Wrapping Things Up

 

HELLO 🙂

IMG_0714

As my time at White Oak comes to an end I find myself looking back on my first days here. I wasn’t sure if I would make it. I knew I could handle the physical aspects of farming.. it was everything else I was worried about. I was worried about being far away from my friends and family for the whole summer. I went to boarding school so I’m familiar with being away from home, but summers are when I’m home so that was a strange feeling. I was intimidated by community living and although everyone here seemed so nice and open, they were still strangers to me. I was intimidated by cooking for groups of people and working with younger kids. These are all things that I faced head on this summer and now I feel more confident about. I still get nerves when I cook group lunches, but I’m gonna do the best i can and if you don’t like it then eat something else. When you live with a group of people it’s important to set boundaries and it’s also important to not ALWAYS care about what they think. You can still be your own individual person and do what makes you feel comfortable.

Looking back on things it has been a joy  to live with the people here. Yes it has been frustrating at times and yes I’m a little ready for a break, but all in all it has been fun and entertaining, educational, and  both tiring and energizing. I’ve learned a lot from the people who live here. They have all had a lot more experience working on farms and living lives, as they are older, than me. But I never felt lesser because of this and they valued my opinions and experience that I would share as well. We had really good conversations in the field, went delirious weeding carrots, worked in hours of silence and also hours of non-stop chatter on all kinds of life topics. Saying good bye will be hard and I will truly miss everyone here. We had a potluck on Friday, because it was the last night that the whole farm crew would be at White Oak together. We has lamb, mashed potatoes, green beans with cheese and tomatoes, perogies (that I made 🙂 ), and salad. For dessert there was a peach pie and a peach cobbler. Everything came form the farm (except the pie dough ingredients and perogie  dough ingredients). The food is something that my mind, my body, and my soul will miss terribly.

 

 

One of the beautiful things about living and working on a farm is taking the good with the bad. They are both just as important and educational as the other. It’s good to have things you wish to change and things you would do differently, as well as it is good to experience what works really well and what you think that more people should do. For me, wanting  to be a farmer of some sort, these are both really important to evaluate.

I’m excited for the last week and feel that I will truly enjoy it and savor the hard work, all the fruit, and the field conversations. I’m getting excited to see my dog and my family though. I think I’m in for a culture shock coming back to the east coast though. There are so many vehicles, people, and everyone is so busy running around and shopping at the grocery store, and there are TV’s everywhere! I’m gonna miss the peace and quiet.

I’ll write one last blog to sum everything up and tell you all about my last week, and maybe about my culture shock coming back east.

 

Cheers,

Farmer Murph

Advertisements

Processing Fruit! :)

Ahhhh.. what a happy time of year!

 

When you have to much fruit than you know what to do with than you know life is good. This time of year there are blackberries, plums, figs,  sooooo many peaches, and of coarse strawberries (because they never end). And coming on are apples and pears 🙂 🙂 :). Now as some of you know I’m leaving White Oak in about 2 weeks! Time flies be.. especially when you stuff your face with fruit all day. I swear I’ve consumed so much fruit that I’ve experienced fruit hangovers. But, as I’m leaving soon I’m absorbing life at White Oak as much as I can. So I’ve been drying lots of peaches and strawberries so that I can take some home! (For me and friends and family). Yesterday I spent the whole day processing fruit with Sarah. After AM animal chores I started picking blackberries and we picked about 4 gallons. Then we boiled that down and added a bunch of peaches (because peaches are amazing and why not?) Then we added ginger, cinnamon, and a little sugar (way less sugar than any canning recipe calls for!) We spent a lot of time on the jam and in the end we had 3 gallons worth of jam in half pint jars. I’m so happy that I will be able to take some of White Oak home with me! Yesterday I also put some peaches in the dryer for the farm to have for winter and froze about 5 gallon sized zip blocks with frozen peaches. At the end of the day some people who live here at the farm were hosting a potluck, so I made a peach custard for dessert :). The potluck was very needed because I realized that I hadn’t had any food other than fruit all day. I’ve talked with the farm crew and we think we need a person on crew who just does food cooking and preservation! Don’t we all wish.. but it is really fun and rewarding to harvest and preserve the food on the farm.

I had another RFC class today. The class was at a farm called Blue Fox farm. The farm names around here crack me up.. blue fox, dancing bear, whistling duck, barking moon.. see any kind of theme? Anyways, the class was on post-harvest food handling. The farm was a pretty large sized farm with over 30 acres in production. They have a lot of fascinating equipment, because obviously they can’t do it all by hand. We learned a lot about what it’s like to have  farm that size and how they make the veggies last longer to get to the consumer.. it has to do a lot with cooling down the fruits and vegetables as soon as possible. This often involves putting ice in the salad mix water bucket (which is huge) and ice around other equipment in the wash station. The guy was very knowledgeable and open minded. He was trying his hardest to have a holistic approach for the size they are.

We also had a class last Thursday at By-George dairy. This was an awesome class for me because I’m interested in dairy cattle and would love to work with them one day. They have 14 milking Jerseys. It was 104 degrees when we had the class so we had to sit in the creek for most of it and sample cheese. I got a lot from the class because a love visiting dairy farms and seeing what their do’s and don’t are or what they wished they had done differently. Everyone can from their own opinion, but it’s really about what works with the land, the farmers, and the animals. It’s up to you to decide what works, but it’s still fascinating to see what that is for different farmers.

Anyways, farming has been HOT! This means jumping in the pond, eating fruit, and drinking water as much as possible. Hope all you farmers are having a good season and staying cool!

Cheers,
Farmer Murph

P.S. Here are the Turkeys 🙂 They are so funny. They love when I throw them my peach pit. They are growing up so fast!!!

IMG_0894

A WEEK OF SUMMER CAMP

Hello there,

 

Sorry this blog is a bit late. My computer charger broke, but I’m borrowing one at the moment. So how many of you remember going to summer camp? I sure do. You get to do a lot of swimming, hang out and meet new friends, sleep outside, and maybe miss your parents a little. You have so much energy the whole time and then your parents pick you up and you sleep the whole car ride home. Well I never gave much thought to the counselors at camp when I was young. I appreciated them and all, but it was their job to take care of us, right?

Two weeks ago White Oak ran an overnight summer camp with 14 7-12 year olds. I worked this camp instead of doing farm labor for the week. I have so much respect for anyone who works with children, they must be, or hopefully they are, the most patient people on Earth.

Here’s how a typical day ran down: We started morning chores with the kids (taking care of the animals) around 7am, then we would come up and eat breakfast (there were pretty much 4 people staffing this and one of us was always cooking food). After breakfast we would have morning circle and then break off into two groups for morning activities, one adult to each group. I made granola with them and harvested blackberries to put in the granola.  I also harvested plums and made plum jam with them. They really enjoyed both the activities they were especially excited that they all got to take home some canned plum jam. Some of the other activities included knot tying, potato harvesting, fishing in the pond, etc.  After the first activity they would eat  snack and then switch groups to do the other activity  groups (warning for anyone: this age group is ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS hungry!)  After morning activities they would have lunch and then we would have an hour of quiet time (my favorite time 🙂 ) where they would read, draw, play with clay, etc. Then they would have about an hour and a half of swim time. Then another snack (ALWAYS HUNGRY!) Then an afternoon craft (painting, stained glass boxes and picture frames, journal making, etc). Then we would have dinner. After dinner they would play some games, or we would structure some games. Then we would have evening circle. Each night we had a male counselor and a female counselor sleeping out with he kids. We would read to them for about an hour before they went to sleep. But they always wanted to stay up later than me. I don’t know how those kids still had energy after all they did all day. I slept next to a girl who was a sleep fighter and got kicked in the face a lot until I gently dragged her as far from me as I possibly could.

There were some scary situations. We had a girl during a swim test who was out in the pond and almost started drowning and I had to save her. That’s probably the first time I’ve ever saved a child’s life, especially in water. We were also on a hike and a bunch of didn’t see the snake coiled on the ground so we stepped over it and then one girl almost stepped on it… it turned out to be a rattlesnake. That was my first time seeing a rattlesnake and I wasn’t too happy that it was with a group of kids. It got up into striking position, but when we backed off so did the snake.

Overall camp ran pretty smoothly. Despite some scary situations they all turned out okay and a lot of band-aids was the only medical attention we needed all week. The farm has hired a cook in the years past and I definitely think they should pick that up again to relieve some of the counselors so we can just focus on the kids. I’ve learned a lot from working with kids and t certainly has tested my patience. I’m not sure if I would want to work with kids more in the future… I would like to work with older kids and see what that is like, but I guess for now we will just have to wait and see…

Cheers,

Farmer Murph

P.S. Sorry the only photos are from the talent show. I didn’t exactly think to carry my phone around a place that doesn’t have service with kids all week!

A DAY OF FUN

Hello Again 🙂

This past week was your usual farm work week. We harvested on Monday for market. Tuesday I worked preschool. In preschool we did crafts, fed the goats, went swimming/playing in the pond, and told stories. After preschool we transplanted a lot of lettuce, trellised tomatoes, weeded the greenhouse, and finished thinning the fruit trees… We should have been done with thinning a while ago, but thinning  fruit trees  is hard to get to when everything else seems more pressing. Wednesday we harvested for CSA all day and tried to get ahead with potatoes and onions, because next week is overnight camp and we need to be as ahead as possible! Wednesday afternoon we tried to harvest our Mustard seed crop. The plant gets really brown when the seed are ready to come off. You cut the plant from the base and then shake it into a barrel and all the seed some off the plant. The pods come with it and later you have to separate everything out. It’s hard to time when to harvest a seed crop. When we went through not all the seeds were ready and it was hard to leave/work around the plants that weren’t ready yet.  Thursday AM I went to pack out with all the other farms who contribute to the CSA and packaged up all the share holders boxes. Then came back and continued to get ahead on harvesting for next week. Thursday afternoon we got to get out bathing suits on! We weeded the pond!! We like to make the pond look nice for camp, so we did some weeding and tried to catch the giant bass that has been chasing and BITING people who swim in the pond! Hopefully we can get that sucker before camp starts.

Yesterday (Friday) we had a crazy day of fun. We have had this day planned for 5 weeks now. We made a trip to California to go swimming in the Smith River, see the Redwoods, and go to the coast. It’s a good drive and hard to get off the farm for such an excursion so we wanted to do it all in one day.

The Smith River was the clearest and most turquoise body of water I’ve ever seen in my whole life. The water felt cleansing and I didn’t want to ever leave. We jumped off the rock for a long time and brought goggles so we could explore under the water. It was a great way to start the trip.

Next on the list was the Redwoods. It has always been a dream of mine to see the Redwoods. Trees are so magnificent. They are so much bigger and have lived so much longer than any of us that it’s truly humbling. It makes me really think about who we are as a species and why we think we are so much better than other living things. The Redwoods felt like I was transported to another place and time. Everything sounds, smells, and feels different there. I could live in that forest.

 

Last stop was the coast. The Pacific Ocean in the summer is a little different from the Atlantic. For starters, its freezing! The water was definitely not in the 60’s yet. We caught the right beach on the right day. Usually the weather at the coast is in the 50’s and rainy or misty, and there are many sections that are too rocky to swim in. When we went it was warm and sunny and the beach was nice to swim in.. other than the freezing cold water! I swam in the water for a really long time and almost got hypothermia. I was very cold the whole way home. We all had a blast and didn’t want to have to leave, but the goats needed to be milked. And so farm life calls, but it was a gorgeous day and it was amazing to see those three things while in Southern Oregon.

 

 

We tried to have a meeting about camp on the way home, but we were all too tired to have to think about dealing with 8-12 year olds for 5 days and 4 nights. The kids get here Monday and we do everything from cook for them, plan crafts and activities to with them, to read to them before they go to bed, to sleep with them in the tents at night. It is truly an overnight camp. It will be a good break up from the daily farm routine, but I have a feeling that this will be way more exhausting than your average week on the farm.

I will post tomorrow about the next Rogue Farm Corps (RFC) class. Sunday we have a class on tractors in Medford.

Cheers,

Farmer Murph

Pests, Orchards, and 4th of July; OH MY!

Hi Again!

Last week there were two Rogue Farm Corps classes! Integrated pest management and Apple Outlaw orchards. It was a very exciting week for visiting farms and learning new things!

rfc-header-2013-clear-white

The first was on Thursday and it was about integrated pests management. We learned about different pests and then we went out to some gardens and practiced identifying them. We spent a lot of time on aphids and parasitic wasps. Parasitic wasps are pretty amazing when it comes to killing aphids. The females lay their egg inside the aphid and the wasp grows inside the aphid, essentially turning the aphid into a mummy when the wasp is ready to leave its host and enter the world. The signs for Aphids are sticky stuff on your fruit trees and they are typically under damaged leaves with spots on them. We used some really cool bug catchers, they worked like a suction! It felt kind of like ghost busters, but for bugs instead of ghosts.

Unknown

The second class, on Sunday, was at an apple orchard. The name of the farm is called Apple Outlaw. It’s on Thompson Creek in Applegate, OR. The farm started out selling organic apples, but they struggled because there delicious organic apples didn’t always look so great, so people didn’t want to buy them. So, they started pressing them and making juice. But, recently they have expanded to making hard cider. They are trying to grow lots of varieties of apples now and continue to expand their cider business. The cider business, like a lot of businesses, has a lot of competition. So, you have to make cider that not only stands out, but also tastes good, and then you need to be able to market it! It’s a family business, and everyone seems to play their role pretty well. They seem to be doing a really good job business wise. We learned a little bit about grafting trees, and got to check out a lot of his grafts. Before Apple Outlaw bought the land there was a lot of red delicious trees, which nobody really likes and it doesn’t really make great cider, so they’ve been grafting off of a lot of those trees. We also learned about pruning, which seems like it’s something that the more I hear about it the more I feel that I need to actually do the pruning to understand what’s happening with the tree. Overall was a good experience.

Speaking of fruit tress, this week has been the week of thinning (not pruning) at White Oak. Thinning is when you remove some of the fruit from the tree so that you A) leave room for the other fruit to grow B) Limit bruises and places for pests to go crazy C) Save your branches from breaking by removing some of the weight from the tree. That’s been the main focus of the week, other than harvesting and preschool. This week was animal themes for preschool. We focused on the life cycle of animals and how each animal was given something to help them survive here on earth. We also made masks and spent hours harvesting raspberries for snack 🙂 Little kids are exhausting. Especially 14 kids around 3-6 years old.

 

Friday I technically had the day off, but I chose to put in some extra hours. I helped Taylor and his friend Josh cut down some trees and strip the bark of them to make posts. The posts are for a building that the farm is currently writing a grant for. It was very hard work and I’m very sore today. I was expecting it to be a little easier. It was in the shade, which is a nice bonus when you’ve been in the 90 degree sun all week. Although I was so covered in mosquito bites and poison oak by the end of it that I think I would have chosen the sun.

FullSizeRender

Saturday was a day of blueberry picking and swimming! The farm crew went and picked blueberries. There were 5 of us and we each picked over 10 lbs! We are going to make cheesecake, jams, pancakes, and freeze a bunch too; but for now I just made some muffins with  cinnamon sugar on top 🙂 YUMMM!  I ate so many blueberries, it was blueberry heaven. Then we went down to the Applegate river and went swimming. There were a lot of people there; drinking beer, floating of rafts, barbecuing. It was a really strange scene coming from the farm. It’s always funny to get a taste of America after being on the farm for a long period of time.

The 4th of July will not be very exciting here! We are not allowed to have fireworks, because we are officially in extreme fire danger season. This means no running a weed whacker during the day, no fireworks, absolutely no fires. When I get home the first rain we have I’m just going to go run around in it. It’s only been 3 weeks since the last rain and I already miss it so much. I won’t see rain again until I get home. The second thing I’m going to do is have fire. I miss fire. There is a parade in Williams on the 4th, but I will be harvesting and working the market booth.

Cheers,

Farmer Murph

P.S. Happy early 4th of July to all of you out there! I hope those of you on the east coast get to see some nice fireworks! Enjoy them for me 🙂

GOUDA :)

Making some Gouda …

IMG_0669
heating up the milk
IMG_0667
Stirring the curd
IMG_0688
Waxing the Gouda!

IMG_0686

 

About a week ago Emily and I made Gouda. I believe I told you guys about this, but I figured I would share the pictures. I also got to wax it yesterday which was a lot of fun! Now it just has to age for at least 3 weeks and then I can actually try it! I will share more photos with you guys then and let you know how it taste. I made another batch today. I’m coming to the sad realization that some of the cheese I’m going to start making will still be aging when I leave here 😦 But I still want to keep making cheese, and hopefully when I leave I can get updates on how it comes out! 🙂

Here are the steps for making Gouda:

  1. Heat the milk to 86 degrees F over 15 minutes. Shut off the heat.
  2. Sprinkle starter (1/4 teaspoon Meso II) over the milk and let it sit for 5 minutes to rehydrate (or “waken up”, as it lives in the freezer). Stir in an up and down motion. Then cover the milk to maintain temperature and let it sit for 45 minutes.
  3. Add rennet (1/2 teaspoon liquid rennet diluted in 1/4 cup cool non-chlorinated water) and gently wish for 1 minute. Cover and let sit for 30-45 min., or until curds give a clean break.
  4. maintaining temperature, cut curds (at bottom of whey still in pot) into 1/2 inch pieces and let sit for 5 minutes. Stir for 5 minutes. Let sit for 5 more minutes.
  5. Heat 2 quarts of water to 140 degrees F and maintain that temp. When curds sink to bottom of pot ladle of whey, then add enough of the 140 degree water to make the curds 92 degrees F (start with 2 cups). Gently stir for 10 minutes, then let the curd settle again.
  6. Ladle off enough whey to expose the top of the curd. Then add enough 110 degree F water to make the curd 98 degrees F. Holding the curd at that temperature gently stir for 20 min, or until the curd have shrunk to the size of tiny beans. Then let the curd settle for 10 min.
  7. Line and 8 in. mold with a damp cheese cloth and place it on a drying rack. Warm a colander with hot water and one with a wet cheese cloth. Drain off whey and transfer curd into the colander. Let strain for 5 min. Using your (clean) hands, break off 1 in. pieces/chunks of curd and transfer int the cloth lined mold. Fill the mold with all of the curd. Press the curd into the mold as you go. cover the curd with the cloth and press at 10 lb. for 30 min. Remove the cheese from the mold, flip it, and then press again at 15 lb. for 6-8 hrs.
  8. Make 2 quarts of medium- heavy brine in a non-corrosive container with a lid and cool at 50-55 degrees F. Remove cheese from the mold and cloth. Place in brine and soak at 50-55 degrees F for 8 hrs or overnight.
  9. Remove cheese from the brine and pat dry. Place on a rack and air dry at room temp. for 1-2 days, or until the surface is dry to the touch.
  10. Place on a mat in a ripening box, cover loosely, and age at 50-55 degrees and 85 % humidity for 1 wee, turning daily. Remove any unwanted mold with cheesecloth dampened in a vinegar-salt solution.
  11. Coat the cheese with wax and age at 55 degrees F for 1 month and up to 6 months.

.. And that’s the complicated time-consuming process of making Gouda!!

Cheers,

Farmer Murph

Happy Solstice

Happy Belated Solstice 🙂

I figured I should tell you all a little about the Williams farmers market. Williams Farmers Market happens every Monday from 4-6:30. It’s the best place to be in Williams on Monday. The same people come every week which means I actually know a lot of the town people just from market! Every booth has something special to offer. There’s our booth which sells all the fresh veggies and fruit that your heart desires! There are booths that sell bread, cheese, meat, artwork, instruments, ceramics, spices and sauces, kombucha, baked goods, and my personal favorite: popsicles. It’s very easy to spend a lot of money at market so you really have to limit yourself. the bread, kombucha, and popsicles are my regular purchases. Everyone at market is so friendly and it’s such a good way to start the week. It’s a tiring event after harvesting all day, but it is so worth it!

This weekend I volunteered at the library. I worked with some little kids and taught them about different pollinators and then we got to planted some seeds that would attract lots of pollinators and sent them all home with a pot 🙂 It was adorable and lots of fun. We also made origami butterflies!

Emily, the other intern, and I also made cheese on Sunday. It was our first time making cheese and we did it all on our own. We made Gouda!! It will be about a month until we can actually eat it, but I’m so excited. Making cheese is a very complicated process. You have to follow directions so carefully! Emily and I decided we want to try to make a new kind of cheese every week! The sad part is that by the time a lot of them are done aging we will already have left the farm and won’t get the chance to try them 😦 But I’m excited to go on a cheese making adventure and learn through success and mistakes!

In terms of farm news there are so many cherries.. we cannot keep up with harvesting them so the crows are getting to them. Every time I look up when I’m out in the field I see a crow with a red beak (full of cherries). My back has been really sore so I’m hoping to bike into town tomorrow for  a yoga class.

4th of July is coming up! I’m very sad because I found out that there are no fireworks here .. it’s fire season so fireworks are prohibited. I will sure miss them and possibly celebrate 4th of July in August when I’m back on the east coast.

I hop all you other farmers out there are staying sane.. keeping your backs in good shape, not getting too hot, avoiding ytpical farmer problems, and best of all I hope you are all getting to eat lots of fresh veggies!

– Murph

 

P.S . Last night I found  lizard in my clothing bag. I put my hand in and felt it slithering around. I was terrified that it was going to be a poisonous snake or a scorpion, but I’m happy it was just a cute little lizard 🙂

 

The Bee Girl

Hi there!

So in terms of my farming adventures things have pretty much been the same. Harvest, weed, mulch, mulch, weed, lay out drip tape, fix drip tape, chase chickens around while trying to get them into their coop so I can go to bed. It’s exhausting, fun, repetitive and exciting, and a lot of work! I like farm life though. I get into a routine. I especially like going to bed at night here. Nights here are cool so it feels so good after a hot day to go to my tent, get in my sleeping bag, and listen to an audiotape for 5 minutes before I pass out. The work is satisfying and rewarding and so it gives me a good night of sleep. IMG_0644

This past Sunday I had another farm course. For this class I got to go to Ashland and take a beekeeping course. The coarse was with a girl who actually calls herself the bee girl. She had so much knowledge about bees! We had 2 hours of classroom time and then we got to go check out her hives for a couple hours. She has 50 hives! So many bees.. It was incredible. We suited up and got to go in the hives. Honeybees are amazing. They are so sweet and gentle and truly do so much for us. It was a magical experience to be so close and at peace with these cute and fuzzy little pollinators.

Also exciting news this week. Today I got to participate in preschool! Pre-school (which we decided we need to rename cause some of the kids are to big for pre-school) is for kids ages 3-5 and they come twice a week to the farm to learn and adventure around our farm. Today was my first day participating and there were 10 kids (not the whole group .. there are 17). We sang, did kid yoga, made raspberry muffins (it was kind of chilly today), learned about herbs, made songs about herbs, harvested herbs, ate cherries, dressed up all crazy and sang and danced. It was a blast, but it was so draining! The kids leave at 1 and then after we take a little break we have to go back out and do farm work, which is so hard to find the motivation for!

I think this Friday I’m going to go work at a beef ranch for the day and see if I can work there on some Fridays. Saturday I’m going to try to start volunteering at the Library in town. The library does a lot of kid education stuff and they have a garden so I told them I might come down and help a few times.. We will see if I’m to exhausted from kids by the weekend to go work with more kids!

Until next time,

-Farmer Murph

A Blog About Fruit Trees

FullSizeRender 19

Have you ever tasted something so sweet and delicious that it actually hurts? Well I have. The very first thing I did when I got to white oak was harvest strawberries. That’s only the beginning of it… 

There is so much fruit at white oak. There are currently strawberries, raspberries, and cherries. Soon we will also have apples, pears, peaches, figs, blackberries, and more! This is why I could write a whole blog on fruit trees. 

I could write about  how good they taste warm and fresh out in the field when you’re hot and tired. Or how mulching the trees with bales of hay in 90+ degree weather and getting itchy, irritated skin while simultaneously cutting back thorns from around the trees does actually pay off. 

Or I could write about how cute it is when the 5 year old who lives on the property spends all her time in the cherry tree. She calls out “help” after only being up there for about a minute because most of the cherries are out of her reach. When she can reach them she is “as sweet as a cherry” and brings some that she picks out to you while your working in the field. 

Even the goats like the fruit trees. When moving them to another pasture they like to try to pull you toward them so they can munch on their leaves.

The majority of my stomach aches here come from eating copious amounts of fruit.. especially the raspberries. It’s takes the longest to recover from an over-eating-raspberries stomach ache.

The fruit here is really something special.