Monthly Archives: June 2014

Athens Sisters Tame the Wild West

I had to go to Portland on Thursday because I’ve been accepted into Oregon Humanities’ Conversation Project roster. More on that in a future post! After I put this in my calendar a couple of months ago, my sister called to see if she could visit the same weekend, as it’s right before her birthday. At first I thought it wouldn’t work, but then …

“Why don’t you meet me in Portland, and we’ll drive out together?”

So, she did! She hasn’t been in Eastern Oregon much, so we made a lot of stops. The first was supposed to be The Dalles, but on the way I realized we were passing Mosier. Mosier + Summer = Cherries. Change of plans!

Good day for driving

Good day for driving

Cherries!

Cherries!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I love that Mosier has this roadside stand, from which they peddle mountains of cherries in little paper sacks. I bought a pound of Bings and a pound of Rainiers. I took a few steps and realized that was not nearly enough, turned around, and bought an additional four pounds!

When we finally hit The Dalles, we were ready for lunch at the Baldwin Saloon. Whenever I go to Portland I gorge myself on Japanese and Indian food, and any kind of seafood. Wallowa County is great for local meat (especially grass-fed beef), handmade chocolates, and rye whiskey, but has some gaps in its repertoire. So the obvious choice was the bouillabaisse.

We stopped in to say hi at Klindt’s Booksellers, where I signed copies of Get Your Pitchfork On! at last year’s book fair, and found my book in their front window display! Pretty great.

Yum

Yum

Klindt's Booksellers

Klindt’s Booksellers!

Two hours later: Pendleton. I passed the drive-time singing along to old cassette tapes, and was glad to take a break to show Linda the requisite sights of the site of Ye Olde Round-up.

Hamley's, of course

Giant cowboy boot in front of Hamley’s, of course

By the time we got to La Grande, almost everything was closed! We walked up and down Adams and pressed on–we were starting to want to get to our destination. The drive into the Wallowa Valley was marvelous. It’s fun to share such a beautiful place with someone you love. Happy birthday, Linda!

The remnants of the road trip

Remnants of the road trip

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Dust

I had a little time off from school, so I made a beeline for my other desk—the one where I make collage artwork. I hadn’t visited it since January, when I made some valentines for my Etsy site. Our household was in dire need of new thank-you cards, and I was more than happy to do something that did not involve a computer.

I noticed that everything on my desk had a fine layer of dust on it. I opened a drawer and found that everything in it had a fine layer of dust as well. I laughed—even down in the basement, where we hardly go, there is dust!

Living in the country means living with dust. I knew that from being in the Columbia River Gorge. In Get Your Pitchfork On!, I talk about the cloud of dust that careened toward our house every time our neighbors went up or down their driveway. It’s compounded on this, the “dry” side of the state.

This was the best demonstration I could provide ... we just had a few rainy days

This was the best demonstration I could provide … we just had a few rainy days!

During our first warm spell, the people from whom we’re renting this house sent us a note explaining where to install the air-conditioner unit, which is in storage next to the furnace. “It helps keep the dust down,” they said.

Mike and I are not fans (pun intended) of air conditioners. We will open all the windows, except those facing the road, and just keep wiping it off. I do worry about our electronic devices, but what is the point of summer weather if you can’t have fresh air?

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New Shelf Talkers

I was buying some books for grad school at The Bookloft, when I suddenly had an idea. Tourists who come to Wallowa County over the summer and get romantic notions about moving to the country are great candidates for my book. How could I get them to notice it?

“Would you be willing to put up a shelf-talker for Get Your Pitchfork On?” I asked Mary, the owner.

“Sure!” she said. “I’ve already moved it up here.” She pointed to a special display for books written by local writers. I’m officially a local!

I went home and re-configured a flier I use for farmers markets, et voilá!

TheBookLoftGYPO

In case your micro-vision isn’t what it used to be, the headline reads: “Want to move to the country? Read this book first!”

Just wish I’d thought of it sooner! If you want one to bring to your local bookstore, gardening store, feed store, or any store that carries books, please contact me with your mailing address at kristy @ kristyathens.com. I’ll send one and include a small gift for you!

And keep shopping at those independent bookstores! None of this would have happened on Amazon.com.

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Cottage Industry Laws

One sunny morning last autumn I went to the farmers’ market for pumpkins, eggs, and whatever vegetables were still available at this, the final market of the season. One of the more prominent booths, Magic Garden, featured friendly elderly ladies offering produce, dried herbs, and a dozen different types of relishes and sauces in home-canning jars.

“We can do this now,” one of them said brightly while passing her arm above the display, “thanks to that new law.”

Magic Garden market booth

Magic Garden market booth

The law to which the vendor referred was Oregon HB 2336, signed in 2011 and implemented in January 2012, which allows farmers to process their own produce in a limited number of ways, and then sell directly to consumers in a farmers’ market setting. Previously, the canning would have been required to occur in a licensed commercial kitchen.

I talk about value-added products in Get Your Pitchfork On! and in a blog post—it’s a great way to improve one’s profit margin and reduce food waste from spoilage.

The Magic Garden is an effort of the local Methodist church to provide a farm-to-school experience for the students of Joseph Charter School. They function solely with volunteer work and donations; all of the proceeds from the market booth go directly to the cost of seeds, infrastructure and other materials. None of the wares at the market were technically for sale; any money given by customers was donated.

Until HB 2336 became law, the Magic Garden’s offerings were limited to excess unprocessed vegetables that hadn’t been fed to the schoolchildren. Once it was legal to process the produce, volunteer gardeners gleaned their plot more heavily, wasting less edible material and increasing the amount of money they could raise for the organization.

Gleaner's Relish

Gleaner’s Relish

Similarly, HB 2872 loosened the restrictions on small and medium-sized farms that raise poultry for slaughter. Farmers may now sell up to one thousand poultry (chickens, geese, ducks, turkeys, or guinea fowl) directly to consumers, exempt from Oregon Department of Agriculture fees and continuous USDA inspection.

These two recently passed laws make it easier for small and mid-sized farmers to sell their produce and, thereby, make a living (though their income from such is capped at $20,000). Most states also have a version of this law on the books. This type of legislation begins to address the inequities in agriculture policy that are rife in the United States. Current USDA policy, most notably under the “Farm Bill,” directs most of its support and subsidies to international corporations. The policies of the past forty years have left smaller operations struggling to make ends meet, resulting in a lost heritage—younger generations are encouraged to leave farming as their career and consumers lose their contact with the sources of their food—as well as a lost quality of food. The prospect of state-level exemptions and other legislative strategies that temper the inequities codified by federal law are an important step toward reforming the Farm Bill itself.

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Mother Earth News Fair

Where can you find a blacksmith, a bunch of baby pigs, mushroom kits, ten different breeds of herding dog, a lamb-butchering demonstration, a portable sawmill, and me? Puyallup!

The Mother Earth News has been around since the previous wave of back-to-the-landers hit the ground, in the early 1970s. Since then they’ve been giving people advice about self-reliance and rural living, and keeping old traditions alive. They are best known for their magazine, but they also host four fairs every year, in Kansas, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Puyallup, Washington. For the last two years, I’ve gotten to take part in the Washington fair by presenting the companion workshop to my book, which I call “Get Your Country On!” (Sense a theme?)

The fair is a great outing—big enough that there is variety and small enough that you can take everything in. You have to plan your workshop time carefully, however, as there are a number of competing stages. I found myself catching half of a lot of them so I could cover more ground. I learned about selling rabbit (not regulated by the USDA as meat!), heritage pig breeds, the health benefits of raw milk, and how Americans are unduly obsessed with marbling in beef.

Friends from Seattle met me there, one of whom is three years old. This boy had a great time checking out the llamas, poultry, sheep, goats, and other animals. He was especially fond of the Deere.

Piglets!

Piglets!

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Tiny boy, big tractor

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After taking a hiatus from public appearances due to my current remote location and graduate studies, it felt good to talk with people about moving to the country again. I love hearing their dreams and plans, and giving them ideas to hopefully make them even better prepared. And I was very happy to update my slideshow to include the fact that I now live in Wallowa County!

Pre-show audience

Pre-show audience

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For those of you who were at the presentation yesterday, here is the link to my Big R blog post, so you can enjoy the photos that you missed when my slideshow crapped out!

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