Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Still Alive ... and With Bonus Drafts!

Oh my goodness. Part of the problem of having me write a blog is that I get distracted and two-months-plus goes by without me saying a word. I would like to make myself feel better, however, by pointing out that during that two months, I managed the following:

* Had an end-of-the-year week-long camping trip to the Oregon Coast (with side jaunt to Seattle).
* Had a REALLY end-of-the-year weekend-long trip to the St. Helens area for my usual Huckleberry Pick family reunion.
* Had a No-Really-Seriously-end-of-the-year weekend camping trip to the Tucannon River with our friends Sarah and Brian.
* Pulled off the following amounts of canning/preserving:
    13 1/2 pints of raspberry jam
    4 pints of blackberry jelly (jelly is the smallest-ever yield stuff -- I started with MOUNDS of berries)
    10 qts. dill pickles
    11 qts. diced tomatoes
    10 pts. tomato sauce
    1 1/2 gallons soup base (tomatoes, corn, onions, herbs cooked down to be added to in the winter)
    Approx. 20 qts. spaghetti sauce

Now I only have to can the 40 lbs of peaches and 40 lbs of pears that are sitting there looking at me! Oh, and we'll need about 50 qts. of applesauce and to do apple cider later in October. Well. I feel better now! I do find preserving your own stuff to be the most satisfying thing on earth, with a couple exceptions. One of them is making your own bread. Another is realizing your meal is almost entirely either grown or preserved by you. And the third is working with these guys:

Yours truly with Belgian geldings Tom and Jerry.

Scott with the same gentlemen. Boy, I didn't realize Scott was THAT MUCH taller than me!

My favorite horse to work with: Belgian/Percheron cross Nugget. I want you to know I got that harness up on his back all by myself. I think it weighs about 50 lbs altogether, and I can't even see the top of Nugget's back unless I'm on tiptoe. Hoo-rah!

Yes indeed, Scott took me to a two-day working class on using draft horses for farming. I've always dreamed of working a farm that way. We took the class from Walt Bernard at he and his wife Kris's farm in central southern Oregon. He is the BEST teacher -- extremely thorough, very safety conscious, and even willing to let amateurs work with his horses, who are unbelievably well-trained. My favorite work with the horses is hand-plowing:

Walt helping me plow a (semi--allow for operator error) straight furrow.

You can't imagine how incredibly satisfying it is to watch the dirt fold over on itself like soft butter. We've lost something seriously important by distancing ourselves from small-scale agriculture. It feeds your soul. The above pictures shows Walt driving Nugget. If I was a skilled teamster, I could wrap the lines around my shoulder and drive the horse that way while I plowed. I *ahem* need a bit more practice for that. Here's Scott driving and me walking the plow (Walt stands behind to make sure no one large and equine decides his novice operators are unbearably irritating and decides to run off. If you're hanging on to 1500 lbs of sold muscle and it takes off, you are going with it. Period.):

Halfway through my furrow, Walt slapped me on the shoulder with the end of the line and said, "Well, sh**! You're a better plower than your husband!" Was he lying? Very probably. But my personal self-esteem ended up seriously bettered! One of the other things that amazed me was that I could do it at all. I had this secret fear that I couldn't keep up with it -- that I wouldn't be strong enough, or that I just wasn't in good enough shape. But I hung in there every day, and never quit early. It IS a lot of work. You know why those farmers of yore were never overweight -- you're outside, all day, never off your feet but at lunch. And I'll also hereby mention that, if I were teamstering full time, I would quit being vegetarian. You can't get through that kind of work without meat protein. I know some of you will disagree, but there it is. I've done it and I can tell you. You gotta have some serious stamina!

Anyway, there is the run-down on the last little bit. Kudos to my ever-patient and kind husband, who dislikes horses and signed up for this class anyway because he knew I would like it. (He, of course, was almost immediately excellent at the job -- darn him anyway!) My goal is for us to be out on our farming property, with a pair of drafts (and using them!) within two years. I'll need more practice, and we will definitely take some more workshops (on plowing, etc.) from Walt. But I think we're ready to hit this small farming/better self-sufficiency pretty hard.

Off to can!

love, kristin

1 comment:

  1. Gorgeous animals!! (The horses, I mean ;-]!) I'm not certain I would want to do plowing and growing a crop so large it needed plowing, but I have always had a desire to live 'closer' to the land, even if I do not have a green thumb a-tall! It will be fun to visit you on the farm in the future!! Rose Marie