Monday, August 24, 2015

old friends, new places

An old high school friend came to visit us recently. She'd never been to the West Coast. So we showed her a classic PNW time, Sinn-style: a little coast, a little flowers, a little ethnic food, & lot of garden freshness on the farm.
We spent a day at Newport, strolling the boardwalk, watching the fishmongers, window shopping.

I took her to see a light house: all we did was see it, because it was so windy & foggy. You can just barely see the light house below. That's the Oregon Coast for ya: in Newport it was sunny & just a little breezy, five miles up the coast it was Cape Foulweather in every sense of the word.
Most of our time we spent at home though. Such is life with a five month old:). We did make potstickers to celebrate her Chinese heritage...and because we love Asian food:).
We raided the Tom & Edith Sinn Wonder Garden for a stirfry to go along with the potstickers. My friend was in awe of their garden. And the general agriculture of the area. It's not just corn & beans here! They were harvesting cauliflower, beans, & onions while she was here. It takes a Midwest person aback to see heads of cauliflower getting chucked into the wagon instead of soybeans.

She got in on some canning, too. Everyone should have green-bean-canning on their resume.
Dar loves dill beans, & since I had an extra set of hands, we went ahead & made a dozen pints.

I don't you think I worked her too hard?

We also went to a dahlia farm, but they weren't in full bloom yet. The few blooms out there were gorgeous though! I'm planning to go back soon, when the fields will be one brilliant sea of color. 
She did so good with Fiona & Livy. She has a tender heart & has been through a lot. 
Her story isn't mine to share, but she's had heartaches in her young life most of us can't imagine. It was so sweet & encouraging to see that she can still enjoy life & have a positive outlook despite them. 

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

farm life update no. 8

The past few years of harvest had been pretty low key for me: I went & helped in the field, but only for a few hours at a time. I enjoyed seeing the process, meeting the workers, seeing the berries come in. Last summer, I worked full-time at Willamette Valley Pie, so I was rarely in the field. This year, I found out how crazy harvest can really be! 

We harvested our blackberry field for the first time; this was Dar's field, so it was all on him. He had to make all the decisions & organize the crews & make sure everything was on track. His dad is always there to ask questions & he helps so much-we couldn't do it without him!-but it was still a lot more stress than either of us had felt the last few harvests. 

That said, (and a few weeks after the really crazy busyness), I did enjoy it. I'm glad, SO glad, it's almost over, but I enjoyed the opportunity to be there in the field.
Dar hadn't been planning on picking the blackberries for fresh market, but one of his cousins that works for a company that packs out fresh berries asked if he'd be willing to try it out for a day because they had some big orders to fill. Dar tried it. He asked if I could come help count out clamshells & hand out crates to the fieldworkers & keep track of how much was picked. I did, blissfully unaware that for the next ten days, that was going to be our life. I was counting clamshells in my sleep!
It was pretty cool to see the berries go straight into the container they were going to be in when purchased by the customer. As many berries as we picked, thousands & thousands of pounds, I'm curious to see how big of a chunk of Oregon's grocery store's fresh blackberries we supplied...

Really, though, I am grateful. Prices for fresh market berries are much higher than for machine-picked berries, which go into IQF packs, purees, juices, jams, etc. We got to work side-by-side part of the time. I got to see Dar in his element, reaping the benefits of the two years of work he'd put into this field. The fieldworkers are mostly migrant Hispanic workers, (all are Hispanic, but not all migrant), so I got to learn some Spanish. I had to pull up Google translate a few times, but by the end, I was able to roughly communicate. Berry words are all I know though! I can tell you not to pick soft berries & ask you how many crates you picked, but that's about it:).  
There was a neat sense of camaraderie out in the field: I learned to appreciate their hard work ethic. It was hot & dusty work. They'd start at 5:30 & pick til 12 sometimes. Oregon's been very, very dry, & the dust was so deep, I'd leave footprints an inch down. The berry canes were wild & grew in a canopy over the rows, so at least there was some shade! I even got there & picked a few crates when things were slow. 
Fiona was a jewel throughout this whole time of craziness. Grandma Sinn was there, as always, to step in & watch her when I was working. I missed her-in her short life, we'd never been apart for more than a few hours! And I'm grateful for that too, that usually, I don't have to work & can be at home with her.
We are done with fresh market berries now though. The rest of the field will just be machine-picked. And that only has to be done once a week & at night, so Dar has slowed way down, too. 
It has been a crazy harvest. I finally feel like I'm getting my thoughts back to coherency after all that. Next year, I'll be a little more prepared for weeks of rushing around, counting clamshells, & I'll have some meals in the freezer. 
But like I said before, I am grateful for the harvest. It was a good year. God took care of us above & beyond what I was expecting, financially, physically, mentally. As He always does! 
But I'm still glad it's nearly over;)!