"United we bargain, divided we beg."

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Throwback Thursday Post from the Past

So I found a to-do list from about this time of year 2010. It's really funny how similar it is to the list I posted yesterday.

SUNDAY, MARCH 28, 2010

To-Do List: 3/10

In order of immediacy, more or less:

- Take a sample of Iris the goat's diarrhea in to the vet for microscopic analysis. She's had serious scours for four or five days now, and she's only eight days out from giving birth to triplets. This is the goat who had a hard time keeping the weight on while she was pregnant - I fed her and fed her but by the end of her pregnancy she was skin and bones nonetheless. She is a star milker - she produces well over a gallon of milk a day and in order to do that, she needs to be in prime condition. If she's losing tons of nutrients and losing hydration due to chronic diarrhea, well, that's just not a sustainable situation. I could concievably lose four goats - Iris and all three triplets. None of the other goats have scours, so I don't know what's going on.

- Fix the washing machine. It's broke again. I swear, I will never again buy a high tech, fancy-schmancy appliance if I can help it. I'm looking for appliances from the seventies - or better yet, the fifties - back when they made things to last. Go ask your grandma how long she's had her blender. If it's less than forty years I'll eat my hat. Even I, who am still under forty years old, had the same washer, dryer, and refrigerator for all fifteen years I lived in my old house in the city. I move up here, decide to buy all new appliances, and they've all broken down - some of them twice. Planned obsolescence. Please, industrial engineers, give it at least five years on a big appliance like a washing machine before it goes kaput. Less than that, and you just erode product loyalty.

- Fences. Oh my god, fences. Fencing is neverending. Never. Ending. The main culprit now is Poppy pony - she has completely mashed down the field fencing between her paddock and the main paddock. The fence is now about two feet high. I don't even know if it's salvageable, or if we just need to cut it out and replace with new fencing. And if we replace it, with what? What I would theoretically like is fences like my sister and brother-in-law have: split rail wooden fences reinforced with field fencing so it works for both horses and goats. However, they have a paddock about fifty by fifty feet: I have over two thousand linear feet of fencing. Homero could do it - in ten years. We could hire it done - for twenty grand. Solution eludes me right now.

- Buy more hay. The grass is growing now, but I don't want my animals to eat it to a nub before it really gets started. One more pick-up load of hay - say, twenty five bales. That ought to bring us into prime grass season. The last hay we bought was total crap. I sent Homero to pick it up, and he knows nothing about how to evaluate hay. It's not his fault. But if I had gone myself, I wouldn't have bought it. It's mostly timothy, stemmy, dry, and not a hint of green in it. We are basically using it for bedding. The hay we bought before that was fabulous hay - alfalfa and orchard grass mix, third cutting, green as grass. The goats tore into it like it was chocolate laced with crack cocaine. I want more of that.

- Garden work. Homero plowed up a gigantic garden and has basically ignored it ever since (a big "I told you so" is choking me right now. Gakh - Hack - Haaawwk- ok I'm fine now). Now we have a thousand square feet of garden space which is rapidly growing grass, clover, burdock, thistles, and blackberries. I have hand-cultivated and planted a few rows here and there - spinach and swiss chard, forty row feet of potatoes, some italian parsley - but the great majority of it is going to waste unless it is either planted or mulched, fast.

Oh there's most likely a lot more, but just writing this much has worn me out.


Monday, March 23, 2015

Work Pile

There is so much work piled up around the farm that I figured I had better make a list. Not that I'm likely to forget what needs doing, since it's mostly all of the variety that you SEE when you LOOK AROUND, but even so. Lists are helpful. Helpful in putting off the actual work.

Since the weather turned about two weeks ago, we seem to have regressed back into late winter. After a sunny, dry February, we have been not-so-much enjoying a cold, wet March. It's back to mud boots and puddles, and I am feeling smugly superior to all those people who gave into temptation and planted their garden a month ago, only to watch it all rot in the ground. I can afford to feel superior, because I have been those people, every year except this one.

Mud boots and slickers; gloves and hats are once again required gear for venturing out. So, most of the outdoor work has to wait for a dry spell, but here we go, in no particular order:

1. muck out the barn. The animals don't like the rain, so they spend all day in the barn, which means it quickly gets disgusting. I ran out of straw a week ago (subheading

                 a) get more straw

    and so the barn floor is a thick compressed four inches of poop and old straw. It will soon be too                 compacted for me to move, so either I do it soon, or add it to Homero's list of chores, which is far longer than my own.

2.  Repair chicken coop. This is actually a fairly small job, although difficult for me as it involves climbing onto a roof. We just need to pick up the shattered remains of the plastic corrugated roofing (blew apart in a windstorm) and replace with corrugated tin roofing - already bought and stored right in the coop itself. Without a roof, the coop is just a swamp and the chickens have been roosting in the hayloft. Which means I have to convince a child to climb the ladder into the loft to gather eggs about once a week. I no longer climb into the loft. Not until we get a better ladder, anyway.

3. Dump run of historic proportions.  Homero recently cleaned out his shop. In a big way. In addition to removing the enormous stack of wood and building materials that are all that is left of our cute little cabin (story for another day), he also removed approximately 7,000 hefty bags worth of trash and assorted refuse, much of which is stuff we stored in the shop when we lived in Mexico a couple years ago (NewtoMexicanLife.blogspot.com) and never brought back into the house. Mostly books and clothes, but more than likely a few valuable items like photos and journals are also now mouldering in the rain alongside the fence, which is where the 7,000 hefty bags are resting, awaiting their final transport to that great refuse heap in the sky. Or, you know, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. 
   
       
4. Strawberry Patch - as mentioned above, I have done almost nothing in the garden this year so far. I have some starts going in the greenhouse, but no work has been done outside. A few days ago, a good friend gave me a trash-bag full of strawberry starts, and I would like to get them into the ground soon.  My garden space is slowly undergoing a transformation from a regular mostly-annuals kitchen garden into a perennial garden, full of raspberry canes, rhubarb, artichokes, asparagus beds (soon), and strawberries. Hopefully the rain will let up soon and we can get the strawberries into the ground.

5. Hoof trimming. Seems like it's always hoof-trimming time.

6. House projects - this is really Homero's purview, but my part of this work is to keep a running tab on what needs to be done; to budget for it; to gently remonstrate with Homero, and to prioritize. I'm not even going to go into that list here (plumbing projects, rot-repair, weatherstripping repair, etc) but just say that this list takes a psychic toll on me because I usually eventually have to threaten to call professionals and try to balance the relative importance of marital harmony against, oh, say, a working shower.

7. Fencing. I still have most of the cattle panels I bought last fall when we had some cash. We did the cheap and dirty thing by just using some of them to patch droopy spots in the field fencing. One of the larger projects that awaits drier days in actually removing and re-positioning all the cattle panels so as to make a real, continuous fenceline.

That's enough for now. Right at the moment, my regular daily work awaits - I need to move the ponies, milk the goat, and make dinner.


Sunday, March 8, 2015

Nettle Season (Copycat Cheese)

Today was a beautiful unseasonably warm day for March. I think it was 60 degrees. We took the kids down to the beach, where it was warm enough for them to roil up their pant-sleeves and squish around in the cool mud, turning over rocks and looking for crabs and limpets.

It was more than warm enough for me to move some dirt around and plant some things in the garden - radishes, arugula, peas, even potatoes - but I have been sinfully lazy. In fact a large part of the reason we went to the beach is so I wouldn't have to feel guilty for not working in the garden.

Much easier than shovel-work is scissors-work: in the afternoon, after we got home from the bay, I took a pair of kitchen gloves, a pair of scissors, and a big brown paper bag and went out to the field to harvest nettles. In the past, I have usually used the nettles to make Avgolemono Soup, but this year I decided to make nettle cheese.

On the way to the bay, there is a wonderful local cheese maker, Samish Bay cheese.  They sell their beautiful cow's milk cheese at local farmer's markets,. and they are justly locally famous for their Ladysmith Cheese, Gouda flavored with Caraway, and Jalapeño Queso Fresco. They also have a seasonable fresh cheese, available for just a few months each year, flavored with nettles.

I adore stinging nettles. Well, let me amend that statement just a little - I love eating stinging nettles; I do not love accidentally wading into a patch of them in capri-pants. Stinging nettles are a wild child's nemesis - lying in wait along roadside ditches and fence-lines to attack the unwary. The merest brush of the dusty green leaves against bare skin causes a sting that lasts hours - not for nothing is this plant's name is Spanish "Mala Mujer."

However, the sting is easily removed by drying or by blanching for even a few seconds in boiling water. I put a full kettle on to boil, place the nettles in a colander in the sink, and trickle the boiling water over the nettles. Let sit for five minutes, then rinse with cold water and squeeze to remove excess water. Then they are ready to be used as food or medicine. Many herbalists consider the nettle to be a near- panacea (see, for example http://www.herballegacy.com/Vance_Medicinal.html) and I certainly can't quibble. But there is no doubt as to nettle's nutritional qualities.



Plus, they are just plain delicious. They taste like a blend of spinach and asparagus. They have a full, soft texture and a wonderful mouth-feel. They are one of those foods that you can feel make you stronger and healthier as you eat them.

Tonight, I am going to try making my own version of Samish Bay's nettle cheese. I am making my basic cheddar recipe, but in the second pressing I will add the finely chopped nettles along with the salt. Of course, I am working with goat milk instead of cow's milk, and also my cheese is made from raw milk whereas their's is pasteurized. I expect it to be delicious. I'll let you know.



Sunday, March 1, 2015

State of the Farm, Early Spring 2015

This has been, nearly, a year without a winter. We had a hard freeze and a few inches of snow way back in November, and several frosts over the months, but generally speaking it has been one of the warmest winters in recent memory. The local snowpack is at historic lows: about 30% of normal in the north cascades and less than 12% of normal in the Olympics and Vancouver Island. Everyone is expecting a protracted drought this summer and water restrictions.

Once again I have failed to make use of my several 275 gallon totes, which were originally purchased to store the spring rains for the dry season, for use in the garden. I still have not (after five years) set up a system to collect rainwater from the roof. Here's what I do have: a gigantic plastic cone, purchased from the vet for my long-gone standard collie. I'm thinking I can still set it into the opening on top of a tote and use it as a kind of enormous funnel. At the moment, the totes (those that have not been appropriated by my husband for his biodiesel manufacturing or for waste-oil storage) are sitting uselessly about, cluttering up the landscape.



Lancelot



This is just about the earliest spring anyone can remember. A wasp was blundering about inside the greenhouse shortly after New Years. I saw a honeybee in the first half of February. The first Killdeer's piercing cry was heard on January 31st (I made a note of it), and the choir frogs, known locally as Peepers, began to sing weeks ago.




Walking  around downtown some ten days ago, I saw crocuses and daffodils. One house, for an unknown reason advanced in springtime beyond its neighbors, even had a rhododendron in full bloom. 




Rhodedendrons are strange plants - I have a whole hedge of them, some fifteen completely mature bushes, and they are individually glorious, but I've never understood why their bloom times are so widely staggered. The first two, with delicate deep purple flowers, are blooming now, albeit mostly still in bud. The others - scarlet, white, mauve, and coral - bloom at odd intervals anytime between now and early June. It's nice to have an unending procession of flowers, but quite mystifying as well. Personally I would never have planted Rhodies - they are very poisonous to livestock - but I'm certainly not going to tear out a whole bunch of forty-year old, spectacular bushes. 

I was almost too late to prune the fruit trees. The buds were already swollen. You can actually prune at any time, it's only a courtesy to the trees to do it while they are dormant. Since I only lop off a few little suckers here and there (I am a very timid pruner) I figured I might as well wait until the juicy buds would provide a snack for the goats. After a long winter on a pure hay diet they appreciate the woody browse.  The buds on my orchard have not yet opened, but the ornamental cherries in town are a snowy mass of blossom. 

It is time to exert myself in there garden, if I plan to have a garden this year, which is something I have not yet decided. On the one hand, I have had some sort of garden every year since I was seventeen and I would hardly know who I was if I didn't poke a few seeds into the ground. On the other hand, I barely have time to wipe my nose after I sneeze these days, what with my new job (medical interpreter) and my volunteer duties. The Gleaner's Pantry  provides us with as much fresh produce as we can possibly eat. If it isn't as fresh as it would be from my own garden, well, neither does it require as much backbreaking work with a shovel. Right now on my stove there simmers a stew made with chickpeas from my pantry and kale, tomatoes, onions, garlic, and bell peppers from the Gleaner's. It is hard to justify the work and time to put in vegetables when I can have as many as I want for basically free. 

Actually, I have already started a tiny little garden. Two weeks ago, during the warm spell, Paloma had a friend over and she brought her little sisters. I amused the girls by bringing a half a dozen egg cartons out to the greenhouse and letting them fill them with sifted compost and plant a packet of sugar snap peas. They are just emerging now. In another week or so I will tear the carton into its component compartments and plant them directly into the dirt. I also filled up a couple of wooden planters and sowed them with arugula, which is already knuckle-high. Who am I kidding? There will be a garden here as usual. 

Let's see, other spring news.... I walked the pasture perimeter yesterday and saw that if I want to harvest nettles this year now's the time. Nettles are delicious - they make the most wonderful soup ((Stinging Nettle Soup (Wild Spring)) and I've heard they also make great pesto and tea, though I couldn't testify to that. 

With only one doe milking, I am not making a lot of cheese, but what there is is good. On the porch outside the kitchen I have a few planters full of herbs, and the clump of chives is up and green. To me there are few tastes as evocative of spring as green, oniony chives. I snipped a handful and chopped them fine and added them to some freshly made chèvre, and then I sat down and ate an unholy quantity spread on plain crackers, with red grapes. 

I love Springtime. 



















Saturday, January 31, 2015

The Worst Job on the Farm (Disbudding)



Meet the littlest baby goat. Flopsy gave birth just a week or so after Polly, who lost both babies
Sad Day (Breeding Gone Awry)) because we didn't know she had got pregnant so early and also because she can apparently hide twins in her belly and still look like a caprine supermodel. After that sad day, of course I kept a sharp eye on the other goats, and so we had plenty of time to lock up Flopsy in the warm, dry mama barn when she began to show signs of impending labor.

Surprisingly, she only gave birth to one baby, this fine spotted buckling you see above. Flopsy has thrown triplets more often than anything else, although her first baby was a single buckling as well, the inimitable Storm Cloud. It seems that whenever a goat throws a single, it is always a big buckling.  Iris once  had a single buckling, Clove, who was so big and vigorous he was trying to stand up before he was all the way out.

It may be that this little guy is our only baby goat this year. If Iris is pregnant it will be quite a while yet - she is thin and shows no udder development at all. At nine years old, her fertility may be declining, which is fine by me. Iris has given us many beautiful babies over the years and produced an awful lot of milk. She has earned her retirement. I don't mind if we don't get more babies - the market for goats has been poor for years now, and we often end up eating them instead of selling them. There's nothing wrong with that, of course, but it wouldn't bother me to take a year off from butchering.

I'm going to try to sell this little fellow as an intact buck. He has a fair chance, I think, because of his lovely spots. If I knew for certain he were destined to be a meat animal, I wouldn't bother with disbudding him, but there is absolutely zero chance anyone will buy a buck with horns. Nor should they; a full grown horned buck would a dangerous animal during rut season. So, today we disbudded him.



Disbudding baby goats is a terrifying procedure carried out with a red-hot iron (or actually, copper, as seen on the model above). I used to pay the veterinarian to do it under anesthesia, but that became prohibitively expensive as the price I could get for baby goats declined. Also, the vet killed one of my babies by accident ( This One Really Hurts (Bad Year for Baby Goats)) and I figured if anybody is going to kill one of my babies, it might as well be me.

Homero built me a kid-containment box out of an old bookshelf and I bought a disbudding iron off the internet. Last year I borrowed a friend's iron just to see if I could handle the procedure, and it turns out I can. It's horrible, but I can do it. Last year I disbudded three babies and they all turned out fine - no brain damage - and as far as I know they never grew any scurs, either. This year's baby buckling is now disbudded and back with his mama, seemingly none the worse for the experience. I'll watch him carefully and check him early in the morning for any signs of brain injury, but I think I have successfully added disbudding to my list of farm tasks that I can competently do, unpleasant as it is.














Saturday, January 10, 2015

Seed Catalogue Season (Plant Porn)






My daughter Rowan started a garden a few years ago; a big garden, with the idea that she would have a booth at the local farmer's market. She got a business license and called it "The Enchanted Broccoli Forest." Yes, I know that name is already taken. I told her that - I have the cookbook - but she didn't care. And it doesn't matter, because her business has never actually advanced as far as selling anything. Pretty much all the success has been on the supply side, so far, not so much on the demand side.

One of the consequences of having an actual gardening business, even if it has yet to make a penny, is that you get dozens of seed catalogues in the mail. January is prime seed catalogue season; so far I think we have received somewhere in the neighborhood of fifteen or twenty. Rowan and I both love seed catalogues - really, what gardener does not? Such a wealth of possibility, so much fun imagining the ultimate garden that this year - this year! - will be a reality. I'm sure some people get the same satisfaction leafing through Architectural Digest imagining their dream home, or Vogue, imagining their impossible wardrobe. I could care less about clothes or decor - give me plant porn.

While we were in Mexico, Rowan used my garden space and greenhouse, and when we came back she moved her garden to a friend's house. This year, we've decided to both use the garden space and greenhouse here at the house. Lord knows, I don't make full use of it. I'm sure there's enough room for both of us. We have a 10 x 12 greenhouse with shelves and a fenced garden area of about 800 square feet, or enough room for ten or twelve long beds. Last year I used four of the beds. Maybe together we can put the whole space to use.

Rowan and I have differing ideals, as well as differing abilities, when it comes to gardening. I have the time and the money; she has the muscle and the energy. She wants to grow a wide variety of interesting and beautiful, unusual edibles, such as purple pole beans and cheddar-cheese cauliflower. She looks for weird and rare varieties of garden staples, such as the beautiful Peacock Broccoli or the wonderfully named Frizzy Headed Drunken Woman Lettuce. Her main priorities in choosing a plant are beauty, oddness, and "wow factor." I have different ideas.

Seattle recently launched a very cool and innovative vision - the Food Forest . If you haven't heard of it, the idea is to grow a whole bunch of trees and shrubs, bushes and other hardy perennials that can provide food for local gatherers and foragers free of cost. I think this idea may have been a natural one in an area that so amply provides the wonderful hardy (if invasive) perennial the Himalayan Blackberry. Most Seattleites are accustomed to harvesting berries from roadsides and parking lots every August, and some of them (like me when I lived there) are not averse to seeking out neglected apple or plum trees and helping ourselves. I love the idea of the Food Forest and I hope it flourishes.

On my own five acres, I'd like to eventually have something similar. I want to create a habitat for as many edible perennials as I possibly can. Mainly because once established, a perennial garden is WAY less work than an annual garden. So far, I have a pretty good orchard, two healthy rhubarb plants, a nice little strawberry patch, and a thriving if small raspberry patch. And of course there are the wild perennials - blackberries, mushrooms, dandelion, nettle, dock, thistle, and clover. All harvestable edibles which we take advantage of to one degree or another. Here are a few perennials I'm still missing which I'd like to establish:

- an asparagus bed. In one of those catalogues above there is a special deal - 15 asparagus crowns for only $7.00. I have not planted asparagus yet because I don't want to wait three years to start harvesting it - but by that logic I never will. So this is the year. I will give over one of the garden beds to asparagus permanently.

- grapes. I've tried grapes here twice before and they have died each time, but that's because a certain male person who shall remain unnamed repeatedly mowed the vines down with the weedeater. I'm going to try one more time - I'll use a locally adapted variant of the Concord called the Lyn-Blue. It's an eating and juice grape, but I don't much care about the eating quality because my main interest is in the leaves.

- hazelnuts. I have one thriving and beautiful hazelnut bush which flowers abundantly every year but which never produces any nuts. Obviously it needs a pollinator, but that is hard to come by as I don't know what variety my bush is. I'll have to buy two or three separate varieties of hazel and plant them all; that will assure that one of them at least will fertilize my well-grown bush. I hope.

- plums. Similar issue with a lovely Greengage Plum I planted years ago and which flowers every year but which has never set a single plum. I need top look up what the pollinator is and plant one.

I also have a yen for a few non-edibles this year. Looking through the catalogues, there are some great deals on trees - trees which do not produce food but which are still beautiful. We have a severe lack of trees on the property and personally I think it is the civic duty of everyone who has room to plant a few trees for posterity. I'm gong to try a couple of big old fashioned weeping willows and a couple of paper-white birches. And, of course, this year's Christmas Tree.













Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Sad Day (Breeding Gone Awry)



A likely looking buckling: Storm Cloud
To keep a buck or not to keep a buck is one of the major questions I struggle with. There are advantages and disadvantages to keeping your own buck  (see, for example,The King Must Die (Goat Breeding and Divine Kingship)) but the main advantage is not having to frantically search for a buck to rent every year, which can be a major hassle ( New To Farm Life: Unwelcome Drama in the Goat Breeding ...).  Accordingly, I have usually kept a buck around.

The next question is whether or not to let your buck run with the herd. Most goat folks will say not to do this, and after the story I am about to tell you, I have to agree. I have changed my mind. I always let my bucks run with the herd, truthfully because my fences have not been up to the task of keeping them separate. A buck who wants to get at does in heat is a very difficult animal to contain. Some people say a buck will harass the does until they are thin and sick; or that he will keep breeding a pregnant doe until she aborts. I haven't noticed that to be the case with my bucks. What any buck WILL do, however, is breed a doe at the earliest possible chance.

Nubians are generally seasonal breeders, meaning that they will not go into heat until the days begin to get shorter and the nights to get cooler, usually in early September around these parts. But if a doe goes in to heat early for some reason, no buck is going to stand around metaphorically twiddling his thumbs. He's going to blubber and pee on himself and strike ridiculous poses and breed that doe the second she'll stand still for it. And apparently, Polly went into heat in July this past summer.

The reason that you don't want your does pregnant in July - if you live in a place with wet, cold winters - is that you don't want baby goats born in January. They have a distressing tendency to die. Especially if the weather has been very wet and chilly. And most especially if you weren't expecting them, and therefore were not able to pen the mama goat up in the dry barn, and instead she gave birth in the middle of the night in the cold wet pasture. Then what will happen, 9 times out of 10, is that when you go outside to do the chores, you will find a couple of dead kids and a mama goat with a drum-tight udder.

Which is what happened here last friday. Homero found them. Twins; a buck and a doe, beautifully spotted and perfect, but cold, flat, and dead. I'm certain the poor little things were born live and just never stood up to nurse. If I had been there, they would almost certainly both be alive. I felt just awful - this is my fault for being lazy and slack about fencing, and not keeping good notes about when my does were bred, and not keeping close tabs on the mama goats regarding signs of pregnancy. Although to be fair to myself, it is often very difficult to tell when these large bodied Nubians are pregnant until the udders fill up a day before kidding.

It also so happened that when Homero came inside to tell me about the babies, I was just finishing up packing for a long-weekend vacation we were taking to Victoria. For the first time in years, we were all going together, all five of us. I had arranged for friends to take the dogs and we were simply going to leave the large animals with extra hay and water. There would be nobody at home at all to care for Polly.

Polly was fine - the birth didn't seem to be hard on her at all - but she would lose her milk if no-one milked her. Of course we didn't want her to lose her milk for OUR sake - that would make this breeding season a dead loss - but I was also worried about just leaving her to dry up on her own, without supervision. The vet said, when I called, that most times they will dry up just fine on their own, but they should always be watched for signs of mastitis. We were supposed to leave to go catch the boat in just a few hours, and the tickets were non-refundable (of course).

Desperate, I put the word out on the Facebook Farmer's group. I said I know it was an insane request, but I had to try - could anybody take my goat for a few days and keep her in milk for me? To my surprise and relief, no fewer than three other goat owners offered within minutes. My neighbor M., who was already caring for my elderly dog, was one of them. So we bundled the goat, the stanchion, and a bag of alfalfa pellets into the van and brought them all over, gave her a crash-course in milking, and thanked her profusely. Then we went to Victoria and had a perfectly lovely time.

I bitch a lot about technology but it really is wonderful to be part of this Facebook group of local farmers and neighbors. Ten years ago I would have been shit out of luck, and would have stayed home milking my goat while my husband and kids went to the Royal B.C. museum and the bug zoo without me. Being part of this community is a privilege and a responsibility - surely it is my turn next to help in any goat-related emergencies.































Monday, December 29, 2014

Old Christmas Trees, Old Christmas Trees...



Here is a terrible picture of my four goats and the cow attacking a christmas tree. Most people don't think about ruminants eating evergreens, but they do. Just try to plant one in their pasture and you'll see! This time of year, they are subsisting solely on hay, except for every once in a while when the sun comes out I can bring the goats out for a nibble of whatever they can find around the yard. I'm sure this tree was a nice change of pace for them, something fresh and interesting.

It's not my Christmas tree, though. As always, we bought a live tree and it is still up, covered with decorations, in our living room. It's high time to get it outside, but I probably won't get around to that for another few days. Our property is still severely lacking in trees, despite the four Christmas trees and dozen or so fruit trees we have planted. I have a master plan to create a mini-forest of ex-Christmas trees over by my husband's shop, but that will take a good many Christmases yet.

No, this tree is the result of a post I put on my Facebook Farmer's group saying I would happily pick up your Christmas tree if it were outside and not too big to fit in a Eurovan. I got two trees yesterday and I will probably pick up a few more this week. I'm thinking that after the goats turn them into skeletons, I may stuff them into the chicken coop to provide some natural roosting areas.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Christmas 2014 (Musings and Menus)




Preparations for Christmas this year are just about done. The presents are all bought and wrapped, the tree is lit, the house is decorated and plans are firmly in place for who we are visiting when. I've enjoyed the run-up to Christmas this year. The girls helped me decorate and seemed to enjoy it - I wonder how many years I have left of making snowflakes and decorating cookies with them? We staged a small Christmas piano recital for family and friends, and we went to Vancouver to go see the lights in Stanley Park. 

2014 Christmas Altar

Because we finally sold the property we have been trying for many years to sell, we have a little extra money this year. Which is a good thing, because my husband LOVES to shop for and buy Christmas presents, and often we have some friction around much we ought to spend vs. how much we (ahem: he) actually end up spending. This year I was able to mostly relax around it and let him go to town. 

I can't help, however, contrasting Christmas in the U.S. with Christmas in Oaxaca. Sure, people here go to parties during Christmas season, and many of us go to church, but if we are honest we have to admit that Christmas, for Americans, mostly revolves around buying gifts and exchanging them. That is not the case in Oaxaca, where we have spent more than a couple of Christmases, most recently in 2012.
Christmas 2012 in Abuelita's house


Christmas in Oaxaca begins on December 16th. For the nine days leading up to Christmas, there are Posadas, a celebration, a reenactment of the journey of Mary and Joseph before Christ's birth that moves from house to house and involves pinatas, singing, and food. Although parish-based, Posadas truly are open to everyone, including random tourists who are brave enough to accept a waved invitation. 

Aside from the posadas, there is a nearly endless string of parties and visits. Everyone wants to entertain at Christmastime, and pretty much everyone does. On Christmas eve, the neighborhood Posada finishes its nine-day journey at the local church; there is a big street festival and mass is spoken, and then everyone heads home for a big, late dinner. And then that's it; that's Christmas. Christmas morning is for nursing hangovers and - eventually - cleaning up. Gifts are reserved for Epiphany, on January 6th, and are pretty much just tokens.

In many ways, Christmas in Oaxaca is a lot less stressful, not to mention expensive. The holiday is much more about events - parties, mass, going downtown to look at the decorations, visiting family - and much less about spending money and gifts. Of course, it is still expensive and stressful to entertain visiting family. The average American family might be totally aghast at the thought of hosting three or four different families, sequentially or simultaneously, and feeding them all and being gracious for weeks on end. Or at the thought of throwing six to eight parties during the Christmas season instead of one. Personally I'm thankful to not be hosting any parties at all.

I am, though, doing Christmas eve dinner. Just here at home, and the only invited guest is P., Rowan's ex-boyfriend, who is leaving Christmas day on a greyhound to go back to the mid-west from whence he came. We love P. and will miss him, and are glad to have him with us. So I'm only cooking for six, which is fewer than the number of people  cooked for every single day last year, when P. and the cousins Alehida and Shidezi were living with us. But of course it has to be special.

I asked Homero what he wanted for Christmas eve dinner, and he said "Roast chicken, but not like you make it. I want it like my grandma makes it. And also the noodles she makes. And the potato salad."

If there's one thing I think all us wives can agree we don't like to hear about our cooking, it's that "it's not like Grandma used to make." Especially if Grandma happens to come from an entirely different country with different, unavailable ingredients. At least I have the advantage of having eaten Grandma's Christmas eve roast chicken. It is, indeed, delicious. I think I can come up with a pretty good approximation. Also it is true that Grandma herself showed me how to make her guajillo salsa, which is, as Homero says, "good enough to make you eat the tablecloth where it spilled."



Abuelita's Guajillo Salsa

20 or so guajillo chiles (dried California or New Mexico chiles are good substitutes)
3 cloves garlic
large pinch whole cumin seed
tsp. white vinegar
salt

Heat a large cast iron skillet or griddle. Also heat a kettle of water to boiling. Wipe with an oiled napkin, but do not let any oil remain. Tear open chiles and shake out seeds. Toast, turning often, until they become highly fragrant and begin to emit fumes - about 1 minute. 
Put toasted chiles into a blender canister and cover with boiling water. In the same hot skillet, put the peeled garlic and turn until blackened in spots. Also roast the cumin seed until toasty-scented - about 30 seconds. Add to blender canister, along with vinegar. Allow to sit and soften 1 hour. Blend on high for a few FULL MINUTES, until as smoothly pureed as it will ever be. 
Pour into a small saucepan and simmer to reduce. When finished, the salsa ought to coat the back of a spoon. Serve with roasted chicken and potato salad. 


















Saturday, December 20, 2014

Windstorm '14 (Repairs)

Last week there was a major windstorm. They were building it up in the media for a week ahead of time - "likely the biggest windstorm since the great storm of '06," that kind of thing. The Pacific Northwest in general is not known for it's extreme weather - quite the opposite, in fact. Steady, gentle rain is pretty much our speed. We seldom have thunderstorms, and whenever there's more than three inches of snow everybody gets all in a dither. Major storms are relatively rare events.

However, we, here on our little ridge above the water, do get quite a bit of strong wind. It's quite ordinary for us to get steady strong wind for days at a time, and gusts that feel close to violent are commonplace all through the winter. We've been approached by a local wind energy group about putting a major tower on our property, one that would power fifty to eighty homes. That ought to give you some idea of the kind of wind we reliably experience (that won't happen, by the way. We were seriously considering it, but then our shortsighted county slapped a moratorium on all windmills larger than those required to power a single home).

Since we have lived here, there have been - oh, I'm going to say three major windstorms. One of them, back in '07, picked up our heavy duty trampoline - Rainbow's finest model, probably weighs 250 pounds - and threw it against our roof, knocking a fair sized dent in it. Another windstorm picked up our calf hutch and sent it sailing over the state highway and into our neighbor's field. Since then there's been only minor damage to shingles on the barn.

Last week's windstorm shredded the extra-thick corrugated plastic roof of the field shelter and chicken coop. I'm not sure if you know what this stuff is - it looks like corrugated tin that shacks are roofed with in Oaxaca and Hoovervilles in Depression-era musicals and other poverty-stricken areas, but it's made of clear plastic. It's quite thick and strong, and expensive, too, at about $20 per 4'x16' sheet.  We screwed it down onto the rafters of the field shelter and chicken coop, and it works pretty well. Until there's a major windstorm.

The wind just peeled it off in little pieces. There's still a strip of it screwed down to each rafter, but the rest of the sheets are torn into tiny particles which are strewn all over hell and gone. Not only do we have to re-roof the sheds, but we have to hike all over the property and roadside picking up seven hundred little pieces of plastic. If I can find any, I'm going to reroof with corrugated tin. What the hell, we already look like a third world country around here.

HURSDAY, NOVEMBER 19, 2009

Look! Up in the Sky! It's a Bird, It's a Plane, It's.....


A flying calf hutch!

We knew the windstorm was coming. We took precautions. As usual, we parked a car next to the trampoline and chained them together (this is since the trampoline hit the roof year before last). We brought in the kiddie pool (which we have fetched from the neighbor's field once already), loose tarps, anything like that.

But it just never occurred to me to tie down the calf hutch. For those city folks among you, a calf hutch is about nine feet in diameter and maybe four feet high. Weighs perhaps 100 pounds. Looks like a UFO as it is gliding silently over three fences and across a state highway.

It's back. And tied down. There's another windstorm predicted tonight.


Thursday, December 11, 2014

Smoked Salmon for Christmas (I finally Did It!)



When I was a child, there were a few special packages we always waited for at Christmastime. Several of my relatives sent good gifts every year, but the packages I remember best are the ones from my stepsisters' grandma and the one from my mother's friend April. When they arrived, we would all gather around to unpack them reverently.

Grandma sent canned goods from her own garden and kitchen. What I remember best are her dilly beans, spicy and garlicky and beautiful in the tall quilted-glass jar. They always had a place on the Christmas table. April sent canned goods, too - beautiful jewel-toned jams and - most wonderful of all - tiny bottles of fruit flavored liqueurs from her raspberry and blackberry patches. Mom used to let us taste the liqueurs by pouring a little into a teaspoon. We thought they were magically delicious.

Ever since I moved up here and began learning to can and tending a garden, I have entertained fantasies of sending out packages at Christmas, packages that my friends and family would exclaim over. For seven years in a row, I have failed to do so. Not because I don't have canned goods - I usually do, though it is true that there are never as many jars in the cabinet come December as you imagine there will be, when you are bent over a hot stove in August. I am already out of salsa, if you can believe that. No, I have not sent out my packages out of sheer laziness and disorganization. Good intentions, it turns out, won't get you to the post office.

This year I was determined to overcome my natural sloth and fully intended to send out canned goods. I set aside little jars of cajeta (New To Farm Life: Cajeta is Love), lemon curd, and dilly beans. The beans were pilfered by my daughter Hope, who has a passion for all things pickled, and there are none left. The cajeta didn't turn out well; for some reason it turned out not like caramel sauce but sort of like milk-fudge. It's not bad in coffee, but it's not of a quality that I would give as a gift. That left lemon curd, but only three half-pint jars, and I have six people on my package list.

Luckily, we had an abundance of salmon this year. Not only did I buy a few fish, as I always do, but just recently a customer of Homero's who works at some sort of fishery gave him a tip consisting of two gigantic sides of Alaskan King. We ate some fresh, and it was the best salmon I've had in ages - rich and buttery and deliciously fat. I told Homero "whatever you do, keep that guy happy!"

I started smoking the salmon just as a way to preserve it. A couple years ago I canned some king salmon, with the help of friends who loaned me their pressure canner, and it was good, but not as good as smoked salmon. It occurred to me that smoked salmon is not only a universally appreciated gift, but also considerably less bulky and expensive to send than food in glass jars. Not to mention that, as much as we all enjoy smoked salmon, we are unlikely to eat ten pounds of it in a year.

My "little chief" smoker is missing a rack, so it took me three sessions to smoke all the fish. Two sides, cut into generous filets, made twelve good sized packages. Last week I got myself together, hunted down addresses (in some cases calling and asking) and sent out five bubble-wrap lined manila envelopes with salmon inside. I'm so proud of myself. I finally did it. I know my friends and family were happy because they all called to tell me so. No promises, but I think I may make smoked salmon my signature gift. It's hard to let go of the image of multiple, tiny, jewel-toned jars, but salmon is easier.

Since I don't have a vacuum sealer (I should probably get one if I plan to make this a yearly tradition), I borrowed one from a neighbor and gave her a package of salmon in trade. That leaves six packages in my fridge. I'm sure a few of those will be taken as hostess gifts to parties and gatherings this year, and I know my sister is getting one under her tree (sorry, Jen, for ruining the surprise), but that still leaves us with plenty of delicious smoked salmon to keep us going until next summer.


Aimee's Smoked Salmon

Cut a filet of king or sockeye salmon into approximately 1 lb pieces. Salmon will lose a lot of weight in the smoker and smaller pieces will just seem measly. In a large non-reactive pot or bowl, combine a gallon of water, 1/3 c. sea salt, 1 c. white sugar, 1 tablespoon garlic powder, 1/3 c. soy sauce, several slices fresh ginger root, and 1 tablespoon (or to taste) sriracha. Make sure there is enough brine to completely cover salmon pieces. Refrigerate overnight. In the morning, prepare smoker according to directions (I use soaked alder wood chips). Smoke salmon to desired doneness but at least 6 hours. You will need to dump ashes and add chips at least four times. I smoked mine for almost 9 hours because I like a fairly hard smoke. 
























Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Hunger a the Holidays (Repost from The Frugal Girl)


Today I am reposting this excellent post from www.theFrugalgirl.com on childhood hunger in America. As often as I feel I don't have enough money for all my wants, I have always had enough to feed my children. And I am lucky enough, as the frugal girl points out, to have grown up in a household that ate together and taught me how to cook. I have knowledge of nutrition and knowledge of how to cook, and access to healthy food, and all of those things are privileges and blessings.

The Frugal Girl has some wonderful suggestions below for how to talk to your kids about hunger and also some ideas about what to do about it when your children inevitable want to help. This season, I am giving thanks for all my blessings and for my ability to assist my community. Best wishes to you and yours now and in 2015!


Teaching kids about hunger (even when they’re not hungry)

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This post is brought to you by SheKnows and Unilever Project Sunlight .
Having enough food has never been something I’ve needed to worry about. As a kid, I’m not sure it ever even really occurred to me, and even in our leanest adult years, Mr. FG and I have always had enough to eat.
IMG_5054It might not have been 5-star restaurant food (and we certainly have had stages in our life where we almost NEVER could afford to eat out), but we’ve never gone hungry, and by extension, neither have our kids.
This is a place of pretty great privilege…to have transportation to a clean, affordable, nearby grocery store and to have the time and skills necessary to prepare meals from cheap staples.
using up leftovers with salad
I don’t think this is necessarily bad for my kids (Who wants their kids to be without privileges?), but what’s important, I think, is for them (and us adults too!) to be able to SEE the privileges we have for what they are.
Usually, seeing people with fewer privileges opens our eyes a bit.
This is especially the case when we see individuals rather than an amorphous group of hungry people. When we hear people’s stories and look into their eyes, most of us will indeed be moved with compassion.
For instance, when Lisey was about 7 or 8 years old, her children’s news magazine had a story about a family in Haiti who had so little to eat, they resorted to making dirt cookies. She brought the magazine to me and said, “Mommy, if I ever went to visit those people, I would want to bring my bank and give them some money.”
(Since we loved her compassionate response but couldn’t personally bring her bank to Haiti, we helped her donate to an organization that brings livestock, seeds, and training to impoverished people in Haiti.)

Hunger Here at Home

When I watched this SheKnows video about hunger in America, I felt those same stirrings of compassion that Lisey experienced.
Hungry families aren’t just a statistic…they are real families, with stories that made me cry, and they live in neighborhoods all around us.
Though we (and I include my own family here!) tend to think mostly of hungry people who live in far-away countries, the sad truth is that 1 in 5 American kids come from homes that don’t have food security.

How do we make our kids aware?

The people over at SheKnows had a great a idea: give kids a poverty-level budget and have them go try to buy healthy groceries to last for a week. Check it out:
Seeing the small amount of food that can be purchased with $36.50 is a great object lesson for kids, who so frequently learn by seeing.
I think it’s also helpful for kids to know people who work to relieve hunger. We have a family friend who helps to feed hungry people in Nashville, and as we pray for him and give to his ministry, this helps to keep hunger on our children’s radar.
And, of course, I think there’s value in faithfully talking to our kids about food and pointing out what an enormous blessing it is to have so much food available to us. I know sometimes it seems like kids aren’t really listening, but they do absorb a generous portion of what we say.

 Room for Growth

Though we’ve made efforts to help our kids be aware of the hunger that’s around the globe, we could definitely do a better job of helping them (and ourselves!) see that child hunger exists on a more local level too.
Project Sunlight, a movement that works to build a world where everyone lives well (and sustainably) has some great suggestions about how to get involved in fighting hunger here at home.
Share A Meal  Sustainable Living  Unilever Project Sunlight USA - Mozilla Firefox 11222014 125533 PM
My favorite is the idea to partner with local organizations. I’m a big fan of localized aid because I think these organizations often have a really great feel for what the community’s needs are and how to meet those needs.
Inspired by watching the above videos, I found a food pantry/community aid organization in our local area, and I’m going to take my kids out and have them help me shop for some food to donate.
Would you consider joining me in the #ShareAMeal challenge?
The #ShareAMeal site has a food pantry location tool to help you find a food pantry in your neighborhood, or you could also take one of the other #ShareAMeal challenges.
If you feel like there’s just no room in your budget to help the hungry, could I encourage you to take a look at your food waste?
Why?
Well, the average American family throws away about $1500 worth of food every single year. Imagine what could happen if we all bought only what we needed, used it wisely, and then put our saved grocery money toward helping to feed hungry people!
To give you an idea of the possible impact, check out this picture of $1500 worth of food from One Hundred Dollars a Month. SaveitSunday-Food-Waste
If we shaved our food waste by even 25-50%, we could feed so many kids! Every little bit helps.
If you need some help getting started on food waste reduction, here are my top ten tips to stop food waste. Give ‘em a try, and share some of your savings with hungry kids in your neighborhood, city, or town.
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I’d love to hear from you! How do YOU educate your children about hunger? And I’d also love to hear of ways that you help the hungry in your community.
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About SheKnows’ Hatch, the Hatch Hunger Project and Unilever Project Sunlight:
SheKnows’ Hatch teamed with Unilever Project Sunlight to help families build awareness and take action around child hunger in America. The facts are startling: 16 million kids living in the United States don’t know where their next meal is coming from. That equates to one in every five children – enough to fill 18,000 school buses and 223 football stadiums. On average, those who live in food-insecure households have only $36.50 to spend on groceries every week. That means that 80 percent of children may not understand the everyday struggle their peers – many of whom could be their own friends or neighbors – confront when there’s not enough food on the table. The Hatch Hunger and Project Sunlight video and workshop aims to create empathy by showing kids what it means to shop for healthy, filling meals for an entire week on a thrifty budget. It teaches important math and teamwork skills. Finally, it is about action, empowering kids to have a positive impact on their community to Share A Meal with a family in need and donating food and canned goods to local food banks.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Throwback Thursday (Fencing Never Ends)

ONDAY, DECEMBER 1, 2008

 First of all excuse the weird format, Blogger is giving me headaches and I have neither the time nor the inclination to figure it out right now. This is me, Aimee, in 2014, writing an introduction to the throwback post from 2008, which follows. This time of year six years ago I see I was dealing with escaping goats, and today we are still dealing with escaping goats. Fencing issues never end. 
Recently, we came into a bit of cash and I decided the best use of it would be to finally buy as many cattle panels as my heart desired - or as many as the feed store had in stock, which turned out to be 34. I believe that will be enough to address our fencing issues once and for all; or at least the two smaller pastures. The cattle panels have been lying on the trailer with which Homero went and got them, waiting for good weather and my energy level to coincide. That hadn't yet happened when, this afternoon, Homero saw the goats had escaped the sacrifice area by hopping over a droopy area. 
Actually fixing the fence to the specifications I desire will have to await another day - right now there is a patchwork of panels covering various droopy spots and in order to fence the whole paddock we will have to remove and re-place all the panels. But today, we did more spot-fixing and the goats are contained. For the moment. 




Nobody I know has the troubles I do with containing their livestock. Remember the chickens that almost started a neighborly feud? Remember when Xana kicked out a window of the barn and cut herself to ribbons? The piglet in the bathtub episode?

Well, it's happening again. The goats are escaping. The twins were out yesterday, bleating to get back in, and tonight when I got home, four goats were out. The twins, Xana, and Iris! Iris is not a leaper, which makes me think they must have mashed the fence down somewhere, but it's too dark to see. I'll have to wait until morning. 

For now, I'll have to lock them in the big barn (and hope that Xana doesn't just kick out the other window!). I'm terrified of the highway that fronts our property. It's pretty well traveled at all times of night and people speed along at 65. The goats could all get mashed flat, and not only that, they could cause a dangerous accident. 

The lady who owns the buck I bred my does to this year is sending her husband tomorrow morning to help me get the fence working. Homero gave his consent for me to seek help elsewhere a couple of weeks ago, after a full day of failed-fence-fixing in the rain. I won't repeat his actual words here, but they were along the lines of "frankly my dear, I don't give a damn."

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Quick Updates

Recent developments -

- The turkeys are processed and ready for pickup. In light of the way they were getting picked off (Predator Problems (Facebook Farmers)), I decided they would be safer in the freezer than in the barnyard. Last year, there was a local guy who processed them for $10 a bird, but he has gone out of business and nobody has replaced him. Luckily, a neighbor of mine belongs to a co-op that rents out the equipment, and she was kind enough to host a processing party. Homero and Rowan went (I was in Seattle with the girls at a gymnastics meet) and the turkeys look great. We haven't weighed them yet but my arm says about 15-18 pounds each. They are all sold already at $4/lb, so that makes back our expenses even without thew two the coyotes ate. A success.

- All animals are in the sacrifice area. A little late in the year, but finally all the hooves are off the big pasture. I was worried about whether or not the ponies would share their shelter with the heifer, but it looks like they have grudgingly decided to do so. The goats - only 4 of them right now - sleep in the calf hutch.

- Breeding season is in full swing. I think my ladies are all pregnant - probably including Ba,bi, the bevy - but I'm not sure. Haboob the buck has been in with them for the last six weeks and I've seen him doing his duty - or trying to. The does don't seem to like him much (probably because he is so small) and he spends a lot of time chasing them and taking flying leaps. But I definitely saw him close the deal with Iris. Last week we sent him off to a neighbor's farm in exchange for a lovely basket of farm produce. Here's hoping her does like him better than mine do.

- The work in the crawlspace  (It Never Rains But it Pours (When is Enough Enough?)) is just about done. Homero, with Rowan's help, did about half the actual work, saving us lots of money. However, in the course of events, about half the ductwork got removed and needed to be replaced and we had spent literally our last dollar paying the workmen. We had to wait for payday to buy new ducts, not to mention propane, and in the meantime the weather took a turn for the seriously cold. For about 10 days we had to huddle in one room at night with the space heater. But all's well that ends well - now I can be relatively certain that my house isn't going to sink into the ground or go sliding down the hill anytime soon.

More later - getting dinner on the table.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Throwback Thursday (Bad Business)



We've been dealing with a lot of house issues lately (another post on the crawlspace will be forthcoming soon) and as I look back to 2010, I see that we were dealing with house issues then, too. Really, when have we not been? In 2010 it was the roof. When we bought the house in 2007, we had hired a local company, Joosten's roofing, to do a complete re-roofing, as the farmhouse had a truly ancient shake roof on it that ought to have been replaced years before. 

In 2010, when the roof began to leak in various places, we called the company back and asked them to address the issues... that didn't go well. Our attempts to communicate with Mr. Joosten devolved into screaming and racial slurs. You can read the story below. Unfortunately, this story did not have a good outcome. We never did get Joosten's Roofing to address their crappy workmanship  and we never did get satisfaction in the form of a lawsuit or anything else. The best I could do at the time was a scathing report to Angie's List, which brought their overall rating down a full letter grade. Take that, you bigoted bully! 

The details: when the roofers removed the old shake roof, there was a lot of rot underneath - the plywood and even many of the rafters on one side of the house had rotted. But instead of talking to us about this, they simply laid new plywood down and covered up the whole mess. Obviously, this didn't last. There were more problems - flashing that was improperly installed and which allowed water into the attic around the vents and ruined our attic insulation.... gutters which were taken down and not reinstalled... really you name it. Below read my letter (though nothing came of it, it's still a good letter) and please don't ever do business with this awful man!



Late Fall, 2010

For anyone who lives in Skagit or Whatcom counties: Please do not hire Joostens roofing. Not only did they do a shoddy unprofessional job, but when my husband asked them to come back out and inspect the damage, they told him "take me to court" and hung up on us.

Given that response, I wrote a letter to the better business bureau, and I forwarded a copy to Joostens roofing. Their response to that was to call my husband on his cell phone, start yelling racial slurs at him, tell him to "go back to Mexico" and threaten to "sic immigration" on him.

Yeah, I know! We were both just totally aghast. I have never personally witnessed such vicious, blatant racism. Oh, I know that much worse happens every day, to all kinds of people - I just hadn't actually heard anyone SAY such things out loud. When I myself spoke to Mr. Joosten, he started talking about how I must be a liberal and he was a conservative and that was "the difference." I reminded him that racial discrimination is illegal for conservatives as well.

I was so angry at that point that I couldn't keep speaking to him. I wrote this letter instead:

Mr. Joosten
>
> this letter is inform you that we have filed a complaint with the
> Whatcom Sheriff regarding the threats you made to my husband on the
> phone yesterday. You are on record. Frankly we are both shocked by
> your bigoted, offensive, and bullying behavior. The idea that you
> would "sic immigration" on a client whom you believe to be
> vulnerable and without recourse rather than address that person's
> complaints speaks volumes both to your business integrity and to
> your personal character. I invite you to reflect on your actions.
>
> I still willing to talk with you about how we can come to an
> agreement regarding the damage done by your poor work. Please feel
> free to call me directly at 206-xxx-xxxx (I doubt my husband is
> interested in speaking with you). However, don't call if you want to
> shout at me or insult me or otherwise harass me: only to calmly
> discuss resolving the professional issue.
>
> If you do not choose to resolve this privately in a very short time
> frame, we will relunctantly be forced to contact our attorney. Be
> aware that if we do so, your racially charged language will become
> part of a racial discrimination suit. If that is the case, we will
> also be contacting all relevant offices that regulate fair business
> practices in Washington, such as the department of licensing and the
> Attorney General's office.
>
> Sincerely,
>
> E.D.