After a six-hour drive across the state through rolling wheat fields, the three of us arrived at our destination in a tiny rural community called Rice, Washington. The crooked wooden sign on the hand-built schoolhouse welcomed us: Farm School.
After settling into our rooms at Quillisascut Farm School , we convened at the long kitchen table and met schoolmates and hosts. Our gracious hosts were farm owners Rick and Lora Lea Misterly and Culinary Instructor Kären Jurgensen; farm-hands were bread baker Gianna and Sous Chef Katie. Farm-mates included the likes of food writers, radio personalities and chefs.
The purpose of this farm school gathering raised the question “how do we take what we learn here about food culture and deepen it into a more vibrant, healthy, local, beautiful and on-going thing?” The discussion moved on to “what is the role of a food writer?” You can imagine the depth of this conversation. Stay tuned for more on this subject as “City Girl Goes to Farm School” continues in future posts…
“The Worthy Habits of Farm School” were reviewed along with our itinerary for each day. We enjoyed a wonderful variety of Lora Lea’s handcrafted Quillisascut goat cheeses. One platter of was an assortment of surface ripened cheese – crottin, ash log, ash disc, washed rind, and blue. The other platter featured Quillisascut Curado, Lavender and Fennel Curado, Cocoa Rubbed Curado along with Quillisascut Farmer, Curry Rubbed Farmer and a Smoked Ricotta. These were served with farm fresh sweet and savory fruit jam-relish and freshly baked bread and crackers.
Next with our “outside” shoes, we took a walking tour of the farm which included a lovely tromp through the goat pen where we met Filbert, part Jersey and the only cow on the property. Running in between our legs, with their eyes fixed on the goats, were two black border collies, Jet and Sedona, and Libby the unmistakable Komondor.
We walked by a number of chicken coops and scooped up some freshly laid eggs. Over in the garden area were walnut and fruit trees, along with rows of greens, kale, potatoes, corn, beans, squash, onions, lettuces, beets and more. We learned about the water wells on the property and how they were discovered by observing certain vegetation and predictions from what Rick called a “”well witch”.
The female goats that we will milk on Saturday are kept separate from the male goats, so next we visited the Billy goats and the pigs. Nester, Pickles and Tyrone were covered in mud and chomped away with an occasional glance up. At only three months old, the pigs are about as big as a medium size dog, but by November they will be well over 250 pounds! Also, there were quail, ducks and turkeys, some roaming the land freely and others in their respective pens.
We finished the day with a wonderful dinner at the long community table, using only ingredients from the farm, paired with lively conversation and a few good bottles of wine (of course!), as we took a look forward to the first full day’s plans:
5:30am Butcher Goat (Today, Rick had pointed out the particular goat he was considering)
- 7:30am Breakfast
- 8:00am Morning meeting: respect
- 9:00am Goat cheese making with Lora Lea Misterly
- 11:00am Gardening with Rick Misterly
- 12:00pm Lunch
- 1:00pm Writing time
- 4:00pm Knife skills with Culinary Instructor Karen Jurgenson
- 5:30pm Make pizza in the hand-built wood fire pizza oven, using all the fresh produce hand-picked from the garden
- 6:30pm Dinner
- 7:30pm Gary Paul Nabhan arrives to guide our farm school discussions (Gary is an internationally-celebrated nature writer, seed saver, conservation biologist and sustainable agriculture activist who has been called “the father of the local food movement” by Mother Earth News)
- 10:30pm Lights out
I was careful not to waste any water while brushing my teeth and I remembered only to flush when necessary so as not waste precious well water. Exhausted yet completely exhilarated, I fell into my twin bed in the shared dorm room.
Tomorrow is going to be a full day.