Monday, December 28, 2009

Open doors in December

December 28th and we returned from an overnighter in Seattle to a hot and stuffy house. The mist and fog of the morning had burned off completely and the pale December sun was streaming into the living room.

Too warm to keep things shut up, the front door was open the rest of the afternoon - a first for this day, this month, I'm sure. In fact, I've seen more clear dry days this December than I can ever remember for any previous winter month. We're enjoying the warmth and light but, honestly, so many days of the stuff is more than a little disconcerting for us moldy Pacific Northwesterners. Used to the pressure of making each rain-free hour count, days on end without the stuff leaves us eventually finding ourselves at loose ends.

Santa was good to our family this year, and we tried to be good to each other as well. Choosing nice over naughty for everyone's sake. 2009 has been a bit of a rollercoaster and I think most of us are ready to ring in 2010.

I hope your family's New Year dawns bright and beautiful...with maybe just a little bit of mist.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Letting go

Millions of words have been written on the bittersweet emotions that mothers lug along as they watch their sons grow into young men. It's impossible to be original on this topic, I fear, but perhaps it's worth repeating from the front row.

Maybe the single thing I'm most grateful for in my life - and there's so much - is the close relationship I've been fortunate to share with my son, from day one. He's my only child, yes, but he's also such a fine and interesting person - it's a pleasure, really, to be in his company.

And, I've been doubly-blessed to have a supportive spouse and a life that has supported my spending a chunk of Dylan's childhood right at his side. The costs for such privilege can sometimes be high - in ways that are difficult to foresee at the outset - but I would do it just the same again if asked.

The good news, the great news really, is that now Mark gets the chance to really, full-on be there at Dylan's side as well. Some time out from earning a living, he's there to pick Dylan up for swimming, home to grab the band-aid when the cut starts to bleed, around the dinner table to check on homework and struggle through the tough math.

Mark deserves it. Dylan deserves it. And, as Dylan stands at the precipice of adolescence, the timing feels almost cosmically orchestrated. The joy that emanates from the two of them as they build, or ski, or strum, or solve is palpable.

So, now it's time for Mom to step back and let go the reins a bit, place the "primary caregiver" badge on the bookshelf with the Curious George books and the Wiggle DVDs from Australia that never would work in our player anyway. Time to rediscover what I loved before I loved this child. Time to awaken deeply slumbering parts of my mind and soul.

A time of renewal for all of us, a time of sharing and space and engagement and disengagement. Humbling and cherished.

And very, very hard.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Why I love Vashon #502

It doesn't freeze here very often, but when it does islanders instinctively know to gravitate toward Fisher Pond. In deep shade all but the middle of the day this time of year, Fisher Pond is only a few feet deep and rewards our deepest winter yearnings with good solid ice as soon as the temperature stays below freezing for even a couple days.

Better yet, old time islander Gary Peterson and
his Minnesota-born wife raised their 3 kids on skates and somehow, over time, decided to hold onto every size as the kids went through 'em. Years passed and folks came to know what to do with their old skates - send them over Peterson's way. Today, this fine and generous couple of grandparents have boxes and boxes of skates they store in their attic for occasions such as this, when they load their pickup full of boxes of skates, head down to Fisher Pond, and give them out to any and all who'd like to take a turn on the ice.

This week the Petersons have been at Fisher Pond almost every morning and every afternoon after school, fitting folks to boots and making good conversation. Gary told me yesterday that Fisher Pond used to be a cow pasture - it was
an earthquake in the forties that shifted things around and raised the outlet for Shinglemill Creek just enough to create this 6-acre pond. And islanders have been showing up, hopeful and bundled up whenever the pond freezes, ever since.

Thanks to Mr. Fisher for donating his fine pond and forest to the folks of Vashon about a decade ago. And, thanks Mr. and Mrs Peterson - I think we had way more fun than the cows ever did.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

What I love

A November drizzle that makes everyone's hair frizzle.

Cooking by myself on a dark Saturday night while the season's first storm rages outside and a wonderful movie about food and family plays on my laptop.

That my dog refuses to go outside until I get out of bed and come downstairs.

Watching my son and husband work out Math Olympiad problems snuggled on the couch (until they start fighting).

Giant maples leaves scattered across the road to town, slowly disappearing into the landscape.

That our potatoes, squash, pumpkin, chard, and lamb still sustain us deep into fall.

Bunches of this summer's dried lavender gently perfuming the house.

Coming home to a candlelit home, a glass of wine, and a smiling husband.

Little surprises from my loving and generous friends.

Halloween on Vashon.

Dylan's teachers.

Fall, 2009.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Hunting season

We're deep into fall now and here in the Pacific Northwest, that means mushrooms. Strangely, the hunting bug didn't really hit me until just last year when it was revealed to me that the coveted chanterelle, the golden queen of all things 'shroom, actually grows right here on our little rock...if you know where to look.

As Michael Pollan hilariously details in the final section of his Omnivore's Dilemma, the elusive chanterelle is a master of hiding, and those that
hunt it are equally masterful at keeping its dark secrets hidden. Up against deadline for his book, he begged seasoned foragers in vain to take him - even blindfolded - on a mushroom hunt, any mushroom hunt.

As fun as foraging for the ultimate seasonal treat can be, however, more generalized hunting for interesting fungi can be great adventure as well. Armed with our trusty guide, gloves - very important because many varieties are highly toxic - and a bag for carrying any discovered golden loot, we set off into trails spongy with
decaying leaves and wet from recent rains.

Few things are more fun to do with your kid. Mushroom hunting gets you out into nature, provides the thrill of a treasure hunt, and turns out to be educational for everyone in the bargain. Sleuthing for mushrooms in the recesses of a damp woods, earthy and primal, in mist or dappled sun or even pouring rain when the scents seem almost overpowering - it's the original northwest playground.

Hunt for chanterelles and other fungi in wooded areas with lots of native vegetation and some, but not much, natural light. Away from the beaten trail and just after a rain are your best bets. Bring along a good guide with lots of photographs and detailed descriptions. Don't eat anything you cannot absolutely, positively identify - this is another reason chanterelles are uniquely exciting to find. They are not only delicious, but extremely distinctive, making them a safe choice for sauteing once you get home.

If you find a chanterelle hideout, check it every autumn, and don't tell anyone. Except maybe me.

Happy hunting.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Settling in

It's no secret that autumn is my favorite season. While long languid days of summer feel luxurious, and spring's eternal birth miracles always inspire, and winter's comforting rituals connect us to our past, it's autumn's color, clarity, moisture, and, yes, even entombing darkness that seems to remind us to turn inward, toward our loved ones and self-reflection, to appreciate hearth and home, and even to elevate the importance of sustenance in our lives.

This fall on our island has been virtually unprecedented in its beauty and classic autumn weather. Crisp days and chilly nights feel like precious gifts before the mists of November roll across our mornings.

The crockpot is hoisted out of the pantry more often. Tealights illuminate our family together space in the evenings. The light has gone on in the chicken coop to coax the hens to continue their egg-laying ways. Soon, mud will dominate our little landscape.

These weeks between late summer and early winter always feel a little like a breath held. This fall, I try to enjoy the leaves, turn my face toward the last rays of sun, embrace the change I know is coming, and get ready for the tasks of family, farm, livelihood, and life that this particular season brings.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Ready for the rain

Well, we did it - I had my doubts (fueled by 3 previous years), but we managed to do the things we knew needed doing - before the rain set in and made us find that spot in our heart where regret lives and remorse gnaws on our best intentions. We battened down the hatches that needed it, albeit moments before the first drops started splattering the dust.

Every year we get a little more done before the farm becomes a sea of mud, and this year, we're actually truly, really ready. Sheared the sheep (Mark), built a shed for hay and bikes (also Mark) - and actually got it painted (both of us). Hooves are trimmed and tarps grace all that needs tarping. Now it's time to get working on the spartan....

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Autumn roars in

As if on cue, the winds swept in and the clouds descended on our little Puget Sound island a day and a half after the last of our fall events.  Sunday dawned bright and beautiful for cider-pressing with our pal David and cleaning up the debris still left from the farm tour.  Then Monday brought the fall weather we're more familiar with.

The rains may be upon us soon.

But, we would be grinches to complain - what a summer and early fall it's been.

In the swirl of farm-related activity, there's been a fair amount of regular life that's been taking place as well.  Our journey into the worlds of both middle school and homeschooling so far have been much less dramatic than we'd anticipated.  We are fortunate to count some of the best teachers anywhere among our clan.

Even though the rains and short days are just around the corner, I'd be lying if I didn't fess up that fall is actually my favorite season.  I love the cool dry days and the chilly nights, the culmination of all the planting and tending, the rustle of wind through falling leaves.

Here on the farm, of course, it means more work - witness these past few weekends!  Still to come is shearing, and slaughter.  We're building another shed to finally provide a home for hay and bicycles, racing against time to finish it before mud season.  But the work is good work, clean work, work that produces something tangible and solid at the end of the day.  Same goes for cooking down that bumper crop of tomatoes into sauce - feels so satisfying to click those containers shut and line them up in the freezer.

Many folks think of fall as a time of death - the trees shed their leaves, the plants in the garden die back.  But somehow it always feels like renewal to me.  Summer has offered up its plenty, now's the time to shut the windows and turn inward, to reflect, to prepare for the winter ahead and plan for the spring beyond.

Happy fall-

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Stop Sign Farm rocked the Harvest Celebration Tour

A huge shout out to the veritable army of friends and family that all but guaranteed Stop Sign Farm's successful debut on King County's Harvest Celebration Tour!  We had pals meeting and greeting, cooking up mouth-watering dishes, pressing the first real apple juice a lot of folks had ever tasted, directing and answering questions, shearing sheep, answering questions about baby chicks and even playing fiddle!  Wow.

It didn't all play according to plan, but it wasn't far off and the results speak for themselves - Stop Sign Farm attracted more visitors than any other Vashon farm and I dare say many folks stayed far longer than they had anticipated.  Between delicious samples of hand-raised and expertly cooked lamb, fresh apple cider, beautiful sheep to feed, and baby chicks to admire, city folks with an eye toward whole foods and simple living had a tough time tearing themselves away.

But, it definitely took a village to barn raise this baby.  I am certainly blessed to live in this beautiful place, nestled in towering trees and bathed by warming sun, but I am even more blessed to have such a collection of amazing and uniquely talented and caring people just on the other end of a phone line, willing to jump in and create success out of chaos.

200 people came to our farm yesterday.  Maybe a few of them will buy their food a little differently this fall.  Maybe a few of the many, many children who frolicked and pet and tasted will understand what goes into the dinner on their plate.  Maybe a few of those families will try a hand at food production themselves.  Anything can happen.

It was a blast.  Can't wait til next year.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Saturday is the big day! Come visit Stop Sign Farm

SSF is on King County's 2009 Harvest Celebration Tour this Saturday, and we couldn't be more excited (or nervous).  Dylan reminded me this morning on the drive to school that we've been talking about being one of "those farms" ever since we first purchased our land.  

And here we are 36 hours away from becoming One of Them.

We've got an army of good friends willing to volunteer, a little bit of product to sell, lots of fun and games, and things to show and tell.  It'll be a good day.  If you're in the Puget Sound area and interested in the perfect way to spend a perfect fall day, grab your picnic blanket and head on over.  It's all here - food, drink, livestock, fiber arts, and music.

What else is there?

For a detailed look at the whole tour (including our info and schedule on page 14), and a link to the ferry schedule, check out King County's brochure.  

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

September Stop Sign Fall Picnic

An unusually hot and absolutely beautiful early fall day provided the perfect backdrop for our 4th annual neighborhood picnic September 12.  Folks from all around our neck of the woods, as well as good friends from the city, showed up with delectable dishes and good conversation to share.  The music was awesome and the launching of yummy Ruind Brewing ales was well received.

With the setting of the sun, cool moved in and pal and neighbor Mark got his 2 fires roaring.  Musicians played well into the night, then packed it up to come sit in the glow of the big fire pit til sometime past midnight.

A shout out to Jan and Judith and Elise for all their help before and during the annual event. Their efforts meant I got a chance to talk with folks I hadn't seen in a while.  It was, as always, great to connect with everyone.

Still it's sometimes hard to know which I enjoy more - the picnic or the day after....

If you're in vicinity and you missed it this year - mark your calendar.  Saturday, September 11, 2010.  

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Living with chaos

One of the biggest life lessons, or failures, depending upon your point of view, of farming is living with near-constant chaos.

Most people complain of chaos in their lives - their inability to reconcile their iPhone calendar with their old-fashioned wall version, the weeds that take over their garden the second they turn their back, the social, academic, and athletic commitments that seem to truly dominate their lives.

But, let's take a baby step into farm life to truly appreciate life among entropy and the coping skills each family member is required to develop in order to refrain from killing any other members of the clan:

Back in a previous life, I had a house twice this size and a yard about 1/10 this size. Things had a place and I even had for a while, no kidding, a landscapey type person who showed up once a month to prune and trim with his crew b/c I was so afraid to touch the carefully choreographed landscaping gently laid down some 40 years previous.

This all seems vaguely hilarious now.

Tonight I write this with 50 baby chicks peeping atop spectacularly soiled newspapers in my 4X6 laundry room, which, as fate would have it, also holds my laundry facilities. My 2 cats and 1 Australian Shepherd keep watch, all, strangely, apparently concerned for the well-being of these chirpers.

Keeping count? That's 53 animals in my 1500 SF house - but we've forgotten the rabbit, which is perched in a cage at the bottom of the stairs and not quite in the dining space or kitchen. 54.

Outside, my lovingly built up and partitioned and peppled up front yard is assaulted daily by, we think, about 30 hens and 1 admittedly very fine and unusually genteel rooster.

Keeping count? That's 85.

Meanwhile, down in the pasture, the baaing is near incessant. We have fat and happy Icelandic sheep wondering when exactly we'll be showing up with the next bucket of grain to lure them to this evening pasture or today's Lazy Man dinner - a few flakes of platinum-priced Timothy hay. Right now, between lambing and harvest, our sheep count 14.

Keeping count? We're butting up awefully close to 100.

So. What does 100 animals or thereabouts look like? It's easy to focus on what it looks like outside - animals about, landscape under attack, the need to build and move fences.

But, that's only half the story.

100 animals looks a lot like livng with total chaotic meltdown up there in the "big house."

Can't do laundry, the house smells like chicks, the entire contents of the laundry room have been emptied into the den (the 10X12 den) and elsewhere. When you live in a small house already, moving a whole room out for a few weeks to accommodate newcomers looks like bedlam. Dog fur roams freely, it's tough to vacuum, let's not even discuss what the dust holds. And we're dumping cloudy chick water into the toilet each night. What passes for normal...not so much.

Still, turning your house inside out can be frustrating to be sure, but it can also be illustrative. Tempers run hot. Fuses are short. It's not just Mom who gets irritable when the house is upside down - although she may be the most honest about the cause. But, here's a weird thing I've learned: chaos, as much as I hate it and always will, has a place. It breaks down normalcy, it pushes limits. It forces the frustration and the grievances that a perfectly tidy house, and life, can sweep so easily under the area rug.

Don't be afraid to get messy. Sometimes chaos is the only way to sanity.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Chick Report

The chicks are almost one and a half weeks old and the pin feathers are popping out. Laundry has taken something of a backseat here at SSF, and we're discovering the joys of wearing clothes a little longer and digging out long-forgotten items to don for the day. Thrilled with their progress, I remain hopeful that we'll be relocating these lovely little ladies to their insulated outdoor abode soon. Very soon.

But, check them out! Aren't they just beautiful? (OK, the heat lamp makes good photos problemmatic.) Nana and her houseguest took a quick trip to Victoria over the weekend and were just flabbergasted when they returned at how in just 3 days the chicks had really morphed from fuzzy fragile fluffballs to robust little birds. We haven't lost anyone since the 3rd day and they seem active, vocal (!), and healthy.

So far, so good. 50 again? Not sure....

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Own a Vashon Dreamboat!

Heck - own 12!  Yes, for the single price of just $20, you get 12 stylishly nude Vashon dads - all commuters - set amidst articles of their own personal interest and against the backdrop of bucolic Vashon in summer.  Shot by a spectacular photographer!  Such a deal.

A lot has been written about the newly-launched Vashon Dreamboats calendar, but I have just have to pipe in with a couple observations:

First, I absolutely have to applaud the courage and sense of whimsey these guys mustered to do this, not to mention the tenacity and aplomb of the 3 gals who made it happen - especially in the face of some disappointingly predictable small-town prudishness.  (Although, as I read the comments attached to the Tacoma News Tribune article, I see that small towns do not hold the copyright on prudishness.)

Second, I can't remember when something this fun and silly - and then well done to boot - last happened 'round here.  We have a tendency to take ourselves a wee bit serious here on this island.  We have also been known on occasion to talk virtually any interesting idea right into the grave.  I'm thrilled this actually came to pass.

Third, we need the money.  Our small school district was disproportionately hit in the budget-cutting process, finding itself with a funding gap equal to many districts several times larger.  We are in a painful position.

Finally, and this gets a little lost in the fun and games of this great project - as inventive and creative as Dreamboats is...why do we have to get this inventive and creative to keep teachers in the classroom and supplies on the shelf?  Where are our priorities?  As my GGF Shelley says on her blog, I sure wish our legislators would demonstrate half the courage as our own island dads and make sure our kids get the education they deserve.

Thanks to all the amazing folks behind and in front of the camera for caring and sharing and baring!  Stop Sign Farm was proud to be a sponsor.  Order your Dreamboat from Amazon today!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Motorcycle Sunday

Every August, sleepy Vashon comes alive with the rumble and roar of hundreds and hundreds of vintage and unusual motorcycles.  The Vintage Motorcycle Enthusiast club, or VME, holds their annual ride here, and if you get up early you're in for quite a treat.

This year, finally, I didn't forget.  I got up at 7:30, kissed my party-pooper family bye, and headed to the dock to capture the sight of a 300 foot ferry filled to the brim with hogs.  The crystal clear morning down at our farm on the south end of the island became mistier and mistier as I drove north, finally socked in completely at the dock.

I wasn't disappointed as I parked my car where it didn't belong and bought a long tall coffee from Wanda.  The dock was almost eery with fog and birds and near silence.  I couldn't help but shudder at the cool quiet solitude I knew was preceding an imminent deafening storm.

Soon enough, the boat was unveiled between the misty curtains of Puget Sound, and there they were - hundreds of hogs lined up to invade our peaceful rock.

I took photos then, almost getting hit in the process, then headed to town to witness the traditional line-up of these beauties down both sides of our main street.  Amazing.  Bikes from the 50s, from the 70s, experimental contraptions that almost never see the light of day, sidecars.  It's all there.  

Estimates preliminarily say over 3000 bikes drove onto Vashon that day.  A slam-dunk record by far.  I believe it.  It was hard to to capture and remains hard to describe...

Saturday, August 29, 2009

It's Official! SSF home to Vashon's tastiest toms

Is that a thing of beauty or what???

Well, I thought so - and pictures may be worth a 1000 words, but they still can't convey the unbelievable succulence that is the mighty Sungold.  These tomatoes, apparently taking to our hot site and crowded jungle-like conditions with a vengeance, amaze me every morning I go out to harvest.  Our plants are nearly 7 feet high and sprouting new tomato candy every time I turn around.  I decided they had to be at least among the best on the island - how could anything taste any better than this?

So, this morning, we carted 2 lbs of tomato gold up to the Great Vashon Tomato Taste Off - and won!

You're looking at the Best Cherry Tomato on the island.  YUM!

(and, yes, we still have some on the vine, so come on by!)

SSF Featured on 2009 Harvest Celebration Farm Tour

Just a heads-up for those in the area that our farm will be among 26 others in King County and 6 others on Vashon to be featured on the annual King County Harvest Celebration Tour.  This September 26th event spotlights local organic and sustainable farms and gives urbanites a chance to meet area farmers and check out the local foodshed.  And it's just this side of Disneyland for young kids.

More as the event draws near, but suffice to say, we're launching with a bang!  We have an accomplished international chef lined up to demonstrate delectable ways to incorporate SSF bounty into your meal plans, a couple of local cider pros pressing Vashon apples on our very own cider press, sheep shearing by Mark and Michael (a game urban soul if ever there was one), and soothing acoustic music in the grove to end the day.  (yes, Mark has a busy day - that's what comes from being multi-talented)

The county-wide event runs from 10AM - 4:30 and is free to the public.  What better way to enjoy the last crisp days of Autumn?  See you there!

For more information:  Visit King County's Harvest Tour website to get details on the tour.  Washington State Ferries has schedule information - please note that the Fall schedule will be in effect.  And, you can always email me at with questions about our part in the whole shebang or leads on good B & Bs, etc.  

Baby chicks - the good, the bad, the ugly

It's the end of August, so that means one thing for sure:  there are baby chicks scurrying around under a heat lamp 'round our place.  They arrived yesterday.  This year, we've taken the leap to 50.  50 chicks in our mud room in our 1500 SF house.  50 day-old chicks don't take up much space...but wait a week.  There's a world of size between 1 day old chicks and 7 day old chicks.  Needless to say, we get them out as soon as we can.

50 chicks arrive from Murray McMurray Hatchery in a 3' X 3' box.  It's weird, to be sure, but that's how it's done.  The post office calls about 6:15, a cacophony of your and others' fowl drowning out most of what they say, but the general instruction to come get your flippin' birds is well understood.

The good:  There really can't be anything cuter than a day old chick, except maybe a bunch of day old chicks.  And to watch them develop those first few days is nothing short of beholding a miracle.  You could swear pin feathers pop out each time you blink.  Over the course of just days, and even hours, little yellow fluffballs transform into dainty feathered birds of all colors and sizes.  They also make great teaching tools, the perfect vehicle for engaging young kids in the cycle of life.

The bad:  Anything one day old, much less one day old that's traveled by cargo plane from Iowa to Puget Sound, is pushing the envelope of survivability.  At its basic, this practice is fundamentally inhumane, and many Vashon farmers are turning to incubators and even ye olde fashioned laying hens for the next generations of babies.  We'll probably follow suit.  Creating an hospitable environment for 50 day-olds is tricky business.  Regardless of what the books or friends say, getting the heat lamp just right, making sure the chicks are free from drafts, ensuring that the water isn't gunky and that the cats don't investigate - all this takes effort, care, and focus.  A lot of life comes to a screeching halt while we get the new additions through their first few days.

The ugly:  The stakes are high.  Not everyone makes it.  The flip side of nothing cuter than a baby chick is that few things are more heartbreaking than burying a chick that doesn't survive the first day.  So far, 24 hours into it, we've lost 4.  The hatchery always throws in a few extra, so the economics work out, but the heartbreak is real and the deaths spotlight the unnaturalness of this system.

As cute and fuzzy as they are, I'm always relieved when the last of the yellow fluff falls away and shimmering little feathers cover our new girls; it means we've turned a corner and the frail babies of Day 1 have been replaced by Stop Sign Farm's next generation of fine young ladies.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Fall is in the air

It was dark when I emerged from my 2nd viewing of Julie & Julia tonight (too good to wait to share it w/Mark - had to go back with him in tow.  Wait, is blogging about Julie & Julia just too ironic?).  9:30 seems a respectable time for darkness, but oh such a world away from just a month ago!

Dry leaves swirled up in my headlights and crunched under my tires as I cut through the darkness on my way home.

I harvested about 20 lbs of potatoes today and maybe 5 lbs of tomatoes.  Even our pumpkins are beginning to look like, well, pumpkins.  

It's been a great summer, but it's still only August!  Still, the chill in the night air is unmistakable - we have hot days ahead, no doubt, but fall is on its way...

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Why we live here, #487

Living in a small community can sometimes feel suffocating, like when you can't behave badly anywhere - cut someone off at the intersection, act rude at a party, dislike someone's child - without severe and immediate consequences.  

I grew up in a small town - and vowed never to live in one.  But, then, I discovered that not all small towns are created equal.  No place is Oz - even Oz isn't Oz, but I can't help but think that my island comes as close as is realistic to hope for.

This morning was an honest-to-goodness typical example:

Myra, caring and dedicated pharmacist and part-owner of what must be one of the homiest pharmacies left in America by day, is a fiber art aficionado of staggering talents.  She spins, she knits, she evangelizes all things yarn.  To say she has been encouraging of our family's humble bid to navigate our own sheep's fleece would be an understatement of enormous proportions.  

We stopped into the pharmacy (or, as we think of it on Vashon, The Pharmacy) mid-week to pick up meds and Dylan lingered to ask her if she could recommend some way for him to refresh his memory on the knitting he'd learned at lunch club last year.

The result?  This photo.  Taken this morning in our living room.  Our beloved pharmacist spending her Sunday donating her time and her New Zealand yarn and critiquing Dylan's cast ons.  

I am nothing short of blessed to live here.

Thanks, Myra.

Report from the Second Annual Vashon Winery Folk Festival

Mark and his singing partner Robyn Landis played a wonderful, harmony-filled set of mostly original tunes at last night's local folk festival.  What a great event!  An afternoon and evening of acoustic music, resting on blankets in an ancient apple orchard, a bottle of Ron's latest white resting on our picnic duffle.  

People bring their dogs (of course, this is Vashon!), kids play hide and seek through the trees, the littlest ones dancing in front of the stage, youth keeping fear completely at bay.  Friends chat lazily as one musical act clears the stage for the next and the musicians become audience.  Straight from the farmers market, Paul Yotomoshi brought his mouthwatering pot stickers, coconut curry rice and other delectables too fragrant to resist.

A perfect evening.

Congratulations, Mark and Robyn - another great gig!

You can check out a sampling of Mark's music here, Robyn's music here, and Ron's wines here.

Thanks to Wally for organizing the music!

Congratulations, Ron - can't wait til next year!

Thanks to Dylan for the great photos!

Fried Green Tomato Quiche

I had an old friend request my favorite Fall quiche recipe on Facebook, but as a total newbie, I managed to write the whole thing and immediately lose it into the internets, so let's give this another try closer to my comfort zone.

This delectable, once-a-year treat comes courtesy of the lovely Molly Katzen and my pal Jennifer who gave me Molly's Sunlight Cafe Cookbook some years back.  It's so good, I purposefully pick many of my toms early!

The perfect Sunday breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

Fried Green Tomato Quiche

Preheat oven to 375.

Use 2-3 slicing tomatoes for this.  Cut into 1/2 inch slices and don't use the ends.  Spread out over a cutting board or other work surface.  Brush both sides with olive oil.

Pour about 1/3 - 1/2 C polenta and about 1/4 tsp salt onto a dinner plate. 

Place a large saute pan over medium/medium-high heat and pour in a generous 2 TBS olive oil.

When the oil is hot, dredge the tomatoes in the polenta, pressing down to ensure coverage.  Gently place the slices in the oil and cook, flipping once, until the polenta begins to brown.  Remove to a wire rack to keep the tomatoes crisp.

Now, using a roll-out pastry crust or your favorite homemade recipe, line a pie pan with unbaked crust.

Sprinkle 1 C grated sharp cheddar cheese over the crust.

Cut the fried green tomatoes in half and layer over the cheese, overlapping them.

Whisk together 3 farm fresh eggs and 1 C whole or 2% milk (don't use anything leaner) with a healthy pinch of salt, a few grinds of pepper, and a dash or cayenne or tabasco sauce.

Pour the milk mixture gently over the tomatoes and bake in the oven for 35-40 minutes.  Allow the quiche to rest for 10 minutes then serve.  YUM!!!

Friday, August 21, 2009

What's fresh now at SSF

August is high harvest time in the Pacific Northwest and we at SSF are no exception. If you're in the area and are partial to the following produce and products, stop on by the stand and indulge in fresh food from the farm!

If you live elsewhere in the upper left corner of the USA, consider this post an appetite-whetting reminder of what could very well lurk around the corner at your local farm or farmers market.

Fresh and available right now at SSF:

Fingerling potatoes - the creamiest, yummiest potatoes on earth. No kidding. The less you do to them, the better they taste.

Assorted sweet tomatoes - from the garden candy Sungolds to sauce toms, we package them in delicious 1 lb units for snacking, slicing, and canning.

Dark, green vibrant Italian parsley - not your grocer's variety! Excellent for chopping fresh now and the best variety for over-winter drying.

Zucchini - of course! And, a boutique but definitely NOT petite variety of squash known as the Blue Hubbard. Huge and ugly, these beauties weigh in at 12-15 lbs or more and are best opened by dropping them! Brilliant orange flesh bakes up beautifully into pies and soups. Butternuts are coming soon...

And, from our hands to yours - fresh baked artisan breads every M-W-F, Mark's famous hummus - a favorite of our neighbors and our most requested item - assorted color truly free range eggs, and extra-virgin Italian olive oil infused with knock-your-socks-off chile or heavenly herbes des provence and then aged. Nirvana with, well, fresh artisan bread. ;-)

Enjoy the season's luscious offerings - here or in your own backyard.

Bon Appetit!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Green company of the year

About a year ago, someone unknown with a bottomless sense of humor subscribed me to Forbes Magazine.  The reasons that this is incredibly ironic are many and go way back.  But, I must say, that each month the cover, on its direct route to the recycle bin, provides my family with much mirth.

We also enjoy the periodic Special Advertising Sections on how to choose which personal aircraft best suits your needs.  Because, really, who doesn't need help determining which Gulfstream is the right for them?

But, today is too good not to share.  

Really?  Wow.

Steve, I'm thinkin' it might be time to hang it up and just enjoy the dividend checks.

Not the solar and wind pioneers?  Not the urban gardeners?  No bone to the many, many companies developing ways to use our existing infrastructure to deliver renewable energy in a cost-effective way?  Exxonmobile as Green Company of the Year...


This is the same Exxonmobile that spent nearly 20 years fighting the Valdez lawsuit until it finally settled for about 1/10th the amount the Feds originally directed it to pay...right?  That Exxon?  Just checking.


The irony just never ends.

This even tops the cover, a few months back, of why women managers are on the rise - complete with all-pink type and the cover "exec" holding instruments normally reserved for housecleaning.

What ceiling?

Sunday, August 9, 2009

More joy in the garden and on the table

I have to take a minute to blather on once again about the simple but surreal satisfaction that comes from walking a few steps out the door and selecting items for dinner.  It is so basic and yet so powerful, this growing of food to eat and share.

After an afternoon of leveling her majesty - I'm leaning towards "Rita", reminiscent of an elegant and big-boned beauty from the 40s and 50s like our big and bold lady here - I ventured into the caged jungle (AKA the garden).  In a few minutes, I had a basket full of 3 varieties of tomatoes (if you're looking for garden candy, you cannot get better than the tiny sungolds - bright orange bursts of pure ecstasy you absolutely have to pop into your mouth while clomping around in your work boots) and 2 crisp cucumbers.  

On my way back into the house, I twisted off 3 branches of oregano from my happy potted plant.  A few chops with the knife, some crumbles of the feta lovingly wrapped for me at Big John's PFI, a dash of the very best olive oil on the planet, purveyed by a neighbor with ties to a little farm in Italy, matched by a dash of red wine vinegar, and we've got salad to take to some friends' house.  

Fun to hook it up with bread I made earlier today and hummus Mark concocted yesterday.  A bottle of the Syrah we pressed 3 years ago, and it's starting to feel like we might actually be closing in on this feeding ourselves and our friends gig.  No trips to the supermarket required.

High summer salad - grow most of it yourself or purchase the ingredients from your local farmer

1 lb perfectly ripe tomatoes of varying sizes and types, cut into bite-sized pieces
2-4 cucumbers, depending upon size (about 1 lb)
1-2 TBS fresh oregano, chopped
1-2 TBS extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp red wine vinegar
1 C crumbled feta cheese

Combine the first 3 ingredients in a glass bowl and mix gently so as not to bruise the tomatoes. Sprinkle the oregano over the mixture, then pour on the olive oil and then vinegar.  Crumble the feta on top and mix everything gently once more.  Serve immediately or chill for up to 30 minutes.

Enjoy with something crisp, like a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc or a light red, such as a Pinot Noir or Syrah. 

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Welcome her Majesty!

Well, it was touch and go, but we had the amazing Herb hauling Her Majesty up from Oregon.  

She's going to need a lot of work - and a name, c'mon people, you're letting me down! - but wow will this be fun.

Isn't she grand????

How fun will this be???  Stay tuned....

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Spartanific adventure begins

Behold the newest member of the SSF family, just 48 hours, hopefully, from landing on our little island.  A 1953 Spartan Spartanette Imperial.

Spartan travel trailers were manufactured by oil tycoon J. Paul Getty's Spartan Aircraft Company after World War II.  Having succeeded in developing a line of luxury personal aircraft for oil company executives, Getty turned his attention to the road, figuring the need for post-war housing would create a ready and lucrative market for fully-equipped trailer homes. 

Spartan produced several lines, constructed of aircraft quality materials and design, and topping out around $6000 and, eventually, 50 feet!  Because they were so expensive, they were manufactured for just over a decade and only a handful exist today.

Our gutted Spartanette Imperial measures 39 feet, 10 inches from nose to tail, and possesses virtually no pesky and annoying insides.  She is a blank slate, ready for her next reincarnation as guest room, music studio, intern quarters....?  You can be sure SSF will keep you updated with photos as the project evolves.

For fascinating history and other info on these beauties, check out this Spartan enthusiast's website.

Now to name her.  Ideas?

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Is the good life killing me?

Nothing messes with your plans quite so much as a quick rush to the hospital.  

Back home after a scare with chest pains and the attention of a veritable army of angels in white, blue, and torquoise lab coats, I have survived my one and only (save for the birth of my son) experience ever in a hospital.  It's very, very, good to be home.  The good staff at Virginia Mason hospital were nothing short of spectacular, but I hope they won't take it personally when I say I could go a long, long time before ever stepping foot in there as a patient again.

Perhaps the heat combined with my asthma and my ER-discovered hyper-tension to create severe pains in my chest along with shortness of breath and some other red flags.  We were scheduled to go camping in Mt. Rainier National Park with our dear sheep-shearing friends and as I drove along doing errands on Thursday, rubbing my chest, I had to finally admit that journeying deep into the wilderness while experiencing the classic signs of heart attack was probably too reckless even for the health-stoic likes of me.  I tend toward the "ignore it and it will probably go away" strategy of pain and illness management, but even I am not quite that irresponsible. I called the nurse and he all but dialed 911 for me.

So began a near-24 hour adventure, including the rather unexpected twist of being actually admitted into the hospital for an overnight stay.  Nothing like being hooked up to a heart monitor and sharing a nighttime check-up schedule with a roomie involving something or other every hour or so to really induce a good night's sleep.  

Luckily, I had something to look forward to:  an 8:30AM treadmill stress test!  Rip those wires off, change hospital gowns and run like hell!  Yahoo.  In all fairness, again, the heart institute folks were amazing - professional, funny, sensitive, and caring.  What more could you ask for?  They put my mind at ease and sent me back to my room to await discharge orders.

The good news - the ticker is just fine.  In fact my fitness scored on the high side.  A new routine to bring the blood pressure down and I should be A-OK.  Trying to keep it a little on the low key side for the next few days, however.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Oh yea

That's why we live here.

After a sweltering day, my visiting dad took us to dinner across the water at a Sound's edge restaurant.  We sipped and dined and indulged in chocolate and afterward lingered while the once per hour ferry made its way back to our side once again.  I watched it dock twice while relaxing over food and drink and tried hard to see the scene laid before me through the eyes I use to read of Greek isles and sleepy sea-drenched locales on the other side of the globe.  Are we really so different?

As the commercial might say:

Dinner at the waterfront restaurant?  Expensive (but admittedly I didn't pay)

Everything else?  Priceless.

Northwest Heat Wave

Here in the Puget Sound region, we are admittedly weather wimps.  We are truly pathetic when it comes to, well, really any temperature outside the 65' - 75' range.  We whine about how much it rains, but the minute it stops, our brows furrow.  

Hey, my flowers are all wilty!
This water bill is outrageous! 
My husband is cranky!

So, imagine the general malaise 'round our warmer-than-anywhere-on-the-island farm these past few - nearly record-breaking - days.  

Actually, we're managing better than could be expected, save, probably for me.  So, I am retreating into silence as much as possible to spare everyone else my ire.

Wherever you are these dog days of summer, I hope you are soaking it in and enjoying every minute.

The gauge on my porch says 98'!  

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Come visit me at Seattle Examiner!

I've just joined the legions of local "subject matter experts" on the Seattle version of as the Tacoma Healthy Food Examiner.  I'll be writing 4-5 brief posts each week on food, farming, the Tacoma culinary scene, and delicious ways to use what's fresh at your local farmers market now.

Follow the link below or go to and look for me in the Food and Drink channel.  Drop on by!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

What a farmers market feels like

At the height of summer, when it's really rockin', your local FM feels like a summer picnic where the best foods and all your friends come together and bask in sun and goodness...