet agrees with him because his bright-eyed and boundlessly energetic, always ready to chase a stick.

But what about that other buzzing?  Why, those are the other several hundred thousand farm workers.  Jacqueline is a beekeeper extraordinaire.  Using Warre hives primarily, she keeps bees all over her property.  The bees are an essential element to pollenization that is the cornerstone to plant production. Without the bees, eating becomes an almost insurmountable problem.  Jacqueline, like a lot of beekeepers, has a special relationship with her bees that can best be described as wonder, reverence, fiercely protective and affectionate.  She does very little with her bees for the sake of honey, however.  That's their reward for the work they do.

Recently an old rotting tree was taken down in the neighborhood.  When it hit the ground, the sawyer realized it was full of bees and so Jacqueline was called.  Joseph and some friends went and got the portion of the trunk the bees were living in (an eleven foot section he says weighed a thousand pounds) and brought it back to Friendly Haven Rise Farm.  Since the space inside the trunk was very limited, after setting it upright, Joseph cut a pattern that matched the exact shape of the top of the trunk and used it to help make the base of a double height Warre hive Jacqueline fixed tot he top of the trunk. That gave the bees a spacious penthouse to move into and enjoy the spectacular views from above the rest of the farm.  Today the bees (feral bees of naturally occurring stock) are a prominent part of the Farm operation and are doing well.

Jacqueline needs a ladder to visit her "tree bees"
 Friendly Haven Rise Farm is a fully functioning farm.  Things grow here that feed people.  Good things, healthy things.  I know because I graced their table for lunch, dinner and pancakes for breakfast this morning.  Both Jacqueline and Joseph are thoughtful people who are mindful of what it means to be stewards of the energy that feeds people.  Their animals are well-treated, their plants, vegetables and fruits are healthy and wholesome without the application of pesticides or herbicides or fertilizers.  Pests are not eradicated so much as kept in balance with other natural forces made up of plants, insects, birds or animals.  Everything found on the farm is there for a purpose and the role of farmers like Jacquiline and Joseph is to find out what that purpose is, and keep its place in balance.  Voles?  When Jacqueline opens up on voles, it is with wonder and appreciation for all they do for her.  Snakes?  You bet--Friendly Haven Farm creates snake-friendly habitat so slither on in, there will be a place to stay and lots of slugs to eat!

I'm the driver.  I am not a permaculturalist, a farmer, or a proselytizer for farming techniques. As a gardener I am little better than a dilettante.  Seeing this operation is opening some doors in my mind about farming, though, and new ways of doing things.  Jacqueline and Joseph gave me the word on making and applying some stuff called "tree paste" that they say boosts apple tree health and will probably discourage beavers.  What's not to like about that?

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