Harvesting the Grapes

It seems as though I blinked and summer disappeared. Fall has arrived and that means harvesting all the hard work put in over the last few months.

Before digging up our own crop for this week’s dinner, we volunteered with Whidbey Island Winery to assist in harvesting their Siegerrebe and Angevine grapes out at French Road Farm. It was therapeutic work after sitting in front of a computer all week.

We arrived around 8:30 a.m. received a pair of clippers, a bucket and some basic instructions:

  • Keep the bucket close to the vines so you don’t lose grapes
  • Cut close as you can to the cluster of grapes
  • Don’t cut yourself with clippers

In about four hours we all harvested about 10,000 lbs of grapes that would be crushed after lunch.

The work was rewarding for me. Perhaps because I only had to harvest for half the day, but each bucket of grapes made me smile.

I loved the time in the vineyard and knowing that we had some small bit of sweat equity in what we will probably drink down the road.

The lunch and wine the winery provided didn’t hurt either, but just as rewarding was meeting people in our community who joined us in this endeavor.

Community. Wine. Food. Farm.

(and ocean and mountains)

It’s why we moved here all along.

Sound Goals: Prepping to swim Saratoga Passage

Prior to moving here I had some goals for myself: live healthier, hike, eat local, acquire outdoor hobbies to help that quest to live healthy….you get the idea.

After moving here, I signed up for an open water event in Lake Washington. I joined the Master Swim group here, trained and completed the course. It was amazing, but it fostered a new goal: swim one mile in the Sound comfortably by this summer.

Last summer I attempted to swim with an open water group here, but freaked out a little when I noticed the ocean floor visibility went a little cloudy. I maybe made it a quarter of a mile. But there was a part of that swim that was amazing. Seeing how clear the water is and the fish…

Today I’m participating in the Whidbey Adventure Swim for the 1.2 mile course in Saratoga Passage. I can swim a mile, but swimming in the Sound comes with a lot of other things to think of than swimming in the pool. I’m terribly nervous. Nervous about not seeing bigger sea life that may come toward me surprisingly, about the 55 degree temperature, being comfortable in my 7mm wetsuit…did I mention the cold? Then there’s the time requirement. I have to finish 1/2 the course in 30 minutes. In the pool, I have that covered, but in the ocean, depending on conditions. Not sure really.

So, here I go. Headed down to Langley’s Seawall Park. Wish me luck!

Tall ships along the water 

This week I caught a glimpse of the tall ships in their small parade of sails on their way to Tacoma for the Festival of Sails.

The parade of sail in North Puget Sound and the festival are intended to commemorate the 225th anniversary of Captain George Vancouver’s exploration of Puget Sound.

Getting ready for the worms

Yesterday we contemplated our farming dreams for next year, and today we started putting things in motion.

As we pick up our red worms in two weeks, today we installed our in-ground worm bin we bought from Bugabay. While Whidbey Island is known for being an agricultural gem, Greenbank’s soil, where we reside, is not the fertile easy digging variety like the land residing in Ebey’s Landing. Our soil is full of rock, or glacial till, as my husband informed me. 

The words “glacial till” sound way more graceful than what it actually is. Pardon my French, but glacial till is a stubborn bitch to dig and we had to dig 12 inches to get the appropriate depth. Between the two of us we were able to get it accomplished in a couple of hours, but it made me (and Josh) really grateful we only had to dig one hole.

After a run to grab some peat moss and manure from the farm supply store and filling in the sides of the bin, we were ready to place our first layer of food waste. It must’ve rung a dinner bell because one volunteer worm was already hanging outside the bin. He looked as though he may have had a fight with one of our shovels, so I tossed him inside in pity. I’m imagining worms aren’t territorial so hopefully he’ll get along fine with the others when they arrive in a couple of weeks.

It was a good afternoon worth of work, but as I looked around the reality of the work ahead is getting real. There is sod cutting the garden space, constructing the beds, prepping the chicken run and possibly adding to that run to host turkeys.

It all needs to be ready by January/February, but tonight we’ll continue our hobby farm debates as well as continue dreaming about what this place could be. 

It’s nice to start seeing that these dreams are on their way to becoming reality, one rocky shovel of soil at a time.

Farm dreaming on a fall day

Our friends left for the Coupeville ferry and we headed simg_4120outh of the island to the Bayview Farmer’s Market. Throughout the summer, I’ve been eyeing the BugaBay in-ground cedar worm bin and today I would bring one home!

I enjoy going to the farmers market not just to get additional veggies but to also talk to the farmers. Glendale Shepherd Farms was celebrating as their Tallulah won 1st Place  at the Washington Artisan Cheese Festival this week. You may recall I professed my love for Tallulah and sheep’s milk cheese after a tour of Glendale Shepherd Farms back in August. While I would’ve loved to have picked up some more Tallulah, I resisted and stuck with the worm bin and some veggies.

img_4123Teresa at BugaBay talked to us about the worm bin basics, provided us with a video and instructed us to get the worm bin in the ground and call her in two weeks to get our worms! We also chatted about the two sheep she and her husband are raising, my desire to own chickens, and discussed that dilemma around loving animals but also raising them for meat. Teresa gave us the number of her neighbor who raises chickens who she felt would be a good person to talk to about raising chickens.

After our farmer’s market stop, we headed to the co-op to refill our propane tanks and get some organic fertilizer. I was tempted as they had 1-week old baby chicks for sale! They were so cute and while we are nowhere near ready to have chickens, I wanted to bring them all home! It’s only October and I’m already looking forward to March/April when spring chicks will be available and we can begin raising chicks and planting our garden!

img_4122After seeing the turkeys at Prairie Bottom Farm, Josh has been talking about his desire to raise turkeys to sell for Thanksgiving next year. We dreamed a little today about how far we could take a hobby farm from veggies, to chickens and turkeys. Sheep? Could we pull off a couple of sheep too?

For now, we’ll just focus on getting our worm bin buried in the ground. After all, you can’t have any kind of farm if you don’t have good soil.

Hiking above the clouds

So here we are, October, which for Pac Northwesterners it means truly the first day of fall. And yesterday was a beautiful, sunny day for our final day of our PNW summer.

A couple of friends from Dallas were visiting, and with the sun shining I was hoping we’d get good views of the Olympic Mountains from the Bluff Trail at Ft. Ebey State Park. Upon arrival at the trail head, it was obvious no views were to be had as a crazy thick fog seemed to be covering most of the Sound.

img_4097As we climbed along the bluff and up to Ft. Ebey, the sun was beaming brightly and it appeared we were just above the clouds at one point. The last time I had seen something like this was when Josh and I drove into the Andes to the Chilean border.

Yes, it was a perfect final PNW summer day.



Veggies, turkeys and a tiny bit of conflict

img_4057A couple of months back I already shared that CSA Day was my favorite day of the week but the reality is that fall is here and tomorrow is the official last day of summer here in the Pacific Northwest. October arrives and we are told to expect wet and cloudy weather from here on out until the spring, so I’m savoring every veggie pick up day and every farmers market.

This week we cam home with some lemon squash which I’m excited about tasting. The size of the squash available this week was massive, but I’m not a believer that bigger is always better, so I stuck with the more manageable small guys. With that said, walking into the barn and seeing the monster squash does make me pretty excited.

We lingered a little bit on the farm this time around. Picking beautiful purple Dahlia’s and Swiss chard for our u-pick items and then marking our pumpkin which we will pick up on the last day of the CSA….but we won’t talk about that right now.

The turkeys on the farm are getting bigger. We sat and watched them run back and forth discussing with Jess, one of the girls who works the farm, how they’ve fared with their chickens and turkeys this year. We’ve already put down our deposit on one of those birds who will find itself on our table for Thanksgiving. I enjoy knowing where my food is coming from, but I have to admit that I feel a tiny bit guilty being entertained by these feathery, quirky creatures and knowing that one of them is going to be dinner.

img_4061With that said, this is part of the reality. While these are cute creatures, they are food. This is the circle of life, especially on a farm. Living in the city, I did realize that the meat I was buying was once a live, thriving animal. I tell my vegetarian friends that while I’m going to eat meat, it is important to me that my meat was happy, running around in the sun during the duration of its life. But now, I see the chicken, turkey, cow or pig that may end up as part of a meal on my plate and as an animal lover, that can be conflicting sometimes.

I’m planning on raising our own chickens for eggs by next spring, and while I’m not raising them for meat, there will come a time when those chickens don’t lay eggs anymore and I’ll have to decide if my egg endeavor is a hobby farm operation or are those girls going to eventually be additional pets for the Peters pack.

Going to the farm each week is therapeutic for me for many reasons. It gets me out of my office at the beginning of the week, we get to meet fellow CSA shareholders and it’s probably going to prepare me for having a few farm animals of our own.



It’s a dog (beach) life

I didn’t get my ocean view, but I do get to find the ocean and that can mean heading with Moonpie and the Lady Labs to Double Bluff Dog Beach.

The ocean has always been special to me, but add our pups to the scene and it is pure joy. Watching the girls run up and down the beach at full blast makes us laugh every time.

The one member of the pack that surprises us the most on our trips to Double Bluff is Moonpie. img_3481When we left Texas, Moonpie had been suffering from arthritis and seemed to not be into life at all. She’s our oldest dog at 13, but she may be our favorite (sshhhh….don’t tell the Lady Labs).

Since moving here, Moonpie has seemed to come into her second wind. She’s spunky, demands treats and she heards the Lady Labs all around the back yard. She loves running the trails at the Greenbank dog park and here on the beach.

Life is good if you are a Moonpie. And why wouldn’t it, when you have beach, salty Sound waters of the Salish Sea and mountains beckoning you to run.

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Falling in love with sheep cheese

The Whidbey Island Chapter for Slow Food offers a variety of activities from jam workshops, to farm tours and potluck dinners. Since we are a foodie at heart in love with eating slow food, it seemed like a good fit and a way to meet like minded people.

My favorite Slow Food Whidbey event so far is the tour of Glendale Shepherd Farm. I had seen the folks at Glendale Shepherd at the Bayview Farmer’s Market and even purchased some of their cheese, but the tour, which included a wine and cheese tasting made me a sheep cheese fan girl. Walking their farm up and down toward the high cliff coastline looking over to the mainland was beautiful. Their 60 milking sheep have space to roam and graze on land with fantastic water views. Happy sheep make for happy cheese is what I learned.

While the Island Brebis is the cheese that has given them a claim to fame winning awards in the past, but the Tallulah is my favorite.  Tallulah is a mild cheese with a creamy center and on the outside boasts a nutty rind.

There was mention that the sheep were soon coming to the end of their milking time, which means Tallulah is coming to the end of the season. I will definitely be heading to the Bayview Farmer’s Market each Saturday to make sure I have the opportunity for another taste.

In just a couple of months, winter will arrive and the markets will close until May. It seems so far away, the end of October, but I know it will be here before we know it. And then, all my favorite things will be gone until spring.



The recycling dilemma

We’ve been on the island for almost two months now and haven’t taken one thing to one of the four recycling centers on the island. It’s embarrassing, and frankly it had become a problem in our garage. Is this box something that needs to be unpacked? Nope, just recycling waiting to find its home.

Recycling in the city is pretty simple. Paper, plastic, newspaper, aluminum…all of it…just put it into the big blue bin and roll it out with the trash bin on trash day. Here on the island, not so.

A week after our arrival, I searched for the nearest recycling location and reviewed the rules: sort glass bottles by color, separate cardboard and flatten, rinse all cans and bottles, remove paper from tin cans and flatten….by all means separate everything. This tended to give me a little anxiety about doing this all right.

Flatten the tin cans? I stared at the two bags of cans, mostly dog food cans and made attempts to flatten them with a hammer, with my foot…nope, not going to happen. From there I went to Ace Hardware in search for a sledge hammer. Standing in the tool section staring at the 10 different sledge hammers available, I must have looked stressed or perhaps it was because I’d been standing there for 30 minutes, but I was offered help.

“It’s this recycling thing. I have to flatten the cans? It says here, I have to flatten these cans. How do I do this? I’m thinking a sledge hammer, but surely there is an easier way.”

img_3242The sales associate looked humored or possibly just thought I was crazy. She let me know that I didn’t need to flatten cans as the website instructed and she was sorry that I didn’t need a sledgehammer today after all.

So I went back to the house, sorted my recyclables, loaded up my car and found my way down to Island Recycling in Freeland. I had imagined large industrial bins, but instead found a collage of recycled goods turned into art. This eased my recycle anxiety a bit.

As I began to unload my car, I received a couple of strange looks. Yes, this is my first time doing this recycling thing in the country. Yes, I’m from the city. Yes, I may need help. They guided me through the process, reminding me that lids in no way go on the plastic bottles, as if I needed a reminder because there were signs posted all around me.

An hour later, my recycling had been placed in all the appropriate bins, without lids and paper wrappers and I didn’t even have to crush those pesky cans.