A Nice Visit in Cave Creek

By E (just so ya’ll know whose misspellings you’re readin’)

Well, the road trip is more than half over! Next stop TX. I took the car to the tire store yesterday to fix a flat but that’s about the only mishap. (so nice it happened after arrival in AZ and not on the road!) The car did threaten to die on us going up a hill on HWY 152 between Santa Cruz and I-5 on the way to L.A. It was doing a pathetic 25 mph chug-chug uphill but after a good hard stalling by S, the car began working fine again. Maybe kicking the tires and slamming the doors helped too?  The check engine light even turned off for a little while. Maybe the bulb is burning out? 

So now the alarm clock is set for 3:00 am and another for 3:01 am to make sure we get on the road early.  It’s a full drive to TX tomorrow.  Luckily our bellies are full and we’re well rested from a very nice stay in Cave Creek for my Dad’s 60th. I really value seeing family and friends and we’ve been really enjoying the amazing luxury of our wonderful hosts’ hospitality along the road.  Thank you all!

Random Pics

Wanted to share a few photos, but they don’t really fall under any category so here they are

Road trip!

Miles to destination: 2,673. Oil: clean and full. Gas tank: full. Check Engine light: on and brighter than ever.

Our last day at Deck family farm has arrived and we are about to embark on the longest road trip of our lives from Junction City, Oregon to Fredericksburg, Texas.

Our last week at Deck was a full one. E’s family came to visit the farm and we had a fun time hiking to the back of the property, visiting all the animals, playing on the rope swing, and having a picnic lunch on the hill overlooking the farm. B and A also surprised me with birthday gifts and donuts to celebrate my 29th birthday, so I felt really special. It was a great day, and I think the boys had a lot of fun too.

One simple lesson I learned this last week is that farms need industrial-strength appliances or two spares at any given time. The washers at Green Fire were under stress and the one at Deck (that seems to run around the clock) decided to take a dive when I put my load in. I walked to the house seeing buckets of water being flung out of the laundry room, which is never a good sign. The solenoid thingy that tells the washer it’s full broke, and so it ran water until it flooded the laundry room, bathroom, and closet. I think that definitely put me on the ‘Favorite WWOOFers of All Time’ list.

A good portion of our free time the last week was spent trying to figure out how our things multiplied and how we were going to fit them back into the car. We left a giant bag of things for Goodwill, but it’s still stuffed to the gills and we still have a full cargo bag on the roof. I hope they allow 42 check-on bags when we fly to Ireland.

Our last morning, C and S got up early to make a full breakfast for us before we left. It was this delicious creation they call Dutch Baby – a yummy fluffy egg/pancake thing with blueberries – and of course, sausage. It sure made us feel good to be sent off with a proper breakfast, even though we weren’t going to the dentist 🙂 Although, that may be preferable to the 40+ hours we are about to spend in the car.

We do have lots of fun stops planned along the way to Texas so it will be a good trip: revisiting the crew at Green Fire, seeing San Francisco (the first time for me), camping at Big Basin, staying with friends A & M in L.A. and then seeing friends J and S & J in Flagstaff, celebrating E’s dad’s birthday in Cave Creek, and then making the final leg to my parents’ house in Fredericksburg.

Of course, our little friend the check engine light has made so many encores that I have become pretty comfortable with ignoring it. I’m even considering using a black Sharpie to color over it. I will know the car is broken when it actually breaks. I think the light should have read ‘expensively optimize engine or unrelated systems’ but there just wasn’t enough room on the dash so they decided on ‘check engine’ instead. We already checked the engine, so we’re just going to trust that everything is dandy. Famous last words I know…

Just Fling it in My Face

Just a few notes from E on what all has hit my face over the last few weeks.

T has learned to say some good words like “ewww” and “mut” (mud) and of course, “poo-poo”. They’re a good start for describing what has been flung in my face recently.  I think my face has become a magnet for anything I’m trying to avoid.  For a week, one of my evening chores was to take out the buckets containing compost, trash, and pig scraps.  The trash goes pretty smoothly but those darn pigs get me almost every time! I try to pour the bucket of funky kitchen goo over their pen fence and into their trough but they’re so excited by food they all race over and stand where I need to pour before I get there.  The pig scraps contain various things like sour milk, eggs, apple peels, old leftovers, etc and I end up trying to poor between the pigs but some always gets on their ears.  The pigs then shake and fling the goo back into my face and mouth.  Yum.

Then I have to spray the buckets out with a hose. I tried not spraying them out once and I put them back under the sink dirty. A job well done until C saw them and said, “who did the buckets!?” in a tone that makes everyone try to look busy working.  I had to turn myself in to the laughter and “oooohs” of the family members.  Busted!  So now I spray them out.  The only problems are the coffee grounds and chunks of bacon grease left in the compost bucket that splash back from the high pressure hose stream.  I only let myself get blasted twice before learning I don’t like cold bacon coffee in the evening.

I should have learned faster about how far bucket spray will travel to get on my face from when I was pressure washing 55 gallon drums.  The waste eggs and excess or old milk from the dairy gets combined out back for feeding to the pigs.  Fresh, this is a pretty good treat for the little piggies but along with random bugs and some veggies and a few weeks of ripening, it gets kind of nasty.  The reflected pressure washer back spray from those barrels peppered me with eggshell bits and a wet mist that smelled like barf.

And then there is poo. I’ve had a few incidents with chicken and pig but the best I got it was while herding cows through the pens and chutes.  The floor was slick with sloppy green manure and one disgruntled cow had a nice full tail of it.  I was on her back side giving a move-it-along pat.  With a quick flick that tail splatted my eye and mouth in a move that reminded me of a wild artist flinging paint on a canvas with a long handled brush.  Farmer war paint I guess.

Division of Labor

My grandpa always likes to tease me about (insert air quotes here) women’s work and about how I should be doing it, and I always like to give him a hard time back about how he is equally capable to perform the task being discussed. My sassy remarks become known early on as ‘editorial comments,’ and we still like to razz each other even though we both know that if Grandma tells us to do something we are darn sure going to do it.

Having grown up working in the garage with my dad, climbing trees and riding bikes and motorcycles with my brother I would define my younger self as a full blown tomboy and my older self as someone who knows I am capable of doing things both masculine and feminine (except makeup, I am pitifully unskilled in this department). I have more scars on my legs than most guys I know, either because I’m burly or I’m a klutz, but that’s not the point. In high school I was in auto shop, and restored and raced a car with my dad. I believe that bending these stereotypical roles was what ultimately earned me a scholarship to college, and so that’s become a very defining characteristic for me: I am not your typical woman, and the value of me doing the opposite of women’s work has literally been quantified.

Since having T, this blurred division of labor that I’ve engrained in myself has come to the surface many times and I am constantly having to convince myself that not doing men’s work is still valuable. It’s not the presence of women’s work that I struggle with, but the absence of men’s work.

I know the value of women’s work – I think about my grandmother and the warm, welcoming home that she works hard to maintain with a gracious finesse. And when I say ‘home’ I don’t just mean a building – it’s a place and a feeling that you always keep with you and that I aspire to create for my family. It’s a skill at which she’s masterful. The clean and welcoming room that’s always waiting for you when you visit. The delicious, special meals she makes for you because she knows your likes and dislikes. She would wake me up with back tickles (my favorite) when my brother and I would come to visit in the summer time. She taught me sewing and embroidery and ironing and making bread from scratch without a recipe. She’s selfless in a way that brings people together, and there have been many times when I’ve wanted to relieve her of the burden that I saw her carrying. I wanted her to get to go play outside in my place or watch TV or play cards instead of working, but maybe I was a little off the mark. While I believe that help with dishes and cooking and chores is very much appreciated and expected, maybe being completely relieved from it isn’t what she would want. While the ‘value’ may be difficult to quantify exactly in terms of dollars, what she does is valuable to her entire family and her friends, and it is absolutely essential. Similar to a principle of the Amish people: joy and value is found in work, not in the escape from work.

And so as I find myself limited in the type of work that I can perform here with T, I have to remind myself that my lack of (air quotes) men’s work is still valuable. When your small children are home (and nursing), and particularly when you’re living on the land, division of labor is the most logical and practical arrangement. It isn’t practical to take a small child out among dangerous animals or during rainy weather (unless you’re in Northern California and you have no choice) or let them roam free around piles of animal poo and electrical fences. It also doesn’t work to have T in the backpack all day so that I can do this type of work. It isn’t fair to him, and frankly, he’s heavy. While this division of labor wasn’t as apparent on Green Fire, it is very apparent at Deck Family Farm because of the presence of so much large livestock and the enormous size of the property. When T’s sleeping, I am limited by my leash of freedom and if a task is outside that zone then I don’t go.

All this to say that I might no longer believe that it was just an arbitrary line drawn in the sand that historically men got to do all the exciting work while women held down the fort. I believe that the nature of agrarian work makes that division naturally but nowadays this partnership is still important. In whatever balance that each couple might settle upon, whether it’s male or female staying home or working, ensures that the family is provided for and both sides are important. When E and I were both working full time engineering jobs before we had T, I felt that E had equal responsibility to do all the house work as well. It was as though we eclipsed each others’ functions and it made things complicated. In some ways, staying home with T simplified this greatly and made me feel like we were more complimentary to one another.

If my grandpa reads this, I’m sure he’s never going to let me live it down but that’s okay. One joke he told me that I still laugh at is: Why does a bride wear white? So the dishwasher matches the refrigerator. I know, I know, it’s terrible, but it’s still funny. We all do the dishes and we all cook, and truth be told, male or female, you will be the hero of the day if you have a warm dinner waiting when 10 hungry and tired people get done working for the day.

Fast Food

The other morning, the Deck family children all had dentist appointments and it was a hectic morning for them as everyone was getting ready and trying to get out the door on time. As I walked toward the house, I saw the youngest girls hurrying toward their car with full plates of breakfast. It was not on paper plates and it was not a pop tart, it was a full breakfast: home-grown and home-cooked eggs, sausage, and toast on porcelain plates with stainless steel silverware. As I got to the door, C Deck came out also with a full plate of breakfast rushing to the car. It struck me how I had never seen this happen before, and I made the comment how I appreciated that their quick, to-go breakfast was still in fact, breakfast. “And not a donut?” she laughed, “I wish it was!”

And there you have it: Junk food is tasty, but a good breakfast is hard to beat. This farm, like Green Fire, does not have a microwave. Water is heated in a kettle every morning, leftovers are heated on the stove instead of ‘nuked’ (which doesn’t sound very appetizing anyway), and there are only tiny amounts of processed food in the house. The ones that are, are hidden by M for everyone’s safety. Cows may stampede, but so do people when they find out where the Oreos & Haagen Dazs are hidden.

I was no stranger to fast food before leaving for this trip and so part of my agreement with myself when we left was no fast food (ie anything with a drive thru) for the duration of our travels. I have to admit that the other day, making it back to the farm late and without a plan for our lunch I stopped at an establishment that rhymes with Schmarby’s and got two chicken salads and a roast beef sandwich. This was my first transgression but I did pass on fries and sodas, so I think that it may be forgivable. I must also confess that I have had two Cokes since starting this trip, and wow! they tasted phenomenal.

So I’m not really sure where I’m going with all this, but to say that I am going to continue to do my best to maintain my no fast food agreement with myself but I also realize that fast food happens. And there’s a great idea for a new bumper sticker.

A Day in the Life

Quick note: I’ve finally taken the time to post some photos to posts as far back as ‘Cousin Vinny’ and I added a bit more discussion to ‘Buehler?’. I’ve still not captured sufficient dairy photos (it’s early and I always forget my camera) but will do that soon.

Ha-hm…I thought I’d describe a typical day for us here on Deck farm. Generally, we wake up between 6 and 7am depending on our tasks that day. I get up early to help with milking 3 days a week and then we meet up in the main house about 8am for the morning meeting to discuss the plans for the day. After that, T and I generally clean up breakfast and get ready for the day and then head outside. Sometimes we tag along with E for his morning tasks or T will ride along in the Ergo while we go help move cattle since they’re changing pastures every couple of days. Today, E and I tried to move the dairy cattle and a handful of heifers alone with crazy results. Things were going well until a couple cows decided to stop cold and the rest of the herd mini-stampeded to all the fresh, tall grass and clover that was nearby. There were just too many holes they could leak out of and so we chased them in circles until we admitted defeat and E went to find more people to help round them up. One difficult thing about grass-fed cattle that are constantly moved to fresh pasture is that they are picky, they know when they are ready for a new field, and they aren’t shy about telling you so. The other day, the main herd went on a hunger strike for half a day and was gathered in a tiny corner of their giant pasture mooing incessantly until we came and moved them. Ah, to be a well-treated bovine.

These little piggies stayed home
These little piggies stayed home
Pigs go cuckoo for milk, even when you poor it on their head
E with the new nest boxes
They love him, they really love him
T watering chickens

I digress. E’s chores include making sure the animals have food and water (including the 4 flocks of chickens, 6 rafters of turkeys, and 4 drifts of pigs). Those are some good trivia words right there… Then the rest of the day he has other tasks that might include things like pressure washing, helping move the cattle herds, moving electric fencing or building permanent fences, constructing new nest boxes for chickens or helping with modification of the existing chicken tractors (giant portable chicken houses so the chickens can be on pasture).

E after building a fence all day in the rain. Smiling, nevertheless.
One of my favorite pictures

I usually put lunch together about mid-day and then I get T down for a nap (still usually a 2-3 hour nap, yay!) and then I go out and work. My work has included helping E dismantle the windblown greenhouse (see Buehler? post). I’ve also helped with modifying the brooder cages to allow for mounted lighting so that a thermostat can be used for their brooding lights. I’ve set up the turkey tractors so that the young turkeys can be moved outside when they’re big enough. Some days I help clean out the bulk milk tank in the dairy or help collect eggs with the Deck girls. The first time I helped we collected, hand washed, and packaged 30 dozen eggs! One chicken jumped on my back yesterday while I was collecting eggs. One of my phobias (in addition to being surprised by giant spiders) is any flapping fowl in my personal space and so this was not a pleasant experience for me. I still wonder if it was an attack for what I was doing, or my shirt just looked like it needed some poop on it.

Quiche anyone?
S Deck collecting eggs

E takes T after he wakes up from a nap and then we come together for dinner with the whole group in the evening. The rest of the day is spent cleaning up, making a fire, and getting T ready for bed. Since it’s dark so late here, he usually isn’t going to bed until 9 and by then we’re so exhausted we usually fall asleep with him.

Heading down to move the herd
E in the grain room

Right now, we’re working 6 days a week but we have tomorrow off so that’s why I’m up late trying to get some photos posted. I’m looking forward to a slow morning, I just might even make pancakes.