slightly sacred

a little journal about a big life change and the details of every little day

Yurt Reynolds.

yurtyLooking back at the past year and half, it’s easy to glamorize living in our yurt. But I know better. “Yurt Reyolds” as we’ve named our home sweet home has been a beautiful space full of lovely light. When warm enough, this has been a magical place to sleep, eat a slow-cooked meal and just be. Thanks to the basic accommodations of Reynolds, I’ve learned to read books again, rediscovered tea drinking and the beauty of cooking slowly on the top of our wood stove.

Really though, it’s been a year and a half of fancy camping, a bit of freezing in the winter and a lot of cursing the lack of close water. This past winter in the pacific northwest was one of the coldest and wettest I remember and it’s hard to ignore those factors when you not only have to start a fire but carry firewood a good distance just to begin the process. The day I came home after a night stuck in a Portland snowstorm, only to find my beloved houseplants all frozen to death, I knew it was time to think about some real walls again.

We began to start looking for a permanent home for our budding idea of a farm,  there was snow still on the ground and the lack of inventory of properties that fit our needs was slim. We had some factors up against us for getting a loan…not a huge budget, a lack of a solid 2 year work history since we had taken time off work to get experience farming on the east coast and the need for a home that wasn’t a total dump.

After the weather finally broke and we could see the ground again, a home with 5 acres seemed to be the one. We invested a nice sum of money in home, well and septic tests and splurged to test the soil of the ground for contaminants since we had witnessed dumping on the land that would be our someday farm. After a heartbreaking and wallet breaking realization that the land was beyond repair on our budget, we backed out. I must admit, I thought it would be another 6 months before we found something we loved again.

But then our realtor sent us a listing that we almost overlooked. I didn’t even notice the picture of the property at the bottom of the other listings she had sent along. A day or two later when I realized that we might want to see the property, she recommended we go right away as there was already an offer and it was to expire that night. So I got my shift covered at work and in the car we jumped. We drove down long bumpy roads, past houses with barns and a neighbor house with mini horses. We saw the interior of the home pretty quickly; one walk through. It was dumping rain and we didn’t even walk the entire property when we decided we had to put in an offer. There were two out-buildings, plenty of open land on a nice slope for our flowers, vegetables and animals. The property was almost 5 acres and had a little bit of forest.

As we found out that the home on Axel road would be ours, it was hard to believe that this would actually work out. Did we look long enough? Would something better show itself next week? Would we hate the commute on the pothole covered road? Was this really the right soil and land to grow our gardens and orchard and raise out someday animals? Would we be in over our heads with home repairs? These questions are finally taking a back seat as I know this is all part of the process of buying a home and we honestly feel that our future farm is becoming a reality.

So a few more weeks in Yurt Reynolds. I’ll miss the sound of the rain on the yurt (which used to keep me up at night). I’ll miss the giant open ceiling and the sweet wood stove. But I’m ready to have house plants again and maybe even a refrigerator.

As of now, we plan to move Yurt Reynolds to Future Farm. Maybe even a little airbnb action will help us fund the beginnings of our farm life. Anyone interested?

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wholeness

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“Wholeness is not a Utopian dream, it is something that we once possessed and now seem largely to have lost, or to say it less pessimistically, seem to have lost were it not for our inner sense of direction which still reminds us that something is wrong here because we know of something that is right.” –Anni Albers

I’ve been thinking about these lovely words for some time now. The questions of where am I supposed to be? What direction should I be going? These get old. These make me tired. All this thinking leads to a very full head and not enough space which is so crucial for being available so that the sense of direction can kick in. Once again, I’m thinking about a little step back to realize where I’ve been lately and how lucky I am to have landed at this place at this time. So a little thanks to feeling a little more whole while still unsettled, while unsure of so very much.

Have you heard of the 365 grateful project? Hailey Bartholomew was having a hard time seeing the joy in life and spent some real time focusing on reflection and gratitude. Hailey took a polaroid a day for an entire year and spent time really finding out what brought her joy… the little things, the tiny moments. Check out her whole story here. She has a little TED talk too.  http://365grateful.com I can’t justify the polaroid expense right now but am planning on partaking in the project. Anyone with me? I think actually printing the work, not just saving it to digital space has to be part of the goal. For now a few photos of my daily landscape that I’m so lucky to engage with.

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farm dinner

katherine_northfork53_1Back in the Pacific Northwest, we’ve been keeping busy with odd jobs, a little restaurant work, taking care of winter vegetables and scheming up our future farm endeavors. And then somehow in between building our yurt home, the holidays, a good friend’s wedding and a few birthdays, we managed to cater some parties and drove to the Oregon coast to cook and serve a wine dinner featuring an almost solely local menu.

Heading to the Oregon coast for the first time since our travels across country felt full-circle, as if we were finally home. We made a quick trip last year right before our big adventure and had been dreaming of fresh oysters, antique shops and Arch Cape views since. The ocean did not disappoint and the first day of our field trip was clear and warm (for January). We made it to North Fork 53 just before dark and began prepping for the next night’s dinner right away. When we finally made it to our sweet little upstairs room, I could tell that the morning would bring a good view of the farm though I had not idea how amazing the river and forest would look until hours later.

North Fork 53 is a magical place. A farm that offers b&b style lodging and airbnb rentals, 53 is beginning to host events including brunch, dinners, parties and wedding and classes. With the Nehalem River nearby and the balance of farm land and the ocean, it is the perfect setting. Our hosts, Ginger and Brigham have created a truly beautiful space that we felt at home at in right away. The guests that came to dinner made us feel welcomed and appreciated and I can’t wait to be more involved with this community.

After executing a bountiful meal of food sourced from local farms (including those we work on), fishermen, and wine from nearby vineyards, we were asked to speak a bit about how we came to be involved in this community event. While we were still spinning a bit from a busy service, we both were able to step back and articulate what we believe to be true, that food sourced in the right way from the right people and prepared with intention is the only way. This is the reason we stray further and further from working in the restaurants that can’t or won’t source properly. It’s why we spend our free time digging in the dirt and why we gave up our previous comforts to explore new endeavors.

The future holds many questions for us right now. Sifting through possibilities of our own future farming endeavors and potential business ideas, it’s been pretty remarkable to come accross such welcoming communities as the people of Northfork 53 who appreciate real food and real cooking. These are the people that make you realize that your “crazy dreams” are not that crazy. Now back to the fields…

North Fork 53 Farm dinner menu:

Gougeres, black pepper, gruyere
Dungeness crab on apple chips, fennel, winter herbs, aioli
Steak Tartare, shallot, parsley, capers, grilled Tabor Bread rye crostini

1st—Soup: Roasted carrot, chili powder, homemade ricotta, herbs

2nd-Salad: Sugar loaf chicory, sweet parsley, albacore confit, apples, hazelnuts

3rd—Chicken two ways, onion jam, root vegetable puree, wilted kale, pan jus, salsa verde

Family Style Sides:
Brussel Sprouts, mustard aioli
Roasted winter squash, dehydrated sungolds, currants
Salt-water steamed Fingerlings, farm butter, Jacobsen fleur de sel

4th—Chocolate-Beet cake, cultured cream, cranberry caramel

Thank you to all who participated in this supper!

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home.

As time always does, it is moving fast and furious. Looking back at the last few months of displacement and decision, placement and hibernation, it’s nice to be carving out a home once again. Traveling and exploring opens us up, changes us for good. Yet for those of us who thrive in our own spaces, those of us who need the comforts of a little place of our own to reflect, a little quiet from the world, home truly is the most important place.

After leaving New Hampshire with the Pacific Northwest as destination, we decided to explore a few places that we knew we wouldn’t get back to anytime soon. If we were about to settle for a moment, to farm for ourselves, to tend to our own animals, we might as well see and do as much as possible and so New York City, Chicago, Yellowstone, Montana, Idaho were all part of the adventure home. We ate lox in New York City and Jamaican food in Madison, Wisconsin. We saw hometown suburbia in Chicago and stayed at the most amazing refurbished creamery in Fertile, Iowa. We saw bison in Yellowstone, antelope migrating through Wyoming, elk crossing the Yellowstone River and fulfilled a life-long dream of spotting Big Horned sheep just as we entered Montana.

While not capturing near enough of the adventure home in pictures, the sky was often the only thing that I was able to shoot that might explain the true places we were witnessing. Of course if you need to see any doughnut pictures or want to catch up on cute baby goat photos, my instagram feed might be worth a peek @janinelizbeth.

For now, we’re settling down for a moment in Washington state, not too far from Portland. Home is being constructed in the form of a yurt and while we stay busy making our plans to grow and create, while we commute to wait tables and harvest kale in the rain, I’m mostly trying to still remember the slightly sacred little moments of every little day. Seriously though, in this crazy world and this sped up life, stepping back and appreciating really does seem to be the only way to go.

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on leaving.

Two weeks ago we drove down Bear Mountain for the last time. Leaving behind the small herd of goats we’d grown so attached to, leaving behind the pig, Jelly Bean and the Red Ranger chickens that would be slaughtered the following Saturday, we felt the sadness of the end of summer camp and feelings of bereavement. A few days prior in the early morning, I had witnessed a kitten sleeping on top of George the donkey. The magic had peaked I suppose.

While it was time to go, leaving behind the people that welcomed us in with such open arms was sweet and sad and on that last drive down the bumpy dirt road, we knew that we would always have a home at the farm.

But we knew this wasn’t our farm, this was not our specific future and after a somewhat accidental three month stay on the mountain, it was time to pack the car again. Time to make some plans and feel the momentum of decision making and setting foundations.

And so we drove. Traveling with glass jars of organic raw goat milk kefir, made from the goats milk we gathered on our last morning on the farm, plus a bounty of fresh vegetables and canned goods from our own labor, we went south to Connecticut to stay with family. We left the car for a few days while we explored the streets of New York City and Brooklyn. We succeeded in shocking our systems after living in small town New Hampshire and felt revitalized by the variety of cultures and viewpoints in the city. Next up was an exploration of the Hudson Valley and then on to Chicago.

Sprawling suburbs behind, we ventured west through Minnesota and found ourselves here, sitting in the upstairs converted loft of an old creamery in Fertile, Iowa. Creative people are everywhere and the home we found through airbnb is just an example of a little view into the world that someone has created. There is a giant white cat downstairs playing with a tiny mouse, there are books everywhere and before we get in the car again today, we found a little peace in the cornfields where we were able to finally pause for a moment. photo-7

A stove story

Driving up the mountain the other day, we spotted what seemed to be a wood stove with a free sign attached. Funny timing this stove had since we have been in the market for just the thing to heat our new yurt in the Pacific Northwest. While I didn’t think much of this opportunity because we are currently in New Hampshire and we need a stove approximately 3000 miles away, my cohorts thought that this cute little stove in need of some minor welding, cleaning, painting and other fixing up was worth taking with us to our new home.

So we thought on our way back up the hill we’d ask Old Joe to help us load up the stove on his tractor and lug it up the pothole infested road sometime soon. Joe seemed eager for an adventure and started up the John Deere right away. “Let’s go right now.” All of a sudden we were picking vegetables to send home with Joe as a thank you gift and scheming up how we were going to fix up this beauty.

I must admit I was being tempted by the sweet shape and clean lines of this little stove and the free tag that came along couldn’t be beat. But I was also beginning to question our sanity for thinking 425 pounds of cast iron in the back of a Suburu was a good idea. What if we had an accident? How would we get to our spare tire under the weight of the stove? Was this safe and would it cost us unseen dollars in extra gas?

The debate continued and so I knew there must be experts out there that could answer my list of questions. I decided that the Car Talk website would be the perfect place to start (thanks parents for raising a kid on too much NPR). Who knew how much ridiculous enjoyment we would obtain from the entertaining answers to my question. Here for your entertainment is just a small sampling of some responses to my posed question along with a link incase you couldn’t get enough. Who knew so many people would bother to respond on such a forum (thank you very much to those that did). Make sure to visit the last comment below.

http://community.cartalk.com/discussion/2305633/subaru-weight-limit-should-i-trek-a-cast-iron-wood-stove-cross-country#latest

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last days.

All of a sudden, we’re approaching our last few weeks on the farm. After spending most of the past year planning for, traveling to and working on 3 farms in New England, it’s time to start heading west soon.

While it’s still summer here, we can see the changes in seasons coming on. They happen quickly and planning for winter has begun. Luckily, we’ve stood still long enough to watch the gardens show their peas, pick them, store them and watch them dry up. Seeds are saved and extra plants are thrown to chickens. Raspberries were a daily chore to pick, beets were planted, harvested and consumed. Canning and other preserving is an everyday chore. Animals have grown in front our eyes. Rabbits bred, bunnies born. Kittens that were feral and romping in the forest finally are living in the barn.

We’ve witnessed real struggle in what seems like paradise from snapshots and short phone conversations. Small farms that are doing things the right way are up against so many odds. Animals that have rotational pasture need to be rotated. Plants that aren’t sprayed with chemicals have to be weeded, often. Humane slaughter on a very small scale might mean not being able to be USDA certified although the meat comes from an animal raised in such superior conditions compared to even mid-size farms.  I’m not even talking about comparing to the factory farms which feed most of this country. Organic grain is 3 times the price of the non-GMO, non organic alternative.

These questions still remain talking points all day long around here. How can small farmers, in our current case, living on social security, afford to keep going, and how can they possibly not? Without a community that is willing to buy organic dairy, bread, and meat, there is no income from your labors. And then when you are aging or sick, there might not be enough constant help to give you the security to keep going.

Lately it’s been challenging to balance the realities of helping figure out other farmer’s struggles and still be holding onto hope that our own ventures can be successful. We’ve spent substantial time at 3 farms over the past 6 months and all have been on the brink of something beautiful and at the same time, tipping towards financial crisis. So with all the reality in our faces, how do we proceed? How do we move towards a sustainable life that affords a comfortable living in exchange for our drive and motivation. For now, it’s first things first. A few more weeks of milking goats, feeding pigs, chasing chickens, weeding gardens, baking bread and making yogurt. Hopefully a breath and another cross-country road trip will help clear the air and lead us towards a few answers.

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