The Chief Milkmaid || Life after farming

Posted in Blogs, Culinary

BY VICKY BROWN
February 3, 2016

Telling the public that you’re closing your dairy is one thing. Actually getting out of farming—quite another.

Farming is not simply an occupation. It’s a lifestyle.

Farmers don’t just work. They pour every cell of their being into the soil, their animals and their crops, from sun-up to sundown—and often long past then. One doesn’t just give that up.

Our life “after” farming? We still have more than 20 livestock (goats, sheep, llama) on our farm. They still need care, food and water twice daily, supplements, hoof trimming, shelter, fence mending, attention. Only now I’m working off the farm with a vengeance as well as taking care of our farm.

However, the closing of the dairy allowed me enough time to take a “clay class” in October and November of 2015 and to uncover a newfound passion for playing with a new type of mud or, to be more precise, clay.

Ooh la la… let me tell you about pottery! Better yet, let me show you.

Some days we don’t make anything but joy in the studio, and it can look like this:

WLM Vicky Kylie

Kylie Beard, center, and Vicky Brown get “muddy.” (photo by Tom Brown)

Some days it can be spending quality time with your husband (and our amazing instructor, Sharon Warwick of Wellspring Pottery):

Tom Brown at the wheel , coached by instructor Sharon Warwick of Wellspring Pottery (photo by Vicky Brown)

Tom Brown at the wheel, coached by instructor Sharon Warwick of Wellspring Pottery (photo by Vicky Brown)

Or working with the rest of the class, watching each other learn and grow:

Gordon Stewart and John Heard listen to Instructor Clovy Tsuchiya of Clovy Tsuchiya Pottery (photo by Vicky Brown)

Gordon Stewart and John Heard listen to Instructor Clovy Tsuchiya of Clovy Tsuchiya Pottery (photo by Vicky Brown)

 

Kate Nunn, Anna Dozer, Aureya Magdalen, working in Warwick’s class (photo by Vicky Brown)

Kate Nunn, Anna Dozer, Aureya Magdalen, working in Warwick’s class (photo by Vicky Brown)

If you practice what you learn and add your own flair you might just get lucky and get a finished product like this to boast about:

My green bamboo pot (photo by Vicky Brown)

My green bamboo pot (photo by Vicky Brown)

So, life after farming? I don’t know yet. It’s in my blood… I’m not anxious to close the barn door.

I’m grateful I was led to a place like The Paint Escape to land, to soothe me after the heart-wrenching decision to close our dairy. It kept me distracted and offered me comfort in a safe, supportive, creative and fun environment.

I’m heartbroken that this place had to be lost to our community. The loss, while still raw from the pain of shuttering our own business, felt personal and it hurt.

Yet a new spark of joy has hit. One of the tenacious previous owners of The Paint Escape, Tina Beard, is committed to opening a new business: her business, her vision and—if you asked her—the fulfillment of her “calling,” to create this space for the community.

WLM Paint Escape

 

Whidbey Art Escape will be so much more than what started as a paint-your-own-pottery spot in Freeland. It will be bursting at the seams with its delightful, brightly windowed studio for painting bisque-ware in delightful and useful shapes, a fun Glass Escape Studio for glasswork and, of course, the rather large Clay Escape Studio—now with eight wheels, a pug mill, a slab roller and beautiful space for handwork, carving and glazing fun.

There will be classes going on; top talent from our community will provide up to three group classes a week, with even more one-on-one “experience” classes.

If you’re ever wondering about it, come on by when they open (tentatively March, 2016). If I’m not at work, I’ll probably be there—throwing a pot, or carving, or glazing, or maybe just having a cup of coffee with my new studio-mates and friends. Odds are, we’ll be laughing and sharing joy. You’re welcome to come get your dose; we’d love to see you.

A gang of us, creating fun at Whidbey Art Escape, is even forming our own group. (A business that has its own groupies is probably a good thing, right?) Our little gang, The Escapees, are creating and learning and playing and will be soon offering our unique handmade objects to the public.

Stay tuned. I promise to keep you posted.

Beth Ryder helping to move growing baby goats from the nursery to the barn years ago when the farm was bustling this time of year. (photo by Vicky Brown)

Beth Ryder helping to move growing baby goats from the nursery to the barn years ago when the farm was bustling this time of year. (photo by Vicky Brown)

So, while I still miss my bucket of baby goats with a very real ache in my heart, as part of my first gang—the Escapees—I know that love is not limited to one thing. I’m quite certain that the more we love, the larger our heart swells to accommodate it. In the arena of passion, certainly less will never be more.

Perhaps your passion won’t be struck by hands in the mud or the dirt of a farm, or even by the mud or clay on a wheel, but I hope you find it, wherever it lies. When you do find it, unharness your constraints and seize it with your whole heart… whether you’re any good at it or not…

My FIRST pot, from my first class in October, 2015 (photo by Vicky Brown)

My FIRST pot, from my first class in October, 2015 (photo by Vicky Brown)

Thank you for your support along my journey.

Vicky Brown (still a “farmer,” even if she’s milking less often), puts her passions on the page writing about food, agriculture and the tender web of community.

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Comments

  1. Lovely piece. I feel your angst at closing your farm and your joy in discovering a new creative venture…transitions indeed and well done.

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