Monday, October 1, 2012

The End

It's just starting to sink in that I spent the summer in Alaska.
I think it took spending the afternoon wandering downtown Anchorage to fully realize what an journey it's been. I got dropped off at the bus station, and walked around for an hour, looking in shops and people watching before heading to the Visitor Information Center. In there, two old ladies told me that I could go across the street to the Federal Building and watch free movies about Alaska. I went there and nerded out about public lands-- my favorite thing to do! I spent a couple hours there then kept wandering.
The unique thing about my afternoon in an unfamiliar city was that every single person I interacted with was insanely friendly, helpful, courteous, affable (full disclosure: I thesaurused 'nice')... I was amazed. Southern hospitality? Nope, I'm pretty sure they meant Western.
I was reminded as I was walking of The Kindness Project. The kindness I encountered while doing everyday things like going to a museum, coffee shop, riding a city bus, talking with security guards, and walking into crafty shops lifted my spirits and made me walk around with a smile on my face, and probably helped me be kinder to other who I interacted with. Every person I talked with was so curious about what brought me to Anchorage, and if I was going to move to Alaska or spend the winter here, or what I had been doing before I got to, or how I ended up working on a farm for the summer. I ended up sharing with nine people on separate occasions in 4 hours about how I spend an incredible summer on a farm outside of Fairbanks. I feel so full from today, both in belly and heart. Cheesy enough for ya?

It's been real, Alaska. Until next time. Alaskamp, out!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

My farm birthday!

This blog post would be more appropriate in my other blog (read on to see why), but this will do!
My birthday started out as an ordinary harvest Monday- bunching celery, washing potatoes, packing the truck, etc. Group lunch, same as always. 
I headed back to the kitchen, and then Elsa came up to me saying that Sus needed me to come to the office to tell me something about market. After seeing all my fellow apprentices not-so-sneakily walk across the field, I knew something was up. But I was still so surprised when the back door of the office magically opened and I stepped inside to an empty room with THIS cake on the table:

Everyone sang happy birthday, and then we demolished the cake (FOR LUNCH!!!). 
Angel food cake and marshmellowy icing, made by Elsa!

Then a had a fun day at the downtown market, selling lots o veggies. When I got back to the farm later,  I didn't go to my cabin right away. I went there right before we went out to the local bar, and this is what I found!

Streamers made out of moose poop and fallen leaves
Paper snowflakes
Hanging flowers
Carved turnip faces

It was a wonderful surprise, and it makes it hard to leave my lil' cabin.

To top off my birthday, the northern lights were out for about half an hour that night-- a record for us. I still barely believe they really exist, which makes it more impossible to describe. But guys, HOLY SHIT they are SO BEAUTIFUL! Like fall on the ground beautiful. And not fall as in- leaves that are all on the ground right now and not on the trees.
Anyway, I had a grrrrreat birthday with my farm family!

And to take advantage of the currently (dare I say it?) fast internet, some of my favorite flowers:




Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Jumping on the headband wagon

 This group of apprentices is a crafty bunch. Knitting, woodcarving, sketching, sewing, felting, spinning, dyeing. Since we spend so much time living on top of each other, once one of us picks up something, the rest usually follow pretty soon. Right now I'm finally knitting myself a headband. All of the other apprentices gals have had one for a couple months, but I was late on the headband wagon.

My favorite craft is felting.
This may or may not be because it is by far the easiest learning curve. It just involves rolling some fleece and poking it with a barbed needle. Pretty much instant gratification-- I made a rotund pumpkin in about twenty minutes. Next I'm working on little elf/pixie people. They are adorable, let me tell you. It's amazing how much detail you can put on using just one tool.

Our kitchen table is covered in various projects. Right now across from me, Nellie is starting a knitting project with the yarn she dyed herself, and Chris is working on knitting his hat. A wooden whale is on my right, Stephanie's crocheted bikini is on the table next to Nellie's fingerless gloves, a greasy rag from oiling finished wooden spoon is at the far end, and the centerpiece is the foam block for felting.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Animal Chores

This weekend I handed the animal chore torch over lw6ESmic'웽d}m8pZ¥ to write about the animal rotation tasks, and you can decide which tasks I probably won't miss.
The animal rotation lasts for three weeks. So every Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday, I was up  at 8, bucket in hand and sometimes with boots on my feet (gasp!).

First off you give the goats and sheep half a bale of hay, divided accordingly into the three feeders. Lots of 'MAAAAAAA'ing ensues. Make sure they have water.
Next: Give the chickens food in their feeder and give them water because chances are they are usually out of it. Sometimes throw food in corner for younger chickens because they get the short end of the stick when it comes to food time. The older chickens can be vicious!
Then give some food and water to the ducks and hang around to watch how cute they are when they drink water (once they get over how scary it is to see the same person they see five times a day come into their cage again).
Then carry a bucket of water down to the potato field to deal with the meat chickens. First I have to move the chicken tractor so they can have a new patch of grass to demolish and poop on. The thoughts that go through my head during this time:
"I hate you. I hate you I hate you so much"
"Move! You are so stupid! You need to not get stuck under the pole!"
"Oh my god. You are so disgusting. You pooped in the water dispenser."
But. I do really appreciate them for providing some of the tastiest chicken I have ever had. For special occasions we eat last year's meat chickens. The farm crew next year will eat the chickens from this year.
Here are the meat(head) chickens. 
~9 am: Milking! Modock is our one milking goat, and she is very patient. This is good because milking is a very quick learning curve. The first time milking takes FOREVER and the milk comes out in little spurts, but after that it just gets easier and easier. Now we're getting about two quarts every morning from her, which is a lot less than we got at the beginning of the season, but still enough to keep us having fresh goat milk most every day.
More 'MAAAAAAAAA'ing happens.

Throughout the day the chores involves getting enough greens for the animals. This could be anything from fireweed to dandelions to cauliflower leaves. The best is cauliflower and cabbage leaves because they are huge and take very little time to gather, so seeing huge buckets of harvested cauliflower was very exciting these past few weeks. Seeing huge buckets of cauliflower leaves produces MUCHO 'MAAAAAAAAA'ing.
Here they are eating cabbage leaves. The goats on the right usually end up pushing everyone else outta the way.

Some days the animals go out to pasture. This is a win-win situation, because you don't have to get buckets of greens for them, and they get to frolic in some grassy area and eat all of the things. Sometime I can get them to come in by whistling, but usually I have to go around the back of them and walk them up. Once a couple start running up towards the pen, the rest will follow. This applies to when they go to area they shouldn't be in also. Like when they got into the seed field by ripping through the heavy metal gate during a field trip. They ate some turnips, which to be fair needed thinning anyways.

Around 4 pm I check the hen house and pick out all the eggs. Usually we get between 12-15 per day.

Last stop of the day is the meat chickens again. Water and food and annoyance at their poop.
Animal chores! The end.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

The Apprentice Life

We've spent the past three months living in extremely close quarters with 6 other people. It's a struggle at times (mostly just to keep the kitchen clean), but we magically all get along... better than you would expect from a random group of twenty-somethings who wanted to work and learn on a farm in Alaska for the summer!

To describe certain feelings and experiences, we've come up with a few expressions that we use multiple times a day.
The first one: Hangry. Hungry + Angry
Sometimes we'll get grumpy and snappy and in a funk, and then we realize that it is really just our hanger speaking. Usually shows around 11 am or 5 pm. It can get bad. Luckily there are now rows of juicy sugar snap peas to apPEAse us when hanger strikes.

Then my favorite: MLIF. My Life Is Farm
We throw this word out probably too much now, but it's so perfect.
The farm kids are playing with legos mixed with dry moose poop. MLIF.
My hat fell down the outhouse... MLIF!
Can't make it to the kitchen without stopping to eat peas for five minutes... MLIF
Boot zippers are stuck because there is poop jammed in them. MLIF!
Eat as many peas as possible during the week so that we don't have to harvest as many on harvest days... MLIF.

Throwing poop at your friends and coworkers is the norm (compost heap making!), shoes only happen when the cracks in your feet get too bad, dinner can be found 20 steps from the kitchen, there are always shavings from wood carving on the floor, second lunch happens most days, and hot chocolate is the hottest commodity.
It's hard to believe that we only have 7 weeks left here... time flies! But at least there's more thyme in the garden!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Remember Helen and James?

Well, sad news, but they are no longer with us.
Ok ok that was mean. They are totally not dinner. We could never. 
But they did get sold to a neighbor, and we didn't get a chance to say goodbye! We were heartbroken, but at least there was still Tristan (Gigantor) and a lot of cute cats to snuggle with.
But then! Lo and behold, who came walking up our driveway today looking groomed and plump but the two bummer lambs themselves! They came to gorge themselves on grass be pet by large amounts of children for the open house.
mmm mmm mmm green things!

I got a good James cuddle in, and got to hear Helen's strange bleat again, and life was good!

Those eyelashes!

P.S. Life on the farm is pretty crazy right now. What with balancing field trips, harvesting, cultivating, visits to neighbor farms, figuring out what the heck to do after this apprenticeship, eating baked goods provided by Domestic D-Rod, and being rained on a bunch, we've had no time to update this here blog. Blog post about our trip to Denali coming up soon, I promise!

Saturday, June 30, 2012


Tastes like raw corn on the cob.
Good in salads.
Grows fast.
Small white flowers.
Bright green.
Devil Plant!!!!

Yup, chickweed is our arch nemesis here at the farm. This plant looks innocent at first glance- weak stem and no pokey bits, pleasant color, not poisonous. But we learned fast that this is not a weed to ignore. It encroaches on any free ground space. It can take over a bed in no time at all, and winds its way around the pea stalks and tangles in with the baby carrots, leaving little space and light for them to grow. Waaaaah!

I'm choosing to write about chickweed because I was thinking about what I would tell people what I was doing on the farm all day. It's changed from what I did at the beginning, which was mostly pulling weeds and shoveling compost. Now the answer is: cultivation! Not to be confused with weeding, apparently. Cultivation is selectively picking out the weeds out of the beds. We use tools like the scuffle hoe, co-linear hoe, wire weeder, flame-thrower and our hands to help us. And we spend hours each days getting chickweed (and other weeds) out of the beds and into the duck or chicken pens. I eat a lot of it too.

Just thought our dear readers should know... if at any point from 9:15 am our time to 4 pm on a weekday you are wondering what we are up to, chances are we are pulling chickweed out of the garden! Now you know what it looks like! Or maybe we are doing our watering chores. This week I'm on upper field drip, and D-Rod is on lower drip. But that's another story for another day!