We originally made contact with Mark and Katie back when they were following this blog prior to buying and fixing up a sailboat and then sailing the Sea of Cortez. Our first contacts were all electronic but we did eventually meet in person in San Carlos, Mexico just before they started off on their sailing adventure. You can go back and follow their adventure on their blog, Controlled Jibe. After sailing the Sea for 8 months, they sold their sailboat, Selkie, and moved back north, first to Montana and subsequently to Washington. We’ve maintained contact with them and, since we planned to travel right through Bellingham, where they currently live, we hoped to stop in and see them. They were very gracious and, in fact, invited us to an apple pressing party in conjunction with their neighbors if we managed to get to their place by Saturday, September 13. We managed.
They’ve changed course and are now in the process of reviving an old house on 40 acres of woodlands. They’d like to eventually have a self-sustaining operation and who can argue against a goal like that?
We pulled in on Friday afternoon and they guided us to one of the few level spots to park. This is actually on the neighbor’s property but they’re all friends so it was OK.
On their road to self-sufficiancy, they’ve so far gotten chickens, ducks, goats and pigs. The chickens lay eggs, the ducks eat snails, the goats eat the blackberries and other nuisance plants, provide milk, and make babies that can be sold for a profit, and the pigs rototill the ground and root out more nuisance plants and will also provide meat for sale and for consumption on the farm. Mark and Katie also have a garden as well as some fruit and nut trees. They’ve only had the place since February and there is a lot of work to be done but they’re both young and energetic and smart and, if anyone can pull it off, they can.
The neighbors somehow came into possession of a couple of feral sheep. They managed to get them home and into a fenced area and then hired a couple of kids fresh out of sheep-shearing school to come out to help them catch the sheep and then shear a ton of wool off them. Everything went well until they spooked the sheep trying to catch them, at which time they found out just how well sheep could jump as they both sailed easily over the 4′ high fence. They still come back to spend the night and have some chow but there’s no shearing scheduled for the immediate future.
The apple and pear pressing party was primarily the neighbors’ deal but Mark and Katie were part of it and invited some of their friends as well. I’d guess that, over the course of the whole day, at least 60 people attended. Some were too little to do much pressing but they partied anyway and helped out when they could.
We all picked apples and pears and then took turns grinding the fruit and pressing the pulp. One press had a motorized grinder, the other was hand operated. My vote goes to the motorized one although I wouldn’t turn either one down.
I think everyone was amazed by how much juice was pressed out of the apples and pears. We ran out of jars and jugs well before we ran out of fruit. We had to drink like crazy just to free up more jars. The juice was SO good. I found out later in the evening that it was even better mixed with a little Kentucky bourbon on the rocks. The flavors go together like peanut butter and habanero jelly. Later in the evening, a potluck was spread out and we all feasted.
When it got too dark to press apples, some folks retired to the houses, some to the campfire and, at least one couple, to their Dolphin. A few people pitched tents and spent the night. It was a really nice, idyllic day. Good people, good setting, great weather, all the super-fresh apple juice you could drink and plenty of good food. Don’t know where we’ll be at apple-pressing time next year but we could do a lot worse than to be at the Kelly Road Pressing Party.
Twanoh State Park to Belfair State Park to Herron Island to Bellingham: 199 miles
Total since leaving Silverton: 870 miles.
Days so far: 19. Average speed: 45.8 miles/day (includes days that we didn’t move at all)