Sunday, March 6, 2011

A Little History

My favorite school picture of myself was taking when I was 7 years old. I didn't have glasses yet (I made poor glasses choices in my early years - and there's no way around that in the school pictures). We had a cool forested background instead of the standard mottled blue or grey. I don't know how it happened because my mom was a teacher at my school and would have known it was picture day, but instead of wearing a "picture outfit" I'm wearing a red t-shirt emblazoned with "Seattle's Child", which is a very long running liberal parenting publication in my hometown.

I love that picture because I was such a Seattle kid and so strongly self-identified with hometown. I still do in many ways, but after 26 years living there (which is a stretch because technically I was gone for college) I moved to....Tacoma. If you are from Seattle or Tacoma you understand the long running prejudices, rivalries, and attitudes between these two places and I will admit that I was guilty of many of them. My Seattle friends thought I'd lost my mind and moved to the hinterlands, but I'd finished school, met this guy Eric, and been offered a job, and all roads pointed to Tacoma so off I went. Eric and I ended getting married, and I still have my job, so it all worked out well. I also grew to love a lot about Tacoma, despite my Seattle background, but now I don't live in either city.

I live in Puyallup. Yes...we have a big fair.

Puyallup is where Eric grew up, and we were very fortunate to be able to build (well, he built) a house on the land where he did. It's a great house, and I will forever be impressed with and grateful to him for designing and building it. We did not plan to stay for very long, but we had the Magpie, and the real estate market tanked, and it's still a great house (really, it's red, and it feels like a treehouse), so here we are. Some benefits of this include:

1) We live close to some of Eric's oldest friends.
2) We have a fantastic wine shop.
3) We have a great seasonal farmers market and all kinds of local food options, including the 20-plus year of organic CSA of which we were members for almost 3 years.

That last one brings to me the best thing that living in Puyallup has done for me.

I was pretty much drowning in cruddy black plastic nursery pots because one of the not great things about Puyallup is our terrible curbside recycle program, which does not even accept glass and still won't take most plastics (really, in 2011?). Technically this is Pierce County's problem, but still, it's ridiculous and frustrating. Point being, I couldn't bear to throw the things away and asked some really nice guys's we'd met who were selling potted plants at the farmers market if they'd be able to re-use them. They agreed, but I think they thought I was talking about 20 or 30 pots and when I showed up with 100s of them I am pretty sure they just took them all to be nice. But it started a friendship that lead to this amazing opportunity for our family.

First, the guys ask if we'd be interesting in helping them butcher some lambs. Actually, the first question was "You like lamb, right?" to which we answered YES, we served it at our wedding and only people who REALLY like lamb would do that. So, yes, we like and yes, Eric grew up on a farm and has been around butchering and of course, we are interested because I'm obsessed with reading about food and food issues and locovorism and knowing where you meat comes from and on and on and so yes, we'd like to do that.

So we did. Actually, Eric did. I had the baby Magpie, but I watched and brought food for the crew and oh my goodness we'd never had lamb so delicious. And we knew exactly how they'd lived, died, and been broken down, all of which were far better than anything you'd see at the local grocery. Any time these guys wanted help we'd do it. And we did. Not just us, my dad helped with turkeys. Eric helped with lambs. They also had a pretty amazing garden space, both flowers for market and a bounty of vegetables, so I "helped" by taking god knows how many pounds of tomatos and winging some frozen sauce (can you say lambsagna? I sure can).

Anyhow, fast forward to early last year when we signed up with some other great people to experiment with the idea of having the guys host a small farm co-op. Small like 10 people (including my parents), but bears no resemblance to our group ambition, eventual garden space, zucchini production, or our big ideas about PIGS. Oh, the pigs...a well-meaning idea that will not be repeated, not that I'm the least bit unhappy about the 10 lbs of home-made pancetta in my freezer. The co-op, which I usually just call the Farm, has been amazing. Great friends, awesome food, one learning experience after another, and the most fantastic place ever for the Magpie.

I did a terrible job of documenting year 1 at the farm. I have pictures, most of which are still on our camera, but I did not stick to my Picasa program so perhaps I'll post a few history pictures soon. A great part of this blog is to document year 2.

This year we will be smarter.

This year will be easier.

This year no bigs, and less zucchini.

And perhaps more wine (bottled some today).

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