Thursday, May 24, 2007

I'm the boss no more!

The past couple of weeks have again been busy ones. The main sheep flock got moved over to the new shed that my carpenter friend Joe Gibeault built. I found a new free organic feed source--spent brewer's grains from Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing--which I started offering to my lactating ewes. My long lost friend Michelle came to visit from NYC. We reminisced over our summer together working on a CSA farm in Pennsylvania while she helped me milk Poppy and move electric fence around. And we went to the car races at the Watsonville Speedway--a new cultural experience for Michelle.

Meanwhile, I've been busy at my paying job helping to ease the transition for the new chef, Sean Baker, who officially started this week. He really hasn't needed me to do much handholding though. He has already proved his awesomeness by cooking a six course dinner paired with wines from Bonny Doon Winery on his first night in the kitchen. You can see some gorgeous pictures of his gorgeous food at Tana Butler's blog I am so pleased he's agreed to take over the helm at Gabriella Cafe--I knew it was a perfect match after the first ten minutes or so of his interview. Farming has always been the dream for me, but I've loved working in the kitchen and saw the potential that our little restaurant had if the right person came along to pursue their dream as a chef. I'm not going to fawn all over him anymore here--there's going to be plenty of other people doing that soon enough (and there are already--see Tana's blog!). It has just been a joy to work with someone who is totally psyched about what he is doing and what I've been doing, and in some ways that makes it a little harder for me to let go of the cooking profession. I must admit that since I've been unchaperoned and unsupervised in the kitchen for the past couple of years I've gotten a little lazy and sloppy--not that I haven't worked my ass off. But cooking with an intense person of skill and talent, who puts a lot of passion into their food has inspired me to push myself more as a chef.

Unfortunately, there is not a lot more of me to push around, what with caring for my animals and making plans for the farm, so I am going to have to resist the pull of the kitchen. I felt a little guilty yesterday that I was smiling to myself as Sean ripped apart the dry storage area and reorganized it in a fit of frustration. It was rewarding to see someone else care about the details that I've felt like I was the only one who cared about. It was also nice to see him claiming territory and settling in to his kitchen. Mostly I think that I got satisfaction from the fact that someone else was grumbling and cursing about the same things that have bugged the crap out of me on a regular basis for the past couple of years!

All in all I have to say that after a week of long days in the kitchen it was such a pleasure to come home to the farm this evening. I took my happy, frolicking puppies for a walk around the fenceline, came back and milked Poppy (who has finally settled down to eating hay while i milk), and stood for a while and admired the little lambs curled up together in a heap while their moms ate dinner. For every path you follow there are always those infinite number of other options you are walking away from. This used to paralyze me with doubt, but as I've aged I've realized that there isn't ever a necessarily wrong or right choice. It's just a matter of making a choice and going with it to see where it takes you, and doing your best to find out what is right about it for you. Before I get carried away with anymore Hallmarky sentiment I think i am going to leave it at that.

Monday, May 14, 2007

same ol same ol

So I haven't posted anything to my blog in a while and it is not because there hasn't been anything to write about. In fact, it is the opposite. There have been so many things going on around here everyday that i haven't had time or energy (mostly the energy) to sit down and tell y'all about it. I think I am getting some insight into what it must be to be a single parent of small children. Having other living creatures dependent on you for their survival means you are always worrying about them in the back of your mind and that your own needs are always met last, or not at all! I'm not complaining--I chose this and am happy I did. It is just huge.

Well, first exciting event to share happened April 25th--shearing day. The day before shearing day was crammed full with trying to organize all of the fencing and pens to get everybody into the horse corral and then figure out a way to catch them one at a time the next day for shearing. The biggest obstacle by far was trying to get Bob and Jean's black face sheep into the corral. They are basically feral. And they can jump. My parents bravely volunteered to help and with five people and a not-so-helpful dog we finally managed to round everybody up after about an hour. This was actually a better than hoped for result.
The professional sheep shearer, a man by the name of Judd Redden, drove all the way down from Sonoma to come give our sheep their haircuts. He was talking up a weeklong shearing class that he was organizing and lamenting the shortage of people getting into the profession. After watching him sweat and struggle with 70 smelly, greasy, feisty sheep all day I could understand the shortage! Especially after he told me how little he was charging me for the shearing and half a day's drive.
I have to hand it to him--he was incredibly patient with our half-assed handling setup, big feral sheep and skittish ewe lambs and didn't even stop to take a break the whole day. I was exhausted by the end of the day and I was just making sure the sheep didn't get out of their pen.

Next exciting news: I have baby lambs!! Over the past two weeks three of my ewes have given birth. There are two ewe lambs, and a pair of ram lambs. So freakin' cute they make me laugh out loud. There is this adorable spontaneous jump that young lambs do where they just jump off all four legs, straight up in the air a good 6 inches or so for no apparent reason. And they wiggle their tails contentedly when they are nursing--reason enough to not dock tails. The first born ewe is named Calla, the rams won't get names as they are going to be meat, and I'm waiting for the second ewe to reach the week old point before naming her.

Speaking of lambs, Babe, my ram lamb that came with is mom Poppy from Wisconsin, got weaned today. Fun fun. ha. Actually the weaning part was not a big deal. I moved him into the pen next to his mom where the black face and the other rams are and he moped around and cried off and on during the day. The hard part was catching Poppy this evening and getting her into the horse stall to milk her. I got to try out the new milking stand I just bought from Caprine dairy. It wasn't until I actually had Poppy in the stall that I wondered how the hell I was supposed to get her up onto the stand. I ended up kind of lifting and dragging her (not unlike trying to get my 60 and 75 pound puppies into the back of my pickup truck). She was pretty unhappy most of the time while I was milking but settled down enough for me to get a bit of milk out. But then of course she would occasionally mimic that spontaneous four legged jump that the lambs do and knock over the contents of the milk bucket. After about a half hour I wound up with about four ounces of milk in the pail and a hell of a lot more on my pants, the wall, the milking stand, and the hay on the floor, and I still am not sure if I got her teats stripped completely (got all of the milk out). Well, i must say it was some of the tastiest three gulps of milk I have ever drank though!! Curious to see how things go for tomorrow mornings milking before I go to work...

Speaking of work, we hired a new chef to take over at Gabriella Cafe. So glad! First, because the chef, Sean Baker, rocks and is going to awesome things with the place and all of my hard work will be improved upon. Second, someone else is going to be responsible so I don't have to be!! Thank god. Lately, I've been juggling way too much responsibility for one person and the restaurant has probably been suffering as a result. Once Sean is up and going I am going to switch to doing pastries for the next six months or so. That should be a fun change of pace and a lot less pressure, and i get to make my own schedule and avoid traffic. Yeah. Look for possible sheep milk based special desserts this summer. (well, if I manage to actually get milk in the bucket and not on the floor a little more.)

I am sure there's more to write about but it is 9:30pm and I am eating my Annie's mac and cheese out of the pot as I write this. Almost my bedtime!

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