Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Farm School in Pictures - Subject: Close-ups

While I'm still working on the next posts about Farm School, I thought I would post up these close ups I took at and around Quillisascut Farm and School of the Domestic Arts in Rice, WA.  More to come.

Arrowleaf Balsamroot - in bloom now all over Eastern Washington.  Rick Misterley (of Quillisascut) 
says when the Balsamroot blooms, Old Man Winter is on the run.

This is Filbert.  He's very handsome and quite the casanova.

The coat of Libby, the Komondor.  Her job is to watch over the goats, but mostly now she just sleeps.  And barks at things because she's blind and deaf.  A dear dog and a wonderful presence.
And here's Jet, Border Collie Numero Uno.  She also has semi-retired from her job, now that wonderkid Sedona (Border Collie Numero Dos) is on the job.  I have no pictures of Sedona - she's always on the move.
Seed Saving.  Ready to plant out. Such a variety of heirloom beans. 


Farm School

Our Farm School experience took place on 36 acres of paradise along – ironically - Paradise Valley Road, just outside of Rice, WA.  Bing-map it, and you’ll find it’s 40 miles south of Canada, about 55 west of Idaho, along the eastern shore of Lake Roosevelt.

Rick and Lora Lea Misterly first started farming this land 31 years ago.  They sited their home and barn along a broad terrace; on one side is a low draw up to the north, and on the other side is a gentle, sunny slope leading down to a creek.

Like all farmers, they worked hard, and over the years developed a clear and simple philosophy for life: to build a community where people live in season, live sustainably, and with respect for nature in all aspects.  Living sustainably includes making a living, so they explored ways to supplement their income, starting with making world-class goat cheeses.  Lora Lea's mother made cheese at their Leavenworth home, so Lora Lea had history with cheese-making.  With great hutzpah, she and Rick sold their cheese to famous Seattle chefs and the rest is history (read about their back-door sales successes at www.quillisascut.com.)

A few years ago they built on an idea to take their philosophy to a broader audience; they built Quillisascut Farm School of the Domestic Arts.  Starting first with chefs and other culinary professionals, they’re exposing people to the health, flavor, joy and truths about eating in season and eating off your land.  For those of you familiar with Barbara Kingsolver’s book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, it’s the same concept, only Lora Lea and Rick live it all year long.  

Surely anyone can do it for a week.

So I suggested to Wally that we go.  I thought he might like to make a better connection from the kitchen to whatever we grow in our gardens at the new house.  I knew I wanted to learn more about cheese.  The program offered visits to organic farms and orchards in the area.  To my surprise, Wally readily agreed – book it, he said.

Farm School takes place in the Hippie hay-bale house the Misterleys built, complete with commercial kitchen, an endless dining table, a gathering room, and four bedrooms/two baths upstairs.  They can accommodate up to fifteen in their classes.   If you haven’t spent any time in a hay-bale structure, you should.  Radiant concrete floors and super-thick walls make it quiet, warm and embracing.

Our group included a guest food blogger (Heather), another blogger/farm advocate (Vera), a recent arrival to the Kettle Falls area (JoAnn), a Seattle lawyer (Jennifer), a true farm girl living in the city (Kim) – and Wally and I.  [Being the only guy in the group, Wally spent a lot of time talking with Rick.]
Here's our group after witnessing the slaughter of Billy Bob, the bully rooster.

Along with our hosts, we enjoyed the whacky repartee  and supple comic stylings of Stine (Steen), our Head Cook, a woman blessed with mean food skills and the ability to perform Hoagy Charmichael’s Stardust Memory in duck cluck.  Yes, we have it on video, but sorry folks, I promised her I wouldn't put it out there on the interweb.
She of the blue vest.

Upcoming posts will cover the experiences we had, but in summary, Wally and I really enjoyed this experience and are glad we spent a short vacation there.  It's just such beautiful country.  The Intro to Farming opened our eyes to new things, taught us a ton about growing and preserving food, and gave us a new perspective on what we want out of the life we have left to us.

Thursday, May 3, 2012


Burn piles are visible against the early November snow.
For anyone with a second home, the notion that bad stuff can happen when you're not around is a really scary thing.  We don't own a second home - at present, our future house is just an outline spray-painted on the ground.  But we back up to the woods, and in fact own 8 acres of commercial forest land as well as the orchard.

So it was hard not to panic yesterday when Wally got an email from our neighbor that our site was on fire.  Backing up a bit, you may remember we cleared part of the site to better read the land and determine where the house should go.  That generated a ton of debris which Nick Waters piled up - quite artfully, I might add.  Nick layered green matter with brown matter and shaped them to burn with maximum efficiency.  He planned to burn them at Thanksgiving. Well, it snowed before Thanksgiving last year so the piles did not get burned before winter. 

Our brief delay in the builder process meant we didn't have Nick out again until April, around the time the dry-season burn ban was to kick in.  Nick got an extension from the County and with rain in the forecast, he burned last Thursday.  We saw the piles very lightly smoldering on Sunday, when we met with Leo and Theresa on the site to finalize the staking, and everything seemed fine.

But something rolled off into dry brush and ignited.  David and Christie went up there with shovels and put most of it out.  Luckily Wally was in his office to see the email, and Leo and Nick and their troops were in the area and could respond to put the fire out before it went any further.

It's hard to imagine how dry it gets over there, even this early in the season, especially when it's still cool and soggy over here.

Cherrybaby: What's in a Name?