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.