Thursday, September 25, 2014

Let me know if you have a door that needs kicking in.

When I told people I was going to quit my nice corporate high-tech advertising lifestyle to be a farmer, I got a lot of warnings.

I mean, after they asked me how long I'd been doing crack cocaine and/or whether I'd recently suffered a tragic head trauma, of course.

In some cases, I sought out these warnings and in some cases they were just offered up by the knowledgeable and completely ignorant alike.

Because it's super useful to get farming advice from people who've never even been to an unincorporated part of town without sidewalks, but WHATEVER, I was letting everyone get in their potshots.

Fun.

Meanwhile, one of the warnings that I internalized and, for a good bit of time went forward completely ignoring, was doled out by my beloved Bubba who said, without delay mind you, that, "Um, baby, you know you're going to have to wear proper shoes now?"

Because the man fucking loves proper shoes.

I didn't and still don't, but after the first day of my Organic Agriculture class, during which time we were commanded by our instructor to always wear closed-toe shoes to his class because HELLO we are farming now and FYI those digging forks can slice through your bare foot like a pitchfork into compost, I relented and got some proper shoes.

Which Bubba assured me were not proper FARMING shoes, but at least they had closed toes and I had to wear socks, so for that he granted me a pass.

"Nice try" - Bubba

My instructor...well, he was less impressed with Vans as farm appropriate footwear, but because I'd wear my red rain boots more often than not, he then granted me a pass, too.

Dancing with broccoli. Because that makes red rain boots seem normal.
I'd made it - in my mind, anyway.

I got used to wearing socks (ew) and closed-toe shoes (ew again) and it wasn't the end of the world. Like, my feet didn't shrivel up and die, they just shriveled up and didn't breathe until I got home and aired them out while wearing the delightful flip-flops.

And then I went on for a few years through my horticulture degree and working in the greenhouse and working on the farm and then graduated and got a job as a grower at a farm and wore my "Proper Shoes" with my socks and, alas, my feet didn't die.

I mean, I've died a little inside every time I put on the Proper Shoes and Socks combo, but everything else was going so well that I just let it happen.

Made peace with the situation, if you will.

Until last week.

Last week I was sitting in the first of many Farm Meetings, where the growers sit around a conference room table looking awkward and annoyed and go through the never-ending list of things that need doing or following up on so that we can produce our respective crops and keep the farm...farming, and I received The Mandate.

One of the items on our farm director's checklist from a previous Farm Meeting, to which I was not privy, was to ensure that all members of the Production crew, from the growers to every single field crew member, was wearing ANKLE COVERING footwear.

This was being presented as an obvious fact and the annoyance on all growers' faces that it was coming up again because some grower had someone on their crew who was still coming to work in, like, tennis shoes or something, was extreme.

Which is when I looked at my director and pointed to my Pumas.

Oh.

Thankfully, he has a decent sense of humor and also patience with idiots, so all he said was, "Certainly YOU of all people have, like, a pair of hiking boots that will cover those ankles. Wear them."

He's right. I do have a pair of hiking boots that cover my ankles. Unfortunately, they can eat my ass after the shitshow they made of my feet during our backpacking trip and I threw them sidelong into the garage when we returned from our trip and vowed never to wear them again while also giving them the finger and trying to light them on fire.

So, those boots were out.

Thankfully, I still have the Bubba-approved Proper Shoes which are actually boots and totally cover my ankles, have a steel toe, a puncture resistant sole and are totally perfect for the job EXCEPT that my fucked up feet (Hi, Crossfit, I have not forgotten you. Asshole.) kinda hate them after a day of wearing because I can't use my Old Lady I Have Crossfit Inspired Arthritis orthodics in them.

But I've been wearing them because I think, after all of this time, I know that it's the right thing to do. Even if my old lady toes are all cranky after a day of clunking around without my orthodics.

Actually, IT IS the right thing to do and if I'd embraced that fact a little sooner, perhaps I wouldn't have smashed my big toe with the hand truck after lowering it too fast when dropping off the 1HP beast water chiller in my headhouse the other day but whatever.

The beauty of the boot-wearing though, and I am hesitant to put this in writing since Bubba will be all SEE! I TOLD YOU, CRAZY WOMAN! and such, is that I actually kind of love wearing boots.

Because of the feeling like Super Woman in them and everything.

Now, yes, they're technically Proper Shoes, which I'd reject on principle in most cases, but they're also the giver of super human lady strength and make me feel invincible and like I can effectively drive the forklift to move stuff around or kick the door down if I need to or just walk around the farm without smashing one of my fucked up toes into something.

And I have learned that there are a lot of somethings on a farm into which one may smash a toe.

So, yeah, I am now in full compliance with the footwear mandate of the farm while also at risk of getting fired because I just run around kicking down doors all day.

Whatever. It all evens out.


Thursday, September 18, 2014

Three people will be sad. Everyone else will just be all, "Yup."

So, I kinda don't know how to say this, so I'll just come out with it.

Rocket, the famed deceptively cuddly yet certainly face-rippy and forever-living Maine Coon cat beast of our house is no more.

You woke me? I WILL MURDER YOU TWICE.
 Her reign is over and she can no longer stand between Jada and her dog food or Jada and the dog door or Jada and her dog bed.

Even during her final days, when she was such a rickety deranged hairball that she'd spend solid hours staring at the wall behind her food bowl without eating - not eating, just staring - she'd summon all of her two wits to make sure to inflict her dominance over the sweet patient dog at every turn.

Where am I? Hopefully in your way, dog.


And let's not forget about the ankle-slapping-until-you-gave-her-the-cereal-bowl thing.


The sweet patient dog who, no matter the encouragement by certain Mes and Bubbas, never went after the always taunting cat.

We all tried cuddling with Rocket throughout her many hundreds of years (18) of looking beautiful and fluffy and oh look how cute her fluffy feet are with the elfin toe furs and we all came away with bloody stumps.

Yes. Come closer to my toes. That's always worked out so well for you.


At one point she got a whiff of Nair (stop your judging - I was in college)(the first time I went to college - my undergrad - not the college I just went through)(just to be clear - I was young) and went on a wall shredding rampage through my college apartment during which time she broke a framed poster of pretty doors (shut up), launched herself off of the front of the fish tank which totally splashed and then finally landed, snorting like a wild hog, on the wicker chair that I eventually abandoned at Google approximately 10 years later.

OK, so that whole Life of Chair wasn't necessary, but still. The cat was fucking crazy.

You forgot we were talking about a cat, didn't you?

Anyway, yes - Rocket finally went off into the night and she didn't do so quietly (bit my hand at the vet) or gracefully (rickety as a backwoods Arkansas footbridge), but at least I finally got to pet her fuzzy elfin feet without getting my face torn off.

Which I realize makes this sort of a morbid post, but come on, you know you would have done it, too. THEY'RE SO FUZZY.

The one time I didn't come away with a flesh wound.

Bye, Punk Rocket.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

I caught some fish and then didn't die of heat stroke.

Dudes, can I tell you something?

I'm over summer.

Yeah. It's happened. I finally OVER-summered after years of being all "OH I LOVE SUMMER THE MOST! Fall sucks! Don't say Fall! It's the new F word!".

And now it's been summer for, like, three years and all I want in the fucking world is some rain and then some snow and to wear my down booties in the house without Bubba being all, "Really, dude? It's 90 degrees."

I know, my love. I FUCKING KNOW.

Ugh.

He hates it, too. It's not right for me to get all sweary at him about it, especially since we're both pretty sure I brought this on us myself.

Perhaps the entire state has me to blame for the drought and this bloody forever-taking hot ass muther fucking summer.

Perhaps.

Either way, I'm over it. And in a very visible LOOK AT ME MOTHER NATURE - I'M COMPLYING act, I'm setting out to bring about fall.

Like, starting today.

I went out to that yard and I gave everything its fall pruning. And I went out to the garden and took down the tomatoes and peppers. And if this state had adequate water resources to do so, I'd wash my car, but we do not so I'm only fantasizing about it while my beloved Duchess is buried under a heap of dust and bird doo.

Also, I'll probably bake some cookies. And if that doesn't turn on some fall weather, I'll start a knitting project, plant some bulbs, make chili in the crockpot and, like carve a fucking pumpkin or something.

What else is fall-like that I can do to get some NOT-SUMMER to happen, people?

It's gross out here in California, is what I'm saying. This state is dry as a popcorn fart and I have stopped enjoying it.

A week ago though, I enjoyed the piss out of it.

Can't catch the biggest cutthroat of one's life in winter, friends. That's something.
Or the biggest wild rainbow trout of one's life either.

It was approximately 100 degrees in this tent and that beer wasn't nearly large enough.

Riding this bike down the mountain in Mammoth was like descending into hell itself. But with extra sweating. 
Why, hello Eastern Sierras. I haven't seen you in five whole minutes.

So, yeah, it's hot here.

The yard work today was nearly my final act.

I had to lie down afterward is how bad it was. And then I had to have cocktails. You know, to cool off.

So, fall soon, then?

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Glad someone's growing something around here because it sure as shit isn't me. Apparently.

You know how people say shit like contractors' houses are always in the worst repair or cleaning ladies' houses are always the messiest or whatever?

Yeah, so I think I'm like that now, but for farmers.

Because WHOA does my vegetable garden suck it this year.

Um, sad.
Um, sadder.

I mean, yes, it's the end of the summer and usually shit looks like shit by now, but it's basically looked this sad since, like, June, and when we got back from our backpacking trip I hobbled out there on my peg leg and ripped the beans out of that empty bed you see there because I couldn't take it anymore.

It was depressing.

It's possible that with finishing my horticulture degree, starting a new farm job and going on a two week backpacking trip that tried to kill me, I *may* have neglected my vegetable garden, like, the tiniest bit.

I should probably be ashamed of myself, but as is my way, I'm just forgetting about it and moving on.

Enter the winter garden.

Red baron onions were so awesome last year, I'm putting in a hundred this year, which is twice as many as last year for those of you who are keeping count. Which is weird of you to do, I just want to say.

Dill and cilantro were so badass all winter last year even when the hard frost came, so that's happening again, too. En mass.

Plus, I've organized the direct sow stuff (Pacific Gold and Ruby Streaks mustard greens, Romance and Nelson carrots, Hollow Crown parsnips, Cherry Belle and French Breakfast radishes, arugula, buckwheat, Aquadulce fava beans, Rocky Top lettuce) that will go in once it stops being in the fucking nineties all the live long day FINALLY GAH.

I'm over summer, people. Specifically, the heat. It's to the point where I'm saying Fall with a capital F to see if I can't bring about the end of this molten summer. It's not working.

Thankfully, for the sake of our winter tomato eating and Other Foods of Summer Which I Failed To Grow eating, I've discovered the best perk of working on a farm and that is the peer pressure to PLEASE TAKE SOME FUCKING WHATEVER YOU WANT OUT OF THE COOLERS BECAUSE THERE'S SO MUCH.

Yes, hi, I will have 22 pounds of dry farmed tomatoes thank you.

And then PLEASE GO HARVEST WHATEVER YOU WANT FROM THE FIELD RIGHT NOW BECAUSE WHOA.

"Plant it, eat it, throw it at the neighbor kids - just take some of this garlic."
"The dry farmed tomatoes are in - let's go taste them." = favorite thing I've ever heard someone say.
"Oh, and pick as many as you want. There are lots." = second favorite thing I've ever heard someone say.

That's a lot of zucchini to leave on neighbors' porches.
These peppers were too big for retail sales, so OOPSY DARN I'll have to take a flat home.
Also I bought a pie from the farm stand because obviously.

And then I finally, after being in a total cooking/eating/dealing with only dehydrated food rut, I took all of that goodness into my kitchen and made a new thing.

Herbed cheese stuffed zucchini blossoms

Ingredients
  • A few dozen squash blossoms (pick the males, which are the flowers without the little squash growing on the bottom), rinsed, dried and stamen removed (that's the pointy part in the flower with the pollen all over it)
  • 8 oz plain soft farmer's cheese
  • A few handfuls of fresh herbs (I used parsley, dill, cilantro, savory and basil), chopped
  • 1 cup white flour
  • 1T sea salt
  • 1T fresh ground pepper
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup vegetable oil




To make

Mix the chopped herbs, salt, pepper and cheese until the herbs are distributed evenly throughout the cheese. 


Carefully unravel the blossoms and press a tablespoon or two of the cheese mixture into the stamen-less center of each blossom and twist it closed.


Then set it up decoratively on a plate and spend way too long taking pictures of your handiwork because LOOK HOW FANCY.

Neato.

This one was the king I decided.

Then start your oil heating in a deep fry pan over medium heat until it shimmers and mix together the flour, salt and pepper in a bowl.

Crack your egg into another bowl, whisk it up and set up your conga line to the fry pan.


Then, because you're a dick and probably also because you've been drinking this whole time, take the first stuffed blossom with your handy tongs and completely bypass the conga line and stick the thing right in the hot oil without battering it. 

Then realize the error of your ways, rescue it out of the oil, send it through the conga line while hoping that the hot oil won't start cooking the egg, see that it totally does, replace the egg in the bowl, dip the semi-cooked egg battered blossom in the flour mixture, put it gently in the hot oil, move your cocktail to the bar where you won't be able to constantly sip from it, and then proceed to dip, batter and fry the rest of the blossoms without error.



When you're done frying your battered blossoms to a golden brown by just letting them slowly fry over medium heat instead of trying to speed things up by overheating and thus burning them over high heat, make a quick caprese salad with what's left of your farm haul, put out some good balsamic vinegar to dip your blossoms into and have the most indulgent dinner since the last time you made fried chicken.

Sure, fried stuffed zucchini blossoms should probably be an appetizer,  but eh. 

Eat them all in one sitting because they don't save for shit.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

As I come screaming out of the woods

So yeah, I'm home.

A week early.

Because even though I planned, trained and packed for a two week backpacking trip to hike the John Muir Trail with Bubba and our Super Nice Neighbor, my knee had other plans.

Twisty plans.

So, we're hiking along on Day 2 of the thing, all stuffed full of Chili Mac and Nutella and then some things that are actually healthy food items, passing amazing scenery and not getting rained on yet (YET I SAID) and we come to our first set of steep rock staircases coming up to Evolution Meadow.

When I say steep rock staircases, what I mean is switchbacks constructed entirely of foot thick giant granite blocks stacked a few feet apart all the way up the muther fucking mountain in the soul-crushing shape of switchbacks.

Like this.
Like, blow me.

Yay.

But, being the Hey whatever, I'm totally in shape and I can do this even though my pack weighs two tons and I'm not so swift with the trekking poles yet gal that I am, I totally went for it.

Like one might just go for it with, say, a certain ill-fated workout routine.

Yeah.

And, like a certain ill-fated workout routine, I busted myself.

Now, I'm not going to continue aligning shitty shit Crossfit with amazing awesome beautiful LOVE IT SO MUCH backpacking because that would be unfair to backpacking, but my approach to extreme exercise like my attitude when I was a teenager, in the words of my mother, "has got to stop".

It's time I learned a few things, like:

  1. I am not 10 years old even though I act like it
  2. "Forcing It" should maybe not be my personal mantra anymore
  3. One should never twist while lifting
If I'd embraced these things before this trip, perhaps I wouldn't have twisted my knee to the point of nearly tears and before that even maybe I wouldn't have wandered off into the woods with a backpack just shy of 50 pounds (49.5 said the scale).

Hi! I'm fucking retarded.

Sigh.

Sucks.

Now, the fun part about this (fun is just not the right word here, but I'm moving on), is that I did sort of embrace #2 back there as I continued to march on through the pain for another two days. What I mean is that after two days of being all, "Oh, I'll be fine. I'll just take some more Aleve and try not to be such a vagina about it." I finally gave in to the reality of things.

The reality being that the first pass we crossed (Muir Pass, 11,995') nearly put me in the ground and it being the second lowest pass we were going to cover meant that HI STUPID perhaps my knee isn't going to make it over 4 more passes that are higher, steeper and just full to the fucking brim with sunuvabitching granite block steps, monster gravel, boulders, massively steep descents that would press my right knee into action every other step and, you know, evil gremlins out to eat my feet and knees.

OH.

Also I was going terribly slow because it's hard to hobble at a normal hiking pace and OH YEAH my boots were consuming my feet at the rate of one blister per mile.

Or so.

It was getting ugly on my feet and knee, I was getting progressively pathetically slower and I had only crossed one of six passes. 

Oh yay me. Way to go.

Then it started to rain. And then snow. And then hail.

Not super encouraging.
Also, bizarre halo effect courtesy of hail on my camera lens.

So as Bubba and I sat out the hail/rain/thunder and lightning storm for 14 hours in our wee "2 person" tent, we got real.

This is Bubba's Get real and stop arguing with me because you know I'm right face. It's convincing, I'll admit.

Also, I had no escape, so that helped.

Ah, hail. Just what you want on your backpacking trip.

As in, if I tried to man up through five more high elevation passes, I was going to destroy my right knee forever, probably ruin my left knee compensating for my shit ass right knee and my feet were going to become one giant blister as soon as all of my toenails fell off. 

"Manning up" for 70 more miles wasn't an option. 

Instead, because Bubba is a wise Eagle Scout and good husband aware of the realities of backcountry injuries, his wife's stubbornness and the remaining available outs on the trail, convinced me that we should bail out over Bishop Pass (11,980') and thumb a ride into town so that we could hopefully get a rental car to drive my hobbled ass back to the Bay Area. 

He is very wise, this one.

"Why you no listen to Bubba? I KNOW THINGS, CRAZY WOMAN."

So I gave in. I came to terms with the fact that I wasn't going to finish the last five passes of the John Muir Trail with him and our Super Nice Neighbor like I'd set out to. I dealt with the oppressive feelings of failure and suckiness and not getting to swim all the live long day at Rae Lakes during our zero day as planned. I let go of my dreams of fishing high mountain streams and lakes for trout. I gave up on Eastern Sierra sunsets and waterfalls and pee-pee inducing views and seeing fuzzy creatures bouncing their fat butts over granite boulders and chasing frogs through the creek crossings and all of the things that I had stuffed my brains with as we'd prepped for this trip.

Because he promised that when my knee was better and my one thousand blisters healed, we'd come back. 

And he picked me some flowers so that I wouldn't be sad.

And I'd only carry a 30 pound pack, wear trail running shoes (MISSED YOU, BROOKS ADRENALINE ASR GTXs!) and never lift and twist again.

That was enough to convince me to scratch at Bishop Pass Junction, a scant 30 or so miles into our hike. 

What I didn't know, and what probably would have helped me over the hump had either of us realized it was ahead of us, was that the Bishop Pass Trail from Le Conte Canyon IS FUCKING GORGEOUS.

Hello, Eastern Sierras. AREN'T YOU THE LOOKER.

Oh, and YOU over there - not too shabby.

I'm a sucker for trees with sexy bark. There. Now you know.

I'm afraid I'll have to take a break from hiking to STARE AT THIS FOREVER YES.

Smiling even though bleeding. The sign of amazing views.

Monster waterfall? Yes, please.

So many pack outfitters. So much horse and mule poo. Still - never got old.

Nice going, Bishop Pass.

We were, uh, into it.

Now, yes, the trail is steep and switchbacky and knee-wrecky for three miles as you eat up a few thousand feet of elevation and there were definite moments of desperation as folks would be hiking down the trail from Dusy Basin all fresh looking and not swearing loudly at every step they took like some people BUT, like the book said, the views are distracting enough to keep you moving.

Like, as you're hiking the switchbacks to the south you're looking at an enormous gorgeous waterfall and as you turn back and hike the switchbacks to the north, you're looking at a span of the Eastern Sierra that busts your eyes with its hugeness.

Also Cal Fire helicopters.

So, I lived to see the glory GLORY I SAY of the unfortunately named Dusy Basin.


ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME WITH THIS?

Yeah. It was incredible. So beautiful and peaceful and not full of hikers racing from one campsite to the next talking endlessly about their calorie consumption and Ultralight packs and even with a meandering stream chock full of trout feeding from the surface that I could hardly strip down to my skivvies and go swimming and fishing before putting my pack down.

Happy now. Even with fucked up feet and knees.

Well, it was exactly what I needed. 

And what Bubba needed. 



Plus, it didn't rain, I got to fish and swim, we watched the Super Moon wander across the sky and light up the basin and when we finished the pass and then descended into Bishop the next day, a very awesome couple gave us a ride into Bishop so that we could get my peg legged ass back to doctor-having society.

Which was a bit of a task.

I won't go into complete detail about our return to civilization, so will just say that it involved finding no available rental cars in Bishop, so instead orchestrating a near Planes, Trains and Automobiles transportation bonanza from a dive bar while people came out of the fucking woodwork to interrogate us on where we'd been and how was the hike and how long have you been in the woods and oh that's OK that you smell so rank since you've been "on the trail" and whatever.

Bishop is a cool place, y'all. Because after being treated like scourges as we hiked the JMT (no bathroom access for thru-hikers, no hot springs for thru-hikers, etc), suddenly we were in the land of Hey, Backpackers! Your sodas are on the house! Have a razor/shampoo/king size room at no extra charge! Put your big smelly dirty packs anywhere! Of course we deliver to your hotel room! Certainly you can pay with a credit card on board and stow your disgusting packs on the bus no problem! Let me lift your staggeringly heavy backpacks into the cab! How cool that you're doing this that I'm not judging you for your foul dumpster-like odor!

And that land is called, Bishop, CA.

So, on our journey back to the Bay Area, Bubba decided to rename our trip to something more suitable to what we'd accomplished rather than what we'd bailed on.

John Muir Trail Trip turned into First Trans-Sierra Trip right there as we cruised to Reno aboard the surprisingly accommodating Eastern Sierra Transit bus.

So, yeah, all told, we hiked about 70 miles, covered many thousands of feet in elevation, busted one knee, got a dozen or so blisters, saw waterfalls, lakes, super friendly deer, marmots, toads, frogs, picas, brook trout, rainbow trout, Swamp Onions, penstemon, lilies, huge peaks, the Muir Hut, met some cool people, met some lame people, had a bear in our campsite, rode out a hail storm in our still waterproof tent, swam, fished, ate some good backpacking food and some less good backpacking food, destroyed one backpack (mine) and one pair of boots (Bubba's), bruised our eyes with beauty and went swimming while it snowed.

And as soon as Bubba got me back home, we packed him up to go back to the trail to meet our Super Nice Neighbor, which is hopefully who he's with at this very moment at Charlotte Lake

Not going to lie, here, I'll be glad when I have him back home with me once I pick him and our Super Nice Neighbor up at the Mt Whitney Trailhead on Friday so I can give him the royal Thanks For Keeping Me From Wrecking Myself While Still Making Our Trip Super Fun and Awesome treatment.

Suggestions welcomed.