Notes from Windward: #61

The Winter Update

part two

Heather and her art works
at the Trout Lake show
Heather is busy making more art pieces for the shows in the spring, and will have her first "new artist" show at The Dalles Art Gallery in June.

Gina is finding buyers for some of our ducks, and dreaming about this year's garden. Her new woodstove is keeping her toasty warm, and allowing her to do some duck cooking while she putters around her place. The trick to successful self-reliant living is time management, and any time you can get a "two-fer," you're one step ahead.

This is the ideal time of year to process the surplus ducks since there are no flies, and the temps are ideal for aging the meat before baking, but some of older birds need to be cooked down before ending up as duck soup, duck perloo or duck pot pie, and a pot simmering on the back of the woodstove is an ideal way to do that. Once the duck is reduced, and the bones are extracted, the concentrate goes into a freezable container and is set outside out of the dog's reach to freeze.

The block of frozen duck is then stored away in the bottom of the chest freezer where it functions as a sort of thermal ballast. When the power goes out, and it does now and then, having fifty pounds of frozen duck soup in the freezer will keep the stored food from thawing for a considerable period of time.

Holly is back from her holiday visit to southern Cal, and is whiling away the winter hours exploring new patterns for quilts that are being used in applications other than the standard bed quilt.

Fern's getting ready to head down to Laughlin, NV for a bit of vacation. In the meantime, she's getting a kick out of being able to access cross-word puzzles via the internet. She's a fan of the New York Times puzzle, and now she can challenge herself to her hearts content.

The arrival of the Internet and direct satellite TV hasn't lessened the peace and quiet we treasure so much here, but it has almost totally removed any sense of being isolated from the parts of the world that we each are interested. These days, we feel like we're truly enjoying the best of both worlds.

Tamara's finished her first semester of courses at Columbia Gorge Community College, and found that she especially enjoyed the introduction to pottery. Cindy's enjoying running the kitchen at one of the county's two Senior Center a couple of days a week, and is staying busy with all the many tasks that come with being the mother of an active 17 year old who's making the transition from high school to community college.

Larry's down from Alaska and plans on giving us a helping hand with construction in the spring. With Bob1 returning in April, we have major ambitions regarding construction this spring.

One of the paradigm changes that comes with adapting to the "Windward perspective" involves a shift from seeing progress as a linear path going from point A to point B, into seeing progress as an enlarging circle which steadily encompasses more and more of the essentials.

In terms of simple math, if you double the diameter of a circle, you increase the enclosed area by a factor of four, so as Windward's circle of sustainability grows larger, it encompasses more, and that places new demands on our infrastructure and organizational abilities. In linear living, you go from one place to another place, but don't really change much other than your location. In our case, we stay in the same place, but that place is continually evolving. The difference may sound subtle, but it's the sort of difference that makes all the difference in the long run.

Cindy and Bob2 decided that given the challenges involved in moving the goat operation to the new area, they wouldn't breed the does this season, and for the most part that worked. Still, bucks will be bucks, and a few of the does are starting to present a crop of kids. For the most part, we've made the decision to hold off breeding so that the kids don't come before the end of March since that makes the process much easier on everyone concerned, but sometimes it just doesn't work out that way.

Joyce's latest book
Joyce is awaiting the publishing of her next book just in time for Mother's Day. It's a "compendium" of ways that mothers and daughters can use crafts and traditions to build connections between the generations. Her agent is currently shopping the audio rights, which would make this the first of her books to come out on tape - pretty cool!

In the meantime, she's working on her next book which is based on the true story of some women who were stranded on an island in the Pacific shortly after the turn of the century.

There are a number of things about the writing business which aren't obvious going in, and perhaps the most notable is the incredible length of time between selling an idea to a publisher and getting a royalty check. Going almost two years between paychecks is a tough way to make a living. That's why an up and coming author has to have a number of books in the pipeline, something which is much easier said than done.

For Windward's four-legged crew, winter is often a time of passing. This is our thirteenth winter on site, and so the last of the goats and sheep who formed our initial herd are finally passing on. In a commercial herd, once a doe or ewe is about six years old, she's replaced by her daughter, but Windward uses something of a "tenure" system in that once an animal becomes part of the team, they're welcome to live out their natural life here.

We don't afford "tenured" status to just everyone, and in fairness it's more of a relationship issue than anything having to do with productivity. We strive to ensure that everything we do, and that includes animal husbandry, is progressing down the road to sustainability, but it's also a fact that the emotional dimension of animal husbandry is a key part of what makes Windward work over the long haul.

We care for our animals in the sense of feeding and maintaining their well-being, but we also care for them in the sense that their personalities and agendas form an authentic part of who we are and what we do. While a eight year old doe or a nine year old ewe might not be as efficient a producer as a two year old, we feel that their contributions to the program and their connection to the community more than make up for any such shortfalls.

We don't hesitate to cull on attitude, and critters who aren't willing to get with the system soon find themselves in the back of the truck on the way to the sale. One result of a decade of such selectivity is a four-legged crew that is low-maintenance and good company.

Starry watches a brush burn
This week, one of our founding does passed on. Starry was a doeling that Bob2 and I found at a livestock auction. I was looking through the pens when she just jumped right up and whispered in my ear that she was going to be a great goat, and that we'd sure be lucky to have her in our herd. Turned out she was right.

Tracking down her lineage, we learned that she was the third daughter of a herd queen out of Washougal, Wa. They didn't need to keep all three daughters and Starry was the one who got sent to the sale. Starry never tried to become herd queen herself, and she never seemed the least bit interested in the on-going caprine obsession with pecking order. She was a pecking order of one, and always seemed to be above that sort of thing, not wanting to be dominated, and wasting no time trying to dominate others. She was very special and we'll miss her.

We have a special part of Windward that is set aside as our burial grove. As Bob2 and I were digging a grave for Starry, we were sorry to note that the winter moisture had only penetrated down to a depth of about a foot and a half. Below that it was dry dirt, a troubling indicator of how dry this coming summer is going to be.

Part Three