Dairy Queen: When a Gay City Mouse Goes Country
Dave Stanley, 46, was an apartment manager in Seattle for 10 years.
“I was right on Capitol Hill and, you know, three o’clock in the morning, there would be someone dumpster diving or a skateboarder would go by. It could wake the dead.”
Work was stressing him out.
“There was constantly something going on. Someone was emailing me with a broken something. The cell phone was going, the fax was going.”
So five years ago he quit his job, picked up, and bought a farm just outside of Olympia in unincorporated Thurston County. Dave had never lived or worked on a farm before. He knew nothing about how to raise animals or build a barn, but he knew that he wanted to give farming a try.
“Look at all the how-to books right behind you on the shelf there,” he said gesturing. “That’s how I learned to do pretty much everything. I’ve got cows and pigs, sheep, turkey, geese, ducks, chickens, rabbits, pigeons.”
Dave has even learned to do some of the slaughtering himself.
“I feel better about myself knowing that the animals that I’m eating are raised here and there’s no factory farming involved. That’s why I don’t have a problem with the slaughter, so much. I don’t find it fun but it doesn’t disgust me because I know they had a really good life, and just one bad day at the end.”
Dave can make you the freshest ham and cheese sandwich you’ll ever eat.
“I make my own cheese. I make Wisconsin brick. I made gouda, cheddar, fromage blanc. I make my own bread. I have a grinder. I grind my own wheat seeds so I can make some wheat. I just started up with sour dough.”
That sandwich will go down easy.
“We have a lot of stuff brewing. A hefeweizen, a porter, some ginger ale. Just started doing merlot.”
Dave says farm life is a lot of work, but it’s very fulfilling. But he does miss some things about the city.
“I’m a gay guy and I’m living out in unincorporated Thurston County. Things are a little different than living on Capitol Hill, so that sometimes gets to me. But I have friends coming in pretty much every weekend from Seattle because it’s kind of new and fun for them. It keeps me sane.”
Dave and his best friend Steve have nicknamed themselves The Dairy Queens.
“Steve is really into knitting. Eventually he would like to shear the sheep and cart the wool and spin it into yarn and make hats and socks.”
Steve and Dave make quite the team when it comes to castrating the animals.
“Who knew that five years ago, living on Capitol Hill, that I’d be here castrating cows and pigs? But here I am! I have arrived!”
I avoided the castration and stuck to the cute. During our tour, a little barn cat named Hunter charged through the barn, climbed up my body, and spent 10 minutes wrapped around my shoulders purring. It was the first time I’ve done an interview wearing a cat scarf. And it only got cuter. Dave and I walked back to his house, ready for a slice of his homemade apple pie, and discovered a package on the back doorstep full of perfectly fuzzy baby chicks.
Dave is officially a country mouse. He says his nights are much quieter.
“Now when I fall asleep, I hear the pigs snoring or grunting in the middle of the night. That’s what’s normal for me!”
The calls and faxes have slowed down.
“I don’t have a cell phone now.”
Dave says he can’t see himself moving back to the city.
“I don’t have tons of money but I’m happy, I’m comfortable. What else do I need? You can keep saving and saving and saving for retirement and have a lot of money in the bank and you’ll be dead. I got a lot of beef in the bank! I don’t have a lot of money, but I have a lot of beef, pork and chicken.”