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Marblemount Homestead: One family’s story of enjoying and sharing in the labors of life

Aug 2nd, 2014 | Category: Features

Cheesemaking, wilderness classes and more

Close to the North Cascades National Park, Corina and Steve Sahlin’s 5-acre Marblemount Homestead is a place of beauty. This piece of land is their home sweet home, nurtured and made with 12 years of hard work and creativity. Corina shares some of their story here, and invites others to learn about what they enjoy so much.

 

How long have you been homesteading there, what are you growing and raising, and what does it all mean to you? 

COURTESY PHOTO

COURTESY PHOTO

We live in the bowl of a valley surrounded by wilderness.  Marblemount Homestead is our five and a half acre piece of heaven, where we have homesteaded for 12 years. We grow a big, organic garden and also raise lots of blueberries, kiwis, figs, and fruit trees. We also produce a lot of protein here: pigs, meat chickens, chicken eggs, duck eggs, and my favorite – goat milk. I raise La Mancha dairy goats and make lots of cheese and yogurt from their delicious milk.

Homesteading is such a natural way of life for us. Nurturing our piece of land with sustainable practices and passing on this knowledge to our three kids and other people who come to take our classes is very important to us.

 

Honing skills and being self-sufficient is challenging. What do you think are the most demanding aspects of homesteading, and what are the keys to being resilient?

One of the most demanding aspects of homesteading for me, with my type A German work ethic, has been to slow down. I am getting older, and my body is letting me know. I used to be able to work hard all day long, but now I have to pace myself or I will pay for it. I am learning to NOT do it all, so even if there are beets and cucumbers in the garden screaming at me to be picked and canned, if I already made a 10-gallon batch of cheese that day and I am exhausted, I am learning to not push myself and let the beets and cucumbers just sit in the garden for a week longer.

The keys to being resilient for me personally are recognizing that I need to rest and enjoy the labors of my work. It’s taking the time to sit down in the garden and enjoy all the beauty and blessings of our homestead, without looking at what needs to be done, and all the weeds that have to be pulled!

 

You enjoy cheesemaking, and share the process through classes. What kind of classes do you have coming up, and how do participants see the process from goat’s milk to final product? What do you enjoy most about cheesemaking?

Homemade cheeses/. COURTESY PHOTO

Homemade cheeses. COURTESY PHOTO

I have a cheese making class coming up Sept. 20. I’ve been teaching these classes for a decade now, and I love witnessing my students’ enthusiasm and empowerment when they learn how to make their first wheel of Gouda! Participants first meet the goats in the barn, where we pick up the milk in the fridge there. We then proceed into the house, where I give a little theoretical background about the process of cheesemaking. From then on, it’s all practical, getting hands into the whey.  After two and a half hours, there is a beautiful wheel of Gouda, ready to be put in the brine later.

I love, love, love the alchemy of cheesemaking and passing that on to other people.  I love showing people that it’s not hard or complicated to make fantastic cheese.

 

In addition to cheesemaking, what other classes do you offer? 

We offer many different classes, depending on what people are asking for. Aside from cheesemaking, we offer wilderness classes. My husband Steve teaches them, and he is an awesome teacher. He takes people out into our wild neighborhood, where he teaches them about wilderness survival. He also has become a popular teacher in high demand for bow making classes. He teaches traditional bow making, where people actually go home with their own wooden long bow at the end of the class. He also has been teaching classes for kids, including bow making and wilderness survival classes. It’s so much fun to watch them all coming out of the woods after these adventures, with mud on their faces and shining eyes!

I also teach fiber art to people, mostly knitting, spinning yarn and hand painting wool. I’m a fiber and yarn addict, so it’s fun to share it with others.

 

Do you offer opportunities for kids, and how do your 3 children get involved? 

Our three children are homeschooled, so they are very involved in with our homestead.  The youngest one likes to collect eggs from the chickens.  The two older boys help with mucking out the barn, gardening, feeding animals, and taking care of the yard. The boys also love helping teach classes for kids. They are very adept at these skills and love sharing what they know.

Their three children help out on the property, share their skills with visitors, and work on their own creations. Here they are at Kids Vending Day at the Bellingham Farmers Market. COURTESY PHOTO

Their three children help out on the property, share their skills with visitors, and work on their own creations. Here they are at Kids Vending Day at the Bellingham Farmers Market. COURTESY PHOTO

 

Steve makes and sells handmade wooden bows. What does that process include, and where are they available for purchase? Do you offer classes for this as well?

Steve sells his gorgeous wooden bows online. Unfortunately, his stock is largely sold out right now.

He teaches bow making classes, as well as archery and wilderness skills classes. The process of bowmaking involves selecting an appropriate piece of wood, or stave.

Homemade cheeses/. COURTESY PHOTO

Homemade cheeses/. COURTESY PHOTO

The stave is then cured before being shaped, or tillered, so that the limbs bend evenly, distributing all the forces applied to the bow. A handle is shaped and a waterproof finish is applied resulting in an ancient, powerful weapon.

 

We all learn by doing, and the results vary for each of us. Please share a couple funny and/or disastrous stories with our readers about your experiences (if you don’t mind)? 

I made lots of bad cheese in the years before I perfected the art of cheesemaking.  One year, all my cheese (and that’s gallons and gallons of precious milk and hours and hours of hard work) turned out very dry and hard.  I was incredibly disappointed and finally figured out that the thermometer I used was calibrated 10 degrees too high, so I had heated the milk way too high, which made the cheese taste… compromised, shall we say.

Another story is about my “cheese cave,” which is our crawl space under the house, where the conditions for aging are ideal in terms of temperature and humidity. My fist year of cheese making I went to check on the cheese one day, and found wheels and wheels of cheese nibbled on and ruined by mice! They had tunneled under the stem wall of the house into the earthen floor of my cheese cave. I said a lot of bad words, cried for an hour, and then made my husband pour a cement floor in the crawl space. I haven’t had a mouse since.

 

What is your favorite season? 

I love and live for summer. We get a total of 100 inches of precipitation a year, so that’s almost a rain forest. Winters get long here and can be quite challenging for a sun lover like me. So when summer comes around, we are all ready to be outside all day! Our neighbors have a pond, so we basically live there all summer! I adore eating all our meals out of the garden. There is so much abundance!

 

What other skills are you interested in learning? 

Beekeeping! Next year, we will get a top bar hive and see where that leads us.

 

What are your favorite places to visit in our northwest corner? Favorite places to eat? 

"When we're not busy dealing with food, animals or selling stuff, we are outside," Corina writes in her blog. COURTESY PHOTO

“When we’re not busy dealing with food, animals or selling stuff, we are outside,” Corina writes in her blog. COURTESY PHOTO

We have so many favorite places, it’s hard to pick a few.

We all love the beach and go play there a lot during the summer.  Personally, Bowman Bay is one of my favorite places because there are wonderful trails that lead you to lots of private coves and beaches.  Recently, we have explored South Whidbey Island and fell in love with some of the places there.

We also love hiking, and I take our boys on a mama-and-boys-only backpacking trip every summer.  Last year, we hiked up Skyline Divide and spent two amazing days up there (with a full moon!).

Our favorite place to eat, hands-down, is Adrift in Anacortes. They have awesome, healthy, flavorful food.

 

Best meal ever? 

Working in the family's large garden. COURTESY PHOTO

Working in the family’s large garden. COURTESY PHOTO

Are you kidding me? You want me to choose one best meal ever? I think my favorite stuff to eat is things I make from the food we have raised and grown ourselves.  It makes eating at a restaurant hard to do, because nothing compares!

I make all of our meals from scratch and take pride in doing so. I think what I consider best is food that comes right out of the garden, vegetables harvested minutes before, because you can’t get any better flavor than that. Combine that with some pork chops we grew ourselves, from pigs fed on the whey from cheese making. And then add a nice chunk of homemade cheese from the goats, a piece of Cheddar maybe, or some nice Manchego.

Let’s combine that with some homemade blackberry wine we made years before. For dessert, there are ripe raspberries smothered in whipping cream. And maybe throw in some figs from our fig tree. Now that’s a meal!

 

If you could share one piece of advice with our readers, what would it be? 

Enjoy life. Work hard, but also remember to play, relax and savor the moments of blessing and grace that show up throughout the day.

 

For more information

Follow the Marblemount Homestead blog at marblemounthomestead.com. Corina’s Etsy site is www.creationsbycorina.etsy.com, and Steve’s bows are available through www.etsy.com/shop/ReturnOfThePrimitive.

 

 Interview by Grow Northwest. Published in our August 2014.

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